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Tech must-haves, must-dos

Since its first edition in 2008, The Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide has kept lawyers up-to-date on the fast-changing digital tech options that can be crucial to their success.

Updated annually since then by experts Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek and Michael Maschke, the resource guides readers to the latest options and pros and cons for hardware (computers, peripherals, printers, scanners, etc.), software (including security, case management and time and billing options, etc.), cloud computing, security, email, backup, phones and more.

The authors run Sensei Enterprises, a digital forensics, information technology and cybersecurity firm in Fairfax, Va.

YourABA asked them what’s new:

You subscribe to a Rule of Three-to-Five regarding upgrading technology. Can you explain?

The technology upgrade cycle is intended to be budget friendly and keep your firm running efficiently. Our recommendation is to plan to refresh your technology on a scheduled basis. Computers and servers now last three to five years before they should be replaced.

Budgeting to replace equipment on a three to five-year schedule will avoid the “big bang” expenditure. If you wait until the last minute, there’s a good chance your technology is slowing your firm’s productivity down. It doesn’t just take longer to process information, you may not be able to accomplish tasks that newer technology has built-in.

Can a tablet really replace a laptop in terms of all its functionality? And is there one you recommend?

The short answer is yes. Apple has finally admitted that the iPad Pro is not a laptop replacement. There are just some things an iPad can’t do or are particularly difficult to accomplish.

For those that want a tablet to replace their laptop, we recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro. It runs the same operating system and applications as your current laptop and supports all the same accessories too.

The downside is the limited number of ports (e.g. USB, video, etc.). You can expand the number of ports by purchasing the docking station. Many of our clients have made the switch to Surface Pros and love the light weight and portability.

You write that mobile security has changed quickly over the years, and recommend staying abreast of issues related to secure data transfer so as not to rely on “antiquated” knowledge. What’s the best way to do that?

CLEs are one way to stay abreast of technology changes. Since technology changes so fast, we wouldn’t recommend an on-demand CLE that is more than a year old. We are huge fans of ABA TECHSHOW as an annual legal tech pilgrimage.

You can also subscribe to news feeds that relate to security issues and technology advances. The SANS Ouch! newsletter is an excellent free resource. Blogs from CNET and ZDNet are other free good sources of technology reports too.

What are some of the best tools to practice law on the go?

The best initial step is to use cloud services. Practice management, storage, file sharing, etc. in the cloud will allow you to access the applications and data from pretty much any device. Some cloud providers even have specific applications to be used on mobile devices such as iPads and smartphones.

When considering a cloud service, see if there is a way to continue working when you are offline and can’t access the internet. Having a local synchronized copy of your data can go a long way in continuing to operate while being mobile.

Brett Burney discussed mobile apps in more details than we ever could – you can read his blog post here.

Technology changes so quickly. Are you still recommending that solo and small firm lawyers choose Android mobile devices over iPhones?

Yes, although the majority of lawyers are still wedded to the iPhone. So why do we like Android phones? In a word…flexibility. Apple restricts what a user can install and do on an iPhone. Plus, your only choice is Apple and the cost of its products.

Android gives the user much more flexibility in configuring applications on the device. In addition, there are many more device models to choose from as well as multiple manufacturers. You can choose a make and model of mobile device to meet your needs. Need to expand memory storage? You can do that with an Android device, but not with an iPhone. We believe in giving the end-user choices.