Last week I co-presented a CLE session at the NC Bar Center with Lee Rosen, of Rosen Divorce Law fame, and Erik Mazzone, the Director of the Center for Practice Management at the NC Bar. The conference was the Bar’s Annual Practical Skills CLE which is geared towards newly minted attorneys and others wanting to brush up on practical lawyering skills. The presentation was titled 60 Websites in 60 Minutes, and the goal was to share useful websites with the attorneys in the audience along with throwing in some fun, stress-relieving sites.
My 20 websites focused on open source or shareware applications that could be useful to an attorney opening a solo or small firm practice and wanting to keep their overhead down. I also tried to focus on security for the mobile attorney, such as Truecrypt or PCTool’s free, secure password generator. Here is the list of websites that were presented. I’ve thrown in brief descriptions under the ones that I covered.
60 Websites in 60 Minutes – 2008 NC Bar Practice Skills CLE
Truecrypt is free, open-source disk encryption software. There are multiple uses for this software, especially for the mobile attorney. For example, create an encrypted drive containing sensitive data and place it and Truecrypt on a USB key. When you use a laptop to practice law remotely, mount the encrypted file as a drive on your temporary computer and use the file system like a normal drive. When you are done, unmount the drive and the only thing visible left on the USB key will be the encypted file. So if you loose your USB key or it is stolen, all they will be able to see is the encrypted file.
Firefox 3+ No Scripts
Firefox 3 is the safest web browser to use. Add NoScripts to the program and it’s even better. If you are using web-based apps to practice law, I recommend switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox 3 with add-on security.
Thunderbird 2 email application has superior security and privacy features, including phishing protection, industry leading junk mail filters, and support for user privacy and remote image protection.
OpenOffice.org is the free open source version of Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and other applications. It runs on PCs and Macs which makes it useful if you are collaborating with others. It has easy to use applications, great compatibility with other programs and you don’t have to buy a new version to install each time it has an update.
ZabaSearch is a website that provides contact information for just about anyone you are trying to locate. The site claims to contain three times more telephone numbers and addresses than the White Pages Directory. Good for investigating.
PCTool’s Password Generator
PCTools.com provides a secure password generator. You can specify password length, phonetics, letters, mixed case, numbers and punctuation.
7-Zip is open source software you can use to compress large files. A useful tool if you need to email or upload a larger file to a client or counsel.
Productwiki is a free product review site written by consumers. Includes software, computer, electronics products reviews and more. Shows competing products and pros and cons for each.
Designing a logo or letterhead for your law practice or looking for an eye-catching font to use in a presentation? Dafont.com has a large directory of free fonts for install on your Mac or PC.
Twitter has become a popular social networking site for attorneys. You can follow individuals as well as different news and business organizations, such as the ABA Journal or Legal Voices, which follows twitter commentary from the legal industry.
Second Life Bar Association
If you are interested in learning about the developing legal system in the virtual reality world, Second Life, or if you just want to meet up with other tech-savvy lawyers from across the world, consider attending a meeting of the SLBA at the Second Life Justice Center. Free CLEs and other legal conferences are being held at the center on a regular basis with speakers who are in the top of the IP and Cyberlaw fields.
Strictly for stress relief, Uncyclopedia is a parody of Wikipedia with over 100,000 humorous encyclopedia-style entries created by users. Check out the entries related to the legal profession or feel free to edit an entry for a creative writing break.
Solo Practice University
Solo Practice University is a new web-based educational community for attorneys that teaches the “practice of law” and fills in the gaps that law schools tend to ignore, such as the practical, how-tos of running a law practice. Teachers will include law professors and legal professionals and the courses will be a combination of media from web conferences to podcasts and ebooks.
Home Office Lawyer
Home Office Lawyer is a popular law blog written by Grant Griffiths, a Kansas Family Law Attorney, who runs his law practice from a home office. Home Office Lawyer as well as Grant’s other blog, Home Office Warrior, have great information on the latest technology and other law practice management tools that can help an attorney run a home-based law practice or lower their law office overhead.
Legal OnRamp is a lawyer networking site where attorneys contribute content and participate in online forums and groups. Members may use the site to meet other attorneys worldwide who specialize in a particular area of the law or join in the OnRamp marketplace to find out about new client opportunities.
Adobe Connect Now
Adobe ConnectNow, currently in Beta, is a great way to interact with other professionals from your computer. The application is free and you may use screen sharing, chat, notes, audio and video to hold online meetings. If you are planning on using a virtual or remote legal assistant, this might be a great way to handle an orientation or training. The security may not yet be there with this application, so I would not recommend using it for communicating with clients at this stage in its development.
OpenCongress combines official government information with related news and blog coverage. If you want to find out the story behind a bill, this is the place to go.
ABA eLawyering Task Force
ABA’s Elawyering Task Force is part of the ABA Law Practice Management Section and provides an introduction to the increasingly popular trend of using technology to provide legal services online. Even if all you are doing is setting up a web site for your law office, this is a good site to visit for practice tips.
Techmeme is popular website that can keep you up to date with technology and trends that can help you run your law practice and your life. Focusing on the practical application of technology in daily life, it combines the best tech stories of the day into an easy-to-scan page with 24/7 updated content.
MajorGeeks is a trusted website that provides downloads for your computer that will repair, back-up, and protect your system. Check out the anti-virus and backup downloads.
Susan Cartier Liebel
Stephanie, thanks for the mention. We are planning to be open late fall/early winter. It will be a very exciting environment for solos and all those involved educating them.
Dina Lynch Eisenberg
Stephanie, great list. I can’t wait to try out a few.
I often recommend that the mediators in my mentoring program turn to technology to make them more efficient and profitable. The more you automate, the more time you have for other important things like growing your practice or your family.
I adore Roboform, which collects and safeguards the myriad of passwords I have. One click and roboform fills in the form and logs me in!
Anyone who really wants to have a great website should put themselves to the test with websitegrader.com. It grades your site based on several criteria then assigns a letter grade- very motivating.
Last, http://www.thismarriagething.com is a marriage-positive site where one can discuss how to renew, restore and juice up a relationship- or just have a chuckle.