Friday, August 30, 2013


A lot of smartphones that use the Android operating system, some Windows phones, and some Blackberry phones are now equipped to use NFC (near field communications). Phones with this capability can easily send files and information to each other by simply touching the phones together. Plus, when tags are programmed, touching your phone to an NFC tag can make your phone change its settings.

I'm not going to go into the details of programming NFC tags because Lifehacker has put together a guide on this. I will say that programming tags is incredibly easy with the NFC Task Launcher App, and the tags themselves are exceptionally cheap.

In addition to having NFC tags in my car and next to my bed, I use them in the office in a number of ways. First, I have an NFC tag that will allow the phone to connect to our public wi-fi network. This keeps people from having to remember or enter the SSID and pass phrase.

Second, I have a tag on my desk that when I tap it, my phone's ringer is silenced, the vibration turned on, and mobile data is turned off since I'm on the local wi-fi.

I have another tag on the bag I take to court with me that completely silences the phone, turns the vibration off, and turns all system sounds off. That way, I'm sure my phone isn't accidentally going off in the middle of a hearing and doesn't make other noises if I pull it out during a break. If I touch the tag a second time, it turns my ringers and other sounds back on.

Get some NFC tags, program them, and see how they can save you time in setting your phone up the way you want.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


If you're using Windows 7 and like to tweak the system, then it's worth turning on the GodMode feature. To do so, create a new folder on your desktop, and give it the following name:


This folder puts all of your settings in one folder right on your desktop so that you don't have to wade through the various parts of the control panel. Sure, maybe it's not as all powerful as the name suggests, but I find myself using it often.

h/t cnet.


When someone asks you to open a .pdf file or a picture file saved on your hard drive, how do you open it? I have had several colleague that will instantly open Microsoft Word or Word Perfect and then try to open the file. Often, they cannot find the file because they only see the word files, which has led many to believe the file has been deleted. If they do switch it to show all files, then it will usually ask them to decode the file and print out a bunch of gibberish.

Don't use Word to open all of your files. You can use the program that handles the specific file type (an image viewer for pictures, adobe reader for .pdf files, etc.). Or, as I prefer, just use the file explorer and open the file directly. Your computer will figure out what program it needs to use to open the file.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


There are times when we want to have text start halfway across the page for several lines in a row. For example, a signature block on a letter or pleading like this:

I've seen this set up a few different ways. You can use the tab key several times, or, even worse, just use the space bar, to line up the text. However, the better practice is to set the left indent. I've drawn an arrow to identify the left indent in the picture below:

Drag the bottom rectangle to the spot on the ruler where you want the text of your line to start. Here, I wanted everything to be indented 3.5", so I just moved the ruler over to the 3.5" mark, and every line started there. 

Why is this better? Well, in order to create the same layout using the tab key, you would end up having to hit the tab key 28 times:

And it is hard to tell how many times you would have to hit the space bar to get everything to line up right. It is much simpler to adjust the left indent once than it is to constantly hit the tab key.

Second, by using the left indent you can line things up in the exact location you want. Let's say you want something to be indented 3.35". You can easily set that with the left indent, but hitting the tab key will not ordinarily line you up at 3.35". The left indent gives you finer control.

Last, though certainly no less important, when you use the left indent, it is much easier to edit later. Let's assume you want to add the name of your firm below your name, but it is so long that it won't fit on one line if you have everything indented at 3.5". With the tab method, you will have to go through and delete tabs on every line. With the indent method, you simply highlight the lines that need changed and readjust the left indent slider.

In short, if you find yourself hitting the tab key more than once when formatting a document, be it for signatures, block quotes, or any other reason, you should stop and ask yourself whether you should really be setting the left indent instead.

Monday, August 26, 2013


There are plenty of times when it would be nice to have an electronic copy of your signature. You could paste it directly into Word files or create a stamp in Adobe Acrobat. It makes sending things via electronic fax quicker as you can type your document, insert your electronic signature, and save a tree.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to create an electronic copy of your signature. If you have a scanner, it can be done without paying for any expensive software.

First, sign your name on a blank piece of paper. I suggest using a black pen that is not fine point. A bolder line will make things easier in the long run and ensure a clearer scan. I chose to have mine scanned as a pdf file.

Then, open the file in Adobe Reader, and draw a selection box around your signature. Right click on it, and choose copy.

