Thursday, April 23, 2015

Keyview: On Day 1 of the Apple Watch, A Lawyer's 214th Day with a Google Smartwatch

On April 24, 2015, the Apple Watch is officially released.

That day is also my 214th day with the Moto 360 smartwatch. Developed by Motorola, the watch runs Google's Android Wear operating system.

Wearable devices is the new battlefield between the two tech giants. Google has a considerable head start, but Apple was not the first to create the smartphone or tablet and it is hoping to strike gold once again as The Watch is officially released into the wild.

Here are my thoughts and impressions on one of the first wearable devices that garnered attention with its round watch face and modern design:

Wireless Charging


The Moto 360 was the first device to introduce me to the beauty of wireless charging.

The watch comes with a convenient dock which holds the watch overnight to charge. The watch face changes to a nifty display which shows the time and the battery charge level.

While Apple is usually not to be outdone when it comes to product design, the Apple Watch appears to not have such an intuitive way to charge and store itself.  Most smartwatch designers have been unable to avoid the cables that keep us tied down with our smartphones and tablets.

Once placed on the stand, I have had zero problems with fast and consistent charging, and use of this feature may make wireless charging a necessity in my next smartphone.

Design

Despite the nice and sturdy materials of the watch, I never have to take it off when going through courthouse security. 

You can customize your watch face and band at the Motorola Moto Maker website. My watch came with the Stone Leather band, which I replaced with the Cognac leather band, before going to my current stainless steel band. New bands will set you back $29 to $79 apiece.

Ever changing features

The release of the Apple Watch has pressured Google into further developments of the Android Wear software. 

One feature that has been around since the introduction of Google Lollipop (the latest version of the Android operating system) is Smart Lock. As lawyers, we need to have security features such as pin codes or fingerprint scanners to secure the data on our mobile devices. 

With Smart Lock, my phone knows it can safely open when my smartwatch is in close proximity. (Please, no questions about what happens if someone is able to swipe my phone AND the watch off my wrist consecutively). If I wasn't already engrained in the Google ecosystem after using Google Apps and an Android phone for years, this watch may have sealed the deal due to convenient features like this that allow your watch and phone to work together.

The most important new feature may be Wifi support. Previously, my Moto 360 required a direct connection to the phone via Bluetooth, which does not work over long distances. So if my phone was left at the office while I head to court, I basically was left sporting an expensive watch with a digital display. Now, with Wifi support, the watch will work even if I leave my phone at home or the office. Text messages and incoming call notifications will continue as long as the watch can connect to a network. 

Also new are hands-free gestures. The Apple Watch uses the digital crown on the side of the device as one way to scroll through apps and information on the watch's screen. Now, on Android Wear devices, simply flicking your wrist will scroll through notifications or cards of information without having to fingerprint your screen constantly.


A Necessity or a Nice Idea?

Tech gadgets are my vice, so there was never really any hope that funds in my household were safe from this type of device. But has it been useful in my day to day practice?

My smartphone does get less use. While walking back to the office from court, or getting in the car from a hearing, it is convenient to be able to swipe through text messages, click Reply, and speak a short response before it's sent. (The Moto 360 seems to have an intelligent microphone but does not have a speaker, so you cannot use it as a full replacement for your phone.) 

Google Keep integration is also a recent development, which allows you to quickly take notes and make checklists on the go. 

The health features of the device also may offer some encouragement about how much daily walking you get in walking downtown from court to client meetings. You can use Google's or Motorola's software solutions to track fitness over time.

Ironically, there is still a part of me that reaches for my phone even when I want to check the time. Perhaps that speaks to my generation's lack of reliance on a timepiece worn on the wrist. (Interested in how the circular Moto 360 may work as a pocket timepiece - check this out.)

In my experience, Apple has some major work to do in making this product category as indispensable as they made smartphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets.

But if you are in the market for a smartwatch, the Moto 360 is a good bet. (Note: If you are about to make the plunge, be aware that the Moto 360 has recently dropped in price as rumors of version 2 are swirling.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kentucky Bar Association updates website


Today, the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) rolled out its new website at kybar.org.

