Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Previously, we discussed how to create an electronic signature. Today, let's see how you can add it to your Word document. We're assuming that you have saved a copy of your electronic signature in a file somewhere and can access it. This could be on your desktop, your My Documents folder, or even on a server somewhere else.

To start with, create everything in Word just as you would do if you were to print out the document and physically sign it. So, for example, you might have the following:

Next, move your cursor to the spot where you want your signature to appear. Click on the Insert Tab on the Ribbon and choose picture:

In the window that pops up, navigate to your signature file and double click on it. This will insert your signature in the document, though it will likely mess up your formatting:

As you can see, it expanded the signature area. Moreover, it doesn't really look like how you would sign something if you had printed it out since the letters aren't on the signature line itself.

To fix this, left click on the signature. Then go to the Ribbon, choose Format. From there, click on the Wrap Text menu and select "In Front of Text":

What this does is put the signature on top of everything already in your document without actually reformatting the text itself. The end result is a file with your signature in it electronically that looks like you had actually signed the document. If the signature isn't placed exactly where you want, you can click and drag it to sit perfectly on the line:

Monday, April 21, 2014


I have spent a lot of time using Microsoft Outlook. I've been a fan of the shared calendars for several years, often create public folders, have my contacts synced with my phone, and use the task list feature. However, it was only recently that I discovered Outlook's Journal.

Part of the reason it took me so long to discover the journal is that it was tucked away in an extended menu at the bottom of the screen.

Click on the button circled above, which will be at the bottom of the navigation pane. Then, choose "Add or Remove Buttons" and highlight Journal. It will now add a small journal button to the bottom of your navigation pane.

When you click on it, it opens up the Outlook journal, which can keep track of numerous things, including tasks, phone calls, and how long you are editing documents using a Microsoft Office product.

What I have been using it for lately is to keep track of phone calls and time spent on various tasks. In Outlook, just hit ctrl+shift+j, which will pop up a new journal entry form.

Here, you can tell Outlook what type of journal entry to make (note, phone call, task, etc.), give it a subject name that will show up in lists, and take notes. The feature I really like about this is the start timer option, which makes keeping track of time on a task much easier. Since I always keep Outlook up on my right monitor, I'm starting to use outlook to keep track of all of my time so that I can easily put it into out time management system at a later date.

When you click on the journal button, you will pull up the journal itself.

Here, I have mine set up showing what word documents I was working on. As you can see, it shows the start times as well as the duration I was working on the document (time open). It provides the same information for phone calls and tasks, keeping a daily log of what you do in one convenient location.

For those with software specifically designed for keeping track of your time as you go along, this feature won't be a big deal. For those looking for a different way of tracking your time, this might be your answer. It's at least worth a look.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Let's face it, as attorneys, we tend to spend a fair amount of time at the computer either drafting emails, letters, briefs, pleadings, or doing research of one sort or another. It's very possible you already have a browser open to do whatever task you are working on. It becomes very easy to decide to check your bank account, or your stocks, or the news, or myriad other distractions. This can quickly turn in to a habit if left unchecked.

One way of checking this it is to install an internet nanny. I have found Nanny for Google Chrome to be particularly effective. It is an extension that you can customize to lock down your browser in a number of ways.

As an example, I have a configuration that blocks the news websites I like to visit during the work day except during the time I normally take lunch. If I try to visit one of those sites, I am taken to a screen that reminds me that I am supposed to be working.

I have also set it up to allow me to bypass this block if I wish. You can make the process for doing so as complicated or easy as you like. Once locked down, you can set how hard it is to change the blocking. I've chosen the 32 character option, in which I have to put in 32 characters exactly as shown before I can unblock the site.

For me, this is annoying enough to make me ask, "Do I really have to visit this site, now?" If you find that is too easy, you could always make it 128 characters long.

Would I be frustrated - read really, really, really mad - if my employer even thought about trying to force this on me? You bet. I'd probably fight it tooth and nail.

However, I find that I am actually much more productive when I foist it upon myself. I find that I only have to have it on a while before I get trained not to wander. Over time, I know I back slide, and so, turning it on again is helpful to get back in the habit. What can I say, I'm one of those millenials that can't stay on task sometimes.

