Archives - November, 2007



25 Nov 07

I’m embarrassed to say that I still know people who have a BlackBerry and a cell phone. I’m not even talking about one of the “older” style BlackBerrys. I’m talking about one of the new schwankie Curves or 8800’s. Now, I can certainly understand the desire to “escape” from work. I can also understand that the older BlackBerrys weren’t very nice to talk on as a cell phone since it actually appeared like you had a hockey puck stuck in your ear. But lets be reasonable here. These newer BlackBerrys are actually just as good (and in my opinion, better) as any regular cell phone one the market. And if your aversion is simply related to the “size” of the BlackBerry, I really doubt that the size of the newer BlackBerrys is going to be much larger than your cell phone.

So, my point here isn’t necessarily a time saver, but more of a life saver. You’ll need one less packing mule to carry around all those extra electronics.

Now, lets talk about typing on a BlackBerry. It’s not easy usually to type really long emails, especially when the content is information that you share over and over and over again, like contact information, or addresses. I know many of my friends have an auto-signature setup on their BlackBerrys so they don’t have to type it all in, but for me, I like to put a different signature on different types of messages. Since I have three personal email accounts also attached to my BlackBerry, I prefer not to use my work signature on my personal emails, and I certainly don’t want my personal signature on my work emails. So, here enters the “AutoText” feature of the BlackBerry.

AutoText is a similar feature to that used in MS Word where if you type something like “teh” it will replace it automatically with “the”. Very convenient in MS Word, no? Well, your BlackBerry has the same technology. If you can find your “Options” menu, one of the first items on the list should be “AutoText”. When you click on this item you’ll see a long list of AutoText actions. They usuall look like “acn (can)” this means, if you type “anc” it turns into “can”. The word outside is what you might type and the word in the parentheses is the word that will result due to AutoText. Take a long hard look at this list. Many of them, as you would expect, are just auto-spelling correction items. On the other hand, there are quite a few items that simply save you time typing normal informations. Examples, “hel (he’ll)” (this means if you type “hel” you’ll get “he’ll”) or “id (I’d)” or “il (I’ll)”. One good one is “mynumber (%p)”, which means if you type “mynumber” then it will change it to your BlackBerry’s phone number which is much easier than finding the brackets and dashes and all the numbers.

So, let’s bring this baby home! How does AutoText and your signature come together as something useful? Well, I’m thrilled you would ask!!

I have three “special” AutoText items in my list. My first one is “#w”, if I type #w it inserts my full work signature. My next is “#h” (I call this my “home” signature) which inserts just my full name and my cell number. And finally I use “#a” as my “All personal information”. So by typing #a it replaces it with my name, my home address, my cell phone, my work phone, and some other garbage that I would pass on to friends who would ask me for many of these pieces. I rarely use this one, but it’s nice to have…. beats the heck out typing it all out!


Filed under: BlackBerry

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25 Nov 07

In the past year or so my office installed and rolled out an internal messaging system called Office Communicator (yes, by Microsoft). There are a total of… three of our 45 or so employees who use it. I’m not sure why! I think it can be quite convenient, much more than email for some types of communications.

The perfect usage for instant messaging in a work environment? Well, for me it’s usually in place of a phone call when I have something else going on. The advantage to using IM instead of telephone is that you don’t have to worry whether or not the recipient is actively waiting for your message/phone call/email. Just like email the recipient gets to respond when it’s convenient or whenever they have an appropriate response.

When won’t I use IM? Well, for one, whenever I need to keep a response. Sometimes you just know that the response you’ll get from your recipient you should actually be saving because you’ll need to refer to it in the future. Sort of like making a phone call, sometimes it’s not as practical as sending an email.

A point of particular interest to me with Office Communicator is that it coordinates your availability status with your Outlook calendar. So, if I’m in an appointment (that shows on my calendar) then my OC shows “In a meeting available at….”. I find this particular feature quite useful when I’m trying to track down people inside my firm.

So, bottom line, IM is a great means for communication when you would normally just make a phone call for a quick yes/no answer. If you are sharing a lot of details or are expecting details which you’ll want to refer to in the future, turn to email instead.


