The best productivity tools and systems


If you’re like me, you enjoy watching videos about different productivity tools and systems.

That doesn’t mean we’re unhappy with what we’re currently using. Just that we’re open to new ideas and enjoy learning things we can use with our current setup.

And we’re curious. We like seeing what others use. Even how they have set up their workspace.

It’s fun. A pleasant respite from a hectic day.

And sometimes, it leads us to make a switch to a different tool or system, which increases our productivity and enjoyment.

But how do you know when you’ve found the right tool or system?

Actually, I have an answer. A rule of thumb I found languishing in my notes. I don’t know who said it but I wrote it down because it makes so much sense.

The system or tool that’s best (for you) is the one you don’t have to think about.

It just works. Seamlessly. Comfortably. You turn it on or open the page and go.

You don’t feel any friction. Or compelled to change anything. You’re busy doing what the tool or system helps you do.

And when you found it, you knew it was “the one”.

The app, operating system, or process that is a perfect fit. You don’t need to look at anything else.

But (if you’re like me) you will. Because you might find something you like better. Or learn something you can use.

And because it’s fun.


How’s that Pokemon thing working out?


Pokemon Go is big, or so I hear. I really wouldn’t know. I had to ask my wife what it was because I’ve paid almost no attention to it. Based on what I’ve heard about it, it’s definitely not my thing.

How about you?

Do you use, or at least try, the latest apps? Do you follow the latest trends?

Sometimes? Never? What’s a smartphone?

I read somewhere that there are four types of people:

  1. Innovators. They’re the first to do, adopt, or promote something.
  2. Early adopters. They see the trend and jump on board earlier than most.
  3. Late adopters. They wait until many or most are doing it, saying it, or using it.
  4. Dinosaurs. They rarely adopt anything new.

Or something like that.

Me? It depends on the thing. I was on board early with Evernote but I don’t own an iPad. I was one of the first to create a marketing course for attorneys and I started a blog before it was fashionable, but I do almost nothing on social media.

How about you?

I would guess that most lawyers are late adopters but I think we all need to be flexible. Some things are worth exploring early on, even if we don’t adopt them. Some things are worth our time and energy because they make us more productive or they’re just plain fun.

And then there’s Pokemon. I’m pretty sure I’ll take my first selfie before I download that one.

The best way to build your practice is to master the fundamentals


You don’t know what you don’t know


New computer arrived and it’s faster than hell. I had no idea that apps and sites and pages could load that fast.

The hard drive is faster, the processor is faster, and it has twice the RAM. I’m sure being new also has something to do with it.

The last time I saw this happen was the last time I got a new computer. “So this is how the rest of the world lives,” I thought.

Anyway, this isn’t about why you should consider replacing your old equipment with something new. It’s about not knowing what you’re missing in your life until you actually experience it.

Like the first time you hire someone who is really good at their job. I once hired a temp who was so fast and competent I begged her to work for me full time. She didn’t, but she set the standard for everyone who followed.

Or the client who is scared to death to hire a lawyer and finds out you’re not scary and you can truly can help them and they are so relieved they want to cry.

We don’t know what we don’t know and the only way to find out is to try a lot of things.

When it comes to marketing and practice management, read everything you can get your hands on and try as many things as time permits. One idea, one technique, one tool, one contact, could change everything.

But you’ll never know unless you try.


Dragon NaturallySpeaking demo


I just posted a YouTube video demo of me using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. It’s not a complete review but you’ll get to see how it works. You will also see errors, but those are my errors, not the software. The software is extremely accurate and that’s why I use it now in all my writing.

Direct link:

Post any comments or questions below or on YouTube.

These videos are fun to do and I’m sure I’ll do more of them. (I’m sure I’ll get better at them, too!) Subscribe to the channel and you’ll be notified whenever I post a new video.


How to do a screencast video


After my last video about mindmaps, a subscriber asked for information on how to do a screencast. I’ve posted a new video that explains the tools I use and how easy it is to to create your own screencast video.

Here’s the link to the video on YouTube.

Let me know what you think.


My first YouTube video in over 3 years


Oops, I did it again. After a hiatus of more than 3 years, I uploaded a new YouTube video. It’s a quick overview of mind-mapping using Xmind software.

