Tech Audit

Tech Greats for '08


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Illustration by Richard Tuschman

Buying technology on impulse can be fun, and it sometimes even works out well. However, impulse buying does not work out as well as putting together a plan. And the beginning of the year is a great time for planning your technology purchases.

Here are my best suggestions for planning to im­prove your technology—and your relationship with technology—in 2008. These ideas won’t cost you much money, but they will make your daily experience better than ever.

THE TOP 6

1. Get some storage. We often use several computers and need to move large files from computer to computer. Backup has never been more important than it is today. Storage is cheap, and external USB hard drives make it easy to quickly back up your data and synchronize your files between the computers you use. I’ve recently seen one terabyte drives for $300 and 320 gigabyte drives for $80. Four gigabyte USB flash drives—more than sufficient for transferring your biggest files from computer to computer—can be found for less than $50. On my personal list is MS Windows Home Server, a simple new way to aggregate and manage the storage in your home (or possibly a small office), provide remote access to files and solve your backup issues.

2. Get a new interface. The big­gest factor in your experience with a computer is the actual interface you use—keyboard, mouse and monitor. It’s striking how much a new mouse and keyboard will positively affect your com­puting ex­perience. Cordless mice and keyboards also will help reduce the clutter on your desktop. Great-looking flat-screen monitors have dropped drastically in price and increased in size during the last year. Lawyers are also moving to multiple monitor setups where they can work on two documents at once or have their e-mail open on a separate screen.

3. Get a new bag. James Brown had the right idea. Take a look at that computer bag you are carrying. Does it really work for you? A great bag can make a big difference. Switching from a shoulder bag to a backpack eliminated some back pain I had last year. Wheeled bags are great for airports. There are many ergonomically designed bags available that will suit your needs and fit your profes­sional image.

4. Get an iPod. Improve your commute with an MP3 player and an adapter or transmitter to run it through your car stereo. This combo can bring your music back into your life, but the big benefit for lawyers is the rapid growth in continuing legal education programs available as MP3 files and the huge world of podcasts on every topic imaginable.

5. Get a blog or a podcast. I’ve had a blog for nearly five years and cannot even begin to list all the benefits of blogging. Blogs are easy and inexpensive to set up and run, and nothing has proven more effective for developing niche practice areas than blogging. If there’s an area of law you would like to grow in your practice, make this the year to start a blog targeted to that niche audience. If you prefer speaking and audio to writing, consider a podcast or videocast. Podcasts are surprisingly easy to produce, and they let you reach a new audience.

6. My best advice for 2008: Learn a new skill or technology. My approach to technology is to learn a new topic every year. Pick an area of special interest or need and make it your goal in 2008 to become a mini-expert in that area. There are lots of great choices—Mircrosoft Office 2007, Adobe Acrobat, metadata, CaseMap and Web 2.0, to name just a few.

Bruce Springsteen’s song title “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)” sums up my favorite approach for setting your personal technology agenda for 2008. Con­sider the recommendations in this article, spend a little and get big results.


Web extra: Links to details on products mentioned here.

MS Windows Home Server

iPod

Mircrosoft Office 2007

Adobe Acrobat

CaseMap


Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis-based computer lawyer and legal technology consultant. His website, DennisKennedy.com, is also the home of his blog. Contact him at dmk@denniskennedy.com.


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