This isn't something for everyone, but if you find yourself wandering too much while working (or trying to work), it might be worth giving this a try.

Monday, April 14, 2014


An audio editor might seem like one of those pieces of software that would be nice to have, but the costs would likely be too high to justify. After all, you might only want to edit an audio file once in a while. In my professional life, I only use it occasionally to clean up parts of voice messages from clients and to organize the audio recordings I have made at state hearings.

Thus, paying for audio recording software, in my professional life at least, would be a waste of money. That is why Audacity is such a great program. Audacity is an open-source program available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.

It allows for layering of various sound files. You can import from and export to a few different formats, including .mp3. Additionally, it provides a number of different preprogrammed effects. The one I found the most useful is the ability to eliminate background noise. I have used it a number of times in connection with the Android App I'm currently working on and found it did a good job. It would be incredibly useful for eliminating a hum or other audio artifact in a voice mail.

The user interface seems a little cluttered to me, though this is by no means a deal breaker. Additionally, in some of the effects, the options that you can set can be a little overwhelming.

Overall, if you need an audio editor, Audacity is where I would start.

Monday, April 7, 2014


I've mentioned a number of times the importance of using Styles in Microsoft Word. It helps ensure your formatting is the same across your document, it makes it easier to change your formatting, and it automatically builds a table of contents for you. If that isn't enough to convince you to use Styles, let me add another reason: it makes document navigation easier.

If you have a document that is several pages long with multiple sections - briefs come to mind - it can be daunting at times to find the section you want to review. However, it you format each heading using a Style, then the navigation pane will allow you to easily jump from to the section you want to review.

To open the navigation tab, you can either go to the Home tab and click on the "Find" button or just press Ctrl+f.

This will open a pane on the left hand side that allows you to search your document for a keyword. If you click on the navigation pane button, it will pull up a table of contents. I've circled the correct button below.

Clicking on any of the labels in the pane will take you directly to that section of your document.

As if that wasn't useful enough, you can actually reorganize entire sections in this pane. Let's suppose you really meant to have the State of the Case after the Statement of Facts. Simply click and drag the Statement of the Case label below Statement of Facts. Doing so will move the entire section in your document. That includes both the heading as well as all of the body text in that section. This method of moving sections is much more efficient and less frustrating than trying to do it in the body of the document itself.

None of these features work unless you have assigned each heading a table of content level, which is most easily done through the use of Styles. Yet another reason to start using Styles.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


If you're a tech nerd like me, then one of the things you probably find yourself doing is either creating a new time-saving method or stumbling upon the next great program that will help your firm save time and money. Obviously, this new thing is the answer to all of your colleagues problems, or at least some of them. You play with it a couple times, you're convinced it's really the real deal, and you send out the firm-wide email about it. Or, even worse, you go to your colleagues' offices and show it off in person.

Nothing can kill a potentially time saving change more than doing this. It's not the finding the new method that's the problem and it isn't the showing it off that's the problem. It's the middle step: inadequate testing.

Before you go out and show everyone your big idea, thoroughly test it. Make sure you know the ins and outs of it. If it is a new program someone else made, ensure that it is fully compatible with your firms IT systems.

Be certain you can answer questions about how it works. Saying you don't know a lot while pitching it to your change resistant colleagues isn't just unhelpful, it runs the risk of permanently putting them off on the change.

Practice your pitch a few times before actually giving it, making sure you can smoothly run the program. Telling your colleagues that this new thing will save them time while going through every menu bar looking for the option you want sends the exact opposite message. If you, the techno nerd can't figure it out, how can they hope to do so?

And if it is something you've created, be sure it goes through beta testing. Have your inner group of techno nerds try to break it before you roll it out. Having to constantly fix bugs will make your colleagues wonder whether they can trust the product when it counts.

Perhaps most importantly, nothing erodes trust in your techie judgment than constantly promoting "bad" products.  Even if they aren't bad products, people might think they are if they aren't properly sold. In the practice of law, nothing is more important than your reputation. In the firm technology culture, that notion is no less true.

It is exciting when you come across that new toy. And you should definitely show it off to your friends and colleagues if it can help them out. But before doing so, really get to know the product. It will greatly increase the chances of your change resistant colleagues seeing the brilliance of your ideas.