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No. 2, November 1997  

Criteria for a Good Web Site As any litigator knows, you can't get the right answers unless you ask the right questions. What are the right questions when it comes to designing a web site for the Internet? Three of the most important are:

  • What do you want to accomplish with a web site?
  • What is your expected/desired audience?
  • How will people access your site?

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

The first thing to decide is what you want to accomplish by setting up a Web site. At a minimum, people generally want to present the firm's practice and attorneys. However, this, by itself, is a poor reason to create a Web site, since you are really only slightly expanding on your Martindale entry. Additional things you may wish to do with a Web site include:

  • Publicize the firm's recent activities, including newsletters the firm publishes, significant cases the firm has been involved in and seminars attorneys have attended. Publications by attorneys should be referred to or reproduced. This can lead to opportunities for cross-marketing to existing clients. If the firm sponsors seminars, they should be listed.
  • Serve as a resource to other attorneys by including a number of links to areas related to the firm's primary practice areas. A site that is useful to other attorneys serves to increase the firm's reputation as a leader.
  • Serve as a showcase either legally or in terms of the technology being used.
  • You might have a restricted area (accessible only by password) for client information. The client would be given secure access to information directly concerning your representation of them.
  • Showcase new hires, recent activity, etc. The listing of attorneys should include e-mail addresses and be more than just a re-hash of your Martindale entry.
  • Institute an e-mail response system that will return more information to anyone requesting it. A request to "info@lawfirm.com" returns general information, a request to "tax@lawfirm.com" returns information concerning your tax practice, and so on. This helps you to track people who visit your site and can lead to new clients. Depending on your e-mail system, you may not need a Web site to do this.

What Is Your Expected Audience?

You might expect or hope that the following categories of people visit your Web site:

  • Existing clients will visit your site for a number of reasons. They might want to keep their finger on the general pulse of the firm to make sure it is active and intellectually alive. Or to check out other practice areas with an eye to expanding their business with the firm. If your representation concerns a particular specialty (tax issues, patent law), they might want other information relevant to your representation of them.
  • Prospective clients might access your site to get a better overall view of the firm.
  • Other attorneys might visit your site to "check you out" or preliminary to pos-sible job opportunities. Or, if your site maintains links to research sites or specific practice areas (maritime law, environmental law), to use it as a jumping off point for further research.
  • Finally, law students might visit your site in connection with job opportunities.

How Will People Access Your Site?

Many Web designers want to build in "hot" new features to a site, including extensive graphics, animation, Java scripts and so on. You should be careful that the technology you implement in your site reflects your expectations concerning how people will visit it.

If you can assume that most visitors will be professional/corporate users who have high-speed Internet connections at work, or students with high-speed connections wired into their dorm rooms at law schools, then the sky's the limit.

However, if you believe that many people might access your site via modem, either from smaller companies that do not have high-speed access, or attorneys who are "surfing the net" from home at night via modem (even the newest 56kb modems), then there is a tradeoff between advanced features and the amount of time it takes to download your home page or other parts of your site. The Web is not known as the "World Wide Wait" for nothing. You might want to scale back graphics and Java scripts in order to provide users more rapid access to your site.

Mechanics

Building and maintaining a Web site in-house takes substantial effort. Many Internet Service Providers will host your site for a reasonable fee, and may even provide design services. However, it is important to have someone at the firm responsible for overseeing and updating content and generally keeping the site in line with your goals and desired audience.

Finally, you should commit to keeping the site updated. A site that has not been updated in six months or more sends the message that this is purely a pro forma site and that the firm has no real interest in the Internet.

A careful analysis of the above criteria can help you create a site that fits your needs and keep enthusiastic web designers and consultants under control.

Connecticut ABA Legal Tech Show The METZ Software booth (#39) at the Connecticut ABA Legal Tech show will be staffed by Heckman Consulting personnel. METZ Phones is an excellent rolodex program for managing your addresses and mailing lists. It can be integrated into your word processor, e-mail package and fax program, so that you have one central point of administration for all your data. METZ Phones is shareable, so that an attorney and secretary can share the same database and if desired give proxy rights to other users for controlled access to a particular database. The show will be held on November 18 at the Radisson Hotel, Cromwell. Visit us at Booth #39!

New Palm Pilot Links The PalmPilot is one of the hottest new electronic toys. Whip one out and people will freely confess to "PalmPilot envy." The stylized Graffiti handwriting is easy to use--but it's still handwriting. So the success of the PalmPilot (which IBM recently licensed) depends on third-party software to enable users to synchronize their Pilot with their desktop applications, whether they be Lotus Organizer, Ecco, Goldmine, Sidekick, Act! or whatever.

Two new applications have recently been added to PalmPilot's list. Puma Technologies (makers of Intellisync, a leading program for synching other applications with the Pilot) has just released a module for GroupWise 5.2 that allows you to synch up your GroupWise calendar, note and to do lists with the Pilot.

Tele-Support's Data-Sync has a new module that synchronizes a METZ Phones database with the Palm Pilot (although it is a two-step process, unlike the Intellisync process). I was able to download a database of nearly 1,000 names to my PalmPilot Desktop in under 5 minutes, and keeping it synchronized with the PalmPilot takes only a minute or two.

A number of other companies are actively working on PalmPilot links, including Corel (for CorelCentral in WordPerfect 8), TimeSlips and Amicus Attorney.

