Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Technology Curmudgeon Gives His Technology Secrets

Saturday the iPad was released. This is Apple’s equivalent of Sony releasing a 52 inch TV when the only one available was 20 inches. It’s a big iPhone with a few more features. It will not cure cancer, clean the house, get lawyers clients, or get you laid.

Still, tech geeks everywhere were hysterical. Prior to the release, bloggers were bold enough, as they always are whenever Apple farts, to say that the iPad would change the world.

It won’t. But that’s beside the point.

After it was released, techys on twitter went bonkers. It was, in a word, pathetic. I made fun of many of them, and that resulted in this post by my colleague Rick Horowitz.

All of this inspired me to finally disclose how technology works in my practice.

See, there are several folks out there that want to convince you that technology is what makes you a better lawyer.

It doesn’t. It never will.

It may make your life easier, but it will never make you a better lawyer. Sorry to blow the fallacy and bullshit that gets techy for lawyer folks credibility..

Now back to me and how technology works in my practice.

First, I have an office. A real office where I pay rent, have a reception area, a receptionist, a secretary, a conference room, and yes, even a kitchen. Note that the tech for lawyers crowd is mostly geared towards lawyers that have no office, save for an available seat at a local Starbucks with free wi-fi.

In my office is a telephone. My receptionist also has one, and so does my secretary. So do the 3 other lawyers in my office and the other support staff. This is how clients normally reach me. In a very non-techy way, my clients, mostly lawyers, law students, and alleged criminals, like to be pretty traditional and come to my office and meet with me. They’re not real big on video conferencing, email, or Starbucks.

The phone has a voice mail for after hours calls. If the client wants to press “9,” the call will transfer to my cell phone.

All messages left on my cell phone are transcribed to text and emailed to me. In turn, when I am in court, a meeting, deposition, or otherwise cannot listen to a voice mail or return a call, I can reply to the message via email or text.

My cell phone. That’s a blackberry. The latest version, 9700. Every time a new Blackberry is released, I get it immediately. I don’t blog about it, tweet hysterically about it, nor will I ever wait in line for one. I call at&t and have it sent to me. It’s all very quiet.

My Blackberry has a personal Enterprise Server for which I pay an additional $30 a month. This allows all emails, contacts, and calendar items to wireless sync with my office. It allows my receptionist and secretary to input and delete calendar items, and for me to do the same and have it appear instantaneously on everyone’s desktop and my Blackberry.

My office desktop is my laptop, and it is connected to a docking station. In the office I have two monitors – one for documents and one for the internet. Most “real lawyers” walk in my office and think that having two monitors is the most advanced thing they’ve ever seen.

All documents received in my office relating to client files are scanned into a client directory. Most other mail is thrown out, as it is largely from others who believe they can make me a better lawyer by selling me something. When I am not in the office, I can sign in to my office server from my laptop and access all of my client’s documents.

In watching the release of the iPad, I’ve heard tons about what games it has, how Kindle books are able to be read, and how Netflix movies can be downloaded. I’m sure the iPad has use for real lawyers in real situations, but the hysterics over it’s release have nothing to do with the practice of law. It’s all about the new toy, and the kids who are enamored with something new to play with.

So here’s a challenge, read this post, envision my practice, and tell me how the iPad will significantly change how I practice law.

I’m waiting.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.



BCS said...

Without knowing the nature of your daily activities, its hard to say how you would use an iPad. But, I can tell you how I plan to use it.

In my practice, my clients are FAR more likely to email than they are to call. As such, having a device which is more portable than a laptop yet bigger than a phone for email is a plus.

I also spend a large amount of time in meetings (client meetings, board meetings, etc). I presently use my laptop for taking notes, but always feel like the screen gets in the way (an artificial barrier). Having a tablet device that works (sorry, the old windows tablets were crap) will allow me to use the device much more frequently in these meetings.

Finally, outside the office or home, any work I do tends to be "low-impact." Reviewing discovery (scanned to pdf), minor document editing, etc. However, I hesitate to pull out the laptop in some places because it isn't practical (for reasons of space, time or both). I envision that the iPad will be easier to pull out in those circumstances allowing me to be more productive at those times.

Rick Horowitz said...

I doubt an iPad will change your practice. A few generations down the road, it may supplement it.

Love what you've done with the office, btw. Sounds possibly even nicer than mine!

David Shulman said...

I posted a response here.

Steve Miller JD CIC said...

Could not agree more.

"Avatar Lawyers" don't realize they need real paying clients to afford all the "time saving toys" they think they need.

"My iPad Review: Cool doesn’t mean Necessity" Lessons learned from previous must-have items which cost too much

Rob said...


I agree with the overall spirit of your post. But. Making your life easier could mean making you a better lawyer. A more efficient lawyer is a better lawyer. If you are a dumb lawyer, technology will not make you a smart lawyer. However, if you are a smart lawyer, technology can improve your work flow, your efficiency, your ability to get more done in the same amount of time. I would argue that makes you a "better lawyer".

I don't know how you commute to but work, but I take the train everyday. About 55 minutes each way. I usually am reading files to/from work. They are usually just printed out. If the only reason to buy an iPad was to have a device that holds all my files that I can read while going to/from work everyday (instead of only being able to carry a few printed ones each time), for me, that would be worth it. Doesn't mean it's a "miracle" solution or will make me a "smarter lawyer", but it will make me a more efficient lawyer. I could do the same with a regular laptop. iPad is cheaper, easier to use, and more convenient then any laptop or netbook I would want to buy.


Stephen Stanfield said...

Since here in Florida a rule of judicial administration is about to go into effect that requires all copies of pleadings that are to be sent to the State Attorney must be done so electronically by email, I have gone paperless in my office. I have no paper files, but only electronic ones.

The way I take a file to court right now is I email myself the PDFs prior to going to court so that I can look at them on my blackberry. I have a laptop, but for a 5 minute court appearance its not really practical. I don't like how small the screen is on the blackberry though.

So I'm going to get an iPad (or more likely the comparative technology that is soon to be released that is windows based) and email the PDFs to myself so I can look at them in court.