Solo Newsletter

Volume 10, no. 3

What’s in Your Briefcase?

By Nerino Petro, Jr.

For the solo practitioner, technology too often is regarded as something nice to have, but not essential—especially considering the cost to obtain and implement it. Many lawyers believe that a well-equipped briefcase need only contain a legal pad and pen—nothing else. They often fail to realize that success in the courtroom can be made easier by the intelligent use of legal technology in their practice. From making scheduling easier to searching trial notes, statutes, and deposition transcripts during a hearing, technology should be viewed as a necessary part of every lawyer’s briefcase.

At the very least...

The minimum briefcase requirements:

• PDA (personal digital assistant) for keeping your calendar, to-do list, and contact information for clients, attorneys, and contacts at your finger tips. Capabilities and features have increased dramatically and prices have dropped. Your PDA can use either the Palm- or Windows-based operating system; each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Price range: $175 to $600

Examples: Palm and Compaq

• Digital recorder —for recording thoughts, notes, and instructions. Digital eliminates the limitations on the length or condition of a tape. Digital allows you to insert additional information into the middle of a previously recorded note, easily move from one recording to the next, and store dictation in one folder, while storing memos and notes in another. There is software to download and play the files on your PC. Many PDAs already have this capability.

Price range: $50 to $450

Examples: Olympus, Sony, and Dictaphone

• Financial calculator —allows you to compute present values, amortizations, and payments. Programs are available for PDAs to provide the same functionality.

Price range: $50 to $100

Examples: HP and Texas Instruments

• Cellular phone headset —allows you to keep your hands free and provides greater privacy. Depending on your phone, headsets can be corded or wireless.

Price range: $10 to $175

Examples: Jabra, Logitech, Plantronics

• Time-line and out-lining programs —although these can be done with some difficulty in word processors, purpose-specific programs do the job much easier and quicker. They can also easily integrate with case-mapping software.

Price range: $99 to $200

Examples: TimeMap and NoteMap

For a little more...

The well-equipped briefcase requires:

• Notebook computer —gives you the ability to keep all of your trial information at your fingertips and search deposition transcripts, cases, and notes, and access your case management system.

Price range: $700 to $3,500

Examples: Dell, HP, and Toshiba

• USB scanner —a single page, self-powered scanner for scanning documents and exhibits. Typically, it’s about the length and width of a ruler and about two inches thick or smaller.

Price range: $150 to $300

Example: Visioneer

• Instant messaging device —if you have e-mail and text messaging service from your cell company, then a Research in Motion Blackberry or palmOne Treo 600 convergence device (combo cellular phone/PDA) gives you the ability to receive and send email and text messages in real time.

Price range: $399 to $599

Examples: Blackberry, Palm, Samsung

• LCD projector —for presentations and display of exhibits and evidence from your laptop.

Price range: $899 to $3,000

Examples: InFocus, BenQ, and Epson

• Digital camera —for capturing accident or location information to be used at trial or capture images of large exhibits at trial.

Price range: $200 to $1,000

Examples : Canon, Nikon, and Kodak

• Case analysis/presentation software —bring together all of your information for a case allowing you to organize your facts, parties, and exhibits and/or assemble you case presentation.

Price Range: $495 to $3,000

Examples: CaseMap, CaseVault, and iBlaze

Technology can be embraced and adopted as part of your daily practice, allowing you to do your job better, or it can be ignored, placing you at a disadvantage to our technologically literate peers.

Nerino Petro, Jr., is a lawyer and legal technologist in Love Park, IL. He can be reached at

Back to index


Back to Top