February has announced itself with cold winds, wet snow and an absolute disregard to January’s rather mild precedent. Which hurries my steps along when I venture out of the little law office on the prairie and away from my Keurig – a wondrous fount of coffee, tea, and other warm delights; given the time of year, perhaps the most vital piece of technology I currently own. But I come not to sing the praises of the various bits of tech that keep me and the LLOotP working like a reasonable oiled machine or to wax poetic over my found infatuation with open source document management and private cloud software. No this time the love goes out to the work life balance. Work life balance is a bit of a myth out here in the little law office on the prairie for both work and life tend to blend one into the other for better or worse. But somewhere in this mélange, there are those times when me needs to take precedence. So, on the odd occasion I find it necessary to kickback at take some time to slow down in order to speed up. Now I’m not one for taking a spa day or heading out to buy shoes – farm equipment is an entirely different thing; I’ve been known to take a day, drive 300 miles just to look at a mower (now when I talk mower, I’m talking 100 horsepower and 14 feet of cutting width). I prefer to take my me time and learn about something entirely unnecessary. To that end, I fly planes and grow orchids. But if I really want to earn a few points, I’ll tackle something on the honey-do list (yet another use for Evernote). For those of you who’d like to play along and fit a little more life into your work there is a perfect opportunity heading your way. On February 14th, turn your tech off, let your social media go quiet, tell your staff you won’t be in the office, and spend the day getting to know yourself and your family again – remember a sitter and dinner out may earn you bonus points. And now for something completely off-topic – have you ever wondered how to check if your marketing efforts are working as hard as they can? Then Stacy Clark’s article Are your law firm’s Marketing Efforts Being Sabotaged? is for you. She provides a 10 question test to help you identify some of the common weaknesses in your marketing strategy, things like: – Is your staff involved in your marketing efforts? – Are you staying in touch with previous clients? – Are you keeping your website up to date? – What’s your value-add? It’s worth the time to google the article and to take the entire test. As solos, it’s hard to keep all the balls in the air and this may help you focus on your efforts as you start those 2015 marketing efforts. Speaking of updating your website, 2015 should be the year that you implement that responsive design website and stop losing those mobile eyeballs. While you’re at it, take the time to develop high quality content; once you get those new eyeballs, the very least you can do is give them something to read and you can stop worrying about keeping your content above the fold; mobile users are used to scrolling down. So as long as your content is compelling you are good to go long. By the way, the stodgy old law firm website has outlived its usefulness; try experimenting with typography. Google Fonts can give your website some visual impact without breaking the bank, Bruce M. Cameron Having decided that going to law school and opening a solo law practice would be a sufficient response to the male midlife crisis, Bruce now practices Collaborative Family Law and Estate Planning in rural Minnesota. When not in the law office, he can be found on his small farm where he and his wife are at the beck and call of a herd of horses, a couple of cats, a few dogs and one extremely spoiled parrot. http://www.rurallawyer.com
It’s February, love is in the air, and I’m a sucker for …. website security.
We all know that we need to use secure passwords for website administration login. Additionally, minimizing plugins (for WordPress) and extensions (for Joomla) should also be done, as each plugin or extension can serve as a pathway to core file manipulation. As a result, plugin and extension addition should be done very carefully.
There are, however, two great security applications that I would strongly suggest implementing – Wordfence (www.wordfence.com) if your site is on WordPress, and RSFirewall from RSJoomla! ( https://www.rsjoomla.com/joomla-extensions/joomla-security.html) if your site is on Joomla.
Why I Love WordFence and RS Firewall
Key features of Wordfence and RSFirewal! include:
Country blocking (done by IP address – my favorite) – Unless your firm has specifically-targeted traffic outside the US, consider blocking all non-US traffic (Hint: – those visits from Russia shown in your Google Analytics account probably aren’t from prospective clients).
- With country blocking enabled, those trying to access your website (or your CMS) from blocked countries will essentially see a blank page informing them that the desired page cannot be accessed. While IP blocking is not perfect, it can make it significantly harder for those outside the US to break into your site.
- Malware detection – both of these applications have different protocols for scanning and detecting known malware.
- Core file change detection – if the core files of your website have been changed, you’ll want to know about such change immediately. RSFirewall!, for instance, sends e-mail notifications to website owners immediately when core files and other significant changes are made.
- IP blocking in response to brute force attacks and attacks designed to shut down a website by overwhelming a server – these applications recognize “brute force” attempts to run scripts to hack into a website (brute force attacks consist of trying different usernames and passwords until the right ones are identified).
