Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JANUARY 2012
Legal.Online
From Discounts to Disputes:
New Legal Sites Run the Gamut
By Robert J. Ambrogi


Among the new websites for lawyers this month are ones that help you save money on office expenses, keep yourself and your clients out of trouble, resolve disputes out of court, and securely access your files from anywhere. We also feature a site that targets the legal problems of military members and veterans.

“Groupon for Lawyers”
Websites offering coupons and daily deals are all the rage. Why should lawyers be left out? No longer need they be, thanks to a new feature of MyLegal.com, www.mylegal.com, that offers special deals on products and services targeted to lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and legal administrators.

MyLegal.com already provided a directory of legal vendors and, early in 2011, it added user reviews of vendors (although reviews remain scant). Starting in October, it added vendor deals, enabling vendors to offer discounts on their products and services. You can sign up to receive each day’s deal by email or you can visit the site and browse the list of deals. There are no coupons to buy; instead, you simply send an email asking to be given the deal.

On a recent visit, the listings included a digital-evidence company offering $2,000 off trial technician services, an office supply company offering $25 off a purchase of $75 or more, a jury consultant offering half off a jury memo, and a court reporting firm offering two free hours of its services.

To view these deals, there is no cost or registration required. For that reason, you have nothing to lose by checking this site before purchasing goods or services for your law office. Who knows — you might just save a few bucks.

Tickle Your Clients from the Cloud
Elephants never forget. Unfortunately, attorneys and clients sometimes do. Consider the new web service, NotifyWorks, www.notifyworks.com, a virtual elephant for the law office. It remembers to remind your clients of important events that they otherwise might miss.

Say, for example, you represent a small business in negotiating a commercial lease that contains an option to renew that must be exercised by a certain date. Enter the information in NotifyWorks and it will automatically send the reminder to your client. For busy transactional lawyers, this can eliminate a lot of follow-up. If you have standard forms of reminders you send frequently, you can create and store templates.

How is this different than your current tickler system? In theory, the difference is that you can enter the information once and be done with it. With your tickler system, you enter the reminder and then later, when the reminder date arrives, you take the action. (I say “in theory” because a cautious lawyer may still want to follow up with the client directly.)

The service is priced as a subscription, at the rate of either $29 a month or $299 a year. The company was founded by Rush Nigut, an Iowa business and trial lawyer and author of the blog Rush on Business, www.rushonbusiness.com.

Faster Dispute Resolution
Online dispute resolution has always struck me as a smart alternative to litigation or live ADR for certain kinds of disputes. But it has failed to gain wide use, even though a number of ODR services have tried to establish footholds over the years.

Now, the former general counsel of Tesla Motors, Craig Harding, hopes to find success in ODR with the launch of an “online courtroom service” called ZipCourt, www.zipcourt.com. While some ODR services rely heavily on technology to automate or assist in the resolution of a dispute, ZipCourt leaves the decision-making to actual human arbitrators. In this way, it says, it is able to handle anything from a simple disagreement to a complex dispute.

Here is how it works: A party goes to the site and registers a dispute, using a form to provide a brief description and to categorize its complexity and subject matter. ZipCourt then invites the other parties in the dispute to participate. If the parties accept and agree to the terms, ZipCourt assigns an arbitrator (or the parties select one by ranking a list of arbitrators). Parties then use the system to upload evidence and exchange messages. Once the arbitrator reaches a decision, the decision is uploaded and the process is complete.

Depending on the complexity of the dispute, the process generally ranges in length from three to 30 days. The cost depends on the complexity. A simple disagreement is $399 per party, a legal dispute is $1,999 per party, and a complex dispute — one requiring rigorous analysis and extensive review of numerous documents — is $14,900 per party.

A Dropbox Alternative
Many lawyers love the convenience of Dropbox but worry about its security. If you are looking for an alternative file-syncing application, consider Trend Micro’s SafeSync for Business. A new version released in November offers features and functionality that make it easier to use and compatible across all devices.

Like Dropbox, SafeSync keeps your documents synchronized across all your devices and in the cloud. That means you can update a document on your PC and access the revisions on your iPad or through any Web browser. Not only does that give you a high degree of mobility, but it also provides the peace of mind of knowing your documents are always backed up.

The new version adopts the drag-and-drop simplicity of Dropbox. Simply drag a file into the SafeSync folder and it will sync with the cloud immediately. Alternatively, make any folder on your computer automatically synchronize simply by right-clicking it and selecting the option, “Make this a SafeSync Folder.” In this way, you can keep entire folders in sync and backed up. There is no limit on file upload sizes.

Three other service-level features of SafeSync for Business make it attractive for law firms:

A 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, backed by a money-back service level agreement.

A high level of security, with 256-bit encryption used during data transfer and encrypted storage using Trend Micro’s proprietary SecureCloud technology.

Proprietary data centers in the U.S. and Europe. (Dropbox uses Amazon’s S3 servers.)

The cost starts at $90 per user per year for 50 GB of storage, with volume licensing available. There is a personal version, starting at $40 a year for 20 GB, which lacks the service level agreement.

Those prices compare favorably with Dropbox, which is $99 a year for 50 GB. Of course, Dropbox offers a free version with 2GB of storage, expandable to 8 GB by referring others to sign up. SafeSync has no free version but does offer a 30-day free trial.

Legal Help for Military and Veterans
Even though it was launched a year ago, I only recently learned about Stateside Legal, http://statesidelegal.org, the first website in the U.S. to focus exclusively on the unique legal issues faced by military members, veterans and their families. The site was created by two legal services organizations, Pine Tree Legal Assistance of Maine and the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, with initial funding provided by the Legal Services Corporation.

The site is designed to enable users to better understand their legal issues and to help them find free legal help when they need it. It features a “Self Help” section where users can browse a library of legal resources related to common types of legal problems. Some topics include videos, step-by-step self-help guides and interactive legal forms and letters.

A “Get Help” section lists free legal help and advocacy services. These include civil legal aid offices, pro bono attorneys, military legal assistance offices, Veterans Affairs offices and veterans’ services organizations.

The site includes a “smart search” function by which a user can enter basic information about themselves (state, branch of service, etc.) and more quickly zero in on applicable information and resources.

Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of
National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.

© 2011 Robert Ambrogi


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