This summer, at LOMAP, we have been fortunate in that we have had the continuing assistance of two excellent interns, one of whom is the author of this blog post. Michael Pirrello will be entering his third year at Suffolk University Law School in the late summer. He has been indispensable to nearly everything that we have accomplished at LOMAP this summer. We are grateful for his remaining service with us, and wish him luck in his legal career from here. Michael provides below a review of the ABA’s “2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide”:

Over the past decade, our society has seen exponential growth in the technology industry. Everyone knows that recent advances in the field of technology have made, for the most part, a positive impact on our personal lives. As most simple examples: we’ve all used email to stay in better touch with our friends and family; and, we’ve all used the web to access information more quickly. Not everybody knows, however, that technology can have a positive impact on our professional lives, as well. By simply adding a new piece of software to one’s work computer, for example, one’s law practice can be run far more efficiently. But, with all the choices out there, it is easy to become lost, if you do not have some guidance. You would be well-served, then, to adopt “The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide” as your own guide to the many uses of technology within your law office. The Guide will show you how to take advantage of available technology, in order to achieve ever-increasing business efficiency.

“The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide” is the latest edition in a series of books published by the ABA and authored by Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., John W. Simek and Michael C. Maschke. As a second-year law student, I was drawn to this book immediately, because it was a technology text written specifically for attorneys; most of the textbooks that I run across are case primers. I took the reading of this book as a unique experience for a law student: to learn about technology used in practice as an outsider first, before the question is to be thrust upon me directly. The Guide covers the practical question of how the attorney can most effectively introduce technology into his law practice, and continue to use technologies implemented to the fullest extent possible, even as those technologies are updated.

To help lawyers to achieve these ends, the authors begin by introducing readers to different types of technology available for the law office. The authors explain, generally, what products are out there, what they do, how much they cost, and who sells them, so that readers can make informed (and quick) decisions on whether or not their firms need the products described. Then, the authors make special recommendations for certain, exceptional products. They recommend, for one, that attorneys install dual monitors to increase productivity. The authors also recommend that readers try Dragon Naturally Speaking. Dragon is a voice recognition software that is calibrated to recognize your voice. When used correctly, Dragon can save you time and energy, because it will write down everything you say for you. Emails, letters, and documents can be written as fast as you can speak. The authors also tackle a number of discrete technology issues with which a legal audience may not be very familiar, including: servers, case management systems and collaboration tools. In 22 well-written chapters, the Guide offers clear and comprehensive coverage of all of these topics, and more.

After reading this book myself, I must say that I highly recommend it as a technology guide for attorneys, for a number of reasons. First, as I mentioned earlier, the subject is of great importance to attorneys, and becoming more important each year, as law office technology becomes more sophisticated. When used properly, legal technology will allow a firm to run far more efficiently. A lawyer must be informed on this subject, and this book will provide the information that lawyers need to become so informed. Some attorneys may be afraid of the topic, because they are unfamiliar with, what can be, difficult technical language and concepts. If that is a concern of yours, you needn’t worry, because the Guide is easy to read. The Guide was written for attorneys, rather than for “techies”. Better still, the Guide also contains a glossary, just in case the reader is unfamiliar with certain technical words used. I also like this book because it contains no filler. This is important because time is money, especially for an attorney. The book gets to the point, and tells you what you need to know. Finally, the book is well-organized. Each chapter covers an individual type of software or hardware that an attorney can use in his practice. The organized structure of the book is important because it enables the reader to find the information he or she needs quickly. One does not have to read the book cover-to-cover in order to improve a law practice; if you already have a scanner, for example, you can skip over that chapter and learn more about smartphones instead.

Although this book is very well-done, and useful, to boot, it is not perfect. There are a few weaknesses, as well. As I mentioned, the glossary of terms is very helpful. However, it is hidden in the back of the book, without enough signposts to indicate its existence before you get to it. It would have been more helpful if the authors had placed the glossary at the beginning of each chapter in which the listed words would be used. (To get around this shortcoming, incidentally, I recommend that you skim through the glossary before reading the book. That way, you can gain some currency with the technical terms that will be used, and won’t waste time flipping through the pages later on.) Also, due to the dry subject matter, the book is not the most entertaining piece of literature out there. The few attempts at humor in the book fall flat. But, then again, you’re not buying this book to get a laugh; and, even though the subject matter may not interest us intrinsically, the information provided is still very important to attorneys. If used properly, the Guide will improve your practice and make your professional life easier, a byproduct of which will be the finding of more time in your personal life, for you and your family.

For these reasons, I do heartily recommend “The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide” to all solo attorneys and small firm practitioners.