In this episode, Brandon Osterbind dives deep into the question that absolutely needs to be answered. At Osterbind Law, PLLC we talk a lot about using technology in our injury and disability law firm to help add value for our clients. In this episode, Brandon will explore
- What tools we use to make our lives better,
- What tools we use to make our clients lives better,
- Where we see the future of the practice of law going with respect to technology,
- And, why even other lawyers call us and ask us for advice with their technology.
Injury and Disability Law Firm Technology:
Brandon referenced a few articles that you may be interested in reviewing:
- MyCase Profile on Brandon Osterbind
- Osterbind Law client portal
- Litt Software – Trial Pad Featured Pro: Brandon Osterbind
Announcer: We promise, we are not a bunch of stuffy old lawyers saying stuffy old things. You heard that right. This is the Insight to Injury podcast, sponsored by Osterbind Law, PLLC, the podcast that reports to you, Central Virginia, about what's going on in the injury and disability world. We answer all the questions you don't even know to ask. Now here's your host, Brandon Osterbind. Let's get started.
Brandon Osterbind: All right, welcome back, Osterbind Law, thank you team Osterbind for joining us once again, this is another week, welcome to episode 11, episode 11, believe it or not. Last week was our double-digit episode, and now here we are one week later for episode 11. Today I want to talk to you about something that is very important to me, and I'm going to apologize maybe a little bit in advance because I might geek out a little bit on this, and I'm sorry for that, but I just... I got to do what I got to do, and I just love this stuff so much, I want to talk about it, and so today the topic is about using our technology in our law practice, and the question that I want to answer today is does technology really make a difference in injury and disability practice?
Brandon Osterbind: And of course, I'm sure that you know the answer, or my opinion on that matter here today, because I'm sitting here talking about it, I'm telling you how excited I am about it, and I'm geeking out about some of this stuff, but I like to geek out on technology because that's kind of just the nature of who I am. But I wanted to talk about just a little bit of a few things that I use technology-wise in our law practice, that we use day in and day out, and then kind of transition into how that helps us be better lawyers, and that question doesn't come up often, but is something that I think that everyone ought to look into when you are determining who to hire as your attorney. Should you hire this particular person as your attorney? Well, the question ought to be, "Well, how is this person going to help me, and how are they going to communicate with me, and are they going to do everything that needs to be done in order to win our case?"
Brandon Osterbind: So as a technology podcast goes, this is going to be pretty fun because not only am I recording this in my office with some pretty awesome technology, but I'm also, for the first time, sitting here with a camera in front of me, and I'm going to put this on YouTube as well, maybe even put it on the website too, so you can watch the podcast, you can listen to the podcast, however you consume that information, you can consume that information here. So that is pretty exciting to me, because I am not only talking about technology, but I'm using all the technology, and I'm using it all at the same time, and everything is just working together, and it is just a beautiful piece of art.
Brandon Osterbind: So thank you so much for joining us today, let me get started by talking about one of the biggest things that we do at Osterbind Law technology-wise that I think that every lawyer should be doing, and if they're not doing, then they're just refusing to enter into this century and they're just stuck in the last century, and just not doing what is required, I think, in our market today.
Brandon Osterbind: So, the first thing is that we have a paperless law office. Now, what does that mean? Does that mean that we don't have any paper? No, that's not exactly what that means, it means that we minimize paper to the greatest extent possible. So for example, when a letter comes in from a defense attorney with a discovery request or something like that, we will scan that document in, we'll put it in on our server, and then we'll also upload that into our case management system, because we want things in multiple places, having redundancy in your electronic assets is a good thing.
Brandon Osterbind: So we exercise redundancy in our online systems, but we have a paperless office, which means that everything that we... Everything that comes in and everything that goes out gets scanned and put into an electronic system, where we can access those documents at any time of day from anywhere, under any circumstances. So if I end up having to quarantine at home for 14 days, it doesn't matter, because I can still work from wherever I am, as long as I have an iPad or a computer, or even a cell phone, I mean, it's ridiculous how much you can do with a cell phone these days.
