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Technology is a major part of Chelsea attorney Randy Musbach’s practice. Musbach gave a recent presentation to the WCBA Solo and Small Firm Section.

Attorney delves into 'cloud computing'

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Randy Musbach, a solo attorney and trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, wrongful death and insurance litigation matters, gave a recent presentation to the Washtenaw County Bar Association Solo and Small Firm Section, "Everything You Ever Needed to Know About the Cloud but Were Too Afraid to Ask, and the Best Apps for Lawyers!"

Technology is a major part of Musbach's practice. A frequent lecturer on the use of technology in the practice of law and a member of the ICLE Technology Law & Training Advisory Board, Musbach has also participated in a Webcast "Technology, Gadgets, and Apps for the Courtroom," with Matthew Borgula and the Hon. Donald Passenger, available from ICLE.

Pursglove: What exactly is "the cloud" and "cloud computing"?

Musbach: The "cloud" is a metaphor for the Internet. It's a physical infrastructure with many computers housed in massive warehouses, generally called server farms, around the world. Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive.

Pursglove: Why is cloud computing important to lawyers?

Musbach: It allows a lawyer to practice law from any place, any time, on his or her own terms. A physical office, along with physical constraints and overhead, is no longer important. An office is no longer a place a lawyer goes but a place where a lawyer is. I'm answering your questions on a MacBook connected to the Internet via my iPad in my briefcase on the floor of my car, while waiting for an oil change.

Pursglove: Do you have a physical office?

Musbach: If I didn't own the building, I would no longer have a physical office. Approximately 75 percent of clients never visit my office: partly I have a referral-based practice and clients around the state; however, the major reason is technology. Clients prefer to meet in convenient locations, such as coffee shops, and most clients use e-mail. I find more clients use text messaging to communicate. I can send and receive text messages on all my devices. I e-mail clients PDFs of all documents sent and received by me so they essentially have a "file" of their case and know what's happening on a daily basis. I don't get calls asking, "What's going on with my case?"

Pursglove: What does your cloud-based office look like?

Musbach: I have a MacBook, iPad Air 2, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch. I have a desktop scanner (Fujitsu ix500) at my physical office and a mobile scanner (Fujitsu ix100) in my car. I would only recommend Fujitsu scanners. I'm a "Mac lawyer" because the stuff works and the Apple store is five minutes from my home. I use a computer-based fax service (myfax). I haven't owned a copy machine or fax machine in years.

I have a virtual assistant to proofread documents-the best proofreader I've ever had and I've only met her once face-to-face. I co-counsel many cases with other lawyers I have known over the years. It's like making a movie: we'll get together to handle a case and then go our separate ways until the next one.

Pursglove: Which company do you use for cloud services?

Musbach: I think Dropbox is the gold standard for cloud-based storage. If there is a concern about security and documents stored in Dropbox, there are many services lawyers can use to encrypt documents. Other popular services include Box, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. Google Drive is easy to use and storage is very cheap.

I have physical back-ups of files on my computer hard drive and on an external back-up drive. If you don't want to use a commercial service, you can buy a "transporter," your own personal "cloud" to access documents from any of your devices.For document production, I use Apple's offerings: Pages (word processing), Numbers (spread sheet) and KeyNote (presentation). I can access all these "applications" and the data in the cloud (icloud.com), and on my iPad, iPhone and MacBook. Each Apple application can open and save any document in the corresponding Microsoft product, which most lawyers use: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can use these Microsoft products on a Mac computer starting at $6.99 a month, for a monthly Internet subscription service.

For PDFs, Adobe is the gold standard but Apple's "Preview," included on a MacBook, is fairly good with PDFs. There are a number of inexpensive PDF Apps for IOS (iPad and iPhone), usually less than $10 each. I use Adobe's new DC monthly service at $14.99 per month to OCR (optical character recognition so you can keyword search a document), redact documents, and combine or bookmark documents. Adobe also has Cloud storage for PDF documents included, accessible by any device connected to the Internet.

Pursglove: Is the cloud of particular advantage to solo and small firms?

Musbach: I believe so. The future of most business enterprises is "mobile computing." An excellent book by Michael Saylor, "The Mobile Wave," is a great roadmap to the future for offices. I think mobile computing is why Apple has made the iPhone the center of everyone's workflow and technology life. Mobile computing is disruptive technology: think Uber and taxi drivers; or Netflix and video stores. I can operate my entire law practice from my iPhone 6 Plus. The limitations are the lack of large keyboard or size of screen to write briefs or extensively review records. The point is not working all the time but practicing law on your own terms-any time, any place. Cost is a major factor. A cloud-based practice has eliminated or greatly reduced overhead for a solo lawyer or small firm, often a group of lawyers practicing under one umbrella or letterhead.

Besides the cost of professional liability insurance, a solo lawyer can start a law practice with less than $2,500 in start-up costs and have monthly overhead as low as $250 per month. This can be disruptive technology, in a positive way, for lawyers.

Pursglove: What about all that paperwork lawyers create and need to use?

Musbach: A good question. The first place to start is with a paperless office. In federal courts, it's all electronic filing. Our state courts are slowly getting there and most businesses are already there to some extent. Start today. Buy a Fujitsu ix500 scanner, scan all documents as a PDF, and store them in your cloud service of choice. Unless you need to keep a document with an original signature, scan a document and shred it. If you create a document, save it as PDF (and hopefully you're not sending many documents via U.S. Mail). As a personal injury lawyer I deal with a lot of documents. I order medical records in "digital" form and order "digital" copies of deposition transcripts (I keep an original paper copy of a transcript if I'm the moving party taking a deposition in order to comply with the court rules). A paperless office allows me to access any document in any case in seconds. At a deposition or in court I have immediate access to all case file documents. My "litigator's briefcase" is in storage, a relic from my early years of practice. I generally only take my iPad to a court hearing. I take my MacBook to depositions so I can take notes and I make an audio recording, as permitted by the court rules, using PearNote-a great note and audio recording program and App.

Pursglove: Do you like your Apple Watch?

Musbach: The Apple Watch is the most comfortable watch I have ever worn. It's much more than a watch and is Apple's first venture into "wearable computing." There is a learning curve as this is an all-new device which I purchased recently, mostly for the fitness aspect as I run and work out. I've been very surprised by the workflow applications. It's become my preferred way to check email and to receive and make phone calls. It looked a little like "Dick Tracy" at first, using it for calls, but the microphone and speaker are so good you don't need to hold the watch up to your mouth to speak or to your ear to listen to a call. A number of new Apps are coming out each week and this is just the first generation of a device most people will use with their iPhone.

Pursglove: What will this "cloud stuff" do to the future of practicing law?

Musbach: Bill Ford, Jr. recently said the auto industry will change more in the next five years than it's changed in the past 30 years. I think this is particularly true for the law. It will be the best of times or the worst of times for lawyers. I believe technology, especially cloud-based computing, can make it the best of times for lawyers who are willing to adapt and embrace change. Mobile lawyers will enjoy the practice of law more than ever and, more importantly, can become more effective lawyers for their clients.

The future of law is in the "clouds!"

Published: Mon, Jun 22, 2015

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