By Jeffrey Allen
Business in a Box professional ( www.Business-in-a-Box.com) provides an all-purpose collection of letters and basic forms designed to address a variety of business and personal matters. Lawyers who have been in practice for a substantial time likely have created their own collection from their practice and will find Business in a Box marginally useful. A new lawyer, however, will likely find significant utility in it. I am not suggesting that the lawyer would take the letters or forms and use them verbatim (although in some cases that might occur). But the letters and forms can serve as a base that the lawyer can modify to meet the needs of his or her particular situation.
Although certainly many of the letters and forms could stand some improvement, they serve as a decent starting point and at their cost of $199.95 represent a reasonable investment, particularly for a lawyer just starting out in practice. The Pro version includes three user licenses. The documents address issues categorized under the following heads: Business Planning & Management, Contractors & Consultants, Credit & Collection, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Internet & Technology, Legal, Operations & Logistics, Real Estate, Sales & Marketing. The professional version includes 1,264 forms and letters. The company also offers a scaled down, single license, “Basic” version for $99 as well. The basic version only includes 695 letters and forms and does not include any documents for the headings of Human Resources or Real Estate. For that reason, most general practitioners will find the Professional version more useful.
The program works with both Mac OS and Windows computers. The only difference between the two versions is that the Windows installation is fully automatic, whereas the Macintosh version requires some manual installation. The forms and letters come in MS Word format for easy use and modification.
To acquire the program, you purchase it online and download the installer.
By Jeffrey Allen
Research In Motion, better known as RIM, makes the various devices that carry the common name Blackberry. I recently had the opportunity to test two of the newer Blackberry offerings from RIM, the 7100g and the 8700c, both of which operate on the Cingular system. To understand the names of the devices, you need to know that the four numbers represent the family of devices and the letters represent modifications made for individual carriers. In the 7100 series the phones actually look different for each provider. Both phones are available from several providers. As always, phones obtained from different providers may have different features; check the feature list before you buy to be sure.
All products of converged technology represent a compromise between the root sources it converges. These devices converge PDA and phone functions. The 7100g feel more “phone-like” than the 8700c. The 8700c feels more like a PDA than a phone. The 7100g felt more natural when held up to the ear like a phone, although the 8700c, with its concave sides, proved much more easily held than its predecessors. It actually felt comfortable held in that fashion. As a practical matter, however, most users will, I think, prefer to use a headset (I know that I do). As both phones have Bluetooth built-in, users can choose between wired and wireless earphones.
|8700c (4.7 oz.; quad band world phone; 4.3" x 2.7" x 0.77"; Up to 4 hours talk time).||7100g (4.2 oz., quad band world phone; 4.7" x 2.3" x 0.8"; Up to 4 hours talk time).|
The two phones represent very different approaches to form. The 8700 looks more like the last several generations of Blackberry devices. Its form shows its PDA heritage, but has been modified to the point that it is a comfortable and useful telephone device. It has an excellent screen that provides a clear, crisp display with rich color performance. It also has a full thumb board keypad. The 7100 has a candy bar shape, establishing the telephone as its dominant form. It has a smaller screen that, while clear and crisp, does not display the same vividness of color as the 8700. The 7100 screen is 240 x 640 pixels while the screen on the 8700 is 340 x 620 pixels, because of its candy bar shape. The 7100 also has a 20-character keyboard with larger keys than the 8700c. The 7100 uses double character assignments to each key and employs a predictive text technology called “SureType” that allows the half-sized keyboard to function adequately. The 8700 has a 35-character QWERTY thumb board. I found that SureType somewhat disconcerting. It works through a process that allows it to guess at what word you are typing based on the letters you type. As you start to type, it starts to guess. The more you type, the more its guesses change, until it gets the right word. While I thought it was interesting to watch it work, I found its error rate too high for me to feel that it saved me any time.
Both phones have Bluetooth capabilities and can use both hard-wired and Bluetooth headsets. Note, however, that both phones use a mini-USB connection, so they require a special headset or a newly available adapter that will allow you to use a standard headset. They also have built-in speakerphones.
Both devices come with cabling and software to allow them to synch the calendar, contact, notes, and tasks functions with your computer. Both can charge through a USB connection to the computer as well as through the use of standard AC and DC chargers.
The devices function almost identically. They both include proprietary contact and calendar features, as well as the ability to record notes and tasks to be done. Additional programs have become available to make the devices more functional and allow them to better compete with the Palm and Windows Mobile devices. In fairness, however, when it comes to “add-on” programs, the Windows Mobile devices still have many more options than the RIM devices, and the Palm devices have much more software available than the Windows Mobile devices.
The RIM devices are commonly referred to as “Blackberries” (although some people who have observed the almost continual use that many users make of the devices have nicknamed them “Crackberries”). The strength of the Blackberry devices has always been the elegant and effective manner in which they handle email. While the Blackberry devices have had more challengers join the party in recent times, they generally still do one of the best, if not the best job in handling email. They use a push technology, which sends the email to your device. You can get the information directly from your own system, assuming it is properly configured. If you do not have an email system configured to take advantage of the Blackberry features, you can use the one set up by Cingular as an email client, have it check your email account(s), grab the mail, and push it out to your device. I have used the Cingular system and tied it to several email accounts. That has worked very satisfactorily for me.