The video is unscripted and done without notes. I was trying out my screen-casting skills using screencast-o-matic software and wasn’t planning on uploading it, but when it was done, I thought it wasn’t terrible and you might like to see it.

While you’re on YouTube, you might want to watch a funny video I did 5 years ago, call The Convention. It’s about an attorney going to his first ABA convention and may be good for a few chuckles.

No matter how disinclined you are to doing a podcast or any other content creation requiring a regular commitment of time, even the busiest attorney can occasionally create simple videos and post them online. Even me.

Anyway, let me know what you think of my new creation, or if you have any questions. And if you have any requests for additional videos, as Ross Perot used to say, “I’m all ears”.


Speechnotes: A Free alternative to Dragon NaturallySpeaking?


If you’ve never tried voice dictation before, but you’re not ready to take the plunge and invest in the gold standard of voice dictation software Dragon NaturallySpeaking, you might want to try a free online alternative called Speechnotes. (Note, it’s .co, not .com). I’ve been playing around with it for a few days and I am impressed.

Speechnotes is a speech-enabled online notepad that lets you turn your voice into text inside your browser. There’s also an extension, for Chrome users only right now. Go to the website, click on the graphic microphone, and you’re ready to dictate.

Speechnotes uses Google’s technology and it’s fast and accurate. Not as accurate as Dragon NaturallySpeaking (or Dragon for Mac), with which I am able to achieve 99% accuracy, but it does remarkably well considering it doesn’t “know” my voice, speech patterns, or vocabulary. I dictated the first draft of this post with it and estimate it had better than 90% accuracy.

Speechnotes also lacks editing capabilities, but does allow for dictation of basic punctuation. You can use it dictate notes or correspondence on the fly, and then download the text, upload it to Google Drive, or simply cut and paste your words into the application of your choosing.

One thing I really like is that the program doesn’t time out, like Siri or other free dictation solutions. You can dictate for as long as you want, pause and come back for more. I haven’t been able to make it work on my iPhone, unfortunately.

Give it a try. There is no login, registration, installation, or download needed to use Speechnotes. If you like it, it may be all you need. If you really like it, go look at all you can do with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.


My secret obsession


I’ve got a confession. I am obsessed with something right now and I can’t seem to let it go.

Every day, lately, I have been indulging my obsession. Watching videos, mostly. No, nothing kinky. I am obsessed with high-end voice dictation recorders. Especially the top-of-the-line units from Olympus and Philips.

See, I’d been thinking about buying a digital audio recorder, for notes and to dictate books and blog posts. I found that there is an entire universe of audio recording options–for recording music, for recording lectures and meetings and interviews, and for dictation.

Great. If you want to keep me busy, just give me lots of options.

Anyway, I studied what was available, and learned more about audio recording than I will ever need to know. I had dismissed the high-end units, because they are expensive ($500 and up) and have a lot of features I don’t need. But then I saw that they have a feature I really want and can’t get from (most) of the more modestly priced units.

The high-end recorders have a sliding switch on the side of the unit that allows you to use your thumb to rewind and fast forward, which means you don’t have to take the recorder away from your mouth when you are dictating. In addition, they allow you to “record over” and/or “insert” dictation anywhere in the audio file.

You can make corrections on the fly. Just like you can on many (most?) desktop dictation machines and microphones. Just like the one I used to own.

Without these functions, when you make a mistake or want to add something, you have to just keep recording.

Now, you may be thinking I’m a nutter for obsessing over this, but it’s important to me. Maybe because I cut my teeth on dictation and I know what a difference in productivity this capability delivers. Or maybe you’re thinking, yes, this makes sense, why don’t you just go ahead and pick up one of those high-end units and stop annoying me.

But here’s the thing. I realized that I don’t need to buy anything, I have an app on my iPhone that does what I want.

The app is called “Dictate + Connect” (formerly “Dictamus”) and it is heralded by legions of lawyers and other professionals. I’ve had it for years but used it only sporadically because I haven’t been dictating. Now that I’m using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for transcription, I can use the app when I’m away from my desk.

Dictate + Connect allows you to record over and insert into existing recordings. It also allows you to select a section of your recording and delete it or move it elsewhere. I can edit my dicatation on my phone before I send it to my desktop to be transcribed.