The site has new features for attorneys (such as viewing your CLE transcript and soon you will be able to pay your dues online) and the general public, including a more modern Lawyer Locator search tool.

Check it out: http://www.kybar.org/ (active attorneys have been emailed new passwords which does not affect your CourtNet login).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Should You Switch to Switch for your law firm phone service?

Having multiple offices fortunately allows for opportunities to try different phone systems in your law firm (or any small business for that matter). Although we begrudgingly began one of our offices on Time Warner Business phone systems in a bundle deal with an internet package, the lack of flexibility in the less expensive options from the big telecom names such as TWC or AT&T led us to more exciting and modern options.

Ooma Office

For some time, we used Ooma Office to manage the phone system at one of our offices. While Ooma is reliable enough to be used in a small business setting, it was not without issues. Ooma requires no less than three to four pieces of physical hardware in your office (not counting the traditional land line phones that hook into the Ooma equipment). Ooma's router likes to be connected directly to the modem feeding your office its internet service, with Ooma recommending that you connect your wireless router into the Ooma router.


The obvious issue here is that you create one additional hurdle between the not-always-so-reliable service of Time Warner and your wireless router which is feeding your laptops, mobile devices, etc. to get work done. Ooma router needs to update? That means a temporary outage for your entire office. On more weekdays than we would like to remember, our staff had to manually reset the Ooma router to get fresh Internet back to our devices.

We also found the online portal to Ooma Office a little dated, and the technical support to be lacking.

We made the Switch

Earlier this year, Switch.co came out of beta. This service is from the same people who brought you UberConference. (Check it out if you haven't already.)

One of Switch's selling points for us (besides it not needing any physical equipment clogging up our office) was its tight integration with Google Apps. No need to set up brand new online accounts with another provider. Simple sign up with automatic recognition of all of our team members based on their business email addresses.

We were also in need of a new toll-free number for those clients (and leads from our websites) calling in from around the world who have the need for legal services in Kentuckiana due to having family members located here. Switch.co allowed us to quickly obtain a (888) number after it assigned us a main company line, in addition to providing private lines to each firm member.

Now, if you have an existing number that all of your clients, opposing counsel, etc. know and use, then you need to learn the term "porting." We initially encountered some difficulty in finding a way to get our main company line transferred ("ported") from Ooma to Switch, but personalized customer service from a human who seemed to be more local and more interested in obtaining our business walked us through the steps, and within a few days one of our main office lines was now ringing Switch.

So how do you use Switch? 

Again, you need a Google Apps account. You also need to be prepared to ditch your more traditional phone hardware. We were able to scrap about a dozen physical devices from our previous setup with Ooma once Switch was up and running.

Switch.co prompts you to download its desktop and mobile apps once you are in its online interface. Apps are available for Android and iPhone, and since we have employees running both, we can say with confidence that this is one piece of software that runs as well on Android (and in some instances better) than it does on Apple's mobile OS.


Easy access is provided to all of your Google contacts which are automatically recognized by Switch, and can be sorted to display Recent, Frequent, or just contacts within your Company. The learning curve is low given that the desktop Chrome app and the mobile app mirror each other. Icons, tabs, and buttons are intuitive and attractive.



In-call options are much more robust than Ooma Office, allowing the standard options of muting and pausing a call, in addition to simple transfer and conference call options. The ability to record the call is also provided (be careful here depending on the law in your state), plus you can view an overview of recent correspondence with that caller or launch a Google Hangouts session. Continuous improvements to the service now allow you to integrate your Google Calendar, Gmail, or Google Drive to provide even more in-depth analysis of how you have been communicating with a particular contact recently. (You also have the option of connecting your LinkedIn account).
One of the best features for attorneys still billing by the hour are quick snippets of information, such as duration of call, that may not be easily accessible with more traditional or expensive phone systems.




You can also text a client directly in the same window from where you initiate a call. Texting is critical to many clients in our areas of practice, and if our day-to-day experience is any indication, communication by this method will only continue to be more prevalent as a new generation of clients needs legal services. Switch allows you to communicate by text without divulging your personal cell phone number, but on a convenient interface on your mobile phone or computer.


