Customer Service 101: Connecting in an Interconnected World

Rose Rowland, Developer and Trainer for Basha Systems adds her thoughts on customer service in an interconnected world.

For several years now, I have gone to a drycleaners that is farther from my house than at least five others.  This drycleaners is not particularly cheaper or even better in any appreciable way than the ones that are nearer to my house. And still, I make the extra trip for one reason – the lady behind the counter.

Read moreCustomer Service 101: Connecting in an Interconnected World

Twitter Twitter Twit … What is in a Twit

I have recently noticed a number of attorneys and software vendors getting “Twitter” personas … see So I got one for myself.  I can be reached via @bashasys.  I had a long drive up to Montreal with time to kill on my new Blackberry Storm (Rose was driving).  And so I enrolled in Twitter and began to Twit (yes… that is a new verb that I cannot claim credit for). And here are some of my thoughts after a week of Twittering.

Twitter, for those who don’t know, is a hybrid of “texting” (or using cell phones for Text messaging) and Blogging.  It is texting in that it limits all posts or messages (aka Twits) to 140 characters.  For people like me who can barely keep a sentence under 140 characters, such limits can be crippling. The message box for Twitter is titled “What are you doing”.  And so the initial inpulse is to answer the question.

Note my early posts on my drive to Mont Tremblant:
# Bilingual jokes á Le hotel de ville and 30 degrees below zero … Celsius 4:26 PM Feb 15th from TwitterBerry
# Lost to my son in the brain activity game … Can move the ball with alpha waves 12:06 PM Feb 15th from TwitterBerry
# 30 degree below zero Celsius in downtown Montreal 12:04 PM Feb 15th from TwitterBerry
# Just got through the border crossing … They speak French here 4:03 PM Feb 14th from TwitterBerry
# All stop… Just arrived at the Canadian border. Do they still have borders 3:05 PM Feb 14th from TwitterBerry
# How to build self organizing systems for practice management ….with a simple memo field. All in the markup and the interpreter. 12:52 PM Feb 14th from TwitterBerry
# More snow as we get closer to Montreal

Others have taken to use Twitter to announce product developments, links to interesting articles, and business gossip. Take a look at posts from RocketMatter, a cloud based case management system:
# @adamr Brilliant move. Even more brilliant would be sending a new Kindle 2 to me as well. about 22 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to adamr
# @TheHRLawyer I would agree. Most theft is low-tech, not high-tech. Overwhelmingly so. Thanks for reading! about 22 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to TheHRLawyer
# Get an understanding of this murky “Cloud” thing. See “The Cloud” Explained, Part 1 of 2 at about 22 hours ago from TweetDeck
# @RonJeffries Find you where you are – usually at Panera Bread with Chet, no? about 22 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to RonJeffries
# @claxtonlegal Rocket Matter does not make you sign a yearly contract. Pay per month and cancel anytime. 30 Day $$ back guarantee. about 24 hours ago from TweetDeck

Ross Kodner chooses to use this as a links exchange that primarily announces posts on his blog:
# Ross Ipsa Loquitur: All a Twitter About OutTwit: While I’m personally still baffled abo.. 10:10 AM Feb 7th from twitterfeed
# Ross Ipsa Loquitur: Coolest Demand Letter Ever: Just ask El Paso lawyer David Ferrell who dem.. 10:10 AM Feb 7th from twitterfeed
# Ross Ipsa Loquitur: No Longer a SkyFi Virgin! Now a Member of the 7 Mile High Club!: Yes, on .. 10:10 AM Feb 7th from twitterfeed
# Ross Ipsa Loquitur: 12 of 14 . . . No, it’s Not a New Star Trek Character: No, it’.. 10:10 AM Feb 7th from twitterfeed
# Ross Ipsa Loquitur: The Inauguration Live!: See it unfold live at! Wow! May God .. 11:12 AM Jan 20th from twitterfeed

So what should I do with Twitter?
Who is my audience?
Send me a twit to @bashasys

For now, I will keep the personal twits down …. I do not have papparazzi on my trail, nor ever will.  If you do what to follow me, you have to ANNOUNCE yourself and request permission to follow.  That may be “unfriendly” of me, but I do want to know who my “friends and followers” are.  Further, I will strive to come up with something interesting for that millisecond you review my twit … and maybe links to my more extensive ramblings.


