Thursday, February 23, 2017

What's the Buzz?

Happenings and Tips for VBA Connect, week 3.

Members are adapting quickly to our new online communities.  As with our prior listserve service, the most active section is the Property Law Section, with Family Law following close behind.   One of the added benefits of this new system is that you can check out and search what other Sections are talking about whether or not you join or post.  So what is the buzz?

The Property Law Section has continued to discuss MyVtax glitches and fixes, referrals for out of state matters, septic shadows, HOA liens, tenant evictions and pending legislation.  The Family Law Section is actively discussing several new bills being introduced on alimony reform, joint custody presumptions, side judges as mediators and other hot topics.  While you are browsing, check out the Technology Community’s discussions on Virtual Law Practice and Law Practice Management Software.  We are trying to assemble recommendations and warnings for software products, so if you have anything to add, please do so!

We have sent an email blast out to the membership to remind members to login and configure their accounts.  Please check your junk mail and white list  All members have been defaulted to receiving a “daily digest” unless otherwise selected.  As noted in the General Discussion Library post “General Use Instructions,” you can see that there are two ways to select your email notification preferences. 

First, in each community, by the heading, is a button called “settings.”  There, you can set your email notifications for that community with a drop-down under “email notifications.”  Alternatively, you can view all your communities at once by clicking the drop-down arrow next to your profile picture (or Mr. Nobody picture) in the top right corner, and selecting “profile.” In your profile, select “my account” and there will be a drop-down for “community notifications.”  You can set all your community preferences there.

One member noted how convenient it was to be able to set the notifications at “daily digest” or none while he was on vacation, but then change them back to “real time” when he returned.  He thought he could go online on his own time when he was away to see what everyone was up to, but keep his emails down until he got back.  Another noted how important it is to have “real time” set during the legislative session and perhaps changing to “daily digest” when summer hits.  Because legislation is inevitably last-minute (and often critical), setting to “real time” now makes sense.  The beauty is that you can control what you see.

We know some members haven’t yet logged on, as they have “been meaning to” when they have “spare time.”  Been there, heard that! Rest assured that joining the conversation is as easy as entering your VBA username and password and browsing the communities.  The buttons are minimal, and clear, and the platform is extremely user-friendly.  One of your most powerful, yet most simple, resources is the collective wisdom of your colleagues. So what are you waiting for?  Join the conversation today! 

Got questions? We are here to help! Email me at jeb at vtbar dot org.  Training is available.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

“The best thing since sliced bread.”  What a revolutionary thing in 1928 when the first effective bread-slicing machine came out!  Wonder Bread used this as their ad slogan shortly thereafter.  Where would school lunches, picnics, toast and grilled cheese sandwiches be if not for this technological advance?  True, the technology made life easier, lunches faster, and more convenient.  But then there’s always the backlash.  Commercially prepared bread will never be as good or as wholesome as homemade.   Despite the more recent push to source more locally and naturally, there is still no question that the bread-slicer was a game changer that added a certain efficiency to our lives.

With almost any new technology, we tend to have the same love-hate relationship.  How many times have we simultaneously cursed the internet for its constant intrusion on our lives while relishing in the ease at which we can solve a trivia dispute or obtain validation of a memory? While email clutters our practices, who would ever want to go back to attempting to communicate with a group of say, 3 or more, without the ability to simply email a group? Or suffer the delays of mailing letters for pressing matters?  Because technology changes so rapidly, we often have difficulty identifying just what exactly IS the best thing since sliced bread, rather than succumbing to imposters, like the bread-slicer fails between 1860 and 1928.

Because ‘why can’t we just go back to pencil and paper?’ is never the answer, we are all charged with the responsibility of practicing efficiently and competently in the present world.  VBA’s President Mike Kennedy blogs often in his Ethical Grounds blog, about the need to be technologically competent.  Not only is it our ethical responsibility, we also are only able to serve our clients if we respond to their needs and how they want to be served.  As we recently noted on our Facebook page, quoting an ABA Journal article by Jack Newton, clients today often prefer an effortless experience over an exceptional experience.  While this may not always be the case, it is important to recognize that everyone’s client base demands more user-friendly experiences than ever before.  We don’t always have to be utilizing the best thing since sliced bread, but we better be sure that we are not shunning sliced bread, or the internet, or email encryption, or online client portals, or document management software just because we prefer chunks of bread (and pencils). 

As most of our members are aware, we’ve launched a new phase of member communication called VBA Connect.  While we’ve had quite a bit of positive feedback, some members are still having difficulty starting out as they lament the good old days of conference calls or listserves.  We are here to help our members enter into this phase of communication.  The old listserves, while new and shiny at some point, had become stale.  Many people were being bounced off periodically, there was no way to find old posts, there was no way to share documents, videos or large files and there was no organization or ability to see other sections and discussions.  These online communities are easily searchable, more streamlined, organized, clean and easy to use.  You can customize whether you receive emails daily, in real time or not at all.  The embedded online directory saves time.  Just like with any new thing, it will take a bit of time to become accustomed to the changes.  We urge our members to please do so.  It may just be ONE OF the best things since sliced bread.

While we are on the subject of discerning the best thing since sliced bread, the Technology Community is open and available to all members to join and use.  With so many technology aids out there, how can anyone know what is hot and what is not?  Collective wisdom is an incredibly powerful tool.  We encourage you to post to the technology community to share your wisdom and questions about the latest hardware and software.  Want to know what other members think of Clio, Worldox, Timeslips, TimeMatters, Amicus, Abacus, Rocket Lawyer, Dropbox, Goodreader, Logmein, virtu, Zixmail, printers, laptops, apps, etc.?  Got troubleshooting questions? Why not ask?  We can organize responses with the goal of creating a ‘reviews’ library in the future.  Just bite into that perfectly square sandwich.  Happy posting.