you’ve done your digital planning. right?

You’re a lawyer, so no doubt you’ve gotten your estate plan in order. Right? (Even if you don’t know squat about estate planning, you hired a colleague to put a plan together for you, I”m sure. Right?)

And you’ve created a succession plan for your practice. Right?

And both your personal and practice plans handle all of your digital assets. Right?

Sadly, when polling my lawyer friends and clients, it appears that very few have planned generally. And none have done any planning for digital assets. Yep, none.

I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised. Many lawyers remain in a state of tech-phobia or tech-avoidance. Even those who embrace technology seemed to have forgotten that their succession and estate plans should address all of the accounts they have living in the cloud, and not just bank accounts.

A handful of states have started addressing this issue, including Delaware, which recently enacted the Fiduciary Access to to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act. (A matrix of state laws (not including Delaware, appears at the bottom of this post.)

Whether or not your state of residence/practice has provided any guidance in this area, plan you must. If you use any kind of cloud-based platform (email, practice management, social media,  cloud backup???), do these things, now:

Read the terms of service agreements for your digital accounts. Not only are you ethically compelled to do this, it’s the only way to find out what a platform does with your account upon your death. So read and find out. If you don’t see a clear statement from the provider on this, then ask.

Take the appropriate steps for each platform, to enable access. Now knowing what Facebook does with your account, make sure that you’ve addressed how this account can be accessed when you’re gone, and provide instructions to your executor (or digital executor, if someone other than your primary executor will be in charge of your digital assets).

Figure out who will handle your digital assets. As I note above, you can have these accounts managed by your executor (appointed in your will document), or by a “digital executor.” Why have a digital executor? Given the number and nature of your digital accounts, you may want (or need) to have these handled by someone with the appropriate technical capacity. And if the accounts contain confidential client data, then this should be taken into account when appointing someone.

Commit your digital asset plan to writing. And make sure that the right person(s) have this information, or know where to find it when the time comes. And if you live/practice in a state with a law governing digital assets, make sure that your wishes are in line.

Review your plan annually. You should be reviewing your estate plan annually, anyway. So add digital assets to the list. Why? Accounts come and go. The backup provider you used last year may be different than the one you’re currently using. So you’ve got to update the plan accordingly. The plan is only helpful if it’s accurate.

Seriously, if you haven’t made a plan and you’re not reviewing it annually, then you’re failing at a very important part of being a responsible adult who also practices law. This stuff isn’t hard or time-consuming to accomplish. So add it to your to-do list, Kanban board, or calendar. And get it done.

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Image source: Pew Research Center

let’s start designing.

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Today I launch a new vision for iLawPractice. The shift is a big one — away from a focus primarily on technology and to a focus on designing a holistic practice that accounts for all the needs that a person has: financial, emotional, intellectual, spiritual.

I started iLawPractice when other lawyers began asking me for help — specifically, how to identify and integrate the right technology to support their practices. And I really, really enjoyed it.

But what I’ve realized is that technology is but a small piece in the puzzle. What makes a law practice worth doing is a lot bigger than choosing a practice management platform or using templates to automate doc preparation.

My clients have consistently needed and wanted counsel on so much more than the tech. From day one, we’ve talked about communication, marketing strategy, emotional intelligence, client service. And so much more.

And I realized that helping other lawyers isn’t about the tech. It’s about helping them to design an inspired practice, whatever that means to them.

So today I’m launching a new website — itself an experiment in agility. I expect it to change a lot, possibly in a short period of time. But I start here.

And I invite any lawyer who seeks a change in his/her practice to join me in drawing a map, picking a path, and embarking on the journey of designing an inspired practice.

go learn something. #actionmonday

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What are you doing today to learn something new?

What can you do every day to learn something new?

And I’m not talking about mandatory continuing education. Although it would be great if folks held CLE courses to a high standard and didn’t just phone it in. But I recognize that is a problem too big for me to fix.