Next, open is another great open source program you can get for free here. Then, paste in your signature.

In, choose the magic wand tool and set the flood mode to contiguous.

Then, left click on the white space surrounding the ink lines that make up your signature. It should turn blue. Now hit the delete key, and you should be left with something that looks like this:

The checkered background indicates areas that are transparent. By having the white space around your name be transparent, you can then place it on a line in a document and still see the line through your signature. In short, it makes it look like you actually signed the document:

Now, open the image menu and choose re-size. I like to re-size signatures so that the height is 1". This will reduce the width proportionally. Now, just save the file as a .png, which allows for transparent spaces, and you are all set. You now have a file with your signature, ready to insert.

In future posts, we will discuss how to insert it into Word documents as well as to turn it into an Adobe stamp.


One way that is almost guaranteed to incite heated passion among a group of lawyers is to talk about typography. In my experience, the debate is especially heated between the group that puts one space after a period that ends a sentence and those that put two spaces. Personally, I'm a one spacer, but I'm not going to preach about the merits of one space.

Whether you are a one spacer or a two spacer, being consistent is probably the most important thing. Here, Microsoft Word can help by checking your sentences to see whether you have one or two spaces after the periods. To turn this on, open up the options menu (file => options in Word 2010) and go to the proofing tab. From there, click on the settings button in the spelling and grammar section. Near the top, you will be able to tell Word whether you prefer one or two spaces after a period. Word will then flag whenever you have either too many or not enough spaces.

As a side note, while you're in that section, you can also tell Word whether you want it to look for the use of the serial comma and whether you like your punctuation inside or outside of quotation marks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Every client's situation is unique. That doesn't mean the things we type and prepare for each client don't include some overlap. In fact, we often will use the same phrases, cases, sometimes whole paragraphs over and over again. We can either retype them every time, or we can let Microsoft Word type them for us using AutoCorrect.

When you think of AutoCorrect, you probably think about how Word automatically changes "abuot" to "about". AutoCorrect though, can do even more than that. You can set it up to turn a couple of letters into whole sentences if you wanted.

For example, I often close my letters with "As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us." Instead of retyping that whole sentence every time, I have AutoCorrect set up to replace "asal" with my sentence. Thus, whenever I want to insert that whole sentence, I just type "asal".

Let's see how to do this using Word 2010 (2007 is the same way. AutoCorrect in 2003 and before is under tools, options, spelling and grammar). Go to the File Tab, click on Options, and choose Proofing. From there, click on the AutoCorrect Options button.

This will open a new dialog box. In the replace box, type in the letter combination you want to use to trigger the AutoCorrect function. In my example above, this was "asal". In the with box, type in the phrase or words you want to be automatically inserted. Then, click on the add button, and you are finished.

Save yourself some keystrokes and time; set up and use AutoCorrect.

Friday, August 23, 2013


As usual, XKCD hits the nail on the head. This is something we should all keep in mind. If you're on Twitter, facebook, Google+, have a google phone number, at least two other phone numbers (work, personal cell phone, maybe even a personal land line), three email addresses (one work, one personal for signing up for spam, and one that you want only friends to use), a fax number, and a LinkedIn account, it can be easy to fall prey to communications overload. Things can go unresponded to, and people can feel like they've been forgotten. All the while, you spend most of your day sorting through people trying to reach you.

If you are going to sign up for every form of communication available in an effort to reach your clients where they are, then you need to come up with a system for ensuring that you can keep tabs on every account. Otherwise, you end up sending the message that you don't care about them. Sometimes, less is better.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


How many usernames and passwords do you have? Email, PACER, electronic filing, bank accounts, and the list keeps going. For example, I have more than 50 different website's username/password combinations stored on my phone, and there are surely sites that I never bothered keeping track of. Recently, I was asked how I keep all of them organized.

One way to do it would be to just use the same username and password for everything I do and never change it. Of course, that would be about the least secure thing to do. If someone got your password for your email account, they would then also have access to your bank accounts and who knows what else.

Instead, I try to have a different username and password for everything. To keep track of them all, I use a free, open source program called Password Safe.

One of the great things about Password Safe is that it stores all of your files locally in an encrypted file. To open the file, you only have to remember one master password. It will automatically generate new passwords for you, alert you if your passwords are too weak, and even remind you to change your passwords on a regular schedule if you like. It even remembers prior passwords so that you don't accidentally reuse one.