The Return of Bob Butler –

There is not much to write at the present time, but rather, a heads-up of something coming down the pike.  Bob Butler, former CEO of DataTXT (aka Time Matters Software) has gone public with a new venture called  The website has been in development for a while and has just been launched.  It promises a blending of the best social networking in Linked-In and Facebook, along with the social ranking in Diggs, and the collaboratively edited content of Wikipedia.

Related Link:

Here is what Bob writes in his public email announcement:

Friends and Collegues:

Everyone who knows me knows that along with an amazingly talented team, I have been working for the past 2 years on Well, is now open to the public!

As we all know, it’s not only who you know, but it’s also what you know. While there are many places on the Internet, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc. for showing who you know, BestThinking is the new best place to show what you know.

Since all of you are working to advance careers, find better jobs, or expand your businesses and practices, I thought might be of interest to you beyond just what I have been up to. I’m sending this email to introduce you to a no cost opportunity to establish a new and important web presence.

There are several advantages to getting started early, including improving your visibility to search engines by being the founder of high profile Topics and securing your name and unique URL for your Thinker page.

It has never been so easy to become widely recognized for your passion and expertise. Don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues that you are now a Thinker at and ask them to join us.

Bob Butler

At present, BestThinking represents the best thinking of web designers, rather than actual thinkers.  View it as a new home that still needs to be furnished. The structure has been built and the rooms created.  But at present, there is no furniture or decoration.  There are “Latin” placeholders.  It is up to you (the Thinkers) to turn this website into a new home and place to go.

What makes it real exciting is that the website can build a self-policing community.  Each Thinker and each Thought can be rated by users.  Based upon user ratings, articles and thinkers will rise into favor or fall from favor.  That is the genius of the website.  It is now up to you, if you view yourself as a thinker, to hang out your shingle.  Be prepared for the critical review of the masses.  Who knows, you will be able to get some recognition and maybe even some engagements.


The HotDocs DEBUG instruction model is very simple, very powerful and very clear about its use.  DEBUG is used to…well, debug!  If you have templates or computations that are producing unexpected or incorrect output, using the DEBUG instruction may get you back on track just a little quicker.

There are two uses of DEBUG – in templates and in scripts (both Dialog scripts and computations).  Both uses have a very similar effect.

By placing a DEBUG instruction in your template or script, you tell HotDocs to display the Debugger screen.  With the debugger, you can manually step through a script or template while viewing extremely detailed information regarding each variable’s value.  You can add variables to watch lists, “step” the script (ie: manually tell HotDocs to progress the script line by line) and watch the variable values change with each step.  Using DEBUG, you can quickly identify what data is coming in/going out and what data is changing.  This will allow you to track down any errors quickly, as you can not only assess each computation or variable, but also the variable values that went into creating the problematic data.

Additionally, the Debugger contains a processing stack tab.  This is a sequential list of templates and components to be processed, in order.  It will also give you the reason as to WHY HotDocs has a particular item in the queue.

In the most general sense, the Debugger gives you a real look under the hood as to exacty how HotDocs is handling/treating your code.  This is invaluable if you simply cannot make your code produce the correct content.

Quote of the Day

“I’m not a gambling man.  So when I make a bet, I am just earning money” … Me.

Remarked during an early morning study session with my son when he challenged me on the answer to a math problem.

