THE CHAIR’S CORNER

Is Your Mouse Pad Compatible with Your Computer?

By Keith B. McLennan

I am sure that all of you can speak and write volumes regarding your technology experience. Often, it is critical that we step away from the “advanced” elements of law office technology—elements we glean from GPSolo magazine, the Technology eReport, and the publications of ABA entities such as the Law Practice Management Section and our Division’s other dependable partners and sponsors—to get back to basics so that we can see the forest in spite of the trees.

Solos and small law firms are incubators for the types of problems that most technology vendors tend to address in high-priced solutions aimed at much larger customers. We’re also plagued by the types of problems that many technology vendors tend to ignore entirely. I know that through the years my five-lawyer firm has spent gobs of money trying to organize our practice, become more efficient, and effectively compete with the larger shops. Regrettably, I must say that we have failed. That being said, we have come a long way since our single-page copier, UNIX-based computer system, and dual phone line. We now enjoy a Microsoft Exchange Server, a dual-sided copier/printer/scanner, and a multiline automated phone system. Although our capacity to handle more information has increased with the new equipment, our brains can only handle so much. I implore all of you to return to the basic premise of technology as a tool that is designed to help us and not a device to which we must answer and be subservient. To do this, I encourage you to spend a few minutes reviewing the articles in this edition.

Our selection of feature articles starts with an overview of all “The Basics” to consider when outfitting a new office or updating your old one. We not only cover the hardware and software you’ll need, but we also guide you on how to make your purchase, how to set up maintenance contracts, and how to ensure your system’s security. We even point you in the right direction to get help when good technology goes bad.

Next up is “Mediating a Holy War: Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux.” Although many have declared Bill Gates the victor, you should review your computer operating system with the help of this article.

Perhaps the most innovative yet basic concept is online software. Solos and small firms should give this option a critical look. It allows you to avoid those hassles you inevitably will incur when upgrading your software or changing your network. I can tell you from first-hand experience that, after replacing our server two months ago, the $8,000 we spent on the server itself was only the tip of the iceberg. If you factor in the lost productivity, the downtime, and the loss of all of our personal settings and tools owing to the changeover, the expense more than likely was three times the amount we paid to the computer guy.

Similarly, just like your moving buddy from Toy Story, if you do not have a smart phone or PDA by now, “get one.” I started using a PDA more than six years ago, and it quickly became invaluable. When the PDA was merged with a cell phone, it became critical. No matter how much I sought to resist always being reachable for the instantaneous setting of schedules, the smart phone has become a vital tool. It began with the Treo and it has since evolved into many different platforms and manufacturers to choose from. The PDA still has some uses—particularly if you aren’t allowed to bring a cell phone into court. Our article “Is the PDA Dead?” will spell out your options.

Topics such as the “Paperless Office” and document management remain important in my firm. Word processors and computers were supposed to reduce the need for paper documents—but they seem to have done the opposite. Although we now attempt to scan everything, it is not as easy as it seems. Management of those documents is the rub. I am not so sure a solid program for small firms even exists. However, I defer to the authors for their guidance.

And don’t miss our overview of the “Sweet Suites” you have to choose from. I am sure my office is no different than most others when we spend an inordinate amount of time looking for paper files. Office suites can provide you the foundation to organize your practice so you can more quickly and more readily locate those critical documents necessary to succeed.

Finally, articles such as “Backing Up,” “Courtroom Technology,” and “The End of Travel: Online Collaboration and Communications” will steer you toward the right choices.

I am happy to say that this edition of the Technology & Practice Guide is a prime example of how our Division can give you the nuts-and-bolts guidance you need to maximize the efficiency of your practice through simplification. Enjoy! 

Keith B. McLennan is Chair of the GP|Solo Division . He may be reached at .

Copyright 2008

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