They also have Android and iPhone versions so that you will always have your passwords with you wherever you go. You also have the option of storing your encrypted password file in the cloud for Android with another app.

So, if you're still using the same password you have been using for the past 15 years, update your passwords and use Password Safe to keep it all organized.


If you are concerned about letting Google in on everything you do, just go ahead and skip this post. If, however, you want to have a lot of useful information right at your fingertips right when you need it, then this post is for you.

Google Now displays cards on your phone with useful information. For example, mine shows me the latest Cleveland Indians score, including the box score if a game is in progress. It tells me when my next appointment is and gives me a reminder 15 minutes before I need to leave, taking into account current traffic. It includes stock tracking, weather information, and other information you want to know about.

Even better, if you use Google Chrome on your desktop, it will give you information based on what you are researching. For example, if you pull up the website for a court on your desktop, Google Now on your phone might pull up a card with the time to the court and offer the option of navigating to it.

Google Now is currently available for Android phones and tablets running ice cream sandwich and jelly bean as well as iPhones. Plus, the beta version of Chrome has a setting to enable Google Now cards, which suggests Google Now is coming to your desktop's Chrome browser.

To enable Google Now on your Android phone, go to the Google app, open the settings, and enable Google Now cards.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


In life and the law, there's almost always more than one way to do a given task, though one way is often better. This is also true with respect to creating a court pleading in Microsoft Word. For example, look at these two example captions that are nearly identical in printed appearance and might be used in Ohio:
While they might look similar when printed, using the bottom version will make your life much simpler in terms of editing. To understand, let's click the pilcrow button we discussed earlier and see how each was constructed:

In the top version, you can see that the entire caption was made by just using the tab key to line everything up. Sure, it looks fine when printed, but if you ever want to change the caption, for example, by adjusting the name of the pleading, you run the risk of throwing the entire thing out of alignment. And if you don't have the symbols turned on, it might take a little bit of time to figure this out.

By contrast, I recommend using the technique in the bottom version. As you can see, it uses a table with three columns and one row. There are no borders in any of the cells except the left cell, which has the bottom border turned on. By using the table, you can adjust things in any of the three cells, and it won't alter your formatting in the other two. Let's say you need to give the pleading a name that is four lines long instead of two. Using the table, you won't have to adjust the names of the parties like you would if you didn't use a table.

Tables, like other Word functions, are underutilized in my experience even though they can make it much easier to format legal writing.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Growing up, I was a huge fan of the X Files. So I can't tell you how excited I was today when I heard on the BBC News Hour that the United States acknowledged the existence of Area 51. Sure, there might not be any mention of aliens or UFO's, but I don't care. After all, the truth is, well, you remember.


In case you haven't seen it, a street artist went into some Best Buy stores in LA and put a black plastic box on the shelves with a $99.00 price tag and called it "Useless Plastic Box". This was supposed to be some kind of social commentary on the consumerism. Believe me, I totally understand and get the message. I've got a basement that is full of now useless plastic boxes: a ZIP drive, minidisc recorder, 1st generation iPod (the wife's from before we were married), an old PC with Windows 98 on it, a bunch of 3.25" floppy disks, cassette tapes, and VHS tapes to name a few. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my eye on the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch.

One of the hopes I have for this blog is to check out as many of these plastic boxes as I can and tell you which ones are useless, which are cool to play with, and which ones can actually make your job easier. The practice of law is time consuming enough without wasting time trying out pointless technology. As I constantly preach in our office, if it doesn't make your job easier, it's not worth messing with.


If you're using Microsoft Word 2007 or later, then on the home tab, you've probably seen the button that is the paragraph symbol or pilcrow. When you click on it, it adds a bunch of symbols into your word document like pilcrows, dots, arrows, and anchors. If you're not used to seeing them, they can get distracting and you probably just turn them off.

I'd actually encourage you to do the opposite and edit your document with those symbols turned on. Those symbols tell you a lot about your document, and they will make it easier to for you to edit the layout.

For example, the dots indicate where the space bar was used to insert a space. By having the symbols on, you can easily see where you have may have inadvertently inserted an extra space between a word. The ¶ symbol lets you know when the enter key was pressed. It can show you where paragraph breaks were intended. And the  tells you that the tab key was used to adjust where the text was started as opposed to using the tab stops.