Basha Systems 2.0 – Website Rebuild

Over the past few years, I have been following the evolution of the “Web” and thinking about the purpose of corporate and law firm websites.  What role does and should the website play in the business of a law firm or a professional organization.  At Basha Systems, we have built, a marketing website to explain the services we offer and our products.  To that website we have added vertical market specific subdomains:, a place for Estate Planning and Elderlaw attorneys,,, a website for Nebraska probate attorneys, to support our Probate Systems V,,, a blog of tips, techniques and tricks for HotDocs users, and, an automated support site.  We are in the process of reorganizing and restructuring these sites to (1) make them easier to navigate, (2) easier to maintain, and (3) more current. We are adopting Web 2.0 technology to turn these websites into dynamic community resources

By community resources we mean to build into the core Basha Systems website a vitality and currency that gives the user a reason to come back, a place to go for all things document assembly, document automation, case management.  While we could build “forums” – the easy way, our goal is to present distilled independent content, easy to digest, easy to find, and easy to use.  Document Assembly and Practice Management are transformative technologies for the practice of law.  In these rebuilt websites, we hope to convey the excitement, the thrill of accomplishment, and the energy of the community of document assembly programmers.

So what does Web 2.0. mean?

It means:

  • Individual articles can be printed or emailed
  • All articles on the website can be accessed by an RSS feed
  • Dozens of videos, both training and walk-throughs
  • Articles ranked by submission date, so you can see at a glance what is “new”.
  • A reason to come back again and again.


KRONOS – Evaluation Criteria for Software and RocketMatter

I recently engaged in a long conversation with Larry Port of Rocket Matter about the state of software design, and the common disconnect between programmers, marketeers and end users.  It turns out Larry was a specialist in “usability studies” – the new buzz word in software design. He pointed me to TED.  At that time I recalled a series of ABA Techshow and other presentations I made back in 2001 on how legal software should be evaluated. I reproduce my unedited article from 2001 below, with the caveat it is not Web 2.0 aware …. But will in the future revisit some of theses ideas, particularly in a forthcoming review in Technolawyer of RocketMatter.

In evaluating technology, I look for inspiration to the Greeks, and in particular the father of the gods on Mt. Olympus, none other than KRONOS.  I use the following criteria in evaluating all technology:

Keystroke Count. The tool must be easy to use.  A subjective judgment on ease of use can be reduced to an empirical keystroke count.  In comparing similar tools, count the number of keystrokes (or mouse clicks) require to accomplish regular tasks.  The fewer the keystrokes, the better designed the software, and the more likely it will be used properly.

Return on Investment. The tool must pay for itself in increased productivity, improved work product, greater client satisfaction, or more efficient organization and information retention.  Don’t just look at price per seat.  Look at the “total cost of ownership” (equipment requirements, training, support and customization) and compare it to the expected return on investment.

Opulence and Intuitiveness. The tool must be “good looking”.  An ugly interface is often a proxy for poorly designed and thrown together software.  If the developer did not take the time to build an elegant and appealing interface, the developer may also not have taken the time to fully test and debug the software.  Also, if the icons, menus, and screens are not intuitive, you may find yourself spending a fortune on training, and your users may never fully utilize the potential of the software.

Networkability and Integration. The days of stand-alone PC’s are over.  The tool must function in a networked environment, and allow multiple users to access the system simultaneously.  And the tool should be able to communicate with other programs, sharing or exchanging data.

Options and Customization. It should be easy to install software, with a single CD-ROM and a menu of options to allow you to configure the software installation for the requirements of your network/PC.  A good software designer recognizes that each IP practice is unique, and should allow for some degree of customization, whether the addition of custom fields or the ability to modify or add new templates.

Suitability for the Task. The tool must be designed for or configurable for the specific use desired by the practitioner.  A general purpose case manager is a poor substitute for an IP portfolio database.

Deciding on a Practice Management System: The Three Lists Method

By this point, most law firms and businesses have automated to some degree. Few offices still depend on the typewriter and the paper calendar. Word Processors, MS Outlook and some form of billing program can be found in most, if not all, offices.

Lawyers, paralegals and businesses are ready to move to the next level. The most important thing to determine, of course, is which is the most efficient and cost effective move to make.


