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The right tech tool for the job

Jim CallowayHow do I do that?

We lawyers need to do something with our technology, and we’re aware that there are technology tools to do it — we just aren’t sure which of the many available tools is appropriate and how much training, installation and setup will be required to make it happen.

After all, the point is to do it more quickly and efficiently, not to spend hours researching software or apps and customizing them.

So let’s cover a few ways to do some common technology tasks quickly.

How do I find the answer to almost any factual question?

We all know the answer to that one, right? You can quickly find an amazing number of facts by using Internet search engines, with Google being the most popular. But what you may not know is that Google has been changing the algorithm it uses to provide answers to our queries. Now Google does a much better job of returning an initial search result that attempts to provide the answer to the question that you are really asking.

To see that in action, just type in one of my favorite search terms: Oklahoma City Thunder. No longer is the team’s official website the very first result, although you can easily scroll down to find that result. Instead, you find the score of the most recent game, or the time of the upcoming game, along with some facts about the team from Wikipedia, the team roster, graphics associated with the team, and recent news items associated with the team. That’s a very good example of how Google search works differently today.

If Google doesn’t return the search results you want, remember that the Internet is so massive today you may need to use many words in your Google search query to find what you want. So do a short search first, and if that doesn’t return what you’re seeking, try using a lot of words for your Google search.

How can I find information about a person inexpensively?

Lawyers often find themselves in a situation in which they would like to do a quick and easy background check on someone or a “skip trace” on a person who has vanished, whether they are the opposing party, witness or lost heir.

A good first starting point is TLOxp for Legal Professionals. The service has a 15-day free trial and offers searches for $1 and more comprehensive reports for $5. You can see the various types of searches available.

I need to schedule a conference call or other event with others in different time zones. How can I do that easily?

TimeandDate.com has been online for a long time. This nice website provides a time zone map, a free meeting planner, the current time to the second, a printable PDF calendar, a future date calculator, and about any other resource you can imagine related to times and dates.

Scheduling a meeting with one other person is fine to do by email, but if there are three or more people involved, you always want to use a free meeting-scheduling app such as Doodle, Meeting Wizard or WhenIsGood.

I have a document in my hand that I need to email to someone, but I don’t have a scanner. What do I do?

At this point, every law office should have a scanner. However, there will be times that you are away from the office with no access to one. Today’s smartphones have very high resolution cameras that can take a picture of an entire 8.5-by-11-inch document. Sometimes just sending a picture will accomplish your purpose.

But there are a number of apps that will convert a picture on your phone to a PDF file before emailing it. For iOS, check out Scanner Pro for iPhone from Readdle ($6.99) or JotNot Scanner Pro ($1.99). For the Android platform there are a number of applications available in the Google Play store.

The free CamScanner app receives a lot of great reviews. (Lawyers with Android phones: check out Jeffrey Taylor’s blog post “2013’s Best Android Apps for Lawyers” for many more great apps.)

I know I’m not supposed to use the same password for all my web services, but there is no way to remember so many different passwords. What should I do?

Not only should you not use the same password for multiple different logins, but passwords should not be words that can be found in the dictionary. They should be long, at least 10 or 12 characters, and include letters or symbols.

But you need to memorize only a few: the login to your computer, online banking accounts and password manager, which remembers all the other passwords for you. Today it is simply impossible to manage all your passwords without using a password manager. Some popular ones include LastPass,1Password, Dashlane, Roboform and KeePass. MLW

Jim Calloway is director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He publishes the weblog Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips at www.lawpracticetipsblog.com.

About Jim Calloway