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Is Your Law Practice Still In The Stone Age?

You probably know you’re in the stone age and don’t want to admit it.  That’s ok. Change happens once you recognize there’s a problem.

Here are two things I hear often when people try to rationalize that they are, in fact, with the program, when in fact, they aren’t:

Of course I use email! Who doesn’t use email?

Using email is a good first step, and it’s probably the most ubiquitous use of online technology around. But nothing says ancient schooling more loudly than using someone elses email address for your business.

Are you using your own e-mail address, or are you using one that’s a vanity plate for someone else?

If you’re using your name, or yourcompany, or [email protected], @yahoo, or heaven forbid @aol, think about the image that conveys to anyone you communicate with via email. It’s a good bet they will assume that you don’t have a web presence, and not having a web presence or even conveying that today is yesterdays equivalent of not being listed in the phone book. And if you have a web presence, and your email address doesn’t match up, that’s even worse because it conveys inconsistent, unsophisticated branding.

And when it comes to email marketing, having your own unique address is critical. Every time you communicate with someone, even if it’s just via email, it’s another touch point, and another opportunity to promote your business in a positive way.

Web hosting is ridiculously cheap, and often provides the ability to set up multiple e-mail addresses at your domain, such as [email protected], info@, AP@, etc. I do my web hosting through Bluehost, but there are dozens of good web hosting services out there. Do a little research, and for as little as $5 a month (or less), and a little time spent on set-up, you’re done.

If you’re a gmail fan, you can get a custom domain name and a full set of applications using Google Apps. Although the free plan is no longer available, you can get started for as little as – you guessed it – $5.00 per user, per month. That princely sum covers your web address, voice and video calls, calendaring, 30GB of storage, and more.

Bottom line – If you don’t have a website or an online presence just yet, at the very least, get your own web domain so you can start using your own personal, business branded, email address. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to improve your reputation, promote your brand, and convey that your business lives in the present.

I save everything on my computer. It’s all backed up.

Newsflash – that’s not a backup system.

US businesses lose billions of dollars from data losses every year, and there’s no reason for your firm to be one of them. It’s easier, and cheaper than ever, to set up a practically fool-proof system to back up your data.

At a minimum, start backing up your data to an external hard drive.  For $50, or even less, you can buy a backup drive that will automatically backup and hold a terrabyte (1TB) of data. Just so you get a sense of how much data that is, it’s the equivalent of approximately 200 million pages of text (at 5,000 characters per page), or the same amount of data storage you would have gotten out of 718,000+ floppy disks (if you’re old enough to remember what those are).  Or you can go all out and buy a Western Digital 4TB backup drive that will set you back about $130.00. It’s so ridiculously cheap, that it’s actually ridiculous not to do it.

If you want something a little more portable than a book sized hard drive (think paperback to hard cover), USB drives are your best bet. USB drives are about the size of your thumb and they plug right into those square USB ports on your computer. A 32GB USB drive will cost you about $10.00. Be a sport and go for 128GB, and that will set you back about $30.00. Backup your data to the USB drive, password protect it, and store the drive in a safe place, and you’ve got a very cheap and very reliable backup system. Just don’t forget that there’s a very good reason that USB drives are also called “thumb drives”.  They are about the size of your thumb, easy to lose, and unfortunately, easy to pilfer.

If you don’t want to bother with extra physical equipment to back up your computer, then you might want to consider a cloud based, computer backup service. Crashplan, MozyPro, and Carbonite, are just a few of the cloud based services that will back up one computer or as many as you’d like. Plans start at about $10 per user, per month.

If an external backup drive is too much for you to handle, a thumb drive makes you uncomfortable, and a cloud based computer back up system seems too complicated or feels like overkill for you, then a cloud based file storage solution could be exactly what you need instead.  Dropbox, Box, and One Drive, are all cloud based file storage services that provide the ability to access all of your files from anywhere, on any device. Save a file on your computer, and you can access it from a phone or tablet. Or save a file on on your phone, and then access it on your computer or your tablet. Your files are always available on any device, from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.

Box offers a free account that includes 10GB of storage. Dropbox business plans, which include 1TB of storage start at about $8.25 per month. And Microsoft’s OneDrive is available in several flavors as well, running from free (5GB) to $9.99 (1TB) and up when combined with Office 365 plans.

Bottom line – No drives to lug around, store, or lose, and anything you place in your cloud based folders is always available from any device.

The ultimate setup is one based on redundancy. Use a cloud based file service, a physical backup drive, a cloud based computer backup service, and USB drives for those moments when you may not have internet access.

Just two little incremental changes can make a world of difference:

  • Get your own unique email address to establish your brand and convey that you’re running a modern practice, and
  • Back up your data, so you (and your clients) can sleep at night knowing that the information on your computer isn’t going to get lost.

Leave the stone age, and embrace the technology that’s out there to help you. Once you take that first step, the next steps are even easier.

Contact me if you’d like a more personalized review of how you can use technology to improve the way you manage your practice.

Photo by Gordon M. Robertson
2016-11-09T15:24:55+00:00 May 23rd, 2016|Law Practice Management, Legal Technology|