GPSolo Magazine - January/February 2006

BEING SOLO

Revenge of the Sick and Tired

I want all of you right now to go to your computers, pick them up, and throw them out the window. Yes, that’s correct, one big heave-ho out the window, without even packing it in bubble wrap first. Just be sure that it doesn’t hit anyone on the way down.

Then, I want you to go out on the sidewalk where your computer landed and use a sledgehammer to finish the job. Yes, indeed, whack the remains of your computer with all your might, so that there is nothing recognizable left. As you’re swinging the sledgehammer, think of all the wrongs for which you are taking revenge. Whack!—that’s for the time you crashed and I lost a whole afternoon’s worth of work! Whack!—that’s for the time I sat on the phone all morning with tech support trying to fix some obscure software problem.

So, how do you feel? Pretty satisfied, I bet. Oh, by the way, those who actually followed my advice and destroyed their computer are long overdue for a vacation and are instructed to take one immediately—without your cell phone.

But I’m sure just reading about it made you feel pretty good. You got to imagine a world where there was no more protecting your computer from viruses, spyware, and other evil intruders. A world where no longer do you have to wonder whether your operating system has all of its patches installed, or whether your antivirus software has the latest update. No more having your time consumed by bizarre maintenance chores that you really don’t understand, like defragging your hard drive and compressing databases. And guess what—in this world you no longer need to have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night because you didn’t set up an effective backup routine. You don’t have to worry about losing your data because you chucked it all out the window!

To quote from the 1951 film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I’ve come to them.”

Well, that’s how I feel—sometimes. And I’m sure that this is how you feel, sometimes or perhaps a lot of the time, especially as a solo attorney with no tech department to turn to when a computer problem arises. But perhaps my solution here is a bit too radical, so maybe there are some other steps that you can take to get some relief from all of that computer angst.

The Cure

While there are some frustrating aspects about a computer that you simply can’t do much about, a large part of your frustration may come from things that can be fixed. Solo attorneys tend to want to go it alone. Armed with their “can-do” philosophy, they’d prefer figuring it out themselves rather than spending money on expert advice to improve their computer setup.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of frustration and many wasted hours. If you want relief, don’t take aspirin, rather consider these alternatives:

  • Hire a technician for a diagnostic analysis of your computer.
  • Get training for your software applications.
  • Upgrade your operating system and software applications.
  • Buy more computer memory to increase the speed of your computer.
  • Buy a new computer.

Hiring a Technician

A technician can fix a lot of problems that slow down and interfere with operations of a computer, such as:

  • Corruption of the Microsoft Windows’ registry.
  • Incorrect display settings. For instance, the type on your screen may be too small for you, which can be remedied by adjusting your screen resolution or by changing the font size.
  • Settings that slow down your Internet connection.
  • Infection by one or more viruses.
  • Spyware.

Yes, some of these problems you can solve by yourself, like cleaning out spyware with software that you can download from the Internet for free. But because this isn’t your field of expertise, you may miss something, like some of the particularly pernicious forms of spyware that are resistant to such programs.

Training

Odds are pretty good that you taught yourself how to use most of your software applications. If you really took the time to read the software manual thoroughly, then you might not need further training.

But if you are like most people, you probably learned just enough to get going, and refer back to the manual only when you are stuck. The problem with this is that you are not using the program as efficiently as you could, and you are missing out on a lot of useful features that you would learn about if you received training. Software application training will repay itself many times over.

Upgrading

I know some lawyers who are still using Windows 95, a ten-year-old operating system. I can’t even begin to describe all of the reasons why this is a really bad idea. Lawyers seem to do this a lot, resisting change in technology. You may resist upgrading your operating system because your present computer is not powerful enough to run the new system, so you would have to buy a new computer before upgrading. These days you can buy a new desktop computer that will handle all of your needs for under $500. No more excuses.

You also may be using a billing program or word processor that is several versions behind the times. You are cheating yourself out of more and better features and a better-running software program (well, most of the time—sometimes a publisher puts out a real dog of an upgrade. So be sure to check around before upgrading. The ABA’s discussion board Solosez is a good place to do this).

Thanks for the Memory

That’s what you’ll be saying when you add more memory to your computer. I am talking about random access memory (commonly known as “RAM”) here, not the memory on your hard drive. With more RAM your computer will run smoother and faster. For under $100 you can easily purchase a substantial upgrade of 512 megabytes of memory. Purchase your upgrades from your computer’s manufacturer or see if you can save some money by buying from a reputable supplier on the Internet, such as Crucial (www.crucial.com), which also sells its memory to some of the major PC manufacturers.

Out with the Old, in with the New

So how about it? You’ve had that old clunker for five years now, a couple of lifetimes in computer years. As I have already said, you can buy a new computer for under $500, so price is no longer an excuse. The biggest challenge will be transferring all of your data from your old computer to your new one. There are several programs (known as system migration tools) that can help you do this, such as Aloha Bob’s PC Relocator (at www.alohabob.com).

For the bargain you will get a faster and more capable processor, more memory, a current operating system (which hasn’t begun to decay from years of operation and installing all kinds of software), a bigger hard drive, and many other features such as plenty of USB ports. If you spring for a DVD reader/writer, you can use your new PC to back up a lot of data.

When Computers Fly

So give some of my suggestions a try. You might resist at first, but please make an attempt to adopt at least some of these—we certainly don’t want an epidemic of computers flying out of windows.

David Leffler is a member of the New York City law firm Leffler Marcus & McCaffrey LLC, which represents clients in business matters and litigation. Prior to that he was a solo attorney for over a dozen years. You can write to him at lefflermailbox@aol.com.

 

 

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