Hot Rods & Law Firm Hacks

Getting everyone in a law firm to upgrade their technology doesn’t just happen over night. Especially when you’re dealing with such a drastic overhaul like my latest project which has been loosely titled by Nick McLawhorn w/ FindLaw as: ‘The Zivley Law Firm Upgrades In Public’

As the project evolves, it is reminding me more and more of the days not so long ago spent in a garage building hot rods with my Dad.

My Dad always said: “Just because it ain’t broke doesn’t mean you can’t make it better.” And this is exactly what ‘hot roddin’ (or car-hacking) is really all about. We always began by deconstructing the entire car until the frame, the body & all of the other parts were scattered all over the garage.

Once we had the car completely stripped down we would then make a checklist of all the parts and determine which ones were worth keeping or re-using. Afterwords we would begin cleaning and repairing each salvageable part to try and get it back to its original state.

Yet, as one will find in most frame up restorations, some parts are just not worth repairing. It usually proves less expensive (and less time consuming) to replace the damaged parts (like hoods, fenders and doors) with new ones instead of trying to repair them all. So since we were building hot rods, we took great pride in coming up with new and innovative ideas on how to modify a car to be more useful or for the ego’s sake — “more original.”

Sometimes, just by simply adding air conditioning or power windows or a CD player was our way of making the car more up-to-date. And for the other times that we really wanted to get the car anti-modernized, we would install a late model blown out engine, chop the top, drop it to the ground, slap some Mickey Thompsons on it and spray some flames over the hood, then call it a hot rod and go light up the streets!

Thus, it goes without saying, as time goes on I’m finding that being in the business of re-manufacturing a law firm, for 21st century usability, is very similar to running a kustom rod shop. Some clients want it quiet and slick and others want it loud and eye-poppin, but they all want it to be one of a kind and to go really FAST!!

The joys of purchasing new computers have begun. Here we are smack dab in the middle of the hardware upgrade phase, and deciding the best products for the Zivley law firm to invest in is no easy task, especially in a world with too many options and too few sure bet standards. I can tell that Perry is hesitant about making a Mac purchase, and who can blame him? I’m still not sure whether its safe to start advocating that a primarily windows based law firm should hop on board of the Steve Jobs bandwagon.

I’d be more convinced of the interoperability if the Mac guys would start spending more time informing us windows users about how Apple is a better computer for running all of our windows applications on, and less time promoting their Leopard operating system + misc. softwares. Maybe then they would see an influx of new hardcore Win-Mac followers…

The existing Zivley Law website needs a major facelift (and heart transplant.) Soon I’ll be taking it down and making some tweaks so that Perry doesn’t have to suffer any longer. I have to ask myself what drives a design firm to commit such an atrocity?

I mentioned the beauty of RSS in my first post, but I just wanted to touch on this important web technology in hopes of demystifying it for both the end users and creators of content.

So heres some hope, if you still feel lost when the RSS acronym presents itself, you shouldn’t feel alone. According to a Yahoo study (Oct’05), only about 12% of internet user in the U.S. are even aware of the term “RSS” much less do they actually use it.

RSS feeds are fresh streams of content (txt, image, audio, & video) published directly to the browser of a users computer which is subscribed to receive them.

Just like channels on a radio dial or on a TV, think of RSS as a customizable remote control, or the pre-programmability of the radio stations in your car stereo. RSS enables a consumer of information to retrieve the content they want, when they want it and where ever they want to get it. RSS is also much like a newspaper because it is delivered to you after you have subscribed to it. Therefore saving you a trip to the store every Sunday morning.

IMHO, the core fundamental of RSS (or syndicated technology) is to allow for users who believe in your products, services, and solutions to easily keep an eye on the status of your digital presence. Put bluntly, information becomes really powerful the easier it is to receive.

Typically most RSS feeds are free to subscribe to and they can easily be found on web pages, as web feeds (RSS or Atom) and are usually linked with the word “Subscribe”, with an orange rectangle,  , or with the letters  or . If you already use firefox as your browser, I highly recommend getting the WizzRSS plug-in to catch all of your feeds.