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19 Nov 07

The legal industry has rallied against accepting credit cards for years. Even those who do accept credit cards rarely advertise it.

My firm does accept them, but since the cards are not processed with the client inputting their own information via the web the process tends to be more difficult than it should be.

Here’s a message I sent out to a group of fellow administrators regarding credit card processing for our Association:

Online Payment Collections – the easy way

I did some more digging with PayPal. You can send an invoice through Outlook via email (auto generated with very little work). Then the recipient can use that to pay via PayPal OR they can print it off and/or their registration form and bring it with their firm check. I don’t believe it would require them to have a PayPal account. I’m pretty sure that they can just input their payment info. (If I’m wrong about that I know it’s possible, it would just require a different type of account)

Have I lost you yet? = )

This is much easier and much cheaper than I would have imagined. No monthly fee and 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction (rate goes down if we get over $3000 in an average 90 day period). (Since I’m a BlackBerry addict I can also pay through PayPal on my BlackBerry, but I would doubt many would find that interesting, but I love it!) They also give “businesses” multiple login accounts, which means you can set levels of access to different people.

Here’s more info on collecting payments via email invoicing.

https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_email-payments-overview

I did also look into Google Checkout (a newish service from Google similar to PayPal), but with their service you have to integrate it into your website and I think that’s too much work at this point. Only advantage to Google is that the fees are a flat 2% + $0.20 per transaction. Only slightly less really, but a lot more technical skill required

So, does this ring any bells for you? Because of the overwhelming popularity of eBay and MANY online retailers who accept PayPal, what are the odds that most of your clients aren’t already using it for something? Perhaps they aren’t using it for professional reasons, but I would bet my reasonable, but not abundant, salary that most of the individuals at your client know of or have personally used PayPal.

There is one downfall for PayPal at law firms. The last time I read there was a $10,000 per transaction limit. (If there are any non-legal readers here I can see your eyes bulging out that ANYONE would charge MORE than $10,000 in one pop, but, believe me, it happens) So, if you have a client who uses a commercial credit card account who regularly pays their $100,000 invoice with their VISA, then you’ll NOT want to take any interest in PayPal, or you should at least have a “real” merchant account through your bank to process those transactions.

Another concern which I believe can easily be avoided, is that when you process the credit card the funds credit your PayPal “bank” account instead of automatically going into your firm’s general operating account. When I say it can be avoided, I just mean that you can transfer the funds out pretty quickly (though there is a daily limit of how much you can send to your bank, but that limit isn’t usually that bad).


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18 Nov 07

Ok, well, I’ve never jumped on the “Green” bandwagon simply for the sake of being “Green”. However, I’ve always been on board from a practicality standpoint. My first buy-in was because my home trash was always too full and I would have have to pay those awful “overfull” charges because my trash was heaping out of the can. So when large recycling bins came into play and significantly reduced my overage, I decided that I too was an enviroNERD. Perhaps not because I want the deer and rabbits and humans to live in harmony, but because it’s practical. Disclaimer: I’m not AGAINST deer and rabbits and humans living in harmony, but usually the people touting that sort of thing are also asking me to give up practical and sensible hobbies in my life.

My office is fairly small from a population standpoint, only about 45 or so people work there. But, real estate wise our office is pretty big. How does this relate to the green conversation? Well, I’ve decided that recycling cans and paper isn’t enough. I’m recycling carbohydrates too. Ok, not literally. Let me reel you back in. I’m very lazy. Get it now? I’m a “large” proponent of recycling my energy. Dispensing it on things other than paper delivery seems to make more sense to me.

PDF and virtual paper applications really have “gained” me a lot of “weight” in my workplace. Literally and figuratively.

