The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice

My Favorite Tips from ABA TECHSHOW 2009

April 08, 2009 By: Reid Category: Firm Management & Operations, Technology

The 2009 edition of the ABA TECHSHOW wrapped on Saturday, leaving attendees full of great information to bring back to their firms to organize, synthesize, and implement.  It’s that last step that is often so difficult. That’s why Dan and I like the tips format so much—the brevity of a tip can help streamline the implementation of new ideas within a law firm.

In fact, Dan and I were invited to present the TECHSHOW session, 60 Tips in 60 Minutes–a perennial favorite. Joined by Nancy Duhon and Ben Schorr, we launched 60 practical tips at our audience of 350+ lawyers in just over an hour. Many of the tips focused on new productivity tricks or helpful websites.  Here are a few of my favorites:

On-line Legal Dictionaries: As we do more and more of our work digitally, online and almost joined at the fingertips to our keyboards, having a digital searchable legal dictionary can be mighty handy. Come on, really, when was the last time you arm curled that six pound Black’s Law Dictionary to look up a word, or obscure Latin abbreviation? Two of the best online resources specifically for lawyers are: and its sister site They both also have links to medical dictionaries and abbreviations for those who need those as well. (Nancy)

Be the Evening News: YouTube and video technology will have the same effect on television news as the Internet has had on newspapers. No longer will visual content be in the hands of a few producers and purveyors. Law firms can create positive messages to influence debate, inform clients of important regulatory and legal developments, and extend firm marketing activities beyond the written word and static page. Current amateur efforts on YouTube will soon be replaced by inexpensive, but quality productions. Add these new efforts to your firm marketing and client development plans. (Reid)

GreenPrint and Fine Print: These small applications act as an intermediary between your print job and your printer driver. Once you click the print button and choose one of these drivers, you will get a preview of your print job and can determine whether you really need all those pages and graphics. You can also change your mind and produce a PDF instead. Wonderful way to set yourself and your staff thinking twice about continuing to produce paper, or at least producing less of it. (Nancy)

Banish the New E-mail Pop-up: Most people computer’s present that little “new message” pop-up window come up every single time an e-mail message arrives in their Inbox. Stop the insanity – it’s just a huge interruption. You know, the beep goes off, and you get bounced out of whatever you were working in, and your train of thought gets interrupted. Turn off that notification window!! Go with just the beep if you have to. And, if you don’t need to know the instant when something arrives in your inbox (and most of the time you don’t), consider turning off the beep too. You’re going to check your Inbox reasonably regularly anyway. (Dan)

It’s All “About Me”: Do you have a website or a blog with an “About Me” or biography page? How effective is your profile on that page? If it is just a few boring lines and a picture, why not take time to make it really work for you? Make it pop! Add links to your digital life and digital “ink”. Let viewers of your page connect to you via links to your social networking pages, as well as links to articles, case decisions, interviews, awards, pro bono work, and other information about you on-line. (Reid)

Excel: Fill Handle: Ever need to take a series of numbers, dates, months or letters and extend them down a column or across a row in Excel? Need to fill in the names of the months across a report for instance but get bored with typing them before you even get to May? Have a handy formula in a cell that you
want to copy down the next 250 rows but don’t want to have to copy/paste that many times? The Fill Handle is for you! When you select one or more cells in Excel you’ll see that the bottom right corner of the selection looks like a black box. Hover your mouse over that and your cursor turns to a black plus-sign. That’s the Fill Handle. Give Excel enough cells to establish the pattern and the Fill Handle can do the work for you. Just type “Jan” in a cell, then drag the Fill Handle across to the right and Excel magically populates the succeeding cells with the rest of the months. Type “1”, “2”, “3” in sequential rows, highlight all three of those cells, then drag the Fill Handle down and it will continue the series as far as you drag. (Ben)

Blackberry Typing Tricks: You want to make the most out of that microscopic keyboard, right? It works reasonably well once you get used to it, but here are some cool typing tricks you might not know about that will save you some time and effort in formatting and the like:
* To type a capital letter, press and hold the appropriate letter key.
* To type an accented letter, hold the letter key down, roll the trackball to view the available accented letters, and release to insert the one you want.
* To turn on Number Lock, hold the Alt key and press the left Shift key.
* To turn on Caps Lock, hold the Alt key and press the right Shift key.
* Pressing either Shift key will turn Number or Caps Lock off.
* To insert a period, press the Space key twice, and you’ll find that the next letter will automatically be capitalized, too.
* To insert a period or at sign (@) into an e-mail address, just press Space.
* To type a symbol, press the Symbol key and type the letter that appears below the symbol on your screen (read this one twice so you don’t miss the point—i.e., you don’t have to scroll and click on the symbols you want, you just use the letters instead). (Dan)

AutoHotKey: AutoHotKey is a free portable scripting language. That sounds intimidating but it’s not. With just a little effort you can create simple scripts that you can use on any Windows PC to automate launching programs, executing repetitive tasks, inserting specific bits of text. Create a signature block or disclaimer in AutoHotKey and you can immediately insert it into any program or website with just a couple of key presses or even a mouse gesture.
Best of all, it’s free at along with free sample scripts and tools that you can look at. (Ben)

Set Wider Scroll Bars: We all use scroll bars for moving around documents and Web pages, and making the bars just a bit wider will make them much easier to click on. Under the Item drop-down list, select Scrollbar. Next, use the up or down arrows next to Size to find the width you want. The default is 16. I have mine set to 21. Again, watch your changes in the Preview pane, and when you like what you see, click on Okay to keep the change. Note that making your scroll bars wider will also make the up and down arrows on your scroll bars larger, which will make them easier to click on as well. Changing the size of the caption buttons and scroll bars will give you the most bang for your buck. But look through the other things listed in the Item drop-down list. Alternatively, you can click on the various elements in the Preview box, and then make configurations changes to them. (Dan)

And then there’s the famous 60 Websites in 60 Minutes session at TECHSHOW too. We’ve cover our favorites there in another post later this week!