Sea squirts eat their own brain; should you? [Updated]

Sea Squirts eat their brains

Sea Squirts eat their brains

Sea squirts are unusual creatures. In their larval phase they swim about vigorously and intelligently searching for the perfect rock to make their permanent home. Once established in its new home, the sea squirt proceeds to eat its own tail, absorb its own eyes and then swallow its brain. Fascinating creatures.

Law firms in the way they choose technology can be equally fascinating. In the early stages of choosing a technology platform, they swim about vigorously looking for the perfect solution.  They examine each rock, leave no stone unturned.  There are committee meetings and demonstrations.  A network is tapped for a wealth of information.  Careful plans and analyses are made.  And at last a solution is chosen.  The firm is unified behind the solution and internal staff and external consultants are tasked to “make it work”.  All the forced are mobilized for the big rollout day.  Work ceases while the attorneys and staff are trained.

And then, there is the quiet.  The consultants pack up their bags.  The attorneys and staff return to their desks.  The office manager breathes a sign of relief and takes a vacation.  The “work” of the law firm resumes.  Everything is in place.  Everything works.  And now it is time to relax.  There is no need to think about technology for another five years at least when the hardware starts to wear out and is fully depreciated.  Like the sea squirt, there is no need to think more about your technology choices; the choices have been make and now we must live with the choice.

This “boom and bust” cycle is common with many businesses.  Far easier to make a choice and live with, than to continually evaluate that choice, make ongoing adjustments, and maybe even completely abandon that choice in the face of better technology that could increase productivity and profitability.   Continual evaluation is disruptive; and expensive.  And changes are often viewed by partners as “admissions of mistakes”.  Rather than one making the “best choice with the information at hand” and changing your choice as new information appears, it is better to hunker down on your rock, like the sea squirt and get on with the business of “eating” your food from the rock you have chosen to make your home.

One option, when faced with the dilemma of the sea squirt is to add a new criteria in your choice of technology platform: plan for growth.  Business do this all the time, when they make choices that “allow for growth”.  One such choice may be to move to “the cloud”, a choice which makes the local hardware irrelevant; your desktop is merely one of many conduits for a stream of computer images.  And yet, in those cloud choices, there are some options that allow for growth, and others that are limiting.  Consider a product like DinCloud or LegalWorkspace, where you have a hosted network with hosted desktops.  Under such an environment, if you need to move from a Dual-Core Xeon processor for your server to an 8-Core processor, with twice the RAM, you merely ask the vendor to enable that power; no new computer boxes are required.

Also consider the choice of Practice Management platform.  Some vendors release simple, easy to use software for calendar and billing.  And yet, as your business grows, it becomes more important to have sophisticated reporting, custom fields, and custom records specific to your practice, multi-step workflow, web-based client intake forms etc.   Even if you don’t want all the “complex stuff” when you start, over time, you will want those features to squeeze out more productivity from your staff and to gain the competitive edge.  Often times, the software will be the same price.

In choosing your rock, you want to choose one that will grow with your business.  You can still remain moored, but you don’t need to do as the sea squirt does and swallow your brain.

A Solution in Search of a Problem – Paper Software

PaperSoftware from Turner

PaperSoftware from Turner

Paper Software (for the Mac) from Turner (Contracts Made Easy) (www.paper-software.com) is a solution in search of a problem.  On encountering the product at LegalTech New York 2014, I asked myself how this tool would improve either legal document drafting or document analysis.  I was told there was a new “document assembly” tool that work on a Mac.  What I found was fascinating, but really a niche product.

Paper Software will “read” your agreement and give you powerful navigation tools to understand the relation between the provisions and the defined terms.  It is slick in its operation.  It also serves as an alternative editor for drafting agreements that “work”.  By work, it means that all Capitalized Terms are actually defined somewhere in the document, and conversely that all Defined Terms are in fact used somewhere in the document (other than the definitions section).

If all lawyers were good and clear writers, then a tool like this wouldn’t be much use.  The reality, however, is that many agreements are CRIBBED from prior agreements.  And in this Cut/Paste process key terms can be left undefined, or misdefined.  It is here where the issue arises.  Once you have pieced together your new agreement, you run it through the Paper Software analysis engine and see if it comes up to snuff.

Surviving the Cold Snap

When it gets cold — The Cool Revolution

Computers on Ice

Computers on Ice

There are times when it gets REALLY  cold.  Today was one such day.  It seems as if my office overlooking a frozen lake was like the place on left.  The funny thing is that while humans don’t like the cold, computers do, so long as  they are not in a moist environment.  The “cool air” is far preferable to the amount of heat generated by CPU processors, graphic processors, and memory cards.  In fact, there is a revolution going on in the computer industry that deals with “heat dissipation”.  Intel and Apple have been running chips that run “colder”.  They have found that these chips use less energy, and allow the circuits to be packed denser in the same space.  In fact the  computers, because the distance between the circuits can be measured in microns (a very small unit of measure), will run faster, be able to run more computations in a millisecond, than older computers could run in several hours.

