Tech Hacks for Lawyers
Being a tech-savvy lawyer goes beyond being able to operate a computer or any other gadget. Since technology is a tool to make our lives easier, a tech-savvy lawyer must be able to combine available tech tools for maximum productivity. Contrary to popular reasoning, you don’t need expensive software to be tech-savvy; all you need is the ability to use what you have to achieve your goals.
We can make this article all about advanced tools such as transactional analytic tools or advanced due diligence tools that are barely customizable, expensive and may not deliver as much as you would want them to. But, how about using readily available tools to create your own solutions? For example, combining Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Teams to conduct due diligence easily? We discuss this and other tips below.
Daily tasks of a lawyer may be boring and routine-like but it gets more boring and frustrating where a counter party edits a voluminous document without tracking their changes or leaving comments. Gosh! How do you expect me to read through hundreds of pages just to hand-pick recent changes? But this is where the sad news ends.
Microsoft Word has a feature called “Compare”. Just like the name, compare allows you compare different versions of the same document without having to manually read through them. This feature, which comes bundled with Microsoft Word, shows you the changes in the document within seconds. This saves a lot of time spent in reviewing documents. Compare can be located under the Review tab of the Microsoft Word Application.
Another useful feature of Microsoft Word is “Read-Aloud”. Your colleague may not be around to help you look through a document but Read-Aloud can help you know whether you make sense. Once you click on the Read-Aloud icon, Microsoft Word reads the document to you.
The “Idea” feature in Word 2018 is yet another feature that can help with a lawyer’s productivity. It not only corrects grammatical errors but is also able to ensure that your content is gender and politically inclusive. It can read a document and suggest more suitable ways of drafting to eliminate the use of passive words or sentences.
Yet another tool that helps me eliminate spelling errors is Grammarly. It is built with artificial intelligence technology, and just like Idea in Word, Grammarly is able to read and understand the context of a write-up and help to correct the use of sentences as well as words.
Most people are familiar with collaboration software like Slack, however very few people are aware of a great tool called Microsoft Teams which comes bundled with Microsoft Office365. Microsoft Teams is the new Microsoft tool that helps to foster collaboration and manage projects amongst team members. Various members of a team are able to work easily on the same document, invite guest users from outside their network and also track workflows and projects all within the same application. It also integrates well with all other Microsoft Tools. The features of Teams make it an ideal tool for legal engagements such as Due Diligence. Lawyers can upload checklists created in Excel directly to the platform and share same with other team members. Also, input and review of due diligence reports can be carried out almost simultaneously by various team members. Teams also come with a tele-video conferencing tool.
Agreement Precedents, Drafting and Review
It can get really stressful when you have to draft boiler plate terms in an agreement, or where your client has requested an agreement in an area you are not so familiar with. Precedent books are good to have in this regard, but they are not as productive as electronic tools like Onecle or Business in a Box (BIB). With Onecle, you can easily download an editable template and redraft it to suit your purpose within a very short time. Tools like Law Repository deploy artificial intelligence algorithms to help you generate agreements within minutes. You can use the tool to generate a standard-type agreement and subsequently amend it to suit your purpose.
On a slightly different note, Thought River is another great tool that can be deployed by transactional lawyers to speed up agreement reviews. The software is able to analyze contract documents, answer pre-loaded questions, give you a summary of the obligations of a Party and help you insert standard type comments. This software would do the work of a first level associate and all you have to do is revise the suggestions and comments and send back to the counterparty within the shortest time possible. Donna is another great tool that solicitors can easily integrate as an add-in to their Microsoft Word application to assist them with Agreement drafting and review within the shortest possible time. The best thing about these tools is that they can be integrated with your Microsoft Word so you can use them within your favourite text editor.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Increasingly, lawyers rely on search engines in the course of their work. Advanced searches help to ensure efficient, time –saving searches. Simple tricks such as adding quotation marks to a word or phrase, ensures that only materials with those words are brought up. Also, where you need to exclude a word, place a minus sign (-) in front of the word that you don’t want. Conversely, you may place a plus sign (+) in front of words that you need the search engine to focus on.
Lawyers also need their web content to be easily located by their target audience. Search engines use artificial intelligence algorithms to match keywords with a user’s search word for the best results. It therefore means that your content must contain as many keywords as necessary to be able to match your content with a user’s search. Lawyers can leverage on search engine optimization (SEO) tools like “WebTextTool” (renamed to Textmetrics) to help them analyse written content and suggest words that will give their content priority on Google search as well as other search engines. Textmetrics can also be integrated with Microsoft Word as an add-in to make suggestions on making your content search engine friendly and finding the best keywords for your posts.
It is not too surprising that Lawyers avoid design and creativity in their presentations. But what is the essence of having a presentation that is not presentable? Many lawyers bore their audiences with so much text, that it becomes difficult to remember anything on their slides. Thankfully, a new feature that comes packaged with PowerPoint allows you generate creative ideas for your slides without having to design them by yourself. When you create the headings and body of your presentation using the template textbox in PowerPoint, the “Idea” feature, using artificial intelligence has the ability to suggest artwork to complement the information on the slide. It also has the ability to recommend alternatives to images you may have chosen, and arrange both image and text in a more presentable form. Using this tool, you are able to spend less time designing your presentation and focus more on delivering quality content.
A picture they say is worth a thousand words. This is why lawyers must evolve from the traditional way of communicating through writing to communicating through designs. To give you a head start at designing something really cool, you may use online software like Canva. This software is built to help you get started with your designs in minutes. It has inbuilt templates in different sizes that will readily fit into any social media post area. Using the simple drag and drop function, you can select a background, add images and choose a text font that suites your design. You can even animate your design with ease and without prior knowledge of animation. Canva is available on both web and mobile devices and will save you a lot of the money that would otherwise be paid to a graphics designer.. Get up to speed with putting out that great law idea of yours today in a more memorable way.
Sometimes, work can be so much that you start to feel like hiring a personal assistant. But when you consider your monthly pay, you might have a second thought. If you can’t afford to hire a personal assistant, it might be helpful to have an electronic assistant at least. Personally, I use tools like AnyDo, Trello or Asana to organize my day to day tasks, keep to-do lists, and also stay tuned to my schedule.
Alternatively, you may want to try Google Assistant on the android phone or Siri on an iPhone. They are great assistants and can help you set tasks, reminders and alarms etc. With voice command activated, you can request phone calls, send text messages, translate languages, get directions, manage shopping lists, get updates on financial markets or any topic of interest. They can also take as well as read notes, texts or even emails to you. You can organize more with assistants and the best thing about them is that they come bundled with your phone’s or computer’s operating system (Siri), so you don’t have to pay extra money.