Technology trends to make life easier

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Published on 5/14/07

Not long ago I wrote in this column about the risk of "technology malpractice" - violating the duty of care by failing to use technology effectively in your practice, so that you are perceived as willfully less competent than your peers.

I'd like to share some examples I believe indicate the standard of care to which lawyers should aspire. I have no agenda and do not recommend any particular software or hardware. But I believe any lawyer should know of trends like these:

Hard drives

Many lawyers archive their electronic files on CDs, thinking these should last for decades. But discs can degrade in just several years due to heat, surface oxidation and mishandling.

A more prudent backup might be on multiple hard drives. A 100-gigabyte external hard drive (equal to around 130 CDs) commonly costs less than $100, with 300 GB hard drives at less than $150. The data security from duplicate hard drives can be priceless.

EV-DO cards

Wireless Internet users risk signing onto look-alike wireless networks where hackers can steal confidential information.

For security an EV-DO (evolution-data optimized) card for your laptop supports an always-on wireless connection that doesn't need hotspots. I use a Verizon card in my new laptop, so I get Internet access wherever and whenever I can get cell phone reception.

I have full screen access to my e-mail and no longer pay the hotels their outrageous daily charge.

Voice software

I have used several versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking, the software that produces typed transcripts from your recorded voice. Version 9 is the latest, and I engaged a consultant to install and "train" the system to recognize my voice.

Actually, I was the one trained - when the system heard me incorrectly, I had to correct it as to what the sound of my voice really meant. The software remembers and will not make the same mistake again.

The consultant also recommended that I purchase a wide AcousticMagic microphone that sits in front of my monitor and can hear me even when I turn my head. The $250 cost was well worth it, as was the cost of engaging the consultant.


I've never been a big Microsoft fan, but I did a recent podcast interview with the company's business development director for professional services that showed a commitment to develop solutions for the legal community using all features of the Microsoft platform. For example, you can combine handwritten and audio notes and even visuals into text documents through the use of the OneNote software.

The outlining capability of Word, directly applied to a complex document, can create a PowerPoint presentation. And the new Windows Vista operating system does text searches across your local drive, your enterprise network, or the Internet itself.

Albert Einstein called technology "a magnificent applied science which saves work and makes life easier." For most lawyers, it is - so long as you know how to use it effectively.

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