The few good ideas I have always seem to come when I’m on the move and can’t stop to jot them down for near-term posterity. Enter my Voice-It, a digital recorder that is always ready to receive those lil’ gems of thinking, all in a device just about the size of a credit card. While there are a couple of different versions, my Voice-It VT-90 model—which can be had for $36—can handle 90 seconds of musing (which is plenty for my mind’s meager output). The only problem: Sometimes I need a second Voice-It just to remind me to listen to the first one!
I’ve also grown quite fond of my thumb drive. Named for its digit-like size, this baby can hold up to 128MB of files and it couldn’t be more “Daveproof” to use. I just plug it into any USB port and I’m off—no fussy drivers or software to deal with. Gone are the days of burning a CD or e-mailing a file to myself so that I can transfer something to another machine. And before I hit the road for that critical presentation, backing up to this puny wonder sets my mind at ease. There are scores of thumb drive manufacturers and sizes available, but I use the Sony Micro Vault USB Drive, which sells for less than $50.
In my line of work, I do a fair amount of presenting and I find myself moving around a bit (probably to keep from falling asleep). Happily, my discreet remote control mouse allows me to roam freely. A small receiver plugs into a USB port, and with its better half I can advance, or reverse, my PowerPoint program with a simple flick of my thumb. My model of choice is the Atek Tote-Remote, which costs around $75. As a special bonus, it also has a built-in laser pointer that I can use to prod my audiences to pay attention.
David Hambourger ( email@example.com) is the Technology Partner for Winston & Strawn, based in Chicago, where he focuses on the strategic and tactical implementation of the firm’s technological resources to further client service.
I hate to be slowed down when I’m on the road, so when I have an option in hotels, I choose them based on whether or not they offer high-speed Internet access, especially free high-speed access. For example, the best-kept secret in San Francisco is the Hilton Garden Inns at the airport. It has not only free high-speed access, but also microwaves and fridges in the room, a pool, a jacuzzi and, best of all, a laundry (at rates always at least half the price of downtown hotels)!
Also, Bose Corporation’s new QuietComfort2 noise-reducing headsets are like a gift from heaven. The upgrade offers “fold-able” headsets that take up much less room than version 1, and they’ve eliminated the clunky battery box. These are super because they really knock out the noise from screaming babies, and you can hear the full range of sound from your CDs. These headsets are worth every penny of the $299 price tag.
A final favorite, though somewhat larger than a gizmo or a gadget, is car service in Manhattan. There’s nothing like a reliable car service after a long and stressful trip, allowing you to relax and refocus for the next big meeting while you’re being whisked in comfort to your destination.
Monica Bay ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a California attorney and Editor-in-Chief of Law Firm Inc. and Law Technology News, published by American Lawyer Media. She lives in New York City.
Mitsubishi ‘s 3000 Lumen LCD projector lives in my firm’s multimedia conference room, where notebook computers have full access to the network and we can light up the wall with images 10 feet wide with the lights on. We use it in settlement conferences to collectively draft agreements, review spreadsheets and grab stock quotes from the Web. In our weekly staff meeting, we use it to put up the office calendar to review tasks and deadlines, then shift to our electronic case files in Lotus Notes to check the status of each pending divorce case. If we end up in court, the projector transports easily to mesmerize the court with a visual story of our case.
Lotus Notes is the electronic backbone of our office. Every document, notes of every conference and phone call, correspondence and pleadings and legal authority are all instantly available at every workstation in the office or in any remote corner of the globe. The program integrates with e-mail and our high-speed scanner-copier to create a seamless flow from paper to bits, and back again as needed. There are lots of off-the-shelf alternatives, but Notes lets us customize every one of its functions so that it works the way we do, instead of forcing us into someone else’s view of how to handle a complex divorce.
Speaking of handling complexity, how about trying some mindmapping? Need to prepare for a meeting or court? Organize a complex brief or legal argument? Make sense of a bird’s nest of interlocking business entities? I reach for MindJet’s MindManager mindmapping software, a trusty tool for visually representing information. Based on scads of psychological research about how we organize, learn and recall information, a mindmap is a lighthouse guiding us through the stormy seas of chaos and confusion.
The common theme? These tools help us break the limits of words and paper with a malleable, shared vision of our ideas.
Stephen J. Harhai ( email@example.com) practices family law in Denver, CO, and is a regular technology columnist for Law Practice Management magazine.