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Power of HotDocs – Creating a Loan Amortization Table

Financial Calculations Made Easy

HotDocs Loan Amortization TableYesterday, I took on a  new “challenge” in one of the many commercial lending systems we have been building.  Typically, we attach a Loan Amortization Table supplied by the “bank client” to the loan documentation.

These tables project payments of principal and interest during the term of the loan.  After some research on formulas, review of VBA model code and Excel spreadsheets, I took the challenge. On the right, you can see the result.

Once you realize that a REPEAT DIALOG is just an Array, and that a Computation (in HotDocs 11) can serve as a recursive function, then it is just a matter of patience before you can get such results.

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Some CHEAP Gift Ideas

iPhone Horn Stand

For the past six months, I have been making extensive use of my JAMBOX.  This little “electronic box” connects via Bluetooth to my iPad, iPhone or Android, and even my laptop, and gives room-filling, high fidelity sound.  It does require periodic recharging. And setting it up for Bluetooth connection can be shaky after six months of use.  Further, at over $150 price tag on Amazon for the small version, and $250 for the larger version, it can be a large ticket item.

At a recent tradeshow, someone was “giving away” a low fidelity solution with a big sound. The iPhone Horn Stand is available for $2 and change on Amazon.   The rubber attachment contains no electronics.  It works like the old Victrola turntables taking the audio sound and in the phone and increasing the volume several fold.  If you are looking for “functional gifts” this holiday that don’t break the bank and also don’t dramatically increase your carbon footprint, consider the iPhone Horn Stand.  Happy Holidays, everyone.

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Role of Keyboard Accelerators

AutoHotKeyFor years I have dug into the potential of VBA (Visual Basic).  While I am a firm believer in choosing the appropriate technology solution, and encouraging developers to add features, there comes a time when the you need to “enhance” the program by using automation tools outside the program.  Many IT support people use “stored procedures” or schedule scripts.  These make sense for predictable and regular activities.  But there is a whole other area of “repetitive activities” that take time, but don’t fall into the class of regular procedures.  Moreover, some of these activities require the operation of multiple programs to be run.

Recent Projects

We recently completed a project where we used VBA as the GLUE between Microsoft Word, HotDocs, and Adobe Acrobat.  We wrote a script that (a) launched a HotDocs interview which allowed the user to programatically select from among 300 templates, a mixture of .DOCX files and .PDF files for mass assembly, (b) to assemble the selected templates without further interview using HotDocs, (c) to convert the output into individual PDFs, and (d) to then merge the PDFs into a single master PDF for presentation to the user.  Getting VBA to consistently time the multiple assemblies and conversions required careful programming and “event management”.

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Navigating the Cloud – Pace of Innovation

LawCloudThe burst of innovation in law firm practice management is very exciting. It seems as if a new time and billing service is launched every week. Existing cloud vendors announce mind-expanding new features every month. Desktop vendors are busy trying to Cloud-Enable their software or build hooks into the cloud. When Frank Heckman lamented once that annual new releases of software was too fast for a software company to handle, he was wrong. It is in fact too slow. In the new cloud the expectation is quarterly releases, even monthly. How is this possible? This may seem too fast if annual is too often for a desktop installation, how can monthly be just right. The answer lies in some fundamental difference between cloud software and desktop software.

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Basha Systems is now a member affilliate of 3545 Consulting Group

It has been QUITE a while since I last wrote in this blog. It is not for lack of topics to write about that I have been silent. We have been quite busy, and marketing has taken a back seat to other endeavors. One very important change is that Basha Systems LLC is now an affiliate of the 3545 Consulting Group.

3545Group

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Travelogue – The Real Coffee Experience – Espiritus Santos (Final)

Up To Date At Last

At last, my journal has caught up with the date.  Most of the time, I have been too busy to make entries in my journal, too tired to write.  I  had  hoped to keep this journal in real time, but found it hard to drive and blog at the same time.  Perhaps we should have hired a driver, or paid for escorted transfers between hotels.  Rather we preferred the freedom from other people’s schedules, not to be hurried when we wanted to linger (even if foolhardy) and to be able to skip faster at other times.

This morning, we lingered.  We had to wait for a replacement car to come from San Jose to replace the rental car which turned out to have a dead battery.  I lingered over coffee and sat on the hotel veranda looking out at the clouds and the rain forest.  The temperature was cool and refreshing after the hot jungles of Arenal.  We lingered for what seemed like ages — until 9:30 AM.  At last, the driver arrived and we switched vehicles.

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Travelogue – Monkeys At Last (Final)

Sweet Nectar For Some – Sugar Water for Others

We awoke in the mist at 5:30 and put on a pot of Cafe Britt coffee.  We were leaving on a 6:00 am bird watching tour. Guess what? It was raining again, a cool wet rain and mist that you can feel in your bones, in your clothes, and everywhere.  Our perky young guide warned us that the birds didn’t like to fly in the rain, but she was nevertheless hopeful.  I knew why.  She had stacked the deck.

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