Articles Posted in Tech Tips

People manage email in different ways. Some of us use our Inbox as a task list, filing everything that does not need attention.  Others use their Inbox as a storage site for any email that they may ever want to refer to again. You can imagine which group is better liked by IT departments across the globe.

We also have different standards for what is and is not acceptable from a usage or style perspective.  Emails that disregard sentence capitalization, for example, opting to use only lower-case letters, may drive some readers bonkers. Others may be more troubled by email senders who elect to use an atrocious and distracting “stationery,” which translates roughly to a pale beige background with fuzzy gray dots arranged in a grid pattern on which it is impossible to read any text smaller than 24 pts in bold font.

But what about the content of our emails?  There are tricky aspects of that, too, as many of us are all too well aware. Why is it that readers so often misinterpret messages as having a far more sinister or simply unfriendly intent?

Lawyers are notoriously slow to adopt new technology. This is an unfortunate characteristic of my profession. But there are some innovators in the field. And those innovators may be changing the game for the rest of us.

For this Monday morning, I’d like to direct you to one such innovator and how he is putting the latest technology to use. Specifically, the technology being put to use is the iBook. And, now, with Apple’s new iBook Author app, publishing an iBook is about as simple as creating a document using Microsoft Word.

And what do all litigators create with Microsoft Word? Briefs. We write lots of briefs. And what happens when you combine iBooks and legal briefs? Total geek heaven. To see a very geeky-cool example of an iBook brief, check out the post, e-Briefs o the iPad: An Exciting New Tool to Give Attorneys an Edge on Cogent Legal Blog. And then be sure to download the sample brief and view it on your iPad.

Wesley University’s Dean of Students was one of several academic advisors who received an email from the school’s Director of Advisement. The email identified a list of students who were in danger of failing out of school.  So far, nothing unusual-the Dean of advisors notifies other advisors of students who probably needed some advice. 

Unfortunately, though, the Dean of Students accidentally forwarded the e-mail to unintended recipients.  In fact, she sent the e-mail to the entire student body.  Once the mistake was realized, the school’s IT Department recalled the message.  The school estimates that approximately 12 students opened the message before it was recalled.  Of course, there’s no way to know how many people actually received the e-mail-the 12 students could have forwarded the email to others, who, in turn, could have forwarded it again. 

This story is an unpleasant one but a powerful reminder to the rest of us to use extra care any time we: (1) forward an e-mail; or (2) copy multiple users on any e-mail.

I continue to be amazed by some of the less-than-best writing practices of my friends and colleagues.  Many of these practices relate to the ways in which they format documents. I recognize that many of these practices derive only from habit–not bad intentions.  But that doesn’t make them any less annoying.  And what makes them more annoying is the irrational devotion they garner. 

What are these habits, you ask?  Truth be told, there are too many to list here.  But there is good news–I am not alone.  There are others who feel strongly about the importance of documents done right. 

Minnesota bankrupcty court judge Robert Kressel is one such sympathizer.  Recently, he issued Order Preparation Guidelines for attorneys appearing before him.  The Guidelines spell out a variety of writing misdeeds that Judge Kressel wisely abhors. 

Have you ever wanted to carry the entire Delaware code in your pocket? Have there been times you’d wished you’d had Title 19, Delaware’s labor statutes available when you’re not at your computer or near a law library?  Well, if you are the owner of an Apple iPhone, now you can.  The entire Delaware code is now available as an app via the iTunes store for just $19.95.  That’s insanely inexpensive compared to the price of the multi-volume book set you’d have to buy to get the Code in print.  The app gives users access to the full Code in a searchable format, making it easy to find that obscure cite in a flash.

Of course, law firms have been very reluctant to the adaptation of the iPhone, so many lawyers who have iPhones also have to lug around a Blackberry to check their work e-mails.  Still, a Blackberry is substantially less bulky than a couple of shelves worth of hard-bound legal books. Oh, what will technology give us lawyers next?

In case you’re not yet an iPhone user, you can always search the Delaware Code for free online, made available on the State of Delaware’s website.

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken another step towards “digital enlightenment.” The Court’s website now includes links to pdf files containing the United States Reports, volumes 502 and later.  The U.S. Reports contain the final and official version of the Court’s decisions, typically three to five volumes per Term. Each volume is between 800 and 1,200 pages long, making each pdf file very large.  Large, but packed with valuable information, including, according the Court’s site:

In addition to all of the opinions issued during a particular period, a volume may contain a roster of Justices and Court officers during that period; an allotment of Justices by Federal Circuit; announcements of Justices’ investitures and retirements; memorial proceedings for deceased Justices; a cumulative table of cases reported; orders in cases decided in summary fashion; reprints of amendments to the Supreme Court’s Rules and the various sets of Federal Rules of Procedure; a topical index; and a statistical table summarizing case activity for the past three Court Terms.

For those who are familiar with Adobe’s Acrobat can create a tremendous resource for themselves by saving these files locally and creating an electronic index for super-quick searches later.  This appears to be yet another mile marker in the road to more easily accessible legal references.

Depositions are critical. Litigators know that an entire case can rise or fall because of testimony given by a deponent. The vital nature of depositions warrants a great deal of preparation in advance by the deposing attorney. In many cases, the documents shape the deposition questioning. It can require a great deal of attention to determine which documents will be used as exhibits.

Here’s a quick picture of how my deposition exhibits used to be prepared. The potential exhibits are identified by the lawyer in advance and turned over to the paralegal. The paralegal then makes copies and prepares a separate file folder for each document. During the deposition, when ready to admit a particular document, the lawyer describes the document to the paralegal. The paralegal then begins to search through the bankers’ box full of file folders. Once located, the copies are distributed around the table, one is marked by the court reporter, and the deposition continues.

I gave up that method because it seemed so disorganized and difficult. Plus, it required a paralegal spend quite a bit of time to get the documents ready, which meant that I had to know which ones I intended to use far in advance of the actual deposition. The system I currently use takes a fraction of the time to prepare, is far more organized, is easier to use during the deposition, and makes life much, much easier for me, for my paralegal, and for the court reporter.


Twitter continues to gain popularity and I’ve jumped on the bandwagon.  Here are my “tweets” from this week, grouped into rough categories by topic.


Social Media

Video HowCreate an Account in LinkedIn (via Professionally Speaking) Now you’ve got no excuse to avoid #social #networking

You’ve got something to share. A newsletter, a brochure, a seminar handout. You’ve spent time making the document look its best. You converted it to PDF. Everyone can access your shiny new PDF and no one can steal your work product. Well, almost.

Unless your PDF is properly secured, its contents can be copied and pasted into a word-processing document, where your work can be manipulated or altered. Anyone with Adobe Acrobat and a little knowledge can reuse and repurpose the content, taking credit for your hard work.

But don’t worry. All is not lost. You can use Acrobat to secure your documents and protect your work product. The steps are listed in short form first, with a more detailed explanation below.

Contact Information