Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Feb2012

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Consultus Electronica Family Law Technology Tips by Olivier Denier Long Increasing digital media and declining personal privacy define our times; and attorneys have never before had so many ways to collect, store and transmit data. This article reviews a few of the more useful tools for lawyers in our rapidly changing environment, with particular emphasis on the practice of family law in a smaller firm. Productivity I begin most cases with a Web-based, detailed questionnaire that includes an explanation of my privacy policy and a request for a robust password. From the questionnaire, my paralegal creates pleadings using HotDocs document automation software. All client-related paperwork is imaged with a Fujitsu ScanSnap sheet-fed scanner, and con- verted into readable text with Adobe Acrobat X Pro or ABBY FineReader optical character recognition software.1 I sometimes collect my fees through PayPal or Square, reimbursing the trans- action costs to the client. Square is par- ticularly versatile; it consists of a free credit card-reader attachment the size of a postage stamp that plugs into the headphone jack on an Android phone or iPhone. When I am creating electronic client files, the file names begin with the client's last name, followed by the name of the document and any revision date – as, for example, "rev 1.17.12." I index file folders by client last name; with subfold- ers for Wife Pleadings, Husband Pleadings, Client Correspondence, Correspondence with Opposition, Exhibits, Legal Research, and Orders. Creating a pleading file is simply a mat- ter of copying and pasting orders and pleadings into a new "Index" folder sorted by date created; the entries line up chronologically. At the courthouse, I work on my laptop while waiting for my case to be www.vsb.org called. (Not all courthouses allow this. If you are unfamiliar with local practice, call ahead.) I prefer an Apple Mac Book or Macintosh Pro over a comparable Windows product. Data synchronization and backup are more streamlined, Apple-approved software is astonishingly problem-free, and Macs are less vulnera- ble to malicious code. Windows laptops certainly have their adherents, and iPads and Android-based tablets are showing promise as laptop substitutes. It is largely a matter of personal preference, but whatever portable computer you choose, you will be surprised at the increased flexibility in where and when you can work.2 Virginia Lawyers Weekly has praised the Apple iPad2 E-reader tablet for attor- neys. Exhibits are handled more quickly and persuasively with the iPad2 than with paper. Basically consisting of a fast, touch-screen computer for sorting, annotating and displaying documents, the iPad2 requires software add-on's like Dropbox, Apple KeyNote, and TrialPad.3 Cellular service and extra storage are optional for attorneys, but Wi-Fi capa- bility is essential for sharing documents with your desktop computer and staff.4 With its instant-on solid state memory, speed and convenience, nothing out- competes a tablet when you are checking a calendar in open court or marking up or introducing an exhibit. Wireless transmission, cloud storage and mobile devices do raise ethical con- cerns.5 I recommend password-protect- ing tablets and smart-phones, and securing electronic folders with PGP.6 Remaining Current with Recent Developments. On regular visits to the Virginia Court of Appeals published and unpublished opinion websites, I clip and save what I call "advocacy module" paragraphs of black letter law that the court frequently employs to introduce its decisions. It is useful in juvenile and circuit court to have supportive cases for key concepts readily accessible. My "modular" topics include subject matter jurisdiction, alimony, child support, and voluntary impoverishment. An alternative means of keeping up to date with new case law is to read Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Subscribers have the advantage of being able to access certain circuit court opinions. You might decide to create your own Google Web pages that aggregate RSS feeds on topics of interest. 7 RSS provides summary sentences from arti- cles, grouped by publication. For exam- ple, you might collect law review articles concerning family law. My news pages include such topics as legal trends, pri- vacy, and information technology. Skimming the titles of articles only requires a few minutes a day. You might encounter secondary authority relating to one of your current cases. For exam- ple, if you were handling a matter involving allegations of child abuse, you would want to know about this article: "Is Child Sexual Abuse on the Rise?", by Benjamin Radford. Scientific American, December 2, 2011. You should read blogs or write one yourself. 8 If you prefer to read, Richard Crouch maintains an informative blog on Virginia family law. If you choose to publish, authoring a blog will improve your skill at concise, persuasive writing, and challenge you to consider recent judicial opinions in the context of your own practice. A blog can also be a valu- able marketing tool.9Make sure that you screen reader comments before they are published, and exercise caution in what you say about yourself, your professional experience and pending cases. Technology continued on page 62 Vol. 60 | February 2012 | VIRGINIA LAWYER 61

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