Online Scheduling

I am trying out an online scheduling application so that new and existing clients can book appointments online.  There are links placed all over the website and special spot on the navigation bar to choose from.   For those reading this post, appointments can be booked online here or here.

If I get a positive response to the scheduling system, it will remain a permanent option.

Because my schedule changes on a daily basis to accommodate deadlines and court hearings, online scheduling is available 14 days in advance.

All of the information is secure and no one can “see” the details on the calendar.  In order to maintain security, individual accounts must be created by the client and I will confirm the appointments after they are scheduled online.

As always, you can contact my office by phone at (509) 252-9156 for scheduling.  However, I wanted to include an extra service for folks who want the flexibility of planning their schedules or maybe find it easier to schedule online.

Emails Between Attorney and Client, Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic I discussed the reasons I like to use email to communicate with clients. Although there are many good reasons to use email for attorney-client communication, one major drawback is the potential lack of confidentiality and loss of your attorney-client privilege. Here are some things to keep in mind for clients who want to use email to communicate with their attorney:

Do not use your email account provided by your employer. If you use your work email account chances are your employer can view your emails as well as whomever your employer uses to maintain the computer network – whether that be outside contractors or fellow employees. Also, you may be violating company policy by using your work email account for personal reasons.

Do not use an email account your children have access to at home. Children of all ages are naturally curious – especially about matters involving their parents. If your password is automatically “saved” by your desktop software (Outlook Express, Outlook, etc.) change the settings to require the password to be entered each time you access your account (and make sure it isn’t a password your child can easily guess).

Do not save attachments to the hard drive your children have access to at home.If you are swapping drafts back and forth, save them to a separate drive or upload them to storage sites online that can be protected with a password.

Do check the recipients of the email before hitting send. If you are forwarding along an email from the opposing party to your attorney, make sure you don’t inadvertently use “reply to all” or “cc” the opposing party – this is particularly worrisome when you are including commentary to the attorney.

Do seriously consider setting up a new web-based email account. A great way to communicate with your attorney from anywhere you have internet access is to use a web based email account. You can start fresh with a new account with a new password and you can also use the email account to store those bothersome attachments referred to above. My personal favorite is Gmail. Other great free services are Yahoo and Hotmail.

Emails Between Attorney and Client, Part 1

I’d estimate about 85% of my communication with my clients is through email. Communicating by email is actually my preferred method for a number of reasons, some of which I’ll list here:

Comprehensive: Writing and sending an email is an opportunity to get a bunch of questions or concerns out of the way and off of everyone’s mind. I understand the “brain blank” phenomenon – I have it all of the time after I end a conversation with a doctor or dentist. The second I hang up the phone or get into my car in the parking lot, the questions I meant to ask come raining down on my head.

Quick response: I have a Blackberry. My Blackberry is my Joy and the Bane of My Existence all in one. Regardless of my feelings for my Blackberry at any given time, it is a great tool for getting right back to a client and either answer the question(s) or giving he client an estimate of when I can get back to him or her. There is a lot of downtime in Court that I can use quite effectively as e-mail answering time.

Efficency: The majority of my e-mail correspondence can be read and responded to in ten minutes or less. This generates a bill for .20 and also gives each party a nice paper trail to refer back to if needed. On the other hand, a phone call can be very inefficient. I generally need a few moments to gather my thoughts and switch reels from whatever I happened to have my nose buried in when the phone rang. If the client is calling from work, there are distractions on he other end of the phone. The conditions usually lead to a longer phone call with issues missed.

24/7: I’m not going to answer your e-mail at 2:00 a.m. on a regular basis. However, don’t be surprised if that actually happens. I am always on e-mail and chances are good that you will get a reply in the evening hours and over the weekends.

Searchable Information: I save all of my correspondence with clients in their own folders on my hard-drive. Many a time I’ve wanted to look up the make/model of a car, a child’s doctor’s name, a client’s vacation schedule, and it’s as easy as running a search to pull up the email containing the information. This is a far better system than the other system which is me flipping through scrawled notes.

Oversharing Online

Social networking and blogging is booming. It’s a great tool for people to connect or keep family and friends up to date. However, it can also be a stumbling block for folks embroiled in a family law case.

One of my routine techniques of informal fact gathering is to check the names of opposing parties on mySpace and Facebook. It always amazes me how much information I can gather with a simple search.*

A lot of folks either (1) don’t realize how simple it is to track down their personal websites; or (2) mistakenly feel anonymous or safe because a nerdy lawyer couldn’t possibly think of checking mySpace. (Note: There are a lot of nerdy lawyers who own mySpace and Facebook accounts – we’re aware of the phenomenon.)

It’s a simple matter to make your accounts private and to block unwanted users from viewing your information. It’s also not a bad idea to keep sniping at the ex or sniping about the ex off topic, even if your site is private. Also, be aware that your “friends” who are allowed access to your account could suddenly switch sides and start reporting on your posts.

Before hitting “publish” or twittering or even sending that IM, ask yourself if what you are about to publish would embarass you if it shows up attached to your ex’s declaration. If the answer is “yes”, hit delete instead. Less said, less mended.

*There are a plethora of evidentiary issues with admissibility of websites or print-outs from websites. However, whether or not I can admit the information I find on a website, it can still be very useful as part of the information trail.