Pam Makowski – Let's Talk Tech Blog

What to do with the business card?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the August 27th, 2010

Once upon a time, about six years ago, if you encountered another Palm person, you could just beam your business cards to each other. How cool was that? You had to make sure that you beamed the right info, of course, but it worked.

Now you can download Vcards and get the data into your Palm or Outlook, but sometimes when you go places, you still end up getting the business card. And there are as many types of cards as one can imagine. Of course, you can get somewhat free cards through Vistaprint, cool cards from, or go to your local printer, or even print them off your printer. But once you receive a card from someone, what do you do?

Of course, you have the data inputted into your Outlook or other contacts gathering program. And then what? The card often conveys more than just data. It also conveys an attitude or character. Once you get past the information, there are all kinds of other things that you consider about the person who gave you the card. Was it printed on their own printer (cheap, practical, transitional)? What was the font (classy, funloving, boring)? Even the placement of information, the background, the colors — these all say something about the person who handed you the card. Even if the card is from a major corporation that they work for, more than just the basic content information is conveyed through the card. And then there is the feel of the card. Is it sturdy, flimsy, smooth, bumpy?

So what to do with the card? I really don’t know. I still stash them away, at least until I get to know the person better. And if it is a card from a friend, I like having the collection of where they have been and what they have done. I keep one of each of my cards for posterity, although I assume that they will be pretty much disposed of upon my death. It is still fun to walk down memory lane.

But still, what to do with the card? What if it is someone you never intend to do business with? What if you just accepted the card out of courtesy? I don’t know the answer to this, but as I glance upon the stack of cards accumulated in the last month, I continue to wonder, what to do with the card?

Life with the new Palm

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 30th, 2010

Yes, I must admit that I am one of those loyal Palm people, and I may have to say good-bye to my palm someday, but I took the plunge again and went with the new Palm Pre Plus. After all, it was free from Verizon and it included using it as a wi-fi hotspot for up to 5 devices FREE.

Well, it is really quite different from the old Palm days. I am used to having everything backed up on my computers, and I would hot sync it to multiple computers. The new Palm webOS really makes you move everything to the cloud. Unless you do what I did, and get the Chapura pocket mirror – which hot syncs wirelessly :-) but can only hot sync to one computer. :-( Oh, well.

But after being challenged yesterday for many hours (it took over 12 hours to get everything transferred to the Palm), I am now very happy. I know that I could have put everything on Google, but I could not put my tasks on Google, so I would have lost them if I did not go with PocketMirror. Now I am thinking about using Google for a calendar so that my staff can access and update it, etc., while using PocketMirror. This is really confusing, but it is starting to come together for me. I know that in the end I will love it, but there is always a learning curve.

Anyway, would love to hear thoughts/ideas from others.

The Paperless Office – is it possible? is it practical?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the March 7th, 2010

I remember years ago when a local attorney told me that his office was completely paperless. Every single document was scanned into his system and then shredded. That just seemed amazing to me and I was so jealous. I tried for years to figure out how to go about doing that, but with everything else going on, I never had time. More recently, I worked in an office that scanned everything in, but still put the paper on the attorneys’ desks. It was hard to let go of the old system, and there was a concern that if the attorney did not actually see the document, he or she might forget to look at the digital version and the next thing you know, there would be a malpractice situation. Unfortunately, the paper would tend to pile up on the attorneys’ desks and, when it was time to find the actual piece of paper, there would be a lot of scrambling. (Okay, yes, I am describing me.) That system worked somewhat, but some attorneys preferred to look at the digital versions of the file and some preferred to look at the paper. In fact, looking at the digital versions only led to the accumulation of the paper versions, since I would just skim through the hard copies to confirm I saw everything, but then just put the paper back on my desk. Some of the documents were not scanned but instead were preserved digitally only in their word processing format, so letters prepared by the office that were sent out were not saved in the data files with the signature on them. That would sometimes get confusing and if, heaven forbid, anyone wrote a handwritten note on something, there was very little chance of the preservation of that until the whole file was scanned when the case was closed.

There is also another consideration when deciding to go paperless. If you have an active trial practice, which I do as a family lawyer, or many clients who do not really have access to digital media, then you sometimes need the papers. If you have exhibits that are not necessarily neat 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper, like journals or calendars, that does not necessarily work, either. And, although I have read about ways to present documents and other evidence digitally on a large screen, that will not work in most cases I have. When you are showing up at court to do a child support hearing and you have a few pay stubs, it is not worth the trouble of lugging equipment over to the court to display the paystubs on a giant screen. I suppose the court could consider looking at them on your laptop screen, but you are still going to have to have hard copies to introduce as evidence. On the other hand, if it is only a child support hearing, why lug the whole file. You can have the digital version of the rest of the file on your laptop or netbook for quick reference.