The app does everything I need it to do. I can live with the absence of a side switch. I’ve ordered a new headset microphone so I can hold the iPhone in my hand and work the controls while I continue to dictate.

So, I had the solution in my pocket all along. If you share my obsession, or you want to have another option available for notes and dictation, check it out in the app store (iOS and Android). You can download a free version with full capability but limited recording length and try it out.

Okay, that is all. I’ve got some dictation to do. And maybe a video or two to watch.


Voice to text dictation with Dragon Naturally Speaking


A long time ago, my colleagues and I dictated most of our letters, pleadings and other work product into a recording device, to be transcribed by a legal secretary. At first, we recorded onto a magnetic belt or tape. Later, we used cassette tapes (micro and regular size).

I could type, but this was before computers, and correcting typos, even on a Selectric with built in correction tape, was not the best use of my time.

Today, I type. But in my never-ending quest to increase my writing output, I have lately been experimenting with voice to text (speech to text) apps, including an old version of Dragon Naturally Speaking which I’ve had on my hard drive for several years.

I’ve tinkered with it in the past, but never used it consistently, mainly because of the learning curve and concomitant time it always seemed to require.

That, plus I am a quick typist.

And yet, I know that voice dictation is quicker, and if I can master DNS, I will increase my productivity.

This post wasn’t dictated with the software, but I have started using it daily. I’m learning the program’s commands, practicing my old dictation habits, and things are coming along. Period. Paragraph.

Nuance, which makes the software, just announced a new app for mobile, Dragon Anywhere, coming this fall. This looks amazing for those who are frequently away from their computer. When I’m out, I use Siri to dictate on my phone, but you have to stop and re-set every 30 seconds. Dragon Anywhere offers unlimited dictation time.

Nuance also announced a new Professional version for individuals. I couldn’t resist the price so I upgraded. (If you have DNS, go to Help on the menu and “check for upgrades”.

One thing I like about the upgrade (that I don’t have on my old version) is the ability to import an audio file for transcription. If I don’t subscribe to Dragon Anywhere (it will be a monthly subscription), this will be a big help.

If you read reviews about DNS, you find a mixed bag. A lot of people have had problems with installation and use of their products. Other reviews sing their praises.

If you use voice dictation in your work, or you have done so in the past, I’d love to hear your experiences. What do you use? How has it helped to improve your work flow? Do you have any tips to share?


Why you shouldn’t worry about legalzoom (and why you should)


The legal landscape is changing. More people are using Legalzoom, paralegals, and pre-paid legal plans, and it’s making a lot of lawyers nervous.

They shouldn’t be. Instead of fearing these would-be competitors, they should celebrate them.

These companies are doing lawyers a great service. They are expanding the marketplace of consumers of legal services. Many of their clients have never availed themselves of legal assistance before. As more of them start doing that, there are more opportunities for lawyers to show them the benefits of hiring them instead.

But many lawyers need to step up their game.

They need to learn how to use technology, and incorporate it into all aspects of their practice. They need to put marketing much higher on their list of priorities. The world is changing and they need to change with it.

Speaking of tech and marketing, I have a message for the “gentleman lawyers” of the world. The ones with an established client base who no longer work hard to build or maintain it. The ones who take two hour lunches and don’t listen to anyone with “new ideas”.

They’re living on borrowed time. Legalzoom may not be a threat to them, but the next generation of tech-savvy, hungry young lawyers certainly are.

What about everyone else? Well, if legalzoom and the like are a threat to you because they offer the same services you offer, you’re also living on borrowed time.

What can you do?

How do you compete with their massive advertising dollars and technological systems?

You don’t.

Don’t do what they do. Don’t offer what they offer.

Offer different services. Offer more specialized and complex services, to more sophisticated and higher-paying clients. Offer more personalized service and greater value.

If you rely on basic estate planning as the core of your practice, for example, move towards higher end services, for higher income clients. If basic business formation is a primary source of your income, you need to re-focus on more complex work for bigger clients.

If you offer a commodity service, you’re going to have a rough go of it. The competition will eat your lunch.

But there’s no competition at the top of the service/price pyramid. The competition is at the bottom 80% of that pyramid, where most lawyers (mistakenly) compete.

Don’t fear legalzoom, celibrate them. Don’t compete with legalzoom, and don’t let them compete with you.

How to differentiate yourself. Click here