- Additional firewall protection – both applications contain additional features and options to better “lock down” your site to prevent core file manipulation. For instance, in addition to a username and password, access to a website’s CMS can also be restricted so that only whitelisted IP addresses can gain CMS access.
This Valentine’s Day show your website how much you care by helping to protect it and keep it more secure. The current, undiscounted cost of Wordfence is $39/year, and the current, undiscounted cost of RSJoomla! is $56/year. These costs are minimal in comparison to potential disruption and development costs resulting when a site is hacked (while there can be no guaranty that a site will not be hacked, each of these applications will make it harder to do so).
Both sites offer discounts for multiple sites, and discounts are also usually available for multiple year purchases. Before ordering, do a search for coupon codes, as you may be able to purchase an application for even less than the listed price.
We do not have any affiliation or financial connection to Wordfence or RSJoomla; our recommendations are based solely on using these applications for our sites and those of our clients.
Jeffrey Lantz, Esq. is an attorney in Arizona and CEO of Esquire Interactive, a company that helps law firms develop new business through branding, websites and strategic business development. To learn more about Jeffrey, visit: http://www.esquireinteractive.com
Where are we going wrong?
At the end of day do you sometimes realize it’s 5 o’clock (or 6 or 7?) and you ask yourself, “What happened”?
You’ve been busy all day long doing exactly what needed to be done…answering emails, returning phone calls, going to meetings, reading, writing…yet the you never completed any of the items on your “To-Do” list. Your desk just got messier and the list just got longer.
No matter how hard you work, it seems there is really no end in sight. So how do you take back control of your day?
For me, personally, I try to do too much. I always over estimate how much I can do and how long it will take. My plan is to “knock out this task real quick” and then get back to my daily plan. NEVER HAPPENS. I don’t take my own advice about clearing the workspace, brain dump and time blocking. It’s makes the difference between being busy and being productive.
Dealing with daily chaos is normal. We all have five or six issues that pop up and we get caught up dealing with them. This could be our own doing or forced upon us by others. In the David Allen – GTD lingo, it means fighting off the URGENT to get to the IMPORTANT.
If you feel overwhelmed or the wheels come off during the day, it’s time to STOP and make a plan. Follow the steps below to take back control and get that laser-focus you need:
1) Brain dump: Start with a list of everything you want to get done. Get it all out there – start with big ones, then all the small ones. Make a list of your priorities that keep getting pushed back. By taking the time to brain dump, you will find your stress level decrease. Even when the list is overwhelming, you can get a sense of peace once it is written out.
2) Prioritize quickly: You should clearly see some priorities in your list. Focus on the IMPORTANT, not the URGENT. Use the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. Find the clients, items, projects which deliver the most impact. Devote 80% of your time to these areas.
3) Break it down: If an item on your list looks more like a project, you should break it down into tasks or activities you need to do. Sometimes, we don’t know where to start, so we don’t do anything. As you get the mini-tasks completed, you will start to feel energized!
4) Pick 3: Your list might be pretty long at this point. That’s OK. Keep it simple. Just pick the three items that you would LOVE to get done. Imagine it was 5 o’clock and you didn’t get anything done today BUT those three tasks. Not a bad days work right?
5) Set a timer: Now attack one of the three priority items. Use principles of time blocking and Pomodoro. Literally block off chunks of time to devote to the task. The hope is that this will be uninterrupted time. With Pomodoro you work in increments of 25 minutes of laser-like focus and then take a five-minute break. It takes discipline but don’t make excuses. Make it happen.
6) Be anti-social: Let others know you will be unavailable. And unless the building is burning down, you are not to be interrupted for the next 30 minutes, hour, etc. Now the hard part: avoid checking email, answering the phone or texting. No social media, internet browsing or TV. Close your browser if possible, shut off email notifications, silence your phone.
7) Schedule email time: If you’ve never done this, it sounds crazy. But this can make a huge difference in your daily outcomes. When do you normally check email for the first time? If you are like most people, it’s one of the first things you do each day. I promise you that if you will delay checking until 10 o’clock it will change your life. Ultimately, the goal would be to check email only 2-3 times per day with the first being 10 o’clock in the morning and then again late in the afternoon. Try it for one week and you’ll be amazed.
The rest is up to you.
We all have a zillion things we could be doing. And many things we should be doing. But forget about the things you COULD do and pick the items that will have the greatest impact. The rest of it can wait. If you do this on a daily basis, it will absolutely transform you results and mindset.
David Moore is the owner of APG:Legal, a division of Advantage Print Group, a full-service print and marketing services provider to solo, small and mid-sized legal firms. To learn more about David, visit: http://www.apglegalprint.com/