As some of you may already know, my goal with this column is to encourage lawyers to use technology in their law firms. I do this by featuring innovative solo and small-firm lawyers who are already using new technologies in their day-to-day practices.
In today’s column you will meet Rick Georges, a solo practitioner based in Florida who handles civil cases, both general practice and litigation matters. He also maintains a popular legal technology blog, Future Lawyer, where he discusses about emerging technologies and their use in the practice of law.
In recent months, Rick has written about how he uses a smartwatch in his practice, a concept that intrigues me, since wearable technology is the next stage of mobile computing and will undoubtedly influence the practice of law. I recently caught up with Rick and asked him to share how he uses his smartwatch on a daily basis and how he envisions using it in the future as the technology improves.
According to Rick, he has been an early adopter of technology since the 1980s out of necessity. As a solo, technology increased his firm’s efficiency, saving him time and money.
“In the mid-1980s after practicing law for a number of years with a small law firm, I hung my firm’s shingle. As a solo practitioner, it’s always been a priority to keep overhead down by increasing efficiency. Technology is one of the best ways to do this,” he explains. “I’ve used emerging technologies in my law firm since 1984. It’s never easy but it’s always better than what you had before and you can always adapt. Like the Marine Corps motto, ‘adapt and overcome,’ I’m willing to try new tools in my practice to the extent that they’re usable.”
Because Rick has made it a priority to take advantage of new technologies, it’s not surprising that he’s already incorporating a smartwatch into his firm’s technology arsenal. He explains that it doesn’t replace his smartphone; instead, it’s an unobtrusive extension of some of his smartphone’s functions: “The one I’m wearing now, the Samsung Gear 2 (affiliate link), does everything I expect a smartwatch to do. I sit in a courtroom with my phone in my belt. Meanwhile, everyone has their smartphone in their hand and if it goes off it’s confiscated,” he laughs. “Not me. My smartwatch sits on my wrist and is connected via bluetooth and allows my watch to pull off anything that happens on my phone. I don’t need a ringer on my watch and I have it set to vibrate when I receive emails, calls, etc.”
For Rick, voice capability is imperative to his smartwatch’s functionality. It’s a feature that he uses many times each day and without it, his watch wouldn’t be nearly as useful. “Smartwatches need to have voice capability to make them an essential adjunct to a mobile professional. Mine vibrates and tells me if I’ve received a call. I can then say ‘reject or answer,’ or I can answer it by touching the dial. Usually I just take the call on my wrist without taking out my phone out and no one’s the wiser,” he says. “And with my waterproof smartwatch, I could be floating in my the pool and take calls with my phone inside the house, safely away from the water. People say isn’t that intrusive? How can you relax? I turn the damn thing off! If I want privacy, I don’t take the phone call. We choose what we do.”
Rick emphasizes that as a solo practitioner, the flexibility and convenience offered by his smartwatch can’t be beat: “As a solo I’m not sitting in my office everyday. I’m in my car, I’m in a restaurant, or I’m at home. I don’t have a large staff to keep track of my calls, but I want to be in control of what’s happening. My smartwatch gives me more freedom to manage my law firm and practice law on my terms, no matter where I am.”
The potential of smartwatches is what excites Rick, and he believes that they are the next stage of truly seamless computing. “Soon I may be able to teach my smartwatch to give me case citations since it’s a Google app and interfaces with Google Scholar,” he explains. “I’ve wanted a Dick Tracy watch since I was 8 years old — and that’s why I’m so excited about smartwatches. They are the first step to having computers that interact with human beings — not just wearable but implantable.”
When I asked Rick if using a smartwatch gives him an edge over other lawyers, he politely took issue with the way I phrased the question. “I don’t think in those terms. The only measure of my practice is whether I’m having a successful and happy life. When I had depression, it was because I didn’t feel in control of my schedule and of what I was doing. Technology has given me the ability to have a modicum of control over what I do and how I do it. That’s the way I measure my technology use. Is it helping me have a higher quality of living? If so, then I don’t care what other lawyers do.”
So that’s how one lawyer uses his smart watch as part of his law practice. What about you? Are you or an attorney you know using technology in a creative or unusual way in your law firm? If so, drop me an email at email@example.com. I’m always looking for new attorneys to feature in this column.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business and Community Relations at MyCase, web-based law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.