Guest Post: Tech Tools & A Trip To The World Of Solo

Thanks again to my good friend Christopher Hill at Construction Law Musings for this awesome guest post! Check out all his great posts at his blog Construction Law Musings (link here). You can find him on Twitter at @constructionlaw.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to post yet again here at the Advocate’s Studio.  The last time I posted here, it was about my journey into the world of social media.  This time, Martha asked me to discuss my adventure into solo practice that began on July 1, 2010.  As is traditional here at the Studio, I of course will be discussing the tech tools that I use on a regular basis in my practice and how they help out.  Well, here it goes:

I really started my law practice 13 years ago without a whole lot of knowledge of computers aside from the fact that e-mail was a big deal and Microsoft Word was good for typing.  Now, in my solo practice, I don’t know that I could survive without certain tools that I have at my disposal.  When I think about my dad, a solo dentist, I wonder how he was able to just head off for a week and relax knowing no one was “minding the store.”  These days almost constant communication is expected by my clients and has become a necessary (if occasionally unwanted) part of legal practice.

While I am still learning the tricks of the cloud based trade, I do find Clio to be a great cloud based billing and storage solution.  I can keep my time, produce invoices (a feature that gets better with each new update) and use a drop box type e-mail feature to keep track of documents and e-mails to clients by matter (check out Martha’s Guest Post about Dropbox).  Clio is consistently updated and seems to get better with each upgrade.  One major advantage for me is that I don’t have to keep up with the software and don’t use the precious space on my trusty Toshiba laptop for this software.  Couple that with almost universal access from anywhere with an internet connection, and I was sold.

I of course could not get by without my trusty Blackberry (I know, the IPhone is great, but the Blackberry is what I am used to).  The use of Google Apps and Google Sync keeps my tasks, contacts and calendar at my fingertips.  While I don’t get as many apps for my smart phone (though Blackberry seems to be catching up), I don’t use the phone for a lot more than e-mails and Twitter/web surfing.

On the non-cloud side, I love my Brother MFC all in one Fax/Scan/Printer and my CardScan business card scanner.  Both of these pieces of hardware make my life as the sole member and entire staff of the Law Office of Christopher G. Hill a lot easier.  The three-in-one allows me to scan and keep documents in .pdf format for easy hard drive storage and easy filing by matter in Clio.  The card scanner keeps me from having to input contact information from the cards manually and is a real time saver.  Throw in my web-based backup through Backblaze (though Carbonite and Mozy have great reputations for this) and my trusty Passport external hard drive and even the most paranoid of us (including me) is backed up and ready to roll.

Of course, without WordPress, Host Gator and Headway, I couldn’t run either Construction Law Musings or my firm web site.

In short (if it’s not too late), my trip into solo practice has been a great adventure.  However, the adventure is made more fun and easier through the use of these tech tools and, yes, my pen and legal pad.

I would love to hear about some of the tools others use in their practices.  Please comment here or contact me with your thoughts.

Christopher G. Hill is lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC, a LEED AP.  Chris has been nominated and elected by his peers to Virginia’s Legal Elite in the Construction Law category on multiple occasions. He specializes in mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.  Mr. Hill authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. You can reach him on twitter (@constructionlaw) or through his blog or firm website.

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Thoughts On Guest Blogging

[365 Toy Project: 032/365] Duelling Banjos
Image by nhussein via Flickr

Anyone who is anyone (o.k., anyone who follows @advocatesstudio or @constructionlaw on Twitter or subscribes to Advocate’s Studio and Construction Law Musings) probably saw our dueling guest posts this past Friday. Chris and I had a lot of fun doing it, from planning and sharing posts over Google Wave, to hyping the big event on Twitter and then following the feedback, RTs and comments throughout the day on Friday.

Chris’ My Journey Into Social Media post was the very first guest post in the Studio’s two-year history. I am asking myself “why did I wait so long?” Readers LOVED Chris’ post – what is not to love about a heartfelt, personal accounting of  the trials and tribulations over the same tools we webizens are all struggling to master every day. I feel honored that Chris chose the Studio to share this story and hope that readers enjoyed it as much as I did.

Guest blogging feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, you make your cozy little WordPress (or Blogger or Typepad) home and deck it all out the way you like it. You get to know your neighbors, maybe share a pie and some coffee. But sometimes, it is good to get out on the town, visit someone else’s house, play with someone else’s friends and, maybe, learn something new. Or gain some new friends of your own. Share your song with a different audience, as it were. Strike up a duet.

I am now motivated to seek out and share some more social media stories from other friends and peers. With some luck, maybe I can persuade a few other social connections to open their book for Studio readers to view. Maybe it can become the start of a Social Media Mentors series, or some other less daunting title.

In any event, thanks for everyone who read, commented, shared, participated, and pushed our posts like paper boats in a current on Friday! Looking forward to more sharing and collaboration in the future.

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