Paperless Work Flow For Law Practice

Almost every article you read about "going paperless" has the same disclaimer: paperless means less paper, not the elimination of paper all together. As lawyer, paper is a fact of life (a fact I toil to change). Switching from a paper-more law practice to a paperless law practice requires some effort and determination. It is not always easy to make the change — there will be some upfront work involved and troubleshooting as you perfect your system — but the goal is to gain long-term efficiencies. Thus, you need to take a long-term approach in implementing a paperless law practice. Before you take the plunge into going paperless, you need to lay some groundwork. In a previous post, I went over the importance of having a standardized file naming convention. You should figure out a naming convention out before you scan a single document, otherwise you (or your staff) will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to rename all your newly digitalized files. Get it right the first time. Also, when going paperless, you should start from day zero, i.e., don't try to go back and digitize all your old paper files. The exception may be to digitize active matters, but what's been done is done — we're looking forward, and don't want to waste time correcting the past. Once you have a file naming system figured out, the next step is to setup a paperless work flow for turning your paper documents into digital ones, and getting them filed where they need to be. Obviously, a document scanner is key here. Document Scanner In my office, I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap [...]

File Naming Conventions For Paperless Law Office

With more and more companies and law offices going paperless (or at least trying to — remember, it is paper-less, i.e., less paper), it is increasingly important to have a standardized file naming convention. Each type of law firm is different in the types of cases it handles, so you will need to create your file naming system accordingly. My office handles a lot of litigation matters, so I have created a file naming convention that allows me to quickly name and identify important documents that have been scanned in (or received digitally) and filed electronically. A standardized file naming convention is important, because if your documents are haphazardly named, then it makes it more difficult for you and your staff to locate a document quickly. Spending needless time searching for a document frustrates one of the main goals of a paperless filing system: efficiency. If you are looking to implement a file naming standard in your practice, I have included some of the basic structure I use that may serve as a helpful starting off point for you. Sample Folder Trees For Litigation Firm The first step is to setup the file directories for your office, and I use a system of subfolders to organize my cases. Thus, the parent folder for all my files is simply named "Client Files". Inside that folder, I have four subfolders named as follows: "_Open Files", "Closed Files", "Archive" and "Temporary". I use an underscore for Open Files because I sort my files by name, and the leading underscore ensures that my "Open Files" folder is always at the [...]

Informal Discovery Conference In Los Angeles County Superior Court

An Informal Discovery Conference, commonly abbreviated as "IDC," is an informal proceeding used by the courts to encourage resolution of disputes, particularly discovery-related disputes, prior to the filing of a motion; a forced further meet and confer, if you will. IDCs are encouraged by many courts throughout Los Angeles County. At the informal discovery conference, the judge listens to each party's position in the dispute, and provides guidance. The outcome of the informal discovery conference can be described as a "tentative-tentative" ruling on the disputed issue prior to the hearing on the motion. The parties may later bring additional argument in the formal motion that can persuade the court otherwise; however, this may be an uphill battle. In Personal Injury Courts (PI Courts) of Los Angeles County (Departments 91, 92 and 93 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse), informal discovery conferences are required by the 5th Amended General Order prior to the hearing on a motion to compel further responses to discovery. PI Court judges are available daily to conduct a 30-minute, in person IDCs with counsel from both sides who have full authority to make binding agreements in discovery disputes. Again, there are no rulings made in PI Court IDCs. "The purpose of the IDC is to help the parties resolve discovery disputes by agreement rather than by motion practice." Prior to the IDC, the clerk may ask the parties if they would like to meet and confer again before sitting down with the judge. How To Schedule An Informal Discovery Conference Each court has its own policies and procedures with respect to the availability and scheduling [...]

Goodbye Zite, Goodbye Mailbox

This has been a disruptive month for me in terms of technology I rely on every day: two of my favorite and most frequently used software applications have been or are being discontinued. Sigh. The first application, Zite, was officially shutdown on December 7, 2015. This had been a long-time-coming, as Zite (previously owned by CNN) was purchased by Flipboard back in March 2014. The deal gave CNN an advertising partnership with Flipboard, and the companies agreed to phase out Zite as a standalone application. While Flipboard looks like it has some potential, it lacks the simple user interface and familiar feel that I had grown accustomed to with Zite. This isn't necessarily a huge hit for me in terms of my business, but Zite was my primary means of digesting daily news. And despite having ample notice that Zite was being discontinued, my search of a suitable replacement was unsuccessful. While I downloaded countless apps over the course of the year to replace Zite, there really isn't a good replacement. I will miss you old friend. The second application, Mailbox app, is being shutdown early 2016. The death of this app required more immediate attention as I, like many other professionals, rely on email in my daily life and need a good email client on my mobile devices. I had used Mailbox since it came out; securing one of the coveted early adopter spots (I recall being in the fist 10s of thousands — the list had quickly grown to hundreds of thousands with new users being allowed to download the app on a rolling basis as [...]

