Vermont Bar Journal
Summer 2007 - #2.
Cool Technology for Hot Lawyers
THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL SUMMER 2007
Cool Technology for Hot Lawyersby Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. and John W. Simek
Most lawyers, if not quite technophobes, have a limited knowledge of technology. Did the clock on your VCR flash a perpetual 12:00 because you couldn't figure out how to reset it? Do you have a cell phone with five hundred functions, about five of which you know how to use? If so, you are members of a very large club. If multiple remotes befuddle you and you find yourself asking your ten-year old for assistance to watch a DVD or get rid of non-English subtitles, you are far from alone. Very few lawyers are adept at technology. Many of the rest wish they were, knowing that technology can facilitate efficiency in their law offices. Really, it is not always difficult or costly to implement. In addition, there are some cool gadgets that can make you, well, kind of hot. You may even impress that ten-year old. The fringe benefit will be making everyday tasks easier and more secure.
We'll cover several different items that will help bring your practice into the twenty-first century. Some are physical and some are just procedural. These days, no law office can expect to be successful unless it begins to harness the power of the Internet and the significant advantage (not to mention the low cost) of electronically communicating with colleagues and clients. Best of all, there are additional revenue streams to be found from the tech world--and what lawyer isn't hungry to drink from those waters?
Below are our some of our suggestions for cool technology for hot lawyers!
There should be a digital camera in almost every law office. Many of the cameras can also capture motion footage too, but a good "still" digital camera is an essential piece of equipment. You might use the camera to take pictures of the plaintiff's accident scene, your defendant's crime scene, your plaintiff's construction site in a breach of contract dispute, or just your good-looking staff in order to post it on your firm web site. It's getting harder and harder to find a 35mm film camera these days and even professional photographers are using high-end digital cameras. Besides, a digital camera gives you instant access to your photos without the wait for film developing.
What should you look for in a digital camera and how much to spend? As a minimum, you should purchase at least a 5 mega pixel camera. So what is a mega pixel? A mega pixel is a unit of imagesensing capability for a digital camera. In general, the higher the mega pixels, the better the resolution of an image printed at a certain size. In other words, an image from a 5 mega pixel camera will start to appear grainy before one from a 7 mega pixel camera as the image size increases. Expect to pay a little over $100 for a good 5 mega pixel camera. You almost can't go wrong with any of the name brand cameras, such as those from Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Kodak. If you can afford it, get a 7 mega pixel camera, which should last you for several years and is capable of producing goodsized clear exhibits.
What about the zoom capability? The most important characteristic of the zoom value is the optical zoom setting. Some manufacturers tout 15x or 20x zoom capability, but that's the digital zoom setting. Electronics are used to get the high magnification factors and quality is less than optimal as the digital zoom gets higher and higher. In contrast, the optical zoom is the capability of the lens optics. Normally, values in the 3x or 4x range are more than sufficient and will produce crisp and clear images.
Many of the digital cameras also allow you to take motion pictures and store them in MPG, AVI, or MOV formats. Check with the manufacture to determine the storage format for video clips, as there is no single standard that all manufacturers use. The video clip capability is a "quick and dirty" way to store motion pictures. If you are going to be doing a lot of motion picture recording, get a digital video camera, which is specifically designed for video recording.
Memory for your digital camera is less of an issue since you can typically increase the storage capability by purchasing additional cards. If you have several digital cameras, try to get models that use the same form factor for the memory cards. This gives you more flexibility since you can swap the cards among different cameras. It is probably pretty obvious, but you can store more high-resolution images on the larger memory cards. This may be particularly important if you plan on storing a lot of video clips, which take up more storage space.
You should have some method in which to organize your graphic files. As an example, you'll want to keep your digital photos of the intersection where the accident occurred separate from the ones of your grandchildren at Christmas. Lest you think this is a small point, we hasten to note that we have seen one of our colleagues teach a CLE and accidentally pull up a photo of an unclothed young lady. This is a very big...