Brandon Osterbind: So our paperless office enables us to work from anywhere to do anything, and to accomplish our clients' end goals without having to be constantly in our offices, which... I love my office, it's a beautiful office, I love my furniture, and I just... I love my books, I love my bookcases, I love my setup. If you're looking at me on the camera right here, right beneath the camera I've got my MacBook Pro, my 15-inch MacBook Pro. Right directly to the left of that, I have a 27-inch monitor that's turned vertical, so it's not like... It's not like this, it's like this, and it's really tall, and I use that for drafting long documents because it's just easier to see it that way, and it's easier to see the flow of how things are going that way, you can see more on one page.
Brandon Osterbind: And then right beside that, over here I've got another 27-inch monitor that is horizontal, and that I use for... I can put multiple things next to each other, because 27 inches is a pretty big screen, and I have both of those up on an arm that's attached to my stand-up desk, so I can stand up or sit down at will, and everything on my desk goes up or down with it. So that is kind of my technology setup, and right underneath my horizontal monitor, I have my new 2019... So I guess it's not so new, but it's a 2019 iPad Pro with a brand-new Magic Keyboard, which is amazing.
Brandon Osterbind: So I have literally got everything I need right here in front of me, and everything that could... All the screen space that I could possibly use right here. So that is kind of my technology setup, and I like to use all of my screens because there are different places that I like to put things, like I said, on my vertical 27-inch monitor, I like to put my Word documents, but I like to put my preview screen with some of my apps and my file folders and our online server over on my horizontal screen, so not only can I just look at the documents, but I can preview the documents in a app that's called Path Finder, and it's amazing. I can see pretty much the entire file with one glance, and I can pull up any document at any time without having to open the file, which is pretty amazing in my opinion, it's pretty seamless, and what Path Finder would say is that Path Finder is everything that Finder should be.
Brandon Osterbind: There are definitely some improvements that Apple has made to Finder over the years, but this app in particular, even though I have to pay for it, and have to pay for upgrades and things like that, it's 100% worth it because it does everything that I need so that I can look at a case file as if it were laid out on my desk, which Finder just doesn't give me the opportunity to do.
Brandon Osterbind: So the whole paperless office concept is one that's been around for a while, lot of big companies are paperless, everything that comes in and everything that goes out gets scanned, and like I mentioned earlier, everything gets uploaded to our case management system, which... I've used MyCase for case management since probably 2013, I think. Before then, there weren't a whole lot of options for case management. Almost all of the case management systems that I know of back then were more... You'd get a CD in the mail, you plug it in, and you download and install the software onto the computer. Any updates would have to come in the form of a CD, [inaudible 00:09:18] really clunky, and not very good at doing everything that you need to do.
Brandon Osterbind: Well, some time around the late 2000s, early 2010, maybe 2012 or so, I don't recall exactly all the years, it really became a big deal to offer a case management system as a software as a service. Now, that's S-A-A-S, so software as a service is a big deal these days, so you don't actually get CDs anymore, you'll get these downloads that you can get and you install them on your computer, or you can get something that operates within your web browser, which is what MyCase is. So no longer do you have to install and update software on your computer, all you have to do is go to the website and then do everything within your web browser, so that is the software as a service concept that we're using for our case management system.
Brandon Osterbind: So the good thing about MyCase is that clients have their own portal, and they can log in and they can see all the documents that have gone in and come out in their case. Every single time a document gets shared, a new email goes out, "You have a new document." Every time there's a message that we send you or you send us, we get an email or you get an email that you have a new message in MyCase, so you can go then, log in, and you can see the information on MyCase, and that increases our communication with our clients.
Brandon Osterbind: So the other things that I would just like to briefly mention, one, MyCase actually featured me probably three or four years ago as a... Essentially a MyCase power user. Every feature that MyCase has, we use in some shape or form, whether it be the note-taking, the call log, the invoicing system, the... Yeah, the messaging system, the calendar, the workflows, all of those things, we use them, and we use them as fully as we can, because we pay a monthly subscription, and that monthly subscription essentially benefits our clients, and is just a part of the fee that they would get anyway, and it's a part of our operating expenses as a business that most law firms don't invest in.