So what is the answer? Truly, I think it depends on each lawyers practice, but I would be willing to bet that before we know it, it will be considered a bad practice, if not malpractice, to fail to scan everything into your system. If you lose the file through fire or other tragedy, I think questions will be asked about why you did not scan each item in and then back the system up off site. For most people who are engaged in technology on a daily basis, this is a no-brainer, but for a lot of lawyers, especially solo practitioners, this is not really the current state of affairs.

For me the answer is this. Each item gets scanned in as part of the client filing process. Filed a motion? Scan it in. Received a letter? Scan it in. Sent out a shared parenting plan? PDF it (no signatures, no need to separately scan). And then what to do with the paper? File it away. Now, when I go to court, I can pick and chose what to take.

In addition to this type of record retention, there is a huge amount of communication through text messaging and emails, at least in my practice. So what to do? I save them digitally, and then print out the ones that are signficant for the file. With the whole office on laptops, people can literally carry whole files around while the original stays nice and neat in the filing cabinet. It is important, though, even with a small solo practice like mine, to have procedures in place so that there is no question about what happens to each document. You also need to consider how you want this digital data preserved. Do you want it on your servers or do you want to save it off-line and in the cloud? Are you going to just save it on a portable hard drive? What about security issues with such ease of portability for data that is confidential.

So these are my thoughts and my proposed solution for now. I think each attorney has to determine what is best for their own practice, but ultimately I think that you cannot ignore the need to preserve documents digitally as well as in hard copy. And, of course, you need to think about metadata retention or scrubbing, but that is a topic for another blog.

I welcome your comments, especially about your experiences with this.

Virtual End of Life Planning

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the March 3rd, 2010

Now that you have managed to get yourself out there, and you are on Facebook, Twitter, Google Wave, Blogger, WordPress, Google Buzz and who knows what, how do you detach your virtual self when your physical self passes away? I don’t know the answer to this, but it raises a good question, and it is potentially something that lawyers advising on end of life issues might want to see developed. Just think about how great it would be for a lawyer to have an end of life application for the client that could not only notify the appropriate social mediums, but could also send out a message that the client wants to go out to all of their connections, and maybe even suggest that people make donations to a cause in their memory. It’s truly a virtual world, so maybe it is time to talk about virtual end of life planning, too.

And remember, following me on this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. All content posted by me is copyrighted (c)2010 all rights reserved.

Companies mining your social media data? Can we ever be anonymous?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the March 2nd, 2010

Here is a good article on companies using your social media data from Mashable:

Of course, this is what was trying to scare us about – don’t put too much out there on the social media sites  because someone might actually read the stuff.

And now, along comes  It stands for anonymous you, and it promises to be coming soon.  It claims that one of the only ways to tell the truth is anonymously.  Well, truth be told, anonymous does not bring out truth.  That is why we favor public meetings and tranparency.  People can hide behind masks and spout hatefulness and untruths. Many examples of this come to mind. Finally, ironically,, according to one of the comments on Google Buzz, asks for your email address when you register.  So much for anonymity.

Bottom line – when you are in a public forum, act like someone who is in a public forum and have the expectations of someone who is in a public forum.  It’s not that hard.

What technology are you using? What technology is using you?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the March 2nd, 2010

Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.  It seems that we are in a paper war.  Who ever ends up with the most paper wins!  And yet we have so many resources available to us that can make our lives so much easier.  And technology is not just about scanning documents or e-filing.  You can get information delivered to you quickly and efficiently, and so much of it is free.  And you can contribute to the international conversation, which is a really exciting thing.

Trying to follow the latest legal trends?  Follow the various ABA sites on ‘Twitter, including the one for solo practices. 

Want to know what is happening locally?  Become a fan on Facebook of organizations that share your interests.

Want to figure out how to get recognized on the web?  After all, how many people tell you they found you in the yellow pages.  If you don’t want your own web page, at least try LinkedIn,, or avvo.  You are probably already on some of these sites and some of the information may be wrong, so you need to fix it.

Where to start?  Google yourself.  I just did and even though I thought I had corrected my contact information on every site, I still found outdated information.  Even if you aren’t using a lot of the stuff that is out there, your information is out there and you need to fix that. 

After that, you need to look at all of the ways you can use technology to your advantage.  I always hear lawyers say that doing this stuff is just one more thing to add to their busy lives.  Getting started may take time, but once you are out there, you can use it to your advantage, and you can become very well informed in a short period of time.

So take the first step.  Google yourself and find out what is out there about you already.  Then maybe sign up for a Twitter account, pick some people to follow (follow me @pammakowski – and then search who I follow for more), and sit back and watch.  You’ll know when you are ready to jump in.