Software for All Lawyers

Dictation

Dragon Naturally Speaking seal of approval logo Dragon dictation software is absolutely amazing.  Dragon was the first company (in the late 1970’s) to start producing dictation software.  Dragon Naturally Speaking is now owned by Nuance.  Put on a headset and type by dictating at up to 160 words per minute.  It’s accuracy is flawless with medical terminology (great for typing injury paragraphs in a Bill of Particulars) and excellent with other dictation.  I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to dictate everything on hundreds of pages at a HURT911.org and approximately 300 other websites!  It’s amazingly accurate right out-of-the-box with only several minutes of training.  After correcting some errors and using the accuracy tools, it works even better.

Dragon is an enormous timesaver.  it saves time two ways.  1) It is much faster to dictate than to type.  2) It saves a lot of time compared to using a secretary. Using a secretary requires proof reading which takes me more time than typing it myself and when using a secretary, I often had to proof read two or three times each time I gave it back for corrections.  Now your secretary can do more important things.

Additionally, I started having substantial wrist pain from typing so much, before using Dragon.  Now, after using Dragon, I no longer have any wrist pain.  I can sum it up by comparing it to power windows.  I can roll up my windows by hand, but I would never again buy a car without power windows.  Now, I can’t send an e-mail or type anything manually.

Dragon will not work well unless you have a really good sound card or use a USB headset which bypasses the sound card.  Whenever someone told me Dragon didn’t work well, I found they were using a cheap sound card.  Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes with an analog headset.  This is a huge mistake because it causes many people to think Dragon doesn’t work very well.  This is simply not true.  Dragon should be sold with a really good USB headset.  I strongly recommend that you buy a USB headset (see below) and Dragon will work well.

Here are several tips to get incredible accuracy from Dragon NaturallySpeaking:

  1. Buy the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking (accuracy keeps improving).
  2. Instead of using the analog headset that comes with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, buy a USB headset (see my headset review below).  I use the NC-181VM USB Headset (mono) or if you want stereo NC-185VM USB Headset (stereo).  Most computers do not have a good quality sound card, which causes most of the errors people experience with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  A USB headset will bypass the soundcard providing you with the most accuracy and the NC-181VM is the best of the USB headsets I tried.
  3. If Dragon NaturallySpeaking starts making more errors than usual, the suspect should be your headphone.  After using the headphone for a long time, I’ve gone through several headphones.  The wire was damaged on one, another had an unknown problem, and a third suffered a faulty on/off switch.  When I got a new headset, the errors disappeared.  If you start noticing more areas than usual, replace your headset.
  4. See more Dragon Naturally Speaking Tips

You will want to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred, Professional, Legal or maybe the Medical Edition if you do personal injury or medical malpractice.  I previously used Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred and now use NaturallySpeaking Professional.  All of the versions have the same speech engine with the same accuracy.  I found the Preferred version to be astoundingly accurate with medical terms.  Many medical words were already recognized.  The medical words which it didn’t recognize, were easy to train.  Once a word or phrase is trained, you don’t have to do it again.  I always use Dragon to dictate injury paragraphs in Bills of Particulars.  I found it easy to go through medical records and reports dictating pertinent portions in a Word or Word Perfect document.  When finished, I delete any duplication and rearrange the injuries in an order that makes sense.  If you dictate Bills of Particulars with injury paragraphs or interrogatories with medical terminology and don’t want to bother training those words, buy the medical version. Disclosure: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional was provided to me at no charge.  The fact that it was given to me without charge should tell you a lot, because I requested it.  If I’m going to ask for something for free, I’ll ask for the best!   BUY IT NOW!