I suggest that making learning a part of your daily routine — a habit, dare I say — can do as much, if not more, than any single other thing you can do to grow. As a lawyer, a person, a professional, a friend, a spouse, a parent. No matter the role, you will be better.

It’s one of my three big goals: learn something new. Every day.

It’s not hard. And only takes as much time as you want it to.

Here’s how.

READ. Find something to read that interests you. Blogs, books, magazines, research papers (which can actually be quite fascinating).

TALK. Find people to talk to. People who do things you’re interested in or want to know more about. This can lead to networking but it’s really more focused on learning new stuff. Though it’s interesting how connecting with new and different people can open up new and different opportunities.

TAKE A CLASS. Preferably a workshop. That’s hands-on. Yes, there are some good CLE courses out there, but most are not great. And anyway, this is an investment in your learning, not in getting mandatory CE credit. Explore your interests, hobbies, passions, through a class, either live or online.

GO TO CONFERENCES. Get out there and meet people. Some conferences are very good. Others are not so. Do some research, figure out where the intersection of your interests exists, register, and GO.

LISTEN. Listen to what interesting and smart people have to say. Really listen. Listen to audiobooks, podcasts, NPR during your commute/run/walk.

FIND OR CREATE A GROUP. Gather together some like-minded or even not-so-like-minded folks and meet on a regular basis to explore something or everything. I’ve done this more than once and have always been surprised at how much it added to my learning.

TEACH. The best way to really learn is to study something and then teach it to others. Beyond mastery, teaching is incredibly satisfying on many levels. 

Before your mind goes to all the reasons you can’t adopt the learning mindset, let me say this: As with exercise, diet, meditation, or whatever you do to stay alive and healthy, choosing to make time for learning is a choice. You can choose to make it a prioritized goal. Or not.

What’s not an excuse.

Access? Go online, spend 10 minutes on Google and you’ll have access to more resources on your chosen topic than you can possibly get through in your lifetime. It’s all there. Maybe the seminar you’ve chosen is expensive. So choose another one. Or take a course on Udemy or Skillshare or Coursera or Kahn Academy or edX.

Money? Nope. Again, 10 minutes on Google and most of what you find is free. Courses from the online sources above are free or very low in cost. Books from the library are free. Or join Amazon Prime (cheap, but not free), and check out ebooks.

Time? Well, this one’s on you. You either make time or you don’t. Make it one of your three annual/monthly/weekly/daily goals. Or not.

Why bother?

Lifelong learners are more interesting people than stagnant ones. This is just common sense. Don’t you want to be more interesting? And more interested?

You’re more likely to earn more than non-learners.

You’re more likely to have a healthier, happier, younger brain as you age.

And as Dan Pink shares in Drive, we humans need three things in order to feel motived in and satisfied with our lives: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Lifelong learning achieves all three.

get your google on. and be productive.

The following post originally appeared on the MyCase blog, thanks to a kind invitation from Niki Black. It’s the first in a series that I’ll be publishing here about the how to get your google on.

I admit that I’m an unabashed Google fan. Some of the simplest Google tools are the most powerful in my tech toolbox, enabling me to practice both productively and efficiently. One of my more geeky hobbies is learning about all of the useful but lesser-known Google tips and tricks. Here are a few of my current favorites:

Use Google as a timer. I’m most productive when I block out my time,  devoting a chunk to really focused work and then taking a break. I use Google’s built in timer to do this. How? Type “set timer 45 minutes” into a Google search bar and up pops a timer, set for 45 minutes. (Or whatever length you choose.) I then hit the full screen button and all online distractions are blocked out, making it easier for me to focus on my work.  

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Use OK Google.  Install the Google Voice Search Hotword extension. Open a new tab in Chrome, say “Ok Google” followed by your search term. Like magic, results appear. While not perfect (it’s still in beta), I’ve found Google understands my southern drawl and results are quite accurate.