I often receive inquiries that go something like this: “I’m looking for some software for my office. My office has gotten to the point that I really need to get things more organized. It takes forever to find information on a client. It is also taking us far too long to create documents and get them out the door. We’re losing money on client work. In fact, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my billables and I’d really like to get a handle on how long it is taking my staff to do certain tasks and how to speed them up. If possible, I would like to be able to increase my business without having to hire new staff.”

When I hear this, the first thing that springs to mind is that what they are looking for is really three different types of software: (1) Case Management, such as Time Matters, Amicus Attorney or PracticeMaster, to organize their matter data, documents and case notes; (2) Document Assembly software like HotDocs to more quickly create quality controlled documents like Wills and Real Estate Contracts. And (3) a good billing program to track time and invoice clients.  The question that also springs to mind is: “Do they need all of these all at once?”

It is natural to want it all at once. However, the cost f such an implentation and the disruption of a wholesale transformation may undermine the very value of such action. It is far better to prioritize – both areas of frustration and desire. That’s why I always ask my prospects to make three lists.


I ask them to list, in order, the five to ten things that are happening in their office that are driving them up the wall.  For some people, its “I am so frustrated
because when I have a paralegal or a junior attorney create a document, I often spend more time revising it than it would have taken to do it myself.” Or, “I am so frustrated because I have such a hard time tracking phone calls and other items that I know I should be billing.”


This is your dream list. These are the things you wish you and your office could do that would make it into the model office of your dreams. Such as “I wish that I had an easy way of accessing, from my desktop, all of the information I need on a client. Then when they call for advice or a case update, I could tell them everything they need to know instantly instead of having to send someone to look for a file and flipping around in it.”


This in some way overlaps with the first two lists and is not completely necessary but it is a good exercise in office psychology and basic venting.  In the heat of the moment, you may cry out “There’s got to be a better way” – to prepare documents for real estate closings, to track estate assets, to communicate with other firms on document changes, etc.


Now, put your lists side by side.  Do most of the items have to do with billing, document preparation or general office organization?

  • If most of the entries have to do with billing, start there. Possibly, your greatest need is a well set up billing program like PCLaw, TABS or even Quicken and the services of a specialist in that area.
  • If most of your frustration lies with lack of organization, it might be time to look into a Office/Case Management system, like Time Matter or Amicus Attorney, that can help you organize your data on the computer.
  • On the other hand, if getting any document out the door is a slow and tortuous process, HotDocs might give you the best initial bang for your tech buck.
  • Or, possibly, your biggest issues involve none of the above. Maybe, your greatest area of frustration is computer crashes or other hardware issues and not a software issue at all. In that case, you must address this issue before investing in the newest software.

This is something that I cannot urge too strongly.  Before you invest in any of these great software programs, you need to be aware that they can take a toll on computer memory and performance. Putting wonderful, memory intensive software on a clunky, obsolete computer will only result in additional frustration, software returns and many, many bouts of misdirected cursing.

Use the three lists methods to get a handle on your real tech needs. A ounce of foresight can avoid pounds of future regret.  NOW, you’re ready to give us a call.


A very brief HotDocs tip today – the CONCEAL and OMIT instruction models.  These two commands make working with HotDocs dialogs as answer sources a little cleaner and easier for users to work with.

In short, CONCEAL keeps a variable from showing in the “Select from Answer Source” dialog – it is simply hidden from the user, allowing for the more meaningful fields to be shown only.  OMIT does a similar thing, but hides a variable from the user in the “Edit Answer Source” dialog box – again, allowing only the meaningful fields to show to the user.

These two commands go hand in hand to pare down information that displays in dialog answer source manipulation.  Rather than trying to show an example, these two commands are best “tinkered” with on a case by case basis.  If you want to try something cool, try using dialog answer sources in a scenario where only ONE variable is not CONCEALed.  The variable still showing should be an identifier, such as a name or similar.  That way, a user will simply see a nice drop down to pick from and all the other data will ‘appear out of nowhere’ – just like magic!

This stuff is super simple and takes about 10 minutes to master.  Play around with dialog answer sources, CONCEAL and OMIT – it may actually be FUN.