The Blackberry devices have traditionally worked only on the Windows platform, but they no longer have that limitation. The availability of third-party software from PocketMac makes the device compatible with the Mac OS X platform (v. 10.3 and later). Among the calendar programs that will work for synchronization on the Mac side are: Entourage, Address Book/iCal, Now Contact/Now Up-To-Date, Daylite, and Sticky Notes. I tried PocketMac on both devices, synching to Entourage. I found that it worked flawlessly with the 8700c, but that it would occasionally hiccough with the 7100g and hang up after synching contacts. As the program allows you to synch Contacts, Calendar, Notes and Tasks independently as well as collectively, I was able to resolve that problem successfully by synching the Calendar, Notes, and Tasks separately. PocketMac and RIM worked out an arrangement so that the software costs nothing. I have been told that it will come packaged with new RIM devices. Note that the PocketMac website reports that the software works with older RIM devices as well, going back as far as the 957. You can obtain full details as well as download a fee copy from the PocketMac site: www.pocketmac.com.
The cost of the device will vary according to your provider. Discounts exist in many cases associated with the opening of a new account or the upgrading of a phone in conjunction with extending the term of an existing account. The Cingular website shows the 7100g with a list price of $249.99 and the 8700c with a list price of $349.99. At the present time, both phones automatically come with a $50 mail-in rebate.
Both devices worked competently as PDAs and handled email extremely well. Both devices can be used with or without headsets. A user can comfortably hold either to his/her ear during a call; however, I suspect that most users will find it preferable to use earphones (I have a strong preference for the wireless variety). Both devices functioned quite satisfactorily as telephones as well and handled the email and PDA functions. Because of the screen and the keyboard, I prefer the 8700c to the 7100g, but both worked quite well.
By Lindsay Thompson
I don’t forget things in the daily rush like I used to. I don’t have to carry so much around in my head, either. That’s because I don’t have to as Microsoft’s OneNote 2003 has eliminated the dozens of indistinguishable legal pads that used to cover the desktops and fill up file folders in the offices of my general practice firm.
OneNote essentially turns your computer into a legal pad, Post-It note, organizer, timekeeper, research file, and tickler file all wrapped into one—only better, because you can find whatever you need in seconds flat.
With OneNote, you don’t have to know where anything is; its extremely fast search feature finds whatever you need. That’s because OneNote aggregates information in a different way—as long as I’ve entered something, I can find it. I use OneNote in a dozen essential ways for transactional work, litigation, and then some.
I begin by opening a side-note for the day. Side notes are like throw-away sheets. Whatever passes through my mind during course of the day goes on that page—from client matters to errands. As the day progresses, I jot down the notes of my phone conversations, internal discussions, and thoughts on various issues as they occur to me, then I can organize and shift them around. The time stamp is particularly useful for telephone conversations—that’s one less, albeit important, element that I have to think about. And it doesn’t go away unless I want it to. OneNote sits open in the corner of my screen while I’m working in other programs and keeps my mind free to focus on the matter at hand.
At the end of the day, I drag the notes I’ve taken into their relevant files, so there is no need to recopy or type them as I (or someone I pay) would have to do if they were running on one or even a few legal pads. If I am working on one case, and it triggers thoughts on another matter, I record those in OneNote and I don’t have to worry about not being able to find or reorganize the information later. The same holds true for the constant interruptions caused by other pressing issues; any notes I take on the matter are in OneNote, and the information is always there.
When I need to find a phone number, OneNote promptly finds any number I’ve recorded there. If I do web research and find something interesting, I simply drag the info into my OneNote pad. It saves text, graphics, and links. To share research or the contents of a transaction or client call with another member of my firm, I simply click on the email icon, and off it goes; no need to spend time composing something new, attaching documents, or worrying that it will get buried in the recipient’s inbox—the information shows right up in their OneNote folder.
OneNote is also very adaptable in terms of how it presents the information for you. If you are searching for a name and it is one of five entries, OneNote will present you with a list view of each of the five entries. Simply click on the one you are looking for.
Lawyers wedded to the look of the legal pad needn’t despair. OneNote has a host of stationery choices—including the classic yellow legal pad, choice of pen color and thickness for writing in OneNote by hand. OneNote then translates handwriting into text that can be used in more formal documents.
For sheer volume, OneNote is especially handy. As I head into my 31st deposition on a pending case, my only regret is that I held out on purchasing a tablet PC. Using OneNote on a laptop or tablet PC, one can record entire depositions in both audio and video. At trial, OneNote can pull up a name or specific piece of testimony, and it would be at my fingertips in moments—highly preferable to and significantly more economical than sifting through thousands of pages of deposition testimony. It is also extremely useful for deals that go on endlessly and through myriad iterations. On the more mundane side, I use OneNote to track office supplies.
OneNote serves me beyond my practice as well. I used it in my role as secretary for a nonprofit organization. And, as an amateur chef, I keep an extensive recipe section in OneNote. I capture recipes from email subscriptions and links to research on food-related items. When I want to recall the information, OneNote pulls it right up on my computer at home. I do the same with travel articles as well.
OneNote is highly flexible. From color-coding to calendaring, you can organize and flag your information in OneNote with as little or as much input as suits you. Accessible and intuitive, Microsoft really knows its legal audience.
My OneNote and I are off to a running start in 2006.
Lindsay Thompson is a shareholder in Thompson Gipe, P.C., in Seattle and a past member of the OneNote Attorney Advisory Panel.