Announcify Reads Your Websites To You

Too busy to read? Need to multitask your on-line browsing with other tasks? Check out Announcify, a very cool browser extension that will read a web page to you. It is a very sweet open source Google Chrome extension that you can pick up here. Once installed, click the little red Bird icon on the top right side of your browser bar. The extension will then read to you, first the title of the page / article and then the body. The web page is blurred, with only the portion currently being read in focus. Very clever indeed. There are customizable settings to adjust speed, pitch and volume. Tweak the voice, and you’re off to audio-book-ify the Web!

Announcify is an Android app too, in case you wanted to let your phone / tablet do the work for you.

I love this app – thanks MakeUseOf for the tip.


Fresh WebSuction – For The Page, The Whole Page & Nothing But The Page

Clipping with Evernote and streamlining with Instapaper are great, but what if you want to snag the entire page in its native glory for easy, off line viewing? There’s a browser for that! Fresh WebSuction, a creation from the folks at Fresh WebMaster,  is focused on your need to download Web pages or content for viewing off-line. You can pull reference material, software files, online books, e-zines or news articles for later viewing. This can be very handy when you are about to lose your internet connection, as you board your flight to Denver. Simply navigate to the browser’s web site, enter the desired URL into the box, and away you go. The service claims it can download up to 50 files at the same time. If this sounds attractive to you, hit the link here to download your new off-line viewing browser.


Happy Monday! I'm Joining The Faculty Of Solo Practice University

Today is a very good day. Today I get the special privilege of joining an online legal resource that I have admired for quite some time now. Today I am joining the faculty of Solo Practice University.

Solo Practice University (SPU) is an online community of lawyers engaged in solo practice and a portal for  resources and services to support that effort. It has been in existence for almost three years, thriving and growing as the traditional legal practice market has withered and shrunk. There are hundreds of lessons on a myriad of topics related to solo legal practice. There is a lively blog. There are approximately 60 faculty and the site is closing in on 1,000 members. It serves as a means for earning CLE credits and as a resource for honing old skills and learning new skills. There is a social component built out from the profiles of members, with the ability to connect and converse with faculty and other students through a forum, groups, commenting, and private messaging. Members can also create their own blogs from SPU’s platform – making it easy for them to engage in Web 2.0 technologies to become outspoken authorities in their chosen area. Members also have access to a co-op of services and products, with healthy discounts on all sorts of practice-related products.

My historical rant about law school always includes a complaint about the near absence of meaningful practical training or resources for new lawyers. Similarly, there are few obvious resources for attorneys who are changing their practice and taking charge by going solo. There is a certain fear of the unknown that comes with such a change and most lawyers have no idea where to turn for needed support.

Founder Susan Cartier Liebel clearly saw the sea change in the legal market and stepped up to fill a major void — making a lot of solo lawyers a lot happier in the process. SPU is accessible on member’s schedule and is affordable and convenient. While I am not a solo practitioner, I am a do-it-yourself-er type and I am constantly looking for tools to help me get the job done my own way. SPU offers new lawyers and new solos a very effective set of tools to help them be the boss over all aspects of their business. For me, jumping into the SPU community and offering some of my own DIY tips is a no-brainer – my blog Advocate’s Studio is all about helping lawyers and other professionals become web DIY-ers and I am thrilled to be able to relate some of my own “trial and error” experience in the hope that someone else may be able to move their own practice along as a result.

So, what am I going to teach? Right now, technology and web resources will be my subject. The first series will be on Google – I will be featuring a variety of Google products that can be used to support a professional practice. The first course, the Google Overview, should be available shortly. From there, I will focus on each product in each course segment, with lots of tips about how to set up, use, and customize through other applications. I will also highlight relevant tricks and tips for getting the best results. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to Google – I may have some difficulty paring it down. But I will do my best 🙂

I am really looking forward to this new role and I can’t wait to get involved in such a great on-line professional community. Hope to see you over at SPU.

Tap Gmail for Storage with Gmail Drive

There is about 7.5 gb of storage space in your Gmail account. Presumably for emails. Even voracious emailers, however, are unlike to put a major dent into that kind of space. It bothers me when an untapped resource remains essentially untapped, so I was pretty excited to happen upon MakeUseOf’s piece on Gmail Drive.

GMail Drive is a Windows only application that allows you to create a virtual file system in your Gmail account and permit direct access to that system through Windows Explorer. After installation and set up, you will see Gmail Drive in your list of storage spaces in Explorer.

The way it works is via the email process – dragging and dropping files into Gmail Drive creates an email with the file as an attachment. Depending on how you manage your mail, this may or may not work for you. At the least, you can create a filter that sends these emails into an archived location, so you don’t need to deal with them regularly in your inbox. Or, set up an additional Gmail account to simply hold your Gmail Drive documents.

When you select Gmail drive in Explorer, you will be prompted to log into the Gmail account with your credentials and then you can execute whatever action you need:

Access Gmail Drive docs from the browser on any computer – you can work via the Web and your Gmail account or you can install Gmail Drive on another computer and work with documents from there. There are some limitations – file size for Gmail hovers around 25gb and it isn’t practical to share docs with others via Gmail – you would need to give invitees your Gmail log in. But, still, what do you want for nothing? Put that empty space to work for you!

New Gmail!

The new Gmail is here. Well, not officially for everyone. But you can preview the new form factor by selection. Why would you do that? Well, to get a fancy new look and feel, for one thing. But beauty is as beauty does and the new Gmail is more than just a pretty face. New features include a morph to fit page that optimizes for any size screen resolution, dramatically improved search, the ability to change the dimensions in the left sidebar, and the option to create filters within the search box – MUCH easier than the old way. Plus, a bunch of new HD backgrounds that are very sweet indeed. Find out more about the new Gmail here and test drive it for yourself – simply click on the button offering the option at the bottom right of your Gmail page. Tell them Martha sent you.


The Cloud: A Foul Play?

Whether or not to use the Cloud in your legal practice: that is the question. To be, or not to be, in the Cloud depends heavily on the ethical rules that guide our profession. Not surprisingly, those ethics commissions are having just as much difficulty grappling with the question as are the ordinary practitioners faced with the attractive option of SaaS and cloud products. Is there an ethical trap inherent in the use of these tools, just waiting to be sprung?

Fortunately, the ABA Commission on Ethics is striving to be realistic in its approach to the use of cloud computing and possible violation of client confidentiality. The Commission has drafted a proposal to assist lawyers in making decisions regarding cloud services. 

The gist of the proposal, as well as the gist of the ethics opinions rendered by state bar associations, is that a lawyer need take “reasonable” steps to ensure client confidentiality and that this same standard applies to use of the cloud to transmit client data. Some opinions also combine the concept of flexibility with reasonableness, clearly a nod to the “everchanging nature” of technology. Protection level may be adjusted based on the client’s needs and nature of the information involved. And, rightly so, the onus should be on the lawyer to establish that he or she acted reasonably with respect to the use of technology for storage, manipulation and transfer of data. This includes a showing that the lawyer acted diligently by, for example, analyzing terms of service, privacy policies, security features and actively took the steps necessary to ensure the greatest level of protection available. This does not inecessarily require a complete refusal to use anything cloud in support of your practice.

Take a look at some  of the reported ethics opinions. From these, you should be able to get a sense of what is required of you when you opt to look to skyward for technological assistance. And remember, just because it comes from the cloud doesn’t necessarily mean that something wicked this way comes.