By knowing what the symbols mean, you can see what you need to do to change the format. For example, if the text is indented but you don't see the symbol for the tab key, you'll know that the way to fix the layout is by using the tab stop - the backspace key won't work.

We'll discuss in greater detail how to properly layout a word document in future posts, and we'll explore how you can instantly tell by turning the symbols on just how familiar someone is with Microsoft Word.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


If you had all of your passwords, credit card numbers, account numbers, addresses, phone numbers, your social security number, and your client's confidential information stored on paper, you'd make sure it was in a locked box, right? After all, if someone took the box, you wouldn't want them to be able to just open it right up and take all of your stuff?

So why isn't your phone locked? It probably has all of the above information on it. If you would lock that information up if it was in paper form, why not when it is in digital form on your phone.

Android phones make locking your phone easy and even give you several lock options. To access them, open up your phones setting's and find the screen lock menu. From there, you will have the option of enabling several different locks, including a dot pattern (my lock of choice), a pin number, and a password. And on at least the Galaxy S4, there is the option of using the camera to allow your face to serve as the unlocking method.


For many lawyers, our smartphones and tablets are essential tools in the practice of law. It's replaced the paper calendars that used to be lugged around. It's where we send and receive email about cases and clients. We do legal research on it using apps like Westlaw and FastCase. Not to mention, it has a lot of our personal information stored in it.

So, what are you going to do if it gets lost or stolen? How are you going to protect both your client's confidences and your own personal information?

If you're using an Android operating system, the answer is easy: the Android Device Manager. To enable it, open up the Google Settings on your phone, choose "Android Device Manager", and check the "remotely locate this device" and "allow remote factory reset".

Then, from any computer, you can go to and log in with your Google account. You'll be able to see in Google maps where your phone is. You can make your phone ring at full volume - useful when you've lost it under your couch cushions and can't find it. And, perhaps most importantly, you can essentially tell your phone to forget everything it knows about you and your client by clicking the erase device button.

So protect yourself and your clients. Turn on the device manager settings and hope you only have to use it when your two year old has hidden it in his pile of stuffed animals.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


This post on CNET points out that Google stated in court filings recently that GMail users have no expectation of privacy. I had the exact same reaction as the CNET contributor: I thought everyone already knew that.

If you're using GMail, or Google products in general, you should simply assume that Google knows a lot about you. Probably more than you might be comfortable with. But let's face it, Google's products like GMail, Google Earth, and of course the search engine, are absolutely fantastic. The Android operating system, another Google project, is simply dominating the market share for smartphones. And I'm using Chrome, Google's internet browser.

Put simply, many of us, myself included, are constantly giving our personal information to Google in one way or another. Google then uses that information to personalize the ads that I see everywhere, which just constantly reinforces my desire for this grill. In return, I get free email and other services that I really like and want. Free services and privacy don't usually go hand in hand.

Is it scary? Sure, maybe a little. But, what we used to think of as privacy is gone. As for me, I'm just going to keep using my Google stuff and gaze longingly at the grill of my dreams in ads around the internet.


Ever notice that button at the top of your keyboard labeled "Print Screen"? Maybe you've pushed it several times in the hope that a copy of your screen would pop out of your printer only to be disappointed when nothing happened. Possibly, you just decided it was broken and never thought much more about it.

Well, it wasn't broken. What it does when you push it is make a copy of your screen and save it to your clipboard for you to paste into another application. And prior to Windows Vista, it was one of the few stock ways to make a copy of exactly what was on your screen. Of course, if you only wanted to copy a small portion of your screen, you'd have to hit the button, open a picture editor, paste in the copy, and then edit out the parts you didn't want. For someone like myself that tends to take lots of screen shots for demonstration purposes, this process was cumbersome to say the least.

Microsoft made things a lot easier starting with Windows Vista - you're not still using XP are you? The snipping tool allows you to just highlight that portion of your screen you want to copy. It then will even let you make simple edits to what you copied before you print it or save it.

The snipping tool can be found in the accessories folder of the start menu. Now, when your computer is acting up, you can easily make a copy of what you're seeing and let your nerd friends tell you what's wrong.


Welcome to the Buckeye Legal Tech Blawg. Here, I will post tips for using technology to make the practice of law easier. I'll also try to discuss issues in technology in general and whatever else might come across my desk that is interesting. If there are any issues you'd like discussed, let me know. Enjoy!