Brandon Osterbind: I probably spend maybe $7,000, $8,000 a year on this case management system, but I don't charge any of my clients for access to their case, that is something that they should have anyway. That is a firm belief of mine, that the more information our clients know, the better they are at making informed decisions about their case, so I invest in our case management system because I feel like it's a value-add to our clients. So I'll post a link to the piece that MyCase wrote about me in the show notes so that you can read it, and I'll...
Brandon Osterbind: One thing I'll say is this article was written about me when I was still at my last firm, and I was the only one there that used it. My legal secretary used it and I used it, but no one else really used a case management system there, so it's something that I've been passionate about for a long time, but for the most part, other lawyers don't utilize, and I'm not... Still not exactly sure why. It helps me out tremendously, it functions well with the way my brain works, and maybe it just doesn't function well with how other people's brains work.
Brandon Osterbind: But the old system is just so antiquated, because if you think about it, if a letter comes in or discovery comes in, what do you have to do? You have to take that, make a copy of it, and then send it out to your client. In the old system, if I wrote a letter to an insurance adjuster or to an attorney, what would I have to do? I have to share that with my client, I would put a little "C" for... or "CC" for "Carbon copy," we don't do carbon copies, but people still put "CC," I don't know why, but they would copy... I'd have to copy my client, and what does that mean practically?
Brandon Osterbind: I have to sit and make another copy, I have to put another envelope together, [inaudible 00:14:03] to use another stamp, and I got to send it in the... Through UPS to get to my client's mailbox, and several days pass, sometimes seven, eight, nine, 10 days pass before my client knows that I sent that letter, and that's a problem. I just think that people are owed more information faster, especially here we are sitting in 2020, and people are still using CC for carbon copy, even though it's not a carbon copy, and they're still mailing documents to their client as a copy instead of providing it in electronic form, and that just blows my mind. I can't imagine a scenario where I would actually send something like that to my client in the mail. Using the electronic version is so much more efficient, it's so much better, it's so much quicker, and it's just all around a better idea, especially here as we sit in 2020.
Brandon Osterbind: And the last thing that I'll say that I use that I think is pretty cool is I use a couple of apps on my iPad, one is called TranscriptPad, another is called TrialPad, and these apps are just awesome, and they're created by a company called Lit Software. Lit Software also did a feature piece on me a couple years ago, talking about how I use their apps, and particularly TranscriptPad. One of the things I really like about TranscriptPad is that I get to read transcripts of depositions and I can tag certain things in the transcript, I can create reports of certain things, I can create subject tags, like if I want to talk just about what happened in a car accident, I can tag "Car accident," then I can hit "Print report," and every time that I've tagged something "Car accident," I'll only get a three or four-page document where every time that we've talked about the car accident, I can see everything in one place, and I don't have to read through a 60, 80, 100-page transcript to find "Where did they say this?"
Brandon Osterbind: If I've got a client who injured... Let's just say I've got a client who injured a left elbow and a right knee, I can tag every question and answer where the client talks about the left elbow, and then I can just print out a left elbow report, and I can see everything in one place where my client talked about the left elbow, and I can see everywhere that my client just talked about the right knee. Takes a little bit of work in creating the tags and making sure that everything is tagged, but that's a lot quicker and easier than the old way of going through and writing notes and creating the port... Or report, essentially longhand by reading a physical transcript and then typing everything into a memo to file.
Brandon Osterbind: That's the couple of pieces of software that I wanted to talk about, the paperless office is a big deal, now I want to talk about why is that so helpful in an injury and disability law practice? Well, the first thing that I kind of alluded to earlier is that it increases communication, and it speeds up my communications with my client. The good thing about using technology in our type of practice is at this point, in 2020, things sometimes move really fast, and then sometimes they move really slow, but what I've found is by using a case management system, the things that typically move slow can be sped up, and the things that move fast can also be better understood by our clients, it increases the degree of our communications because we can talk more in-depth.
Brandon Osterbind: When someone sees a document and doesn't understand what that document means, then they can ask a question as a comment on that document, and I can see it quickly and I can respond, or Hannah can respond, or Julia can respond, or Kelly can respond, or Karen can respond, or David can respond, we can all see the information because we're all associated with that case, and that just helps us to increase the degree and the speed at which we can communicate.
