October 18, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Backtype

While your favorite bloggers may write scintillating posts which you can't wait to read, now you get to see what they are saying on the blogs they read.

There is a new application on the block that will make following the commenting habits of your favorite bloggers so much easier.  The twist, you are following where your favorite bloggers comment.  And if you don't currently have a URL...you don't need one.  They will provide one to you!

BackType is a service that lets you find, follow and share comments from across the web. Whenever you fill out the "Website" or "URL" field in a comment form when you publish a comment on a blog or other website, BackType attributes it to you. We give comment authors a profile featuring all the comments they've written on the Internet. If you don't have a website to use when you fill out comment forms, sign up and use one of ours.

Backtype is a fairly new application which will post the most recent comments made by your favorite bloggers.  It allows you to discover what they are saying and where they are saying it outside the scope of their own blog.  The reason I find this intriguing is it allows me to discover new blogs based upon the interests of the bloggers I enjoy and respect.  And it allows me to learn how others are promoting themselves and to whom.

In addition, if I find a favorite blogger commenting on a post, I may join in to continue the discussion.  This will prove to be a valuable tool, I believe, as those who teach on blogging are emphatic on this point:  Blogging is 50% commenting on other blogs.  What better way to follow the conversation then through this application.

Note: How did I learn about Backtype?  I read the stats on my blog every day and look for new referrers to my site..another little tidbit I hope you start to do if you are not doing so already.  Discovering where your traffic is coming from provides a wealth of information for your own marketing purposes.  (That was an extra bonus 'tip of the week" :-)

Postscript:  Backtype hasn't gotten too much play by the big bloggers.  I think they wanted to keep it their own special secret :-)

October 12, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Never Give Anyone Authority To Sign Your Checks

In general, when you run a business it is not uncommon to have another authorized to sign checks to pay vendors, landlords, etc.  This is done for convenience so you don't have to micromanage and can actually spend time running a business. 

But the legal profession is a different animal as you are entrusted with another person's money in a fiduciary relationship. Yet, that being said, I know of many an attorney who not only authorized check signing by paralegals and administrative assistants but also had their signature put on a rubber stamp for use on all manner of document. (The stamp was thrown out when that person was caught stealing from her employer.)

But it also opens up a very tempting door for the employee who has personal crisis, needs money and is capable of justifying their actions hoping never to be caught.  Such is the case here:

A former paralegal at Berman & Russo in South Windsor has pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing $1.7 million from the law firm.

Patricia Baddeley Meehan, 42, worked for Berman & Russo from 1998 to 2007 and primarily handled real estate closings. She had access to the firm’s clients’ funds account and the firm’s operating account and was authorized by the law firm’s partners to write checks from both accounts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Meehan, who lives in Ellington, admitted that between 2002 and 2007, she took cash advances on her personal credit cards of more than $1.4 million and around the same time began writing checks from the clients’ funds account to pay those credit card bills. She eventually wrote 77 checks from the account totaling more than $1.7 million, all made payable to her credit card company.

Prosecutors say Meehan concealed her activities by falsifying the firm’s books and shifting money between the accounts to cover her tracks. Because she failed to report the proceeds of her fraud, she owes nearly $124,000 in taxes from the 2004 and 2005 tax years.

Meehan faces up to 43 years in prison and a fine of up to $3.4 million.

The need to trust is great because time is such a precious resource for solos who are juggling many hats.  Bookkeeping is the bane of many a solos' existence, too.  But misappropriation of funds and your reputation can put you out of business with a loss of reputation and quite possibly a loss of your license to practice law.  Not worth it.

The Rules of Professional Conduct cover your obligations to client funds.  Even the slightest irregularity in your trust account will trigger your Statewide Grievance Committee into action.  Take all necessary precautions and be very careful what authority you give others to act on your behalf. 

October 05, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Scheduling Through 'When is Good'

H/T to Allison Shields of LegalEase for turning me on to this nifty and FREE time-management tool that helps to eliminate phone and e-mail tag when trying to schedule a meeting.  It's called "When Is Good."

Here's how it works:

When you go to the site, you'll be provided with a grid containing dates and times. You can customize the grid, change time zones, etc. Then you'll click on the dates and times that you're available. You'll receive a link that you can email to all of the potential meeting participants, as well as a results code to view the results.

