- Practical technology information and advice for in-house law departments.

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Beyond the Basics

The technologies discussed on this page are proven solutions for the modern law practice, and should be considered essential for a properly run law department. However, implementation of some of them does require a commitment to a higher level of initial investment of time and resources. There are a lot of smaller legal departments that are not yet at this level. If you are in that situation, you need to start moving in this direction. I can almost guarantee that if you make the investment, there will be a long-term payback from these types of systems. If you don't, you are not giving your employer/clients the service they should be getting. 

  1. PDAs - Once you get one, you'll never want to be without it. Wireless email devices and new versions of mobile phones (see below) might be an alternative. 

  2. Mobile phones - Unless you are always in the office, you need to be available to your clients. (You can always turn it off.) One new phone contains a full-featured PDA running the PalmŪ Operating System. See PDA News

  3. Wireless email/paging - Traditional pagers are becoming obsolete. People who need to stay in touch swear by the mobile email devices from Research in Motion (RIM), including the popular RIM and Blackberry mobile email devices. The BlackberryTM service is a specific application that integrates with your corporate Outlook system. The same RIM devices are available from various service providers (not under the Blackberry brand), but are not integrated with your corporate system. The RIM devices feature many of the same organizing features as regular PDAs, and may be able to substitute for a full-featured PDA for some people. (Note that wireless email works primarily in metropolitan areas and may not function in many rural areas.)

  4. What we really need is one device that functions as a PDA, a wireless email device, and a wireless phone, and that integrates (email, calendar, voice mail, faxes) with your office systems. New phones that integrate PDA and wireless email functions are now becoming available (more), but we're only part way to full integration today. 

  5. Practice management system - I think even single-lawyer departments can benefit from a good practice management system. These systems don't have to be expensive - some of the inexpensive systems do a great job. But you have to be committed to using them. They should integrate with the other systems you use in your office (email and calendar, at a minimum). 

  6. Document Management - You need to be able to find your files (both paper and electronic). Some kind of document management system is critical. Some practice management systems incorporate at least some document management features, but a dedicated document management system that is integrated with the other systems in your office is best. Again, these systems do not have to be expensive. 

  7. Document Assembly - Depending on the type of practice your department has, a dedicated document assembly program may or may not be essential. However, nearly any department can benefit from basic automation of such tasks as the generation of correspondence. Most practice management systems incorporate at least basic document assembly features.  

  8. Presentation Software - Using programs like Microsoft PowerPoint for corporate presentations is almost essential these days. Learn to use them! Your department will be seen as a part of the business team and will be able to present information more effectively if you use the same presentation tools the business people do. Have a VisorTM handheld? You can now do PowerPoint presentations without your laptop with the Presenter-to-Go Springboard Module. Additional Presentation Resources.

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Last updated: 05/17/01


Copyright 2001-2005 David A. Munn