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The VLW High Five: 5 back-to-school supplies for lawyers

Correy Stephenson//August 30, 2013

The VLW High Five: 5 back-to-school supplies for lawyers

Correy Stephenson//August 30, 2013//

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It’s back to school season – and lawyers shouldn’t be left out. Amidst all the backpack and lunch box sales, attorneys might want to take stock of their own supplies and consider some new purchases. Tech gurus and law practice management advisors offered some of their current must-haves for lawyers missing out on the smell of newly sharpened pencils and textbooks.

1. Back to the basics

While kids return to school, attorneys should return to the basics, recommended New York-based law practice management advisor Allison Shields. To wit, all lawyers should have: a calendar (both firm-wide and for individuals, including time for marketing and business development); remote access (VPN or LogMeIn are options); practice management software (piecing together information from various programs and platforms “is no longer acceptable”); a billing program; and a website. “If you are invisible, you’re not likely to be taken seriously,” she said.

2. For on-the-go lawyers

For those seeking something shiny and new, self-described “technology nut” Tom Mighell of Dallas favors the Google Chromecast. The $35 device plugs into a high-definition television and will then stream video from the Google Chrome browser onto a computer. “It’s pretty cool to have a small device you can bring with you when you travel, and just plug it into your hotel room’s television and watch the video you want,” he said. Meanwhile, tech analyst and New York attorney Nicole Black recently upgraded to the new 13 inch MacBook Air and is wondering why she waited so long. “The MBA is a great computer, designed for the way we work today – in the cloud,” she explained. Features like “incredible” battery life and light weight (under 3 lbs.) make “it ideal for attorneys on the go and for those who travel often.”

3. Twice as fast

Legal technologist Dennis Kennedy has a long commute in St. Louis, Mo. but he makes the most of it by using the double-speed setting on his iPad and iPod to listen to podcasts and other audio. “It increases the speed, but the sound does not distort,” he explained. For time-strapped lawyers, it requires more concentration, Kennedy acknowledged, “but your brain adapts really quickly to the increased speed.” It’s also a real benefit for listening to slow talkers or live presentations, he added. “At double speed, you can listen to longer podcasts or several in the same time block.”

4. Necessary hardware

Instead of pencils and notebooks, New Orleans attorney Jeff Richardson, author of the iPhone JD blog, suggested hardware. An external Bluetooth speaker “is a great addition” for listening to podcasts or music, and an external keyboard for the iPad can be very helpful, he said (he prefers the Apple Wireless Keyboard, which he uses with an Origami Workstation to hold it and prop up his iPad). iPad users may also consider a stylus and for any mobile attorney, “external charging units are a great accessory,” Richardson noted, allowing devices to be recharged “during a long day out of the office without worrying about finding the closest accessible wall outlet.”

5. Tools for legal writing, safety and social media

Back to school means book reports and essays on what you did this summer. But for legal briefs and summary judgment motions, try WordRake, an editing software for lawyers, suggested Sharon Nelson, president of computer forensics and legal technology company Sensei Enterprises in Fairfax, Va. Nelson, an advocate for data security, also endorsed Last Pass as her favorite password manager (the stronger the password, the better, she added). And while a new school year is a new opportunity to make friends, lawyers with an online presence may be overwhelmed with all of their friend requests. Try Hootsuite, an online brand management service for sites like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and LinkedIn, Nelson said, because social media “is getting too complicated.”

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