Telephone Options, Including “Smart Phones”

A solo lawyer must have a reliable service for his or her clients and potential clients to contact him/her by phone. Considering that a solo lawyer is on the go quite a bit, whether in court or meeting with clients, many rely solely on their cell/smart phones to sustain their law practice. However, if you want to be found by a potential client via directory assistance, you should have both a land line and a wireless smart phone.

There are many benefits to having a smart phone such as a Blackberry, iPhone, or Droid. It allows you to stay connected to your office and your clients even when you are on the go. You can work anywhere and at anytime. When you take that well deserved vacation, there will still be clients who expect your attention. A smart phone will make your life a lot easier than having to visit a local Internet Café in order to check your email. It also gives you access to surf the web without having to be in front of a PC and if you have a fax or voicemail that can be forwarded to email, you can also easily access these. Finally, your smart phone will allow your clients to reach you during off hours, which can be especially important if you have any international clients or clients that often travel.

As the only lawyer in your practice, you need to ensure that your clients can reach you at critical times.

But the question still may be cell phone or smart phone? Cell phones are evolving to allow faster texting, Web surfing, GPS navigation, and social networking. Smart phones like the iPhone and Blackberry are becoming more popular as apps are available to permit many functions helpful to your practice. With their computer-like operating systems, they can run all types of applications, from Twitter to games, restaurant guides, Microsoft Office, and more. But don’t give up on traditional cell phones just yet. Many of the newest models have large displays, keyboards, and Internet capabilities. Most traditional cell phone e-mail capabilities and applications aren't as robust as a smart phone's, but they tend to be less complicated to use.

When you decide it is time to buy a phone, your first decision is conventional cell or smart phone? One factor in reaching an answer is which best meets your needs and is within your budget. You may want to choose a conventional cell phone if you mainly need voice and text-messaging capability. A smart phone, with its advanced operating systems, larger displays, keyboards, and other computer-like features, may be a better choice if you need frequent access to e-mail, a sophisticated organizer for appointments and contacts, the ability to open Microsoft Office and pdf format documents, and Internet-based services.

When choosing your phone here are some things to consider:

1. Consider shape and size. The best choice depends largely on personal preference, so visit a store, hold the phone, simulate your use on it if possible. Size also has an impact on battery life.

2. Check the display. Try the phone outside or under bright light and make sure indicators such as battery life and signal strength are clearly visible.

3. Consider the keyboard. A phone's shape and size are largely determined by its keyboard and display. If you plan to do a lot of typing, look for a keyboard with keys that are raised, clearly labeled, well spaced, and well sized.

If you are considering a smart phone you should also consider:

4. The operating system. The operating system affects a phone's capabilities, ease of use, and other conveniences.

5. The data plan. A data plan allows you to surf the Web and send and receive e-mail.

6. Syncing options. Syncing your phone with your computer has some advantages, like updating calendar events and contact data using your computer's larger keyboard and display. Syncing to your computer also provides a secure back-up for your documents and personal data should your phone be lost or stolen.

7. Look for useful features. Many phones come equipped with a host of useful calling and multimedia features. Some of these features, such as shortcuts, Bluetooth, speakerphone, and voice command, help make the phones easier to use for the multi-tasking often required when your phone is an office tool as well.