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About Me

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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Trials of Trial Prep

Trial prep is stressful.

Even since before I started my new job, my office has been home to a very large case file. Because of its location, I was tasked with the organization and maintenance of the file. I became close with the file. When a paralegal or attorney would rush in looking for a pleading or deposition, I would point them to it.

I knew the relationship was too good to be true. Now this case has come up for trial, a day that seemed so far off until a few weeks ago. The case has become a monster that threatens to drown me in paper every day. It demands every second of my time at work, forgetting that I have other relationships with other cases that must be maintained as well. When I attempt to work on a pressing matter in any other case, this case acts hurt for a moment, then narrows its eyes and promises revenge. Last week I began to feel like the victim of an abusive relationship.

When I worked for the Boss, trial prep consisted of reminding him of the upcoming trial. Many of our cases fit into one redwell. Those were the larger ones.

That was before I was introduced to med mal cases, many of which last for several years before either settling or making it to trial and sucking the joy out of the lives of a few legal staff members in the process.

I jest, but it has been a stressful couple of weeks. I am a fast worker, but this level of trial prep makes me feel slow. I try to maintain an organized office, but these days I am just happy to find a trail to my door. I have been challenged with emergency binders and seemingly missing deposition exhibits. I tried and tried last week, but even during a day with absolutely no breaks, I felt as though I could barely keep up and breath at the same time.

All that being said, it's kind of fun. The demands of litigation are both vexing and enticing at the same time. I hate missing lunch, or being so worked up that I don't even get hungry, but I enjoy working so hard to meet deadlines and help the team. I enjoy the feeling of doing a job that matters.

I guess this is my introduction to the real, nitty grittiness of litigation. For a newbie, I hope I am doing well. Of course, we are all so busy that I'm not sure anyone has time to tell me if I've made mistakes or not.

So until everything slows down a little bit, I rely on the advice of a very kind associate at my firm. She noticed how stressed I was the other day and how my eyes looked kind of glazed over with computer screen glare and reminded me of one unfailing truth: "The most you can do is your best, Mel. That's all any of us can do."

And she is correct. In careers, in relationships, in life in general, the most we can do is our best. So I survived the week and lived to endure the inevitable time crunches that the next week will bring. Here's hoping that I patch things up with the file on Monday so that it will be more inclined to work with me, rather than against me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Clio: The Easy Practice Management Option

From time to time I am asked to write about various legal software, books, schools, etc. I am very particular when it comes to promoting these things, especially when I do not have firsthand knowledge of the product, and more often than not, I opt out. However, today is one of those rare instances when preference and firsthand knowledge meet. Not only did I get the chance to play with Clio for a month, I also really enjoyed it.

Clio is web-based practice management at its finest. Perhaps the greatest thing about it is that there are no downloads or uploads, no CDs, and no books. The only thing you need in order to access Clio is an Internet connection. This means that no matter where you are in the world, as long as you can find an Internet connection and can remember your password, you have access to your entire practice, from your calendar to documents and forms to your time slips to client accounts.

It is difficult to explain just how simple Clio is to use, how integrated and efficient it can make a practice. The best word I can think of is easy. Click on a client and/or matter, and you have immediate access to all of the information relating to that client/matter. If you are working on a document, simply hit the time icon next to it to enter your time. The time automatically transfers to time billed for that matter, no extra steps needed.

Of course, that is just one example of Clio's efficiency. Clio allows you to keep a task list, calendar, and agenda. As with many other programs, calendars can be shared among users or used individually. If you use Outlook, like so many of us do, Clio is easily linkable to Outlook for optimal task efficiency. However, Clio works perfectly alone on the task front. You can keep up with your ongoing task list in several different ways. View the task list in entirety, or view tasks under separate clients or matters. You have many options for choosing how best to streamline your work day. Clio will also send task reminders to your inbox everyday in order to help keep you up-to-date on your to-do list.

Under each client, there are buttons dedicated to client matters, notes on the client, communications, and transactions. The communications tab allows you to record phone call notes and times, as well as emails sent or received. If used correctly, the only source you need to check for a complete communication history with a particular client is Clio.

Small firms and solo practitioners will love how easy Clio makes bill generation and client account management. Because any time entered for a document, communication or task is directly linked to the client account, the generation of monthly, quarterly or yearly statements is as easy as the click of a button.

Your billing page will show all of your unbilled hours and the amounts due from clients. Statement generation is as easy as checking the statement you want to generate and making it happen. Once a statement has been generated, it will appear in your open statement section until it has been paid. After you have generated bills – get this – you can email the link to your clients, and they can pay online. Rather than dealing with bulk mail-outs and incoming checks every month, you can streamline the billing and payment process to the ultimate delight of your billing staff and your customers.

And speaking of connecting online with clients, Clio offers ClientConnect, which allows you to quickly share information or collaborate with clients online, all from one location. It does not get simpler than that.

Another thing I love about Clio is its extremely friendly interface. Who every said that practice management has to be dry and boring? The modules and tabs are presented in a fun, yet concise, appearance. With Clio, practice management seems interesting and fresh. All of the graphics, icons, and fonts look professional, yet somehow exciting.

Finally, I am not familiar with the standard pricing of practice management programs, but at $49/mo for attorney users and just $25/mo for support staff, Clio seems reasonably priced, especially for small and solo practice firms, when you take into account all that it provides.

There is much more to Clio than what is contained in these few paragraphs, but I could not possibly describe it all. If you are even the slightest bit interested, I suggest visiting the Clio website and signing up for the free 30-day trial. If you are like me, you will be amazed at how one program can streamline an entire practice.

**Other than a free 30-day trial period, which is offered to any and all interested, I did not receive any benefits, monetary or otherwise, for this review.**