The content delivery space is evolving. In the future you’ll probably see/hear/read about more businesses trying to find ways to monetize their feeds. Content providers may also try integrating RSS feeds into the ‘pay only’ sections of their websites specifically as an added convenience for their current paid subscribers to take advantage of.

I could certainly see my friends over at the multi-national law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski utilizing RSS feeds to both internally support the distribution and findability of their firm-wide knowledge management archive, as well as to provide timely alerts over the broad spectrum of their various external client extranets.

As feed readers become more a part of the browser’s native environment (verses 3rd party reader reliability) awareness levels for RSS will rise and the real value of using the technology will have been translated to the end user almost invisibly. Whether someone will be willing to pay for the added convenience of RSS is yet to be known. I suspect it all depends on demand of content and ease of usability.

Currently, the possibilities and capabilities of RSS are limitless both in regard to the end user, the content creator, as well as the content distributor. But if you want to learn more about RSS please visit the Wikipedia entry on RSS or if you’re more of a non-conformist and would like to get it straight from the horses mouth; the history and real time news concerning RSS is actively updated on Dave Winer’s blog at READER BEWARE — Winer tells life like it is.

Next week: Hopefully I’ll have some showroom floor action of the Zivley’s making their final hardware selections. So lets keep our fingers crossed and hope by this time next week I’ll be blogging about how enlightening it is to teach a lawyer the best practices of using a computer to benefit oneself and ones business, as well as for spreading good tidings to all of mankind.

-Posted by Jamie Parks on Sep 16, 2006 at 09:24 PM

Upgrade Update

Perry has a server and a new desktop, Monique (Perry’s legal assistant) got her new machine, and Harriett now has a laptop. I’ll keep the specification details short. Lets just say Perry called DELL and explained his goals. He requested the best value for his dollar and packages started showing up at the law firm. I’m relieved that the hardware is finally out of the way, now maybe we can start getting down to the business of blogging =)

Perry’s first college room-mate, Dave Broeckleman of Strategic Network Consultants, has successfully got the Zivley Law Firm server up and running.Dave says he has been trying to get Perry away from using AOL and peer to peer networking for many years. Nevertheless, he was thrilled to be helping Perry with the hardware upgrade. He has now successfully migrated all of the Zivley Law Firm directories over to the server and has also set Perry up with a new e-mail address at his domain.

Perry is happy because he no longer has to wait 10 minutes each morning for his machine to boot up and he doesn’t have to rely on a peer to peer network to manage his data. The days of the computer constantly being thrown into lethargic mode every time his paralegal needs to access a shared directory on his hard drive are finally over!

Now it’s time to begin testing the realusability of this upgrade. As of now, Perry’s filing system will not change that much, he typically nests his relative client files within their respective directories on his hard drive. Now he will just be storing all of that data on his server drives.

To better manage the wealth of knowledge
 living within each case that Perry handles, he hopes to soon be able to easily tag (add meta data) into every file that he or his paralegal creates — word docs, spreadsheets, presentations, deposition transcripts, photos or videos. Each element of every case that the Zivley Law Firm handles will not only be redundantly backed up in to perpetuity but as it is being archived, the data base will be growing infinitely smarter. By each author having the capability to instantly wrap the content of a file with meaningful meta data a tremendous value will be packed in to any search query made on the firm database in the future. Tagging is a great way to share legacy information among colleagues at a law firm. I wonder how many law firms are guilty of inefficiently managing their knowledge bases?

Knowledge Management is a whole other topic worth exploring in a separate post so I’ll save it for later. I just wanted to send out a quick update to catch everyone up on the happenings at the Zivley Firm. I realize it has been a while since the last time I published, and believe me I know all about consistency being key. So find it in your heart to forgive me and I’ll do my best to have some engaging footage to publish again next week. On that note, I’ll leave you with a short movie that I made in hopes of bringing you a little closer into the upgrade process over at the Zivley Law Firm. Until next time, may all your days be real and meaningful. Thanks for dropping by!

=Posted by Jamie Parks on Oct 13, 2006 at 11:34 PM