Anyone who has ever juggled trial bags, luggage and a computer while traveling, or who has been stuck in court with a computer but no phone line, knows that laptops are not the ideal way to stay connected to the office. Computers have come a long way from the days when a Compaq "portable" was so heavy that it required its own personal transport system. However, today's notebooks and laptops do have their drawbacks. Fortunately, advances in software for wireless handheld devices are making it possible for lawyers to leave the laptop at home and still have remote access to their vital business information.
What Can You Do with Wireless?
Software offerings today allow mobile lawyers to use handheld devices or personal digital assistants (PDAs) for much more than e-mail retrieval and Web browsing. By combining PDAs or handhelds with a wireless network and software, you can reach into the work documents you need to conduct your practice. Here are some tasks you can now accomplish without a dial-up connection.
Access and use e-mail attachments. You can use your PDA or handheld with wireless software to view and print a wide range of e-mail attachments-including word processing documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides and Web pages.
Read and print network files. Available software allows you to read and print files stored on your firm's network using your handheld device. Granted, you aren't going to want to read an entire brief on your PDA screen, but you can quickly scan a document residing in your network files to be certain you have the correct version. This feature is also handy if you are in the midst of revisions and want to print the most recent version of a document for review and edits, or if a document was undergoing last-minute changes while you were traveling to a meeting and you need a final draft. You can also employ software to get "remote control" of your files and send them as e-mail attachments.
View and manage faxes. You can use your PDA or handheld to remotely receive incoming faxes as e-mail messages. The fax message is received as easy-to-read text in the body of an e-mail that can be edited, forwarded and searched. This capability allows you to review fax messages from any location, such as an airport, a courtroom or even a taxicab.
Lock and secure your handheld. Users and system administrators can employ software that lets them lock or wipe handhelds in case of loss or theft. The user simply enters a "lock" password from any remote computer to shut down the user interface and prevent anyone from accessing data from the device.
More Heft on the Horizon
In the next year or so, developers are expected to expand PDA and handheld device functionality even further. Soon-to-be available offerings include features that support WAN printing. This will let handheld users print downloaded files on any available network printer, a real advantage when you're visiting satellite offices. Another new capability will allow handheld access (both input and output) to CRM, SFA, SQL or other corporate databases via user-customizable forms. All of this will further reduce the need to tote along your laptop.
Steve Koontz ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Director of Communications for Onset Technology, a communications solutions provider with offices in Santa Cruz, CA, and Israel.
Check out www.onsettechnology.com to learn about METAmessage for Wireless enterprise applications and RemoteLock handheld security software. And visit www.mforma tion.com to learn about mFormation Technologies for Wireless Infrastructure Management software.