Summer 2015: Helpful Tech for Family Law Practitioners

by Gabriel Cheong

I once came across an opposing lawyer on a family law case who didn’t use email.  Every communication had to be done by phone (and we all know how responsive attorneys are), or mailing or by fax.  Working on that case made me feel as if I was transported back in time and practicing in the 1970s.  We live in a gilded age of technology and we don’t have to accept that how it was done in the past is how it should always be done.  We can do it better and faster.


It’s hard to justify family attorneys in Massachusetts going completely paperless because the Probate and Family Courts do not yet have electronic filing or docketing available.  In my firm, every document and mail that comes in and out of the office is scanned and filed electronically.  For all open cases, we keep a paper file because we need it to bring to court.  Once the file is closed, we make sure all documents are scanned, then we give our clients the option to get the physical file, and we shred the rest.  We have eliminated the need for costly storage units to hold years and years of client files.

The upside of this is obviously saving space.  It also allows us easy access to client files that have closed at any time.  If an old client calls, we can immediately retrieve their old file without having to dig through dust covered boxes.

The first step to go paperless is to get a scanner.  If you’re a small firm, get a desktop scanner for yourself and other attorneys or paralegals.  We use the ScanSnap S1500 in our office.  If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work, you can hire a summer intern to do the work of scanning and implementing a system.  Start by committing your firm to scanning everything going forward then slowly work your way back in time to old files and folders.

Another move to paperless involves the shifting away from a real fax machine and moving it to efax.  Electronic fax is done mainly through email.  Faxes are sent through email to a fax number and faxes received are through your email as a PDF file.  If your recipient has a real fax machine, they will not be able to notice a difference between a real fax on your end or efax.  Popular efaxing services include Myfax, efax, Ring Central, and Metrofax.  Research some pricing and options online before committing to a service because that service will own your existing fax line once you port it to them from your existing phone carrier.

Cloud Computing

Being on the cloud gets used a lot but how does it apply to family lawyers and what’s the best use of it for us specifically?  The advantage of cloud computing is that (1) it frees up the need for a server in your office; and (2) it makes all your firm information available anywhere you can login to an internet connection.  

Being on the cloud means that you can practice from anywhere in the world and you no longer have to be tethered to your office.  You no longer have to call your office secretary or paralegal for files.  Anywhere you are, you have access to your entire firm.

First you’re going to need a cloud Client Relationship Management (CRM) system.  There are plenty out there – CLIO and RocketMatter being two popular ones.  This is a software that doesn’t exist on your computer but instead is a website where you upload all of your client data, transactions, tasks, set up new matters, bill, etc. It is your legal secretary all in one.  

Second step is to actually make your client files available online.  This requires that you have already implemented the paperless office system above.  Once you do that, you can use a system such as Dropbox or SpiderOak to securely hold your files online.  These cloud storage solutions work like a folder on your computer and syncs with itself across all platforms so you will have access to your data everywhere you go.  Be careful and read up on security when it comes to these cloud based storage solutions.

Phone and Tablet Apps

Once you’re on the cloud, your work life should be 100% easier and less tethered to your physical office.  Download the accompanying cloud application onto your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to make sure you’re fully connected.

A useful app to have on your tablet is iSplit Pro, which is currently available only for iPads. It is an app that helps you and your clients visualize a property division along with debt during a divorce.  You can see visually how debt and property is split up and it will provide you with a spreadsheet so you can see the numerical breakdown.  It is a helpful tool to help clients visualize a settlement during pretrial.

Another necessary app to have as a family lawyer is something to calculate child support on the fly.  As we all know, if we do it by hand at the courthouse, the numbers never come out the same twice.  MA Divorce App is an app that my firm developed to help calculate child support, alimony, and date of divorce nisi.  It is only available for iPhone and iPad.  Saugus based family law firm, Finn & Eaton, has developed a child support app for Android devices which you can download at the Google Play Store for free

Once you fully implement these changes to your firm, I promise you that your work/life balance will improve.  If you have questions, reach out to LOMAP for help or contact me.

Gabriel Cheong is the owner of Infinity Law Group LLC in Quincy, MA.  He holds a JD from Northeastern University School of Law, a BS in Computer Science and a BA in Mathematics from Binghamton University.  Gabriel started his own law firm straight out of law school.  His law firm grew steadily for the first year until he had the opportunity to purchase the law firm where he once interned in law school.  In 2008, Gabriel purchased Infinity Law Group and is now running his law firm while blogging, tweeting, marketing and giving seminars on marketing and law practice management on a regular basis.  His law practice is primarily focused on divorce and family law litigation and mediation.  Gabriel currently serves as a council member of the Law Practice Management section of the Massachusetts Bar Association and is also the Vice President of Starting Out Solo, Inc., a group devoted to helping attorneys who start a private practice after law school succeed.  He also serves as the Immediate Past President of Quincy Asian Resources, Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to helping the Asian community through information services, outreach, language classes, legal clinics, volunteering and youth programs.  In his spare time, Gabriel enjoys the company of his house rabbits and Corgi.