Ctrl/Command +F. Okay, perhaps not lesser-known but it bears repeating. You’re using Google Scholar to research a key issue in a case.  Hit CTRL (or Command) + F to view all instances of a word or phrase in the document or webpage. An invaluable time saver.

Gmail Shortcuts. I have too many favorites to mention them all individually. Go here to peruse and figure out which shortcuts are most relevant to your email workflow. One favorite: Ctrl+Shift+c  [Command+Shift+c for Macs) to add cc: recipients. I use it multiple times daily.

Canned Responses. The single biggest email timesaver for me is this Gmail Labs add-on. You can save canned copy and insert it into any email, at any time, simply by choosing from your saved Canned Responses. My favorite use: email disclaimers. You don’t need the 250-word disclaimer in the email to a friend scheduling lunch. Save it as a Canned Response and add it only when it’s relevant and necessary (which is much less often than you think). I also have Canned Responses for general instructions that I give to clients about processes and documents I use regularly. The time I save is extraordinary. This helpful tutorial walks you through how to enable Canned Responses, and how to create and use them, as well. 

What Google tools are in your tech toolbox?

a better question.

I’m an unabashed fan of mentoring and connecting. I build time for both into my schedule. And I urge others to, as well. Based on my constant experience that mentoring is as rich an experience for the mentor as mentee, if you put your heart into it. And you simply never know where connecting with others will lead — it’s often somewhere not really obvious, but surprisingly good.

So I’m facing a bit of a conundrum at the moment. Because I keep coming across people who ask a single question when faced with a mentoring or connecting opportunity. The question: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

The first time I encountered this question, I wrote it off as specific to that person, that situation.

The second time, I pondered …

Most recently, I was pretty much smacked in the face with it. A person I admire and respect professionally said: “I don’t respond to attempts at connecting or networking unless it benefits me.” This person went on to elaborate that if the benefit appeared to be one-way, favoring the other person, then the connection was ignored.

I suppressed the urge to ask some rhetorical questions of this person. The person is a professional. In a position to “connect” with a lot of people. Perhaps this person truly is just too busy to deal with such connections that don’t have an obvious benefit.

But if everyone is following this path, then I fear the undoing of a culture that should be encouraged rather than destroyed. A culture of helping those who are following in our footsteps. This is especially so in the legal profession, where well-developed mentoring programs are scarce, even in larger firms. They’re nonexistent for most of the attorneys who most need them – solos and those in small firms.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a mentoring relationship. And for the past few years, I’ve been on the giving end. I can’t imagine how I would’ve gotten through some pretty sticky situations but for the generosity of others who were willing to share their time and wisdom. And the words of thanks I’ve received from mentees makes it clear that I’ve made a tremendous difference for them, even if only by taking five minutes to offer an opinion.

Our time is precious and limited. But we’re not so precious — and let’s not be so limited — to seek connections only when there’s a tangible benefit to be had.

If you’re too busy or view your time as too important, then I must suggest that your priorities and time management skills may be a bit askew.

Let’s try this question instead: “How can I help?”

got Mac? now you can get OneNote. free.

I’m a big Evernote fan. And a big Mac fan. I’m pretty unabashed on both fronts. To the extent that I tend to write about platforms and software that serve only Mac. (Sorry, PC users. Nothing personal, but my life changed when I went Mac in my professional world. I haven’t looked back.)

But worth noting: Microsoft released OneNote for Mac today in the Mac store. It’s free (for now). So, using a free OneDrive account, you can sync OneNote between and amongst all platforms and devices.

My observation: Microsoft is going after Evernote. Unapologetically. Here’s a list of OneNote features — if you use Evernote, these will be familiar:

I’ve installed OneNote on all Apple devices and am investigating. While I’m not planning on abandoning Evernote (and my premium plan) anytime soon, I am intrigued. Stay tuned.

Thoughts? Please share in the comments.