Puma Technologies: 800 248-2795
Tele-Support: 541 412-0400

Amicus Attorney Certification John Heckman is now a Certified Consultant and Certified Trainer for Amicus Attorney software. Amicus is a practice management system designed for small and medium size law firms to help attorneys track their cases, including time entry features, a rolodex, calendar and annotations concerning matters. It can be linked with a variety of time and billing systems, including PC Law, TimeSlips and QuickBooks to automate the transfer of time entry into your billing system. A single user version of Amicus (ver. 1.7) also ships with the Corel WordPerfect Legal Suite. Upgrades to the current version (2.5.3) are only $99.

About This Newsletter

Heckman Consulting is a systems integration firm specializing in the legal market. John Heckman has over 15 years experience in the legal community. This newsletter is published periodically as a service to our clients and others in the legal community. It will contain items we have found to be of interest. The newsletter is on the METZ Software web site at: www.metz.com

Contact Heckman Consulting at:

     3 Fenwick Place
     Norwalk, CT 06855
     Tel: (203) 831-0442
     Fax: (203) 227-4354

e-mail: jheckman@kalmon.com

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Electronic Rolodexes: Mine is Faster, Stronger, Better than Yours

    Electronic Personal Information Managers (PIMs) and rolodexes are an emotional subject. People get very attached to Program X and "can't understand" how anybody else could possibly use "that piece of junk," Program Y. Program Y's user feels the same way about Program X (and the nitwits that use it). Taking a more dispassionate look, what are the features you might demand of a rolodex program (I won't deal with PIMs here)?
    There are three main categories of rolodex features: basic functionality, ease of use, and "look and feel." While look and feel tends to be very subjective, it is possible to lay out some criteria for the first two.

Basic Functionality

 What do you want a rolodex to do? Here are some of the features I find particularly important:

  • Categories. The ability to categorize entries (personal, Christmas list, vendors, clients, etc.) adds considerably to a program's functionality. For example, any time you do a mailing (Christmas cards for example),  it can be generated in just a few minutes by category and you don't have to worry about entries being up to date from the last mailing (assuming you keep up the rolodex).
  • Ability to sort instantly by Company Name, Last Name or other indexed fields. In a table display format, you should be able to click on the column to be sorted and have it sort without disrupting the display or having to drag the columns around (click once for A-Z, twice for Z-A, etc.).
  • Ability to create multiple formats or layouts that might be used for printing labels, to paste information into a word processing program, e-mail program, telephone lists, or just to print a hard copy. I know one secretary who printed two copies of over 1,000 rolodex cards so that her boss could have a hard copy at the office and at home
  • Hot key to paste information into other Windows programs and/or integration directly into them (an icon on the button bar).
  • Ability to add multiple addresses for a given person and unlimited custom fields.
  • Links to e-mail and phone dialer.
  • Easy way to make a "portable" copy for home or laptop, then synchronize any changes made on the laptop or home PC to the main office/network copy. If a program can synchronize with a hot new toy like the PalmPilot, that's a plus.
  • Database should be networkable. You should be able to share a rolodex with various people and define their access down to a field level (Jim Jones has read-only access to the database in general, but no access to the Personal Notes field).
  • You should be able to import and export data easily from a broad range of file types by matching fields in the file to be imported with fields in the database. The fields should not have to be in the same order to be imported correctly.

Ease of Use

 What are some of the key ease of use features that make a rolodex stand out?

  • Good speed. Should load, add records and re-sort quickly.
  • Full typedown search. If you type "cra" it goes to entries starting with "cra" not first to "c", then "r", then "a".
  • Ease of mass data entry, including:
  •  
    • ability to duplicate an existing record and repeat most information (for another person who works at the same company, for example).
    • ability to repeat last entry with simple keystroke (e.g., Company Name, City, etc.)
    •  if rolodex has separate Company tables, when you type in the company, it should automatically fill in the address, etc.
    • ability to move from field to field and screen to screen with keystrokes for faster data entry.
  • Ability to eliminate defined leading words from a sort. The New York Times should sort under "N", not under "T".

Look and Feel

    There's a tradeoff here between people who like a "clean" look and feel and people who want to see a maximum amount of information at one time. Some programs display the entries in what looks like a physical rolodex card, and you can "drill down" to see more information. Others have a more database/table look. This is a personal thing, although the trend seems to be toward the clean look. One display feature I particularly like is the ability to display the full name normally(Mr. Jim Jones) while still sorting by last name.
     Any program that ships with the ability to customize your display screens means that you can create your own look and feel. This is obviously a plus.

And the Winner is... METZ Phones

     The best rolodex I have found to date is a program called METZ Phones, by METZ Software. It satisfies most of the above criteria, although it tends to load slowly and it won't eliminate leading words like "A" or "The" when sorting. However, you can add unlimited custom fields and addresses and the formatting and printing features are excellent. I've created formats for letters, labels, e-mail addresses phone lists and hard-copy printouts. It also has a direct link to the 411 directory on the Internet, so if you need to add an address, you can click on the 411 icon to find it. On the network side, an Administrator program allows you to grant proxy access down to a field level (access to the first Notes field, but not the second). You can also link and synchronize an office copy with a laptop copy very easily. Check it out at www.metz.com
    As "second best" take a look at Nexcard (www.nexal.com). Office Accelerator from Baseline Data Systems (www.baselineconnect.com) and Client Manager from Software Studios (www.studio2.com) both integrate directly into your word processor and can be accessed from there. Sidekick has a large following from the good ol' DOS days. The windows version was taken over by Philippe Kahn and is marketed as Sidekick 98 (www.starfish.com).
    With the exception of Office Accelerator, all these programs allow you to download a free trial copy.
 

The above article was originally published in the November issue of the Danbury Area Computer Society, dacs.doc.


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