Headsets for Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Make sure you buy a USB headset!):

Andrea Electronics seal of approval logo Dragon tech support told me they now use USB headsets from Andrea Electronics.  The NC-181VM USB Headset is rated 6 Dragons for accuracy which is Nuance’s highest rating for headsets to use with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  I had been using the Parrott Talk Pro which had the highest rating a few years ago but because Andrea Electronics headsets are now rated the highest, I called Andrea Electronics and they were kind enough to send me a new headset.  According to Andrea Electronics, the NC-181VM USB headset and the ANC-700 are of the same quality/accuracy but the ANC-700 has a noise canceling microphone for noisy rooms.  If you work in a bullpen type office you should consider purchasing the ANC-700.  My office is quiet, so I asked Andrea Electronics to send me the NC-181VM USB monaural headset.  I have been using the NC-181VM USB monaural headset now and Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been more accurate than ever before with only a couple of errors all day. The on off switch has a blue LED light that flashes when the microphone is turned off which is nice because it’s easy to tell when the microphone is turned off.
Note:  1) At the edge of the foam cover, the microphone has a white dot on one side. The side with the white dot is the side that must face your mouth!

Parrott seal of approval logo When I bought Dragon years ago, I called tech support to ask what headset they used, and was told they use the Parrott Talk Pro USB headset from VXI. The Parrott Talk Pro USB-100 headset is rated 5 Dragons for accuracy. The accuracy with this headset is a tremendous improvement over the analog head set that is shipped with the software. The Parrott Talk Pro USB-100 has a VXI PARROTT Translator which makes the headset compatible with any PC, laptop or palmtop soundcard, preventing incompatibility, a leading cause of voice recognition failure. The PARROTT Translator allows maximum voice recognition accuracy right out of the box by detecting the bias and resistance of the PC and balancing it with the headset. It also improves other crucial voice recognition factors such as flat frequency response band; limiting high frequency output; high immunity breath pops; and low distortion at all levels. After running over the wire a few times with the wheels on my chair, the headset no longer worked properly and Dragon was typing trash.  I called VXI, and they were kind enough to send me a new headset.  The new headset, the same Parrott Talk Pro USB-100 model, has a longer wire than the previous model, making it easier to work with.  I have to say, that using Dragon with the VXI Parrott Talk Pro USB-100 headset is one of the most significant life altering events I have experienced.

Notes:  1) I have not tried it, but the wireless head set is reported to work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 9 which has a wireless microphone mode, but can not work quite as well as the wired headset because a wire with substantially more bandwidth, can transmit more data, faster;  2) Under the foam cover, the microphone has a white dot on one side.  The side with the white dot is the side that must face your mouth!

Headset Microphone Comparison
Dragon NaturallySpeaking provides a comparison of headsets on their website which is very difficult to find.  You can get to it as follows:
1) go to http://support.nuance.com/compatibility/default.asp
2) In the left column, click on Hardware Compatibility List
3) In the drop down window for Select a Product, select Dragon NaturallySpeaking and click the Continue button
4) In the “Select a device category” drop down window, select Headset Microphones (current) and click the Continue button

Financial & Accounting Software

QuickBooks Professional Services (for law firms) | QuickBooks Premier Cloud | QuickBooks | Quicken Home & Businessseal of approval logo – Both Quicken and Quickbooks have been two of my all time favorites. I’ve used Quicken since Quicken DOS. I use Quicken for my personal checking account and QuickBooks Professional for my law practice, escrow accounts, 1-800-HURT-911, Inc. and the Nassau County Police Department Aux Communications account which I maintain as the Commanding Officer.

Get Quicken Premier to track your stocks, mutual funds and bonds. Get Quicken Premier Home and Business to manage both your personal and business accounts. QuickBooks does not do any investment tracking.

QuickBooks can be used to invoice customers by mail and e-mail. I send invoices by e-mail. So you don’t have to remember, you can set QuickBooks to automatically create invoices for customers or clients who you bill every month for the same amount. QuickBooks will track payments and outstanding bills, do payroll and 1099’s. When you send referral payments to various lawyers QuickBooks will track those payments and compile 1099’s for you. Quickbooks also saves me thousands of dollars in accounting fees. I do not have to pay a bookkeeper to come here every month to do my books. I simply print out a report with QuickBooks and e-mail it to my accountant. With Quicken or Quickbooks, you can easily reconcile your escrow account in seconds, making sure you won’t get disbarred for sloppy bookkeeping! (A lawyer in Nassau County was actually disbarred (confirmed on appeal) for bouncing an escrow check due to sloppy bookkeeping, even though he had replaced the missing money!) Disclosure: QuickBooks was provided to me at no charge.  The fact that it was given to me without charge should tell you a lot, because I requested it.  If I’m going to ask for something for free, I’ll ask for the best!  BUY IT NOW!