Brandon Osterbind: The next thing that I'll say about why is it helpful or even necessary for an injury or disability practice to use technology and to use it well, is that it creates better accountability and progress in your case. So one of the things that we do is we use workflows in our case management system, so for example in a personal injury case, the court always issues the same pre-trial scheduling order which has certain deadlines for certain things, so we have a workflow and all we have to do is add that workflow to our system, and then all of a sudden the tasks get automatically created, the calendar events get automatically created, and all that information is shared with our team so that we can keep each other accountable to make sure that the case is progressing the way that it should be progressing.
Brandon Osterbind: So, one of the things that I think is really important too is that we can communicate with our clients and our clients can see the information coming in and going out, and the client can see whether we responded to things, and the client can see whether there's something that needs to happen that hasn't happened, and if the client has questions about that, the client can call us and say, "Why haven't you done this?" And there may be a good answer, there may not be a good answer, so we have an increased level or degree of accountability because we use a case management system.
Brandon Osterbind: Now, if you don't want your client to know all of these things, then maybe you don't use a case management system. I personally would prefer my client to know all of these things, know these deadlines, know that these tasks are coming, know that these documents are coming in, because that increases the degree of my accountability to my client. I'm already accountable to my client, if I mess things up, then that's a malpractice issue and I'll need to call my carrier, but I don't have any intention of doing that because I want my client to know everything that's going on in the case, every piece of information that comes in and goes out on this particular case.
Brandon Osterbind: The third thing that I'll say about why it's important to use technology in a practice like ours is it increases the emphasis on the process, and the process is where it's very important. I'm a firm believer in creating systems in our law practice, systems in the way that we go about trying and pursuing good results for these cases. So if you follow the system, the good result ought to follow as well, so if you figure out the best way or the best practices to do these certain things, and if you follow the system, then everything ought to work out on the backend, so we have worked really hard inside of MyCase to create this system where things can get done and things can get done well.
Brandon Osterbind: So emphasizing the process itself will increase the degree of the results that we get is the idea, so if you emphasize the process, the result ought to be more consistent, and the result ought to be better as a whole. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at the whole practice from an aerial perspective. We do that at least once a month, and emphasizing the process in our case management system and with our technology helps us and gives us the freedom to take a step back and say, "Okay, how many cases do we have in the discovery phase? How many cases do we have in the treatment phase? How many cases do we have in the pre-litigation phase? How many cases do we have in the litigation phase? How many cases do we need to set for trial? How many cases are already set for trial? How many cases have we tried, or how many cases do we have that are settled?"
Brandon Osterbind: So by dividing the cases up that way, makes it easier to take an aerial view of our cases as a whole, and then you can batch-produce things. So if I'm doing a bunch of discovery in one day, just makes it a little bit easier if I'm in discovery mode to do a ton of discovery in one day, as opposed to doing a little bit discovery on Monday, a little bit of discovery on Wednesday, and a little bit discovery on Friday, we could do it all at once, knock it all out, and it'll be even better because I'm thinking about discovery issues all at the same time, and it enables us to be more consistent across cases, and overall I think emphasizing that process will make the end result that much better.
Brandon Osterbind: And the last thing I'll say about why is it important to use technology in a practice, an injury and disability practice, is that it limits human error. One of the things that I haven't talked about yet today is our document automation process. So there are several documents in our practice that we repeatedly send out over and over and over and over and over again, and the only things that we change are the names, the last four digits of the Social Security number, the date of birth for our client. Those things have to change, but I have had those medical records requests or things sent back because someone forgot to change the date of birth, and those are simple things, but they're important things, so what we have done is we have created templates for all of these documents that we routinely use over and over and over again, we've created templates for these documents, and we... Our case management system has our client's date of birth, our client's name, our client's Social Security number, all of those things are already there, and what we'll do is...
