The Firm: Free law office tools, from A to Z

By Janet Pribek
The Daily Record Newswire

I loved a recent article in Entertainment Weekly, “A Fanatic’s Guide: Mad Men, A to Z.” Rest assured, I didn’t buy the magazine; I read it online for free. I have my reputation as a bargain-hunter to maintain here.

Like so many others, I’ve fallen under Don Draper’s spell and could easily waste hours every week poring over similar fare. I even started mulling over the responses later on (“Thank goodness R was for the Relax-a-cisor, but B should’ve been for Betty’s beehive do!”).

Then I moved into more productive territory. For this week’s article, I decided to apply the A to Z formula to law office management and marketing. Everything I’ve highlighted below is free.

A Avvo is a lawyer-finding website. Claim your profile, and consider answering questions from prospective clients. But do pay close attention to the ratings and reviews portion. Or, if you don’t like the ratings/reviews, give Justia a try.

B Block Posters. Need a poster for an upcoming trial? Block Posters lets you create any size wall posters from any size images. Just upload an image, choose how many sheets wide you’d like your poster to be once printed, and download the images.

C CrossLoop’s basic level is a download for one computer that allows screen-sharing with another computer.

D Dropbox is a download that syncs files online, across your computers and mobile devices. It offers file-sharing and 2 gigabytes of secure online backup.

E Evernote. Better than Gingko Biloba for the forgetful, this download allows you to type a text note, clip a web page, snap a photo or grab a screen shot, and then organizes it into a searchable index. There are versions for Windows, Mac and a wide variety of mobile devices including Android, iPhone and iPad and Blackberry.

F Flickr is for uploading photos and video, organizing and sharing them.

G Google. I realize this was a fairly predictable choice. Nonetheless, I stand by it, considering all its possibilities for money-conscious lawyers — from searching the Web, to Scholar for research, to Gmail, to Google Docs for document-sharing, Calendar and Analytics for measuring traffic to your law firm website.

H Huddle offers file storage, online document editing, whiteboards, discussions, task calendar and meetings with integrated free telephone conferencing.

I Instacalc is a fast, easy-to-use shareable online calculator.

J,K JkDefrag is a defragmenter, which makes your hard drive speedier by organizing the data bits on your hard drive platter. Its creator, Jeroen Kessels, recently renamed the product “myDefrag” — but hey, I needed a J, didn’t I?

L Lending Library. The Lending Library offers free books, audio cassettes and CDs on a variety of topics such as office operations, productivity, practice skills and quality of life.

M Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a free, open-source e-mail program, while Firefox is a highly-customizable browser. I used both for several years and recommend them.

N Needtomeet lets you easily schedule meetings. You select potential times, attendees indicate their availability, and you choose the time that works for everyone, for one-time or recurring meetings. The idea is to skip the umpteen e-mails/calls among attendees to find a time that works for all.

O Productivity Suite is a free, open-source office suite. I used it for years and actually prefer its Writer word-processing program over Microsoft Word (not free) — I just found it easier to use, and it’s fully compatible with all Microsoft Office documents.

P Project management software Manymoon has project management features such as milestones, tasks, calendar, link sharing and progress report. Manymoon is integrated to Google Docs, Email and Calendar. It has a reporting tool too, but unfortunately, the free version only has one reporting for each projects.

Q QuickTime. It’s a multi-media platform that lets you view Internet video, HD movie trailers and personal media in a wide variety of formats. It’s an Apple product but works on PCs, too.

R Roboform is for the security-minded who nonetheless hate trying to remember passwords. You just need to remember one master password, while it remembers multiple usernames and passwords for fast log-ins to applications and web sites. It also quickly fills out forms with information such as credit card numbers — great for online shopping (almost as much fun as watching Mad Men). There are desktop, online and portable versions, and if you lose a flashdrive, its finder won’t have access to your encrypted data.

S Slydial is for when you need to communicate with someone via their mobile, but don’t want to actually talk to him or her and don’t want to text, either. It takes you directly to voicemail. Give the free, advertiser-supported version a try.

T Truecrypyt. Free, open-source disk-encryption software.

U Ubuntu Linux is a free, open-source operating system, that’s easy to install and update. New versions are released every six months.

V lets you watch videos from YouTube, Facebook, or lots of other video-sharing web sites. Watch them from your mobile device, MP3 or laptop, without queuing or buffering.

W Web conference. You are a very busy person with lots of schedules, but yet, your firm can’t afford to pay a secretary? It’s OK, not a problem. Tungle will help to sort out your scheduling problem.

Tungle use google calendar to check the dates when you would be available. Clients can then propose several dates for a meeting or web conference or telephone call. Not clear enough, you can try scheduling a conference call with me, using my tungle here.

X Xobni is an Outlook add-in that lets you quickly search people or e-mail, and find contact info. It also connects to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for the latest updates on your contacts.

Y YouCanBookMe. Login with your Gmail or Google Apps account, and show clients when you are free for them to book you with just a few clicks.

Z Zoho is a free office suite, a lesser-known competitor to Google Docs, but with a central dashboard, if that’s important to you, and it offers more features.