How to set up QuickBooks for Law Firms

Data Transfer Utility for QuickBooks If you need to transfer or copy data from one QuickBooks file to another QuickBooks file, this Quick Books Transfer Utility will transfer the data quickly and easily, eliminating the need to re-key the data.  From within the Transfer Utility, you can select the specific types of data (invoices, bills etc.) that you want to transfer and filter for specific dates, reference numbers, customers, vendors, accounts and more.

Secure Email

RPost – E-delivery Proof; Encryption; E-signatures; and Registered Email

ProtonMail – is Free (Open Source) All emails are secured automatically with end-to-end encryption. ProtonMail can be used on any device without any software to install. ProtonMail secure email accounts are fully compatible with other email providers -You can send and receive emails normally. It doesn’t have IMAP access.

Office 365 Email Message Encryption

Outlook Addons

QuickFile4Outlook Lawyers Edition seal of approval logo The email filing system that protects your law practice from the risk of poor email management.  A simple plug-in to the Outlook email program gives you the ONLY email management solution for lawyers that solves all of your email management problems, yet does not require you to change the way you file client/case records.  You simply plug it in and two new buttons are added to your Outlook screen.  You can easily file emails out of the inbox and into the correct folders where they belong.  After responding to an e-mail, I often want to save it.  Instead of saving everything in my inbox, I like to put the e-mail where I can quickly find it later.  Previously, it was time consuming to find the appropriate folder.  Although I had several thousand e-mails saved in the appropriate folders, I’m lazy and still had over 3,000 emails in my inbox.  For the first time, I can easily get emails out of my inbox!  Now, I can easily respond to an e-mail and save it where it belongs.  This really is fabulous.  Additionally, QuickFile4Outlook is really easy to learn how to use.  It only took me a few minutes.

When you want to save an email to another folder, QuickFile4Outlook automatically presents a short list of folders (specific to the client, case or any subject) for you to choose from.   For instance, a person may send me emails which I may save in several different folders.  QuickFile™ will show me only those folders where I have previously saved them.  I then choose the correct folder and it’s out of my inbox.  If I want to save to a new folder, then I just select a new one. 

Update: The new version now has a scan and search feature for your folders.  I have approximately 1,000 folders and sub folders in Outlook, so it sometimes can frustrate me trying to find a folder!  With the new version, you can type the first few letters of the folder name and it starts giving you suggestions, so you can now find a folder in seconds and select it for QuickFiling.

Even better! Most users forget about Sent Items and this folder gets bigger and messier until finding an important email record becomes virtually impossible.  I have almost 5,000 emails in my Sent Items folder.  I often try to drag sent e-mails out of the Sent Items folder and into specific folders so that they are saved where I need them, but I often forget and it’s time-consuming.  Not with QuickFile™! It routes emails you send from your Sent Items folder to your chosen client/case or any folder you want.  It creates an electronic archive of all client/case emails and documents.  In just one click QuickFile™ creates a Word or HTML document containing all emails associated with the client/case. All email attachments are put conveniently into a separate folder and are available directly from the document. QuickFile even creates a clickable table of contents!  See some of the other problems it can solve for you at QuickFile4Outlook demo.  You can download a fully functional free 30 day trial.  QuickFile4Outlook allows me to save sent emails where they belong.  Before, I always forgot to drag them there.  It also saves me a lot of time moving emails from my inbox to the proper folders because it lets you do that with one click while when you read the email.   Besides saving time, it just makes email easier than ever!  Do you want to drive a car without power windows or a remote key?  QuickFile4Outlook is like getting power windows and a remote key for Outlook.  Am I glad I upgraded from Outlook Express!  This software was provided as a courtesy for review and I use it every day.  Disclosure: QuickFile4Outlook was provided to me at no charge.  The fact that it was given to me without charge should tell you a lot, because I requested it.  If I’m going to ask for something for free, I’ll ask for the best!  BUY IT NOW!

Email Notes for Outlook Update (Sticky Notes for Emails) – This lets you add sticky notes to emails which are confidential and are not shared by replying or forwarding emails but you can share a sticky note if you want to. The sticky notes do not change your original email.