Adobe PDF as an independent application is really only widely known as the “PDF Reader”, but there are some great and useful applications that come with the “full” (and expensive) version. The “full” version of Adobe Acrobat allows you to modify PDFs, add notes, highlight text, modify text and some other less interesting features. However, my favorite “practicle” feature is the PDF printer. This allows you to “print” any document (or website) “to PDF”. So, here’s how it works. When you install Adobe Acrobat it will also install a printer (with the rest of your printers) that when you select it to print a document, instead of “printing” it pops up a “Save As” box so that you can name your new PDF. This really is the most practical way to create a PDF file. The files are MUCH smaller than if you (like many administrators) just run to the photocopier or scanner to scan an image of a paper document you had to print out first.

There are other “PDF printer” type applications. And many of them are free! One that I’ve used in the past when my employer wouldn’t spring for the full Adobe Acrobat was CutePDF (http://www.cutepdf.com/). There are some versions of it do cost money, but for the use I mentioned above you can download their free PDF writer.

Ok, so one more product plug (no, I’m not being paid for this). Beyond the above there is another product that I use a lot more often. It is called “eCopy”. This software is actually tied to our copy machines at my office. It’s VERY useful. It has excellent compression (meaning the file size is very small) and really can be used in place of paper. So, though I can print to PDF via Adobe, printing to eCopy is most of the time more practical if I want to make annotations to a documents or if I want to combine multiple documents and document types. Unlike its Adobe cousin when you “print” to eCopy it immediately opens the software. If you already have the software open with a document up it will ask you if you want to, 1) add to the end of the current document, 2) add to the beginning of the current document, or 3) create a new document. The tools to highlight text or scribble (like using a marker on the sheet) or typing in new text are much more intuitive than the standard Adobe Acrobat. That said, Adobe Acrobat “prints” actual text, whereas eCopy really produces an image that you can write on. What’s the difference in that? Well with the natural Adobe Acrobat product you can select text and with eCopy you have to run the document through a text recognition process if you want to do that.

So, my intention here was not to bore you with things you can’t actually understand or use, but to give you an idea of how it simplifies my life. I recently started reading pieces of this blog “PDF for Lawers” http://www.pdfforlawyers.com/ and it is pretty nice. This guy obviously knows more about the subject than me, but I still find many of my own practical uses.

Last but not least, I use eCopy for archiving in my accounting department. It’s very easy to take a deposit or A/P documents to the photocopier and mass scan documents to store on the network. I’ve converted all of my 2007 deposits to PDF files in hope of eventually ridding this pile of useless paper from my file cabinets. My hope is to do the same with all our prebills and A/P within the next two years.


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15 Nov 07

Many legal managers are highly trained in their specialties or as generalists. Everyday in our very busy lives, wouldn’t it be great to get 10 extra minutes out of every hour? There’s a scary word that can help with it. Technology.

Sure, we all know it can help us save time. But there’s also the question of how can you take advantage of time saving technology when you don’t know where to start or who to ask? Do you even know what less-technological tasks are taxing your time commitments?

A recent article that I published was on the topic of BlackBerry use (http://www.summitlaw.com/downloads/PSALABlackberry.pdf). Of course a BlackBerry can save you time, but not just because you have your email while you’re on the go.

So, beyond the article above I’ve put together some more unique time savers your BlackBerry can help with.

Email. Ok, so now I’m contradicting myself, right? Well, sort of. I’m not talking about your work email though. I’m talking about setting up your BlackBerry to receive all your other email accounts too. Well, almost all of them. Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, or any “POP” email account can be added to your BlackBerry. Look for a setting called “Email Settings”. This will take you to a website setup by your service provider. There you create a login and you can add any of these types of emails. So, you’ll add the email address and the password for that account. Done. Now you’ll see an “Activation” email come into your normal email box and shortly thereafter your personal email will start coming in. (ONLY IF YOU ARE YOU A BES SERVER FOR BLACKBERRY) If you can find your Security Settings and then go into General Security you will notice at a point down the list that there are options for “Message Background Colours”. Enterprise Background and then Other Messages. By setting a colored background

How can this save you time? Just like your BlackBerry keeps you from running to your desk to check your email or keeps you from worrying about what’ll be waiting for you when you get to your office in the morning. The same stands with using it to check your personal email.


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