We wish Dine Law* had a nickel for each time tech support responded to our problems with, “Did you try turning it off and on?” If you have ever asked an IT person for help with a technology problem, chances are you’ve heard this response in one form or another.
Phones down . . . Did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?
Document Management not working . . . Did you try restarting your computer?
Bluetooth not connecting . . . Did you try turning off the device off and rebooting?
Restarting and rebooting must solve a good portion of IT problems, but it hasn’t solved some of the problems we have had transitioning to a cloud-based platform. For those of you following our technology blog over the past five months, we’ve raved about how wonderful technology is and how much we love the gadgets and programs in our office. But now that we have your ear, we’d like to share our technological frustrations with you. And while writing this blog post has been therapeutic for us, we do hope it helps you avoid some of our pitfalls by learning from our mistakes.
Since one of Heather Muncy’s hats at Dine Law is Office Manager, she is the person who is on the front lines addressing and coordinating resolution of our technology concerns. Heather has been working with Erika Dine the longest, and has invested copious amounts of time and energy into our transition to the cloud. She certainly had a lot to say when she began brainstorming the topic of technology frustrations and her raw reactions sum up our collective frustrations perfectly.
When we wanted to go cloud based in 2012, we enlisted the assistance of an IT Firm that we thought could handle the job. Things started off great. Then as time passed, we started noticing little glitches. The biggest problem was the fact that our network connection or portal to our virtual private network kept going down and we would all have to reboot or call the IT guy and have him “work his magic” to get us up and running again. This sometimes caused lots of down time. We also experienced a lot of dropped calls, mainly because our phone system was also hosted on the same network. After eight months of dissatisfaction, we decided to make a change. This in itself was painful.
The first step was to move all of our data onto an internet based document management system. Once this was done and we were just getting comfortable…wham, we were told that our phone provider was closing its doors. We did the research this time, instead of trusting it to someone else, and decided to go with RingCentral. However, it wasn’t a smooth transition and there remain many things about this system that are less than perfect. For example, because our busy lamp lights are not functional, we never know whether our co-workers are on the phone or not. In addition, there is a great deal of lag time between when you buzz someone and when their phone rings. Our impatience usually gets the best of us and we resort to the Brooklyn intercom system (i.e., yelling office to office). The system also lacks an ability to “park” calls and retrieve them, thereby tying up phone lines until the intended recipient of the call is ready for the person who initially answered the phone to transfer the call to them.
Before this transition was even completed, we got another call from our IT guy telling us that…wait for it…our email provider was merging with a company in Pennsylvania and the new company was no longer going to provide the service we were using. Our options were to transition to a new service provided by the Pennsylvania company or find another company within a month and transfer all our email data. This, to say the least, was the icing on the cake. It didn’t take long for us to decide we would rather find a new company to host our email. We decided to use GoDaddy and made our switch to in March of 2013. We stayed with them until this month, November 2013. You read that correctly. It was seven short months that seemed like an eternity. Clients and lawyers were informing us that emails they were sending to us were getting bounced back to them. We were also having emails magically appear then disappear from our inbox with no explanation. Contacting GoDaddy support for assistance was not helpful. They wanted the bounce backs saved and emailed to them directly from the person that received them. That’s kind of hard to do when we don’t always know when we’re not getting email. Plus, do you really want to admit to opposing counsel these types of issues? Or better yet, trouble your client to do work for you?!
Once again, we had had enough. With the assistance of our technology consultant, we conducted further research and decided on using AppRiver. After one phone call with AppRiver support, I was in love. The first time I called, a live person answered who directed me to someone who was very helpful and immediately took the time to walk me through a live demo. Their hosted exchange email may be a little bit more expensive, but well worth the peace of mind that we are getting all our email!
Diane Roy and Erika Dine’s frustrations with technology are rooted in wanting technology to be faster, more intuitive and all encompassing. Diane is fanatical about entering her time, so she focused her piece on what would make Rocket Matter, our cloud-based time-keeping program, out of this world. Erika, on the other hand, is a big picture person and wrote about how she desperately wants an all-in-one time-keeping, billing, document management, calendaring, emailing, etc. program. If any software developer is reading this, she would also request a feature that would make and deliver a soy sugar free hazelnut latte with no foam at the press of a button!
First thing I do when I get into the office each morning is open all my programs on my computer so that I can easily access them at a click of a button. I’m a little fanatical about entering my time, so RocketMatter is the first program I open. I like to enter my time as soon as I’ve worked on a file.
Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like:
First on my list:
I wish there was a shortcut key that would allow you to click on “Okay, Add Another” rather than having to use your mouse and click on the “Okay, Add Another” button. Sounds miniscule, but man, I would love it.
Second item on my list:
Having to sit and review client invoices is a task in and of itself, but when you have to actually go into the billing software to edit the time entered, whether it’s fixing a typo or changing or adding time to several time entries, it becomes cumbersome.
Picture this….you need to review and edit a prebill on a client. Click on the RocketMatter icon at the bottom of my computer screen; RocketMatter pops up, type in the client name for the prebill. The attorney and paralegal may have entered the following example of time entries:
11.20.13 Attorney Telephone call with client; discussed need for prepaid funeral arrangements; prepare and forward email instructions to Paralegal re: same. 11.20.13 Paralegal Receive email instructions from Atty; prepare draft petition for prepaid funeral arrangements and print for Atty review and signature.
