Blog design with Artisteer

This blog uses WordPress, but since I wanted to create my own theme instead of using someone else’s, I needed a theme editor. (My choice was to either find a wysiwyg editor or learn CSS, which I didn’t have time for.) Luckily, I found  Artisteer 2 which is $49.95 for home and academic use and $129.95 standard edition. There is a free trial version and I urge you to try it first before you purchase it, since there’s no refund.

Artisteer not only generates WordPress themes, it can generate Joomla templates, Drupal themes, DotNetNuke skins, and Blogger templates. Artisteer software has a clean interface (it actually reminded me of Word 2007) and it was simple to choose one of their blog themes and then edit it extensively to get pretty much the look I wanted. I was able to add different fonts, although it includes dozens. Artisteer can customize almost everything in the themes by color, font, size and more. One drawback: it comes with a limited amount of clipart images for use in the header, but you can also use your own.

Artisteer is a fairly inexpensive option when compared to other products out there, like Dreamweaver ($399 for new users) or Adobe Contribute CS4 at around $199 for a new license. If you already own Dreamweaver, you can download a free extension called ThemeDreamer, which allows WYSIWYG editing of WordPress. There are also other WYSIWIG editors, such as Microsoft SharePoint Designer.

Artisteer

Old client files

“How long do I have to keep my old, closed client files?” Believe it or not, that is the number one question we get asked in the Practice Management Assistance Program (PMAP). Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask it. Our Risk Management Counsel, Jill Rothstein, hears it just as often.

So, what’s the answer? We wish we knew for sure. The SC Rules of Professional Conduct are clear that lawyers must safeguard their clients’ property, but for how long isn’t clear. Appellate Court Rule 417 ‘Financial Recordkeeping‘ cites six years after termination of representation for financial records. It is probably this rule that leads lawyers to extrapolate that six years is a good rule of thumb to follow for keeping old files. But I often hear of firms who keep them longer. The record for longest amount of time is held by a small firm lawyer who inherited the practice from his father, who bought it from another lawyer. They had about 95 years’ worth of files.

moldy files

moldy files

The Bar Ethics Advisory Committee has done its utmost to assist lawyers by issuing an FAQ (frequently asked question) on the matter. FAQ #1 can be found online. Be sure to read it before forming your own office policy.

Hurricanes

To the people of Mississippi and Louisiana, Katrina is the big one. For south Florida, it is Andrew. But for the people of South Carolina, Hugo is our big hurricane. Hugo was the most intense hurricane ever to strike the US coast north of Florida*.  It killed 35 people in the U.S. and caused billions of dollars in damage.* Everyone who lived through that hurricane has a story to tell and most of us will never forget it. One of the things that made Hugo so unforgettable was that it wasn’t limited to only the coastal communities. Hugo roared inland, cutting a huge swath across South Carolina. Even Charlotte suffered, with parts of the city without power for nearly two weeks.

hurhugo

Today, September 21, is the twenty year anniversary of Hurricane Hugo.  (Since the eye of Hugo actually made landfall near midnight on the 21st, we officially remember both the 21st and 22nd as the Hugo anniversary.)  If you don’t remember Hugo, or you want to reflect on it after the passage of twenty years, the Charleston Post and Courier has posted photos, stories, videos and more online. You can also find links to helpful hurricane preparedness resources there. The SC Bar disaster and emergency preparedness page contains even more links to other resources. Be sure to click the link to request a free copy of the Bar disaster preparedness handbook, Prepare, while you are there (or follow this link).

Perhaps we should set aside September 21 every year to review and update our firm’s disaster procedures. Even solos should do this, particularly where technology is concerned. Everyone should be able to answer this question with certainty: “If something happened to my computer today (theft, hard drive failure, flood, fire) can I be up and running on another computer – with all my previous work and programs – quickly and simply?”  If you can’t answer this question in the affirmative, contact me.

If you were practicing law during Hugo, please comment below and share your memories and tips — they may benefit other lawyers.

Sticky fingers

How can you prevent law office theft, fraud and embezzlement? One way is to be aware of the potential problem areas so that you can be alert and vigilant. Blogger Laura Calloway, the practice management advisor of the Alabama State Bar, has collected an excellent list of procedures you can put in place to prevent problems in your office. Example: Always reconcile bank statements within two days of their arrival in the office. To see the whole list, go to the September 16 post on The Last Word.

Travel diversions

Is there a better way to spend time on a cloudy Friday than checking out some fun and fascinating websites? (OK, probably there is, but humor me.) My new Sites for Sore Eyes column (co-written with Jim Calloway) is in the latest edition of GPSolo Technology eReport.  The topic? Travel sites you may never have heard of.  Most are useful to one degree or another, and some are rather humorous. I don’t know why, but I find it amusing that there is a website devoted to finding clean public restrooms around the globe (The Bathroom Diaries).  This eReport contains an article on iPhone apps and one on SaaS (‘software as a service’ – everyone’s favorite new catchphrase). There’s also a review of the 2009 iteration of QuickBooks for the Mac. Be sure to check out eReport whenever it comes out – usually quarterly. It’s always free and online.

tech eReport

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