Meeting participants will click on the link in the email you've sent them. The link will take them to a page with all of the available meeting dates and times and instruct them to click on all of the dates/times when they are also available.

You can then visit the results page and see when everyone is free.

You also have an option to create an account that will save all of your events in one place.

This cool and FREE little tool can save a lot of time devoted to the complicated task of coordination which, as Allison points out, can eat up more time then the actual meeting.  I will just have to start using this with my clients.  Thanks, Allison!

September 21, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Setting Goals is Easy with Lifetick.com

Setting goals has never been easier with Lifetick.com.  This is an easy, free and very intuitive program which allows you to set goals for yourself, check status, edit, update, journal your journey and more to help you achieve your goals. (If you purchase more services it is a total of $20.00 per year.)

As I've noted before in an edition of Solo Practice University  E-zine: (excerpt):

The word 'goal' is often overused and generally misunderstood.  So, let's define goals in the context of what you are trying to achieve, building a solo practice.

What is a goal? It is a specific measurable event that is realistically attainable within a defined period of time. 

As a handy reminder you may have seen the acronym SMART. The SMART goal setting model is being used by technological innovators to child psychologists to sales motivators.

SMART stands for:

T.... Timely

Check out Lifetick and let me know what you think.

(H/T to Nicole Black of Sui Generis)

September 14, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - How to Deal With Indecision

This may sound contradictory, but it's not.  Often, those who believe they would like to go solo think if they make this choice it is a 'forever' choice.  Therefore, they fret and worry and think it must be done at an absolutely perfect time or they will be doomed professionally and broke. Same goes for those who believe they must get employment first or be forever branded as inexperienced or 'failing to gain employment' as a lawyer.  This mindset in either direction is debilitating.

You've heard the adage, "It's not the choices you make but what you do with the choices you make."  This is as true with the decision to go solo as any other choice.   

In another great Tejvan Pettinger piece he discusses indecision:

“Ummm… I’m not sure…” We all suffer from indecision at times. If we are not careful, this can become a debilitating problem which feeds on itself. Indecision is often related to lack of self confidence and a tendency to worry about potential problems. To overcome indecision we need to have the faith to follow our intuition, bearing in mind that sometimes it is not what we do, but rather how we do things that is important.

Both Options Can Work

“Indecision is often worse than wrong action.” - Henry Ford

Sometimes we feel that it is of vital importance to choose the right course of action. We feel that one choice must be the ‘right’ one and the other option ‘wrong’. However, this is often a mistake. What is important is how we make use of our choices. Maybe we have a choice between going to two different places (employment or self-employment); as long as we have the right attitude we can cultivate happiness wherever we go. If we are constantly worrying about our decision, then we will not be able to enjoy life even if we choose the so called ‘right action’.

For many, the traditional 'right' action is working for another first because this has become the party line for both good and bad reasons.  For others, they know being employed by another is categorically the 'wrong' action. 

Once you make your decision, be peaceful with it until such time as you need to make another decision. It's that simple really.  Talk to others openly and candidly about how they arrived at their current destination. You'll realize you are not alone.

Make a decision. Move forward.


September 07, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Remote Deposits

Remote deposit for the busy lawyer is not only a tremendous time saver with it's expedience, but also eco-friendly as one no longer needs to make a separate trip to the bank to do check deposits.

What is remote deposit?

Remote deposit refers to the ability to deposit checks into a bank account from one's home or office without having to physically deliver the actual check to the bank. This is typically accomplished by scanning a digital image of a check onto a computer, then transmitting that image to the bank--a practice that became legal in the United States in 2004 when the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (or Check 21 Act) took effect. This service is typically used by businesses, though a remote deposit application for consumers has been developed.[1] It should not be confused with:

  • Direct deposit, which refers to the practice of posting an employee's weekly earnings directly to his or her bank account.
  • Online deposit, which refers to a retail banking service allowing an authorized customer to record a check via a web application and have it posted, then mail in the physical check, giving the customer access to the funds before the check clears in the usual way. While this type of service does not involve a scanner nor take advantage of the Check 21 Act, it is also sometimes called remote deposit.

There are banks and companies which offer such services and you may want to explore the possibilities for your own practice.  One such company is USAA.com which offers this service under the name Deposit@Home.

Wachovia presents another very good article on the new age of remote deposits here.

It's worth investigating as I believe more and more institutions will start offering this service as we become more technologically efficient.