SendGuard 4Outlook seal of approval logo warns you so you will AVOID common emailing mistakes that waste valuable time and could even get you in trouble! SendGuard also allows you to easily manage multiple e-mail addresses.  SendGuard warns you 1) if you forget to attach a file; 2) if you forget to include a subject or to change the subject of an old e-mail; 3) if you are about to accidentally reply to all or if you are only replying to one when you want to reply to all; 4) if you are sending an e-mail from the wrong account; wrote and sent an email that you want to call back.  On the first day I installed it, it saved me from replying to only the sender of an e-mail when I should have replied to multiple recipients.

eMailMerge 4Outlook  use this to e-mail personalized newsletters, announcements and holiday e-cards to your clients.

InsertText 4Outlook  InsertText 4Outlook is an Microsoft Outlook add-on that allows you to quickly and easily insert pre-written text blocks into email replies.  This can be a huge and valuable timesaver when e-mailing information or instructions to clients.  This is extremely simple to use and you can learn how to use it in three minutes.  It interfaces very nicely with Outlook.  This program is essentially doing automatically what I used to do manually.  Before, I had many e-mails saved with template information.  I would cut and paste the information into my e-mails.  Now, when writing an e-mail I simply click on the InsertText button on the create e-mail toolbar and select the template text to insert.  Creating or editing a template is as easy as writing an e-mail.  This software was provided as a courtesy for review and I use it every day.  BUY IT NOW!

TaskColors 4Outlook  Color Code your Outlook Task List.  The fast easy visual way to identify your important tasks in Outlook.

Backup Software

Online backup I use Mozy, HIPAA compliant, full-featured remote online backup service that is inexpensive and easy to use.  Imagine what you would do if you lost your computer with all of your data!  I know a law firm that lost 3 months of client data due to the Cryptolocker ransomware virus.  I would have to immediately sell my house and crawl into a hole.

Mozy uses 448 bit encryption and is even HIPAA compliant.  It took just 5 minutes to get started and it’s so easy, there’s no need to read any instructions, but if you barely know how to turn on your computer, they have 24/7 tel support.  I tried calling and, Pablo, one of their techs answered within 10 seconds.  Their software can automatically back up everything you need, even files on your desktop, email, SQL files, everything!  Your data can be backed up as files are created, automatically when your computer is idle.

Mirror Image backup Datto is one choice but seems expensive.  Genie9 is a very inexpensive solution which will create a mirror image backup of your server. Genie9 claims that you can restore a mirror image backup of your server to a different motherboard. This is extremely helpful if you have an older server, so you don’t have to go on eBay and look for an old motherboard that’s the same model as your old server.  See more information and a list of companies offering mirror image backup software (this is an article I wrote which also has good information about preventing data loss from a virus or ransomware like Cryptolocker).

Free Microsoft Office Suite Alternative

OpenOffice.org – The entire Microsoft Office Suite alternative is completely free and now uses extensions. The PDF Import Extension allows you to import and modify PDF documents.

File Recovery / File Shredders / Hard Drive Erasers

Undelete / SecureDelete – Undelete™ recovers deleted files instantly, no matter where across the network they were deleted from. Undelete safely replaces the Windows® recycle bin with a Recovery Bin, which captures all deleted files, even the ones that typically bypass the recycle bin. You can even recover files you purged from the Recovery Bin or files deleted prior to installing Undelete.  Includes SecureDelete™.which deletes files permanently, so sensitive or confidential data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.  BUY IT NOW!

Before you dispose of your computer or your hard drive, SSD or USB drive, make sure you delete your personal information and your clients’ files.  Some file shredders support shredding algorithms up to 7 or more passes and is US government compliant DoD 5220-22.M, Guttman method, has shell integration for right click in Windows. 

Which Are The Best File Erasers? Comparison Of The 5 Most Popular File Shredders

File Shredders – (Free file shredders at cnet) 

Image Viewers

Picture Viewer  – IrfanView is a very simple to use yet powerful, fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE graphic viewer for Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000/XP. It has multiple (animated) GIF support, multipage TIFF support, and multiple ICO support.  If you can’t download from their site, click here  USE IT NOW!