Brandon Osterbind: All we have to do is hit a button in our case management system, and the document is automatically generated, so it limits the human error aspect of document creation, because that is whenever you are copying and pasting or if you're just command, save as sort of thing, if you're just saving a new document and changing the information from the last time you did it, that's not a good practice. If you have a document, for example, if you have a discovery document that perhaps the last time you did it, you took a couple questions out because they weren't relevant to that particular case, if you go back to that discovery document and you just change the names, you're missing a few important questions.
Brandon Osterbind: So what we do is we will automatically generate the discovery document with all the questions that we ever ask, and then we'll go in there and we'll delete the ones for this particular case, but we're not going to change the standard document that we use in every case, we're only going to change it to adapt to this case, but the base form that we go to has all of the requests, and then we'll tailor it to the specific case after we auto-generate it, and the case number, the client's name, the defendant's name, the attorney's name, the address, all of that stuff is automatically populated in our case management system, and it creates and pumps out a Word document. So I just think it reduces the ability for human error, increases consistency, and overall makes us a better practice than a law firm that does not use a case management system. So it's important, I think, to know whether your law firm uses a case management system, and then to know to what extent do you use that case management system?
Brandon Osterbind: I had another case management company contact me recently, and I told... Julia took the call, and Julia was talking to them, and she said, "You can schedule an appointment to talk to him, but he said the chances of us switching from MyCase are slim to none." So I ended up on about an hour-long phone call with these people, and talking to them about this case management system that they claim is the best thing since sliced bread, but the only problem was that it didn't have a client portal, my clients can't log in. I simply cannot fathom a case management system without a client portal, because it's so important to me that my clients know everything about what's going on in their case, and even if you don't understand it, you at least saw the document go out and you are... You're in a position to ask the question easily, "What does this practically mean for me?" And I can quickly and easily respond to that message, so I'm just...
Brandon Osterbind: I think that the case management system, the paperless office, the iPad and the apps on the iPad that we use, add significant value to our practice as a personal injury and ERISA disability law firm, because it just adds value to our clients, it helps you understand and know more about your case than you would ever know otherwise. I hope that you agree with me, I hope if you are a current client, you've had this experience with MyCase. If you haven't, of course I want to know about it. If you have, I'd also want to know about it too, I like to know the things that you like, the things that maybe could be done better.
Brandon Osterbind: Thing I love about MyCase is if I make a suggestion to them, a lot of times, they'll implement it, which is very unique. I've had several things where I have sent them a message and said, "You know, this would really be better if it did this," and then MyCase a month later has figured out how to implement that, and all of a sudden it's there, so it's wonderful, if you have ideas about how this can be done better, let me know and I'll forward those along to MyCase, and any other case management people that we talk to along the way, I'll tell them what our clients say.
Brandon Osterbind: And if you're an attorney and if you want to know more about how we use MyCase, I have sat down with a couple of attorneys, local attorneys, and I've helped them set up their MyCase, I've shown them how MyCase works for us. I've even given out templates to other attorneys in our area and it's a huge value-add to them, and I do it not to toot my own horn, but I do it because I want to help people. I think that's just in my nature, I like to help people, I guess it's why I do what I do, but several other attorneys have come to me and said, "Show me how you do this, show me how this works for you," and I've sat down in my conference room, I put my screen up on the TV, and I've gone through a fake case, and I've shown people how to create documents, how to use messaging, how to use a call log, all of those things, how to use document automation.
Brandon Osterbind: The problem is it just takes a little bit of effort, and to set everything up, it takes a lot of effort, and it's a lot of time that I've spent sitting on my couch on a Saturday night when all the kids are in bed, plugging away, creating a new template. Those are things I do that I don't get paid for, so to speak, I don't get paid by the hour for that sort of thing, but it's stuff that has to happen in order to increase the degree of our client experience, which is very important to me.
Brandon Osterbind: So, I hope this podcast has been helpful for you guys. Of course, if you have questions about how we use technology or any suggestions on apps that maybe I didn't talk about, or things that you think could be helpful in our practice, I'm always open to suggestions. I tell our team here, "Just because we've always done it that way, doesn't mean that's the best way to do it," so if you have suggestions, we're always open to change our system or our process if there's something better out there in the world. So if you find that, send it to me, send it to my email, email@example.com, happy to chat with you, happy to engage. Hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to hearing from you, thanks, bye.
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