August 31, 2008

""Tip of the Week" - Guest Posting is a Great Way To Market Your Expertise

Guest blogging is a highly viral, free way to publicize your expertise in front of a different yet compatible audience to attract more readers to your own website and hopefully convert those readers into clients or referrers of clients. 

A well written piece can get tremendous mileage on the internet and should not be downplayed because you are writing 'for free'.  That would be a huge mistake.  As a solo, this type of viral marketing of your expertise is a brilliant way to gain tremendous exposure at no cost (except the time it takes to write the guest post and get the gig and then self-promote.)

However, rather than reinvent the wheel I am going to offer you nine links to James Chartrand's (of Men With Pens) great eight part series on the topic because he says it so well.  And there is a bonus link on whether or not you, as a blog author, should accept guest posts on your blog.

  1. Landing a Guest Post Gig
  2. Stacking the Odds in Your Favor
  3. Throwing Away Your Chances of Success
  4.  Feedback Red Flags to Watch Out For
  5. Finding Motivation for Guest Posting
  6. When Guest Posting Overtakes a Blog
  7. Common Guest Posting FAQs
  8. After You Get the Yes to Guest Post
  9. Should You Accept Guest Posts on Your Blog

I personally love guest posts on Build A Solo Practice on relevant topics from knowledgeable individuals providing it benefits my readers, speaks to an important issue facing solos and your claim to knowledge in a given area is credible.

You can check our previous guest bloggers under the category "Guest Posts" as well as "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" and "Confessions & Inspirations", the latter two being inspirational stories of solo practitioners.

Would love your feedback on successes you have had so we can share with others. 

And if you are interested in guest posting, let me know!

August 24, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Purge your RSS and Subscriptions

I couldn't get to the Tip of the Week any earlier this week because I was too busy purging my RSS and e-mail subscriptions.

You know what I'm talking about.  You read one or two interesting blog posts or articles from a blog author and you immediately subscribe to their RSS or e-newsletter only to find that when they send you a new post you are too busy (read 'not interested enough') to read what they subsequently write.

Or their topic no longer interests you.  Or they post so infrequently that when you get notification they've posted something new you don't remember subscribing and hit the 'spam' or delete button without opening.

Don't be shy.  If you've subscribed to a newsletter or RSS but you are not reading what they write or it has turned into a sales pitch you are not interested in, unsubscribe and free up your e-mail or feeds list for what you do want to read.

You actually do the author a favor, too.  You are sending a message that they need to get back on track to maintain your interest, write more frequently (or less), stop selling so hard or sell harder.

In the meantime, I'm going to take my own advice and continue to purge, purge, purge.  Don't worry.  I may purge you now, but once you start delivering the goods, again, I may just re-subscribe!

(Of course, this doesn't apply to Solo Practice University E-zine...:-)

August 10, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Designing A Logo? Create A Contest

Many solo practitioners are looking for a distinctive design to be part of their branding package and marketing message. That killer logo. Where to look?  What to do?

Create a contest.  There are numerous companies which freelance artists, graphic and website designers register with to get their name out their and build reputation and get some quick cash. One of those sites is 99designs.

It's quite easy. With 99designs you pay a flat fee of $39.95 to run the contest.  Then you let the designers know the value of the project to you.  You can peruse the site to determine the norms for what you are asking, logo, website banner, letterhead, business cards. Then freelancers registered with the company submit their work based upon the information you provide, the more detailed the better.

Work with the designers.  The more you interact, critique and guide, the better the result for you.  Ultimately, if you like the end product you pick a winner.

Another fun way to engage your readers in the process is to then put the winning designs (let's say you have a few) on your site or in any social media group you participate in and ask your readers, friends, followers to vote through commentary.

Has you used one of these services before?  Did you like the results?

August 03, 2008

"Tip of the Week" - Phone Tag (Voicemail to Text)

Finis Price of TechnoEsq turned me on to PhoneTag, a voicemail to text service that eliminates the hassle of having to listen to voicemail.

Phonetag (formerly Simulscribe) simply converts your voicemail to text and lets you 'read' your voicemail on all mobile devices like your Iphone or Blackberry and you can even receive it via your e-mail with both readable text and the audio file attached. It's now integrated into Grand Central, too. 

It's not a free service ($29.95 unlimited, $9.95 for 40 transcriptions or $.35 per message).  But there is a free seven day trial.   Sounds like the best of both worlds to me!