Fourteen Hot Legal Techno. Tips

Tags: voice recognition program, word processors, playback module, Voice recognition, hard return, managing partner, ABA's Law Practice Management Section, Norman, Oklahoma, WordPerfect versions, voice recognition system, Bruehl, Sheryn Bruehl
Content: Fourteen Hot Legal Techno. Tips
Sheryn Bruehl
Most lawyers are too busy to spend hours researching and testing the best ways to use computers. Fortunately, there are some quick and easy things you can do to get the best out of your technology tools.

I AM the managing partner of a small--but growing and very busy--practice in Norman, Oklahoma. I administer an eight-computer network for four attorneys and two support staff. Along the way, I have had quite a bit of practical experience with WordPerfect versions 4.2 through 9; WordPerfect Legal Suite 7.1; Amicus Attorney Pro, III, and IV; TimeMatters; Dragon Dictate voice recognition system, Textbridge Pro
OCR, peer-to-peer networking in Windows 3.xx, Windows 95 and Win98, and Palm Pilot. In a general practice environment, all of these tools can contribute to efficiency, quality of Legal Services, and even to quality of life. Naturally, every system, device, and piece of software has its own peculiarities and limitations. Having lived with quite a few of them, I have developed a few Hot Legal Techno.Tips for your consideration.
Sheryn Bruehl is a managing partner of Bruehl & Chapman, P.C. in Norman, Oklahoma. Ms. Bruehl speaks and writes extensively on legal technology topics and issues. She can be reached at: Bruehl & Chapman, P.C., 309 West Main Street, Norman, Oklahoma 73069-1312; by e-mail at [email protected]; or by telephone at (405) 573-2001. this article is based on a paper the author prepared for an August 2000 seminar sponsored by the ABA's Law Practice Management Section. 49
50 The Practical Lawyer
January 2001
1. RTFM (READ THE FURNISHED MATERIALS) · Well, actually, most software these days does not come with a traditional printed manual. However, extensive help menus and online help manuals are almost always available. In most programs, the help menus can be searched in one or more ways, including Table of Contents, index, and text searching. Before you give up, or call your favorite techie in to do the job for you, try searching the help menus for one or more terms associated with whatever you are trying to do. When you find the help page with the step-by-step instructions, print the page, and keep it in front of you for reference while you do the job. Or buy a commercially published book, and keep it nearby for reference. 2. HAVE IT YOUR OWN WAY (LEARN TO CUSTOMIZE TOOLBARS · You can put your most commonly used programs on the Windows toolbar at the bottom (or side) of the screen, and remove the default programs that you never use. In Windows 98, simply create a folder with a name like "My Custom Toolbar," and create shortcuts to your favorite programs within that folder. Then right-click on your Windows toolbar, select Toolbars, New Toolbar, and locate the folder you created. The icons for the programs you chose will now appear on your Windows 98 toolbar, and the programs can be launched without closing your current programs or documents. Get Rid of the Things You Don't Need Similarly, in your word processing program, you should customize your toolbar(s) to include icons for all of the common functions that you use, to delete those that you do not use, and to organize them in a way that is intuitive for you. In WordPerfect, for example, you can create up to eight custom toolbars, customize a contextsensitive property bar, and format an applications bar. In addition to icons for functions of
the program, you can add icons to launch additional programs, or to play macros. 3. TAKE CARE OF YOUR LIVEWARE · Believe it or not, the most critical component of your computer system is sitting in the chair in front of the screen. Poorly equipped, fatigued, unhappy, or injured users will deprive you of the efficiency and savings that technology, properly applied, can provide. Look at your workstation, and those of your staff, and determine what is needed to provide a safe and comfortable computing environment. Make sure that every computer user has a comfortable keyboard, his or her choice of pointing devices (mouse, touch pad, trackball, etc.), a good chair, and an adequate monitor. The Comfort Factor Ask your staff what they need to be more comfortable while working. Most requested items will be relatively inexpensive, yet things like copy holders, electric staplers, foot rests, telephone headsets, ergonomic mouse pads, wrist rests, etc. will improve comfort, efficiency, and morale, and as an added bonus, will help to prevent workers' compensation injuries. And make it fun--a Mickey Mouse Pad, a Dilbert screensaver, or a furry "mouse" cover with ears and a tail goes a long way toward making a long, stressful day a little more enjoyable. Adaptive Technology Also, do not overlook the adaptive technolo- gy available within common programs. Windows 98 provides a multitude of options to assist the visually impaired, mobility impaired, or hearing-impaired user. The text-to-speech modules of many voice recognition software programs can be of use to employees or associates who suffer from reading disabilities or vision problems, as can the spell checking and Spell-
Legal Techno. Tips 51
As-You-Go functions of WordPerfect and other Word Processors. 4. CLEAN UP YOUR E-MAIL · No, not the content...that's up to your discretion. But do everybody a favor and get rid of those pesky little ">>>>" arrows that indicate the message has been forwarded a bazillion times already. Just copy the message into your word processor, use the Find-and-Replace function to replace each ">" with nothing or with a space. Presto!--a "clean" message. Don't Shout! Did some poor soul who didn't know any better send you a MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS LIKE THIS???? Perhaps the sender didn't know it is the online equivalent of SHOUTING...but you can do better--just use your word processor to convert the case to initial caps or lowercase. Haiku, Anyone? And finally, if you got one of those weirdly formatted messages from someone who uses a different e-mail program and you want to straighten out the lines, the trick is a little more complicated...you don't want the paragraphs to run together, but you do want the lines fixed: Find-and-replace all double hard returns with a character(s) of some sort (say, ###), then findand-replace all remaining hard returns with nothing or with a space, then Find-and-Replace all your "###" with a double hard return. 5. VOICE RECOGNITION: GOOD BUT NOT PERFECT · With continuous speech recognition, and the low cost of high-power
There is no substitute for a thorough proofreading of your work, but the "text-to-speech" and playback module of your voice recognition program can help. computers today, the dream of a "dictating machine" is very nearly a reality. But like most doses of reality, it has its down side. Voice recognition makes mistakes...lots of them at first, fewer as you go along. It used to be enough to visually inspect and "spell-check" a document to know that there were no typos or other embarrassing mistakes. But voice recognition software won't make spelling mistakes--it puts in real words that it thought you said, so "inure" becomes "in her" or "in your" and, with the right Southern drawl, "hill" becomes "hale" or "hell," "far" becomes "fur" or "for" and so on. Proofreading Still Matters There is no substitute for a thorough proof- reading of your work, but the "text-to-speech" and playback module of your voice recognition program can help. Also, consider using a grammar-checking program to help catch sentences that just don't make much sense. 6. UPGRADE AS NECESSARY · There is nothing more frustrating than getting a document from a client or opposing counsel with the formatting destroyed. Or getting an e-mail from your best friend that says, "This is the funniest thing you've ever seen!!" and not be able to open it (or getting it in gobbledygook that looks like this {[email protected]$&jfaljf987?~098034ha&!sd flk3nmroy). And you certainly don't want to buy the age-old argument that you have to

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