Wood Burning Regulations

A Need To Regulate Residential Wood Burning Pollution

Business Planning: How To Write Your Company Description

Since it's best to hold off writing the Executive Summary until last, the first section of the business plan that you should write is the Company Description. Essentially, the company description serves as an overview of what your business does, where it’s located, how it’s structured, and any progress you’ve made to date. Since it can be difficult deciding where to start when writing the company description section of your business plan, it’s helpful to break it down into eight subsections. Breaking your company description into smaller sections helps keep your writing organized, which allows the reader to get a better overall sense of your business. Below is a general outline of how you can organize your company description. Company Description: Summary Paragraph The company description should start out with a summary paragraph that introduces the name of your business, its legal status, when and where it was formed, the owners/co-founders, and the industry or submarket that it’s competing in. Think of this introductory paragraph as a place to lay the groundwork for the more detailed descriptions that follow. If any of this introductory information is particularly important to your business, you should also explain that to your reader in the introductory paragraphs. Company Description: Mission Statement Once you’ve introduced the basics of your company, it’s time to start getting into what your company plans to do. A mission statement sums up the purpose of your company into one or two sentences that clearly state your business’ guiding principles. If you haven’t written your business’ mission statement yet, now is the time to do so. Company [...]

Seven Sections Every Business Plan Should Have

While there’s a lot to be said about a snappy presentation for your business plan, it’s as much of a process as it is a final product. Many small business owners are tempted to outsource the creation of their business plan; however, this is a mistake. Think of writing your business plan like preparing a study guide for college exams. Sure, the study guide itself is a useful tool, but the real utility comes from the work that goes into creating it. Keep reading below to learn about the seven most important sections every business plan should include. Executive Summary The executive summary is the first element of your business plan, though it is should be written last. Since the executive summary will likely be the most read section of your business plan, use it as your opportunity to grab your reader’s attention and let them know why they should continue through the rest of your document or proposal. Executive summaries generally shouldn’t be longer than a couple of single-spaced pages in length, though the actual length will depend on the complexity of your business. Learn more about how to write a winning executive summary. Company Description/Overview The goal of your company description or overview is to leave your reader with a sense of your company’s overall purpose, the direction it’s heading in, its goals and background. When writing your company description, it can be helpful to break it down into subsections to be sure you cover everything. Learn more about how to write an effective company description. Market Research The market research section of [...]

Spelling 101: Website vs. Web Site

While doing some research for a terms and conditions of service agreement I am working on for a client, I began noticing differences in the way people spell "website" (which is the appropriate way). I'm actually quite fond of knowing about the rights and wrongs of obscure spelling and grammar nuances, so I began searching for an authority on how this word is spelled. Mashable published an article back in 2010 noting how the AP (Associated Press) Stylebook officially changed the previously correct, "web site" to the now correct "website." While I don't have a subscription to the AP Stylebook, I'll take Mashable's word for it that  reporters and journalists are all adhering to "website." Grammarist shed some new light on the differences in spelling, noting that the correct way used to be "Web site" (capital "W"), but the more modern way is lowercase "website."Grammarist goes into further detail on this one, noting the differences between news agencies timely adoption/integration of new tech terms. Google's Terms of Service actually does not use the term "website" or "web site" a single time in its entire ToS Agreement. Facebook ∆, Twitter, Yelp, The American Bar Association, The California Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association all use the lowercase, single word spelling of "website" in their terms of use/service agreements. Yahoo, on the other hand, references its "World Wide Web Sites" twice in its Terms of Service Agreement. So which way do you spell it? Web site, or website? I would be willing to wager that those of you who spell "Web site" also double space after periods, but that's a different conversation entirely.

How To Prepare For The Initial Consultation With Your Attorney

Prepare for the Initial Consultation If you are dealing with a legal matter and have taken the initial step to schedule a consultation with an attorney, you’re off to a great start. Hiring an attorney as early on in your case is essential to getting the best representation you can. Meeting with an attorney as soon as possible not only ensures that deadlines aren’t missed, but it also gives your attorney more time to understand the issues and help you reach the best possible resolution. When you’re meeting with your attorney for the first time, it’s important to come prepared. The better prepared you (the client) are for the initial consultation, the better able your attorney will be able to answer your questions and dive right into your matter. Having everything ready from the outset can also save you money, as it will take your attorney less time to work on your case. This is especially true when your attorney is billing by the hour. Below are a few things to remember that will help you get the most out of your initial consultation with your attorney. Gather and organize all relevant documents. Spend some time collecting all the documents related to your legal matter and organize them in a way that makes sense. When collecting documents, it’s better to include too much than too little; your attorney will be better able to decide what is and isn’t important. You should also make copies of these documents before your meeting, so you have a copy ready to give to your attorney. Note: some [...]

Noncompete Clauses in California

Non-compete (noncompete) clauses are becoming more and more commonplace in all sorts of jobs today. Traditionally, noncompete clauses were expected in high technology jobs, sales positions, and corporations with valuable secrets; however, in recent years, noncompete clauses have began popping up in other types of jobs, including: event planners, chefs, investment managers, and even yoga instructors. With the proliferation of noncompete clauses, often a non-negotiable condition of employment, the New York Times even ran an article recently that highlights some of the unexpected jobs where noncompete clauses are popping up. From the employers perspective, these restrictive covenants are seen as essential to protect their business secrets and make sure their high ranking employees from leaving to become competitors. Unfortunately, many employees often don't think twice about agreeing to a noncompete clause because they either haven't had any experience with them before, or don't imagine a situation where it would be a concern. Also, in today's job environment, many employees are simply happy to get a job and don't want to rock the boat before the offer is finalized. Whether a noncompete clause is enforceable is a matter of state law. Just because there is a noncompete clause in your employment contract doesn't mean that you can sue or be sued for breach. While every state is different, California law strongly disfavors noncompete clauses. Courts disfavor these restrictive covenants and see them as an unfair restraint on competition. While the blanket rule in California is that a noncompete clause is not enforceable, there are a few expectations where courts have held that a noncompete clause will be enforceable. This is often true even [...]