I’m constantly amazed at how the pace of technology, even in the often-slow-to-adopt legal world, continues to move with increasing swiftness. Trying to keep abreast of the developments can be daunting even for someone who has a keen interest in technology, let alone for busy lawyers who are tightly focused on representing the best interests of their clients. While it is extremely difficult to keep up with every new product or technology trend, radio-frequency identification (RFID) is one worth watching.
The RFID Potential
Most of us have encountered RFID technology in one form or another. RFID tags are on the products that we buy in stores, can be found in many auto manufacturers’ ignition keys, and are on books and other items in libraries replacing standard bar-code labels. Now the technology is moving into law firms. Recently TAGSYS RFID, a major provider in the RFID market, and French-based IDENT combined their efforts to deploy an RFID-based file locator system at the Paris law firm Lhermet, La Bigne & Remy. With the locators deployed on approximately 10,000 files, the French firm reports that it has already noted increased productivity from the ability to quickly find files throughout its offices. Staff looking for files use a portable W-shaped Wi-Fi scanner linked to a Pocket PC PDA, and they simply pass the scanner over folders to be provided with identification information for each folder’s contents. All this is done without physically handing the folders—and it makes no difference where the files are located in given stacks because the scanner reads each file’s information as it is passed over a stack. The potential for this technology in the legal environment is huge, especially in firms that handle thousands of files each year. And as costs drop, even smaller law offices may realize the benefits of deploying it. Definitely a trend to keep your eyes on.
Two for the Road
Another trend to track is the accelerating use of mobile technology in the profession. There are an increasing number of gadgets that can make a mobile practice safer and more effective, and I’ve found a couple of items that may be of particular interest to lawyers on the go.
One of the newest products to help road-warrior lawyers protect that most valuable of assets—their confidential information—is the Yoggie Gatekeeper Pro portable hardware firewall (www.yoggie.com/ gatekeeper_pro.shtml). Combining the benefits of the Linux operating system, a hardware firewall and security software, including antivirus and more, the Gatekeeper Pro is small enough to fit in your hand. An equally nice benefit is that you don’t have to worry about lugging along a power brick (the bane of mobile computing) because the unit draws its power from your computer’s USB port. The Gatekeeper Pro works with both wired and Wi-Fi Internet connections. When combined with the Yoggie Management Server, IT departments can now enforce security on mobile users and provide a systematic method for security policy updates, updating signature files, and obtaining log and event files for each system. Product cost: around $200. Peace of mind: priceless.
Also, smart phone or PDA users who are constantly dropping or damaging their handheld devices should check out Otter Box (www.otterbox.com) and its line of heavy-duty protective cases. The company makes a number of different cases—including ones for the Treo and BlackBerry lines—which provide dust, drop and crush protection, while still providing full access to all functionality, including the ability to charge and sync your smart phone or PDA without having to remove it from the case. Prices vary, but overall these rugged cases are definitely not inexpensive. However, when compared to the expense and inconvenience that you face when your phone or PDA is damaged or destroyed and the unit has to be repaired or replaced, the price doesn’t seem so high.