Nicole Black

We all face technology choices, but when you’re managing a law firm, these choices are all the more important, since the tools you settle on become a regular part of your day-to-day life. Making a bad decision about technology in your law practice can be particularly unpleasant since the effects are often long-term ones due to the high upfront investment required.

That’s why your decision regarding which computers and operating systems to use in your law firm is such an vital one. Once purchased, you’ll use those computers and compatible software for years to come. Making the right choice for your law firm can make all the difference.

Because PCs and compatible software dominate the marketplace, PCs are the computer of choice for most law firms. But some attorneys choose the path less traveled and opt to go with Macs. Eric Gold, a California estate practice and family law attorney, is one of those lawyers.

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In past columns I wrote about how a lawyer and a judge use iPads as part of their daily routine. And there’s a good reason that iPads were the first tablets discussed; it’s because the vast majority of lawyers who use tablets in their practices choose the iPad. In fact, according to the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey, 84% of lawyers surveyed who used tablets preferred the iPad and only 10% used Android devices, with the remaining 6% using other types of tablets.

The lawyer I’ll be featuring today, Scott Bassett, is one of the 6%. Scott is a solo practitioner who lives in Florida with a practice focused on Michigan appellate work, and his tablet of choice is the Sony Digital Paper model #DPT-S1. Even though his Sony tablet costs more, he prefers it over the iPad because it’s versatile and substantially lighter: “My tablet is so thin and light you barely know you’re carrying it. At $1,100 it costs nearly twice as much as the iPad, but weighs half as much as the iPad Air. Not only is it lighter, it has a full-size, 13.5-inch screen, so documents appear on my screen full size. It’s a better screen than the iPad Kindle app because of the backlit LCD screen. It’s much easier to read and offers better reading comfort when you’ve got hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to read through. And, the batteries last nearly an entire month.”

What are some of its other advantages?

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One way or another, all lawyers use technology. But some lawyers use it more than others. And for certain lawyers, like Lisa Epperly, their practices wouldn’t be feasible without technology.

Lisa is a partner at Babb & Epperly, PLLC, a firm that handles transactional matters, including business and employment law cases, and also serves as outsourced in-house counsel for businesses. Lisa and her partner also appear in court for other lawyers. Her practice is a virtual one, meaning that she and her partner do not have a brick and mortar office and instead hold meetings elsewhere, oftentimes traveling right to their clients’ doors and meeting with them in their offices.

Joe Patrice wrote about virtual practices earlier this week, noting that 21st-century technologies are what made this type of practice possible. That’s certainly the case for Lisa, who relies heavily on mobile tools as part of her law firm’s technology arsenal.

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In my last column, I shared how Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is using his iPad while on the bench. I explained how he got started using technology—by using PDFs instead of paper documents—and eventually transitioned to using his iPad for many of his judicial duties. And we learned that not only does he use an iPad, he has managed to convince some of his Second Circuit colleagues to do the same, thus reducing the amount of paper used by the judges.

It was clear from my last column that Judge Wesley is sold on the benefits of using technology. But he’s also well aware of the drawbacks—a topic I promised to cover in today’s column. So let’s get started.

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Lawyers have embraced mobile computing at a much faster rate than other types of emerging technologies. In fact, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 legal technology survey, nearly 91% of lawyers now use smartphones in their law practices, up from 89% in 2012. Tablet use has also increased quickly, with 48% of lawyers reporting that they now use tablets in their law practices, up from 33% in 2012.

Those are impressive numbers considering that the iPhone was first released in 2007 and the iPad became available to the public in just 2010. So in less than a decade, these mobile tools have become commonplace in law offices, and tablet continues to rise.

And it’s not just practicing lawyers who use tablets. Believe it or not, judges do, too. In fact, not only do some of them use tablets — some of them rely on their tablets to get their jobs done. Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is one of those judges. In this two-part series, I’m going to share with you how he uses his iPad to increase his efficiency on the bench and what he thinks about the effects of technology on the legal profession.

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It used to be that the world of corporate transactions was the sole province of Biglaw. After all, handling complex matters like mergers and acquisitions required manpower and overhead — and lots of it. Well-paid junior associates were an integral part of the process, and the costs of doing business were driven by corporate clients’ expectations of grandiose reception areas and white-glove treatment as proof of both commitment and excellence.

These days, however, technology has leveled the playing field, making it possible for boutique law firms to compete with Biglaw in ways never before possible. Many of these boutique firms, comprised of Biglaw lawyers seeking to practice law on their own terms, have sprung up in the wake of large-firm mergers and dissolutions. Creative thinking and the innovative use of technology have been the keys to their success, allowing these boutiques to reduce overhead costs and run their practices more effectively and efficiently, saving their clients time and money.

Don’t believe me? Well, look no further than Bailey Duquette, a Manhattan-based boutique law firm….

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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.

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As you know, in this column I examine how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. Hopefully, my columns will encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column you will meet Mitch Jackson, a California personal injury attorney, and will learn how he uses the wearable technology Google Glass in his law firm. Mitch founded his law firm, Jackson & Wilson, Inc., with his wife in 1988. Since then they’ve dedicated their practice to representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death.

It’s entirely possible that you’ve already heard of Mitch. Whether on Twitter, LinkedInFacebook, or YouTube, he has an incredibly strong social media presence. Most recently, part of his online focus has been on his use of Google Glass in his law practice. So of course he immediately came to mind when I conceived of the idea for the column. I knew I had to reach out to Mitch and explore how he uses Google Glass in his practice — and whether the technology is actually useful or whether it’s too nascent to be particularly helpful for lawyers.

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I’m writing today’s column from New York City, where I’m covering Thomson Reuters Vantage 2014, a great conference focused on mid-sized and large law firms’ use of technology. There have been fascinating discussions about how larger law firms are adapting to change and are incorporating some of the latest technologies into their IT infrastructure. Not surprisingly, however, it turns out that like solo and small-firm attorneys, large and mid-sized law firms are often just as reluctant to adopt new technologies and processes despite overwhelming evidence that doing so is the best way to stay competitive.

But the good news gleaned from this conference is that some larger firms are adapting, just as many solo and small firms are. And that’s my goal with this column: to showcase how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. In the process, my columns will hopefully encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column I’ll be featuring Jill Paperno. Jill is a long-time assistant public defender, having worked at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, New York for over 27 years. She’s currently the Second Assistant Public Defender and is the author of Representing the Accused: A Practical Guide to Criminal Defense (affiliate link). In other words, Jill is a diehard criminal defense attorney and has dedicated her life to defending our constitutional rights.

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Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Nicole Black. My column, Today’s Tech, will highlight how individual lawyers are using specific technologies in their law practices. More on my column later, but first let me explain who I am and why I’m writing this column.

Above all else, I’m a total geek. My geekery started back in the late 70s when I was in elementary school and my dad brought home a TRS-80 computer. I had to learn how to program in BASIC to get that computer to play Pong. But trust me — it was worth it.

It was in law school in the early 1990s that my geek status was solidified. That’s when I became a diehard Trekkie. Star Trek: the Next Generation was my escape from the stresses of law school, and I watched it religiously. I was fascinated by the technologies used by the characters and the writers’ vision of the future and remember thinking how amazing — and unlikely — it would be if we had just a few of those technologies available in my lifetime….

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