This all looks good, except when the Paralegal enters her time entry in the billing system before your attorney has had a chance to enter his or her time, which means when you look at the prebill/invoice, it appears you did the work before the attorney sent you the task. I wish there was an option that would allow you to move the order of time entries around within the prebill/invoice.
Third and biggest frustration on my list:
Editing a 1 page prebill is pretty quick. But when it comes to 2 or more pages… Ugh!
Why on earth does it take so long for the program to actually make the change? My leg starts shaking as I wait for the program to do its thing. I’m not talking 5 minutes, but merely 15 or more seconds. Who has 15 seconds to wait? The lag time is frustrating. I wish RocketMatter would have an all-inclusive editing option’s page for time entries…. i.e. pull up your prebill on your screen, find the entry or entries that need editing…change it and save it. Voila! Done.
I realize over the last few months our firm has shared all of the wonderful and positive things technology has done for us. But I am about to sound like Bianca from Willy Wanka in the Chocolate Factory right before she blew up into a great big blueberry…… I WANT MORE, I WANT IT ALL.
My biggest pet peeve (many of my techie friend creators have heard my rant): Why do we not have one application where I can keep my contacts, calendar, bill my time, invoice, incorporate all of my documents from a case with easy access to those documents, apply a payment to an invoice, manage my accounting both accounts payable and receivable all for a reasonable price and is cloud based secure? To me it would make so much sense if I could do all of these things within one program.
I am told by many it is coming…… God help me, but when it does and if it is affordable for small firm practitioners, I will eat the blueberry.
The fact of the matter is that all of us at Dine Law have a love-hate relationship with technology. As Jet Stewart acknowledges in her piece, all the advances that technology has brought to the workplace make accomplishing the job so much easier, especially when it comes to having information accessible at your fingertips. At the same time, it takes effort and intention to disconnect yourself when you need a break.
The fact that you can walk into a public place (i.e. restaurant, school, retail store, grocery store, etc.) and almost everyone is either talking on their device or referring to it for some tid-bit of information, is really quite a statement of our times. Wouldn’t it be nice to just walk in, shop, get lost in the moment of being “unconnected” for just a short time?
I guess the one thing I can say about technology is that it has taken a bit of the “surprise” away from day to day living and then of course there is the “Smartphone” that, at this point, should probably be surgically implanted at the end of everyone’s hand.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty! Someone asks a question and my first response (if there is no answer) is to reach for my Smartphone and hit Google! I don’t know how we got along before all this!?
In closing, we realize that this critical blog comes at a time of year when we should all be giving thanks and we hope you do not mistake our whining for ungratefulness. There are a few takeaway points which you might want to consider in connection with leveraging technology to its fullest potential in the context of running a law practice.
Build a relationship with your service providers
When we’re frustrated that a feature isn’t working in our document management or time-keeping program, we naturally want it fixed immediately. Each program has a help desk that you can submit a “ticket” to and they will address the problem you write them about. It’s random selection as to who at the company is tasked with trouble-shooting your problem, but we’ve found our “go-to” people at each company to whom we can send a copy of our ticket request to and they will usually respond quickly to help us resolve the problem. Erika, Heather and Sierra also make a point to participate in surveys and provide feedback when asked by our service providers. In fact, when Sierra mentioned to Rocket Matter that we wanted their mobile platform to include the capability to change the date of time entries, a couple of months later the new upgrade included this feature.
The benefits of a technology consultant are priceless
Doing your own research regarding technology is key, but sometimes you need a jumping off point. Other times you have narrowed down your choices, but need someone to point out potential downsides of technology to you. A thirty minute phone call to a technology consultant is probably well worth your time and money. To speed things along during your call, be ready to succinctly describe what technologies you have in place and how you are currently operating, as well as your end goal. If you are going to be coordinating the implementation of new technology yourself, ask the consultant what questions he or she would ask the service provider. If the change you are considering is major, we would even recommend having the consultant participate in the phone call.
Communication with co-workers can be the best form of technology training
When we met to discuss the topic for this post, Diane shared with the group that one of her frustrations was having to switch back and forth in Outlook between her calendar and email. Logan agreed that it would be ideal to have both the email and calendar open simultaneously since they constantly refer to both of these features in Outlook on a regular basis. Both Logan and Diane were elated when Heather showed them how to keep both the calendar and email tabs visible at the same time. This kind of open exchange occurs often in our office and we cannot tell you how many short cuts and tips we have learned by communicating technological woes with each other.
*Dine Law, P.L. is a small law firm providing Elder Law services in Manatee & Sarasota Counties, and in October 2012, the members of the firm embarked on quite a journey together as we moved our entire practice (server, telephones, time-keeping and document management systems) into the cloud. Bios for each member of the firm can be found here, but if you’re short on time, here’s what you need to know:
- Dine Law is writing this blog as a group because it believes all members’ opinions are valuable. Each blog post will cover a different topic involving technology and this post’s topic is TECHNOLOGY GLITCHES.
- Erika Dine is the founding attorney and has been a practicing lawyer for 10 years. Logan Elliott and Sierra Pino are associates and have been practicing for 3 and 6 years, respectively. Heather Muncy is a paralegal and office manager with 10 years experience in the legal field. Diane Roy is a full time paralegal and Jet Stewart is a part-time paralegal. Together they have 60 years of combined experience!