^^^^ Send a text here ^^^^



What does it look like when someone calls, you ask?



You can choose where you receive notifications of new calls or texts, turning off your cell phone if you don't want to be disturbed there. Quick options are also provided for respectfully declining the call if you are tied up.

The traditional phone can still be on your desk (if your heart so desires)

So what if all of this cloud-based tech on the back end simply requires that you (or one of your long-time staff members) keep an old phone around so that you feel like you are not making too much change at once? Here is the solution provided by Switch to incorporate this new technology with a physical device sitting on your desk:

https://www.switch.co/obihai

We use a combination of wired and Bluetooth headsets in our office setting so that we are not talking in our cell phones all day or avoid the appearance that we are screaming at our computers' built-in microphones.

Can't I just use Google Voice as a free alternative?

Our office owns several Google Voice numbers that have been in operation for years. I believe there are certain lawyers and business owners who could probably get by with a Google Voice number that provides some of the same features as described above.

Switch.co is worth the monthly payment for our firm as we have found it to be much more reliable for voice calls with clients than what we experienced with Google Voice in calling on the go. Furthermore, if you have more than one person on your team, the in-call options to transfer to your assistant or the extensive online interface to establish business hours and call handling are simply more robust than what Google Voice currently offers.



Switch.co Online Interfaces for Call Routing & Business Hours settings


Sold on Switch?

We don't get any kickbacks on this write up. After trying multiple phone systems, both traditional and VOIP (voice over IP), Switch.co was the first that I was actually excited about enough to write about.

Switch.co posts its privacy and other legal policies at https://www.switch.co/legal so you can confirm its compliance with ethical rules in your jurisdiction if you are using the service in a law office setting.

Switch's flexibility and fresh take on one of the more boring aspects of a functioning law firm may allow you to take this service ($15 per line, unlimited texting & calling in US/Canada) for a spin even if you just want to experiment with a non-land line phone for you to communicate with clients or others (without using your personal cell phone number) away from the office.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Additional domains for law firms and attorneys now available

A previous post highlighted the fact that new TLDs (top level domains) were being released, such as .attorney and .lawyer so that legal professionals could purchase their own customized domain name with a web address that ends with a designation that is specific to the legal services field.

An additional domain has been released - . LEGAL

So if you were unable to get in on the first wave of domain purchases, give this one a try.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

E-Filing for Family Law Cases in Certain Kentucky Counties is now Live


Although Kentucky is under a state of emergency due to one of the biggest snowstorms in history, the Kentucky eCourts project announced today that family law cases and motions can be filed online in certain counties, with statewide implementation planned by the end of the year:

Read more here: http://www.502divorce.com/blog/2015/3/5/e-filing-for-family-law-cases-now-available-in-certain-kentucky-counties




Monday, February 16, 2015

Slashdot Snippet re: Online Courts in the UK

One of the best sites to stay on the cutting edge of technology and related issues is http://www.slashdot.org

Today, a snippet on the site references a recommendation that the justice system in the United Kingdom should be overhauled for the modern age and use existing online dispute resolution methods, such as eBay's negotiation procedure, as model solutions.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Estate Planning + Facebook = Legacy Contact

We've previously discussed the need for digital estate planning here and here.

Today, Facebook announced an official way to leave a "legacy contact" of your choosing.




Get additional details here on how to designate a friend or family member to manage your account when you are no longer able: https://www.facebook.com/help/1568013990080948

About Me

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Licensed to practice law in all state courts in Kentucky and Indiana, and federal courts in Kentucky and southern Indiana.  

Offices in downtown Louisville and southern Indiana.  

Experience in Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Nelson, Shelby, Spencer, and other counties in Kentucky; Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Washington, Jefferson, and Scott counties in Indiana. 

Practiced focused on helping individuals and families through some of their most difficult times.  Experience and skill in family law and domestic litigation, including divorce, custody, child support, maintenance (alimony), domestic violence (EPO / DVO) and complex property division cases.  

Estate planning and probate practice, which includes prenuptial agreements, wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and living wills (health care surrogate).  

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