Gadgets: Lawyers New Best Friends

Gadgets: Lawyers New Best Friends

Bar & Bench

The world of gadgets has evolved in the last decade from being a pure luxury item to a necessity. From state-of-the-art conference rooms to smartphones, these gadgets allow you to carry your office around the globe. Gauri Manga takes a look at the various gadgets currently in vogue with lawyers.

The world of gadgets has evolved in the last decade from being a pure luxury item to a necessity. From state-of-the-art conference rooms to smartphones, these gadgets allow you to carry your office around the globe. You could sit in any corner of the world and make that your virtual office. Gadgets are the new best friends of tech-savvy lawyers – meeting in person is almost old school.

So what are the cool tech tools lawyers are using these days? From start-ups to large law firms, various hardware and software gadgets are being tested to increase efficiency and productivity. Law firms’ management are more focused on finding best billing software, and lawyers are more into cool gadgets. ‘Connected’ is the new theme of the day, but gets you into a catch-22 because of multiple choices. We asked a diverse set of lawyers to choose their most important gadget; some were unable to limit themselves.

Stay in ‘touch’ with everything that matters to you. The iPhone and the BlackBerry dilemma, is a common one. The Apple iPhone, targets its niche market with its glossy appearance and touch screen charisma. With new applications coming out every day, this one is a keeper. However, the iPhone experience comes at a costly price. Indian users have to dish out a whopping Rs. 30,000 ($ 637) for a 3G 8GB base model. The great advantage of iPhone is its applications – what I call the super connector. You will probably find an application for every possible thing you can imagine – if it is not there, create one. Teleport – keeps you connected with your computer no matter which part of the world you are in and setting the pace with social networking sites, the iPhone truly rocks. Abhishek Khanna, a litigator, while getting bored, sometimes at our courts likes playing Scrabble on his iPhone. Abhishek says that iPhone applications are interactive and user friendly and once you start searching, you just can’t save yourself from downloading.

The lawyer’s best friend before the coming of iPhone, the BlackBerry (BB), is still going strong in the market. Not many like to respond to detailed queries from clients on the touch screen iPhone, BB leads on that front – thank god that the need to feel the keys still holds a place in many people’s heart. BB has interestingly Indianised itself and comes with popular Indian Application Programming Interfaces such as ‘Viigo India’ which provides one click access to weather, entertainment, live sports scores, stock portfolios, flight schedules and status, news feeds, etc. The BB Messenger is an instant messaging application sent using a PIN system and works between BB devices only; probably one of the most widely used BB application in recent times. Its users not only include the corporate arena but people from across the board, such as law professors, litigators, judges, etc. Seema Sukumar, senior associate at J. Sagar Associates, Bangalore, says that the BB (Boon/Bane) addiction has moved the lawyers away from using a traditional laptop for emails, meetings, viewing PDF files and PowerPoint presentations. Seema says the camera functions well and the BB comes with built-in bluetooth technology. BB helps you plan your day and allocate time accordingly. The bane being that it can give you stressful holidays. BB has marketed its users in India strongly and effortlessly, with  starting prices of Rs.11,600 ($ 246) for the BB Curve 8300, at almost one-third the price of an iPhone. Such phones with 3G networks offer greater security than their 2G predecessors. It allows the User Equipment to authenticate the network it is attaching to, and hence the user can be sure the network is the intended one and not an impersonator.

Tech-savvy lawyers are not going to compromise just with handheld devices. iPad, the latest product of Apple is selling like hot cakes. The gadget pitched between a smart phone and laptop, is slim and light enough for a briefcase and useful enough for you to claim a tax deduction! Bar & Bench spoke to Naval Satarawala Chopra, principal associate at Amarchand Mangaldas, Delhi, and owner of the much awaited Apple iPad. Naval said, “iPad is the perfect gadget for a lawyer on the move – you can create or edit documents, carry out on-line research and develop client presentations in an easy user friendly manner. It is also possible for Indian law publishers to sell e-books via the iTunes store which can be read on an iPad. And when your meetings are over, you can watch HD quality movies or play games on iPad as well.” He also points out that iPad is currently not suited for use in India as it has not been officially launched, which limits portability. iPad also does not support flash media and does not have external drive ports. The grey market has pitched iPad in India at approximately Rs. 36,000 ($765) for the base model without 3G, which is Rs. 8,000 ($170) more than the retail price abroad.

Encrypted thumb drives are also useful devices and commonly used by lawyers. They are typically removable and rewritable, and physically very small. Ketaki Suklikar of Wadia Ghandy & Co., Mumbai, uses the latest hardware encrypted thumb drive, which only allows access to the data by entering a pin. Perfect for all that confidential legal jargon, especially for those who are on the move. Easy to carry and light on weight, every lawyer just wishes to just Plug-and-Play the net on their laptop. The new age has made wireless internet being capable of high speed and unlimited content loading. The wireless internet comes like the USB and is very suitable for that last minute cause list.

Chennai-based Manoharan Ellappan, an associate with the former Additional General of Tamil Nadu, R. Muthukumaraswamy, uses the ‘Pen Scanner’. It’s used the same way you use a fluorescent highlighter. Simply take the pen and scan it across the text. The pen scanner will let you scan, store and transfer your printed text as well as smaller images to your computer. It is ideal for taking notes or scanning text from landmark judgments. This comes at a price of Rs. 4,600 ($98). Manoharan also uses the latest camera with bluetooth technology which enables lawyers to click and send pictures of case laws, etc. to any bluetooth device like the latest mini A4 printers and the same technology lets you print out instantly without the use of any wires. The new version of the old-age dictaphones comes now packed with bluetooth, it’s widely used by lawyers for recording statements and speeches for later playback or to be typed into print. The camera, mini A4 printers and the dictaphone, all start from approximately Rs. 7,000 ($149).

The laptop market is tough to crack for domestic vendors with Indian consumers having preference for reliable foreign brands. With stores like Apple, Dell, Sony, Acer and Toshiba opening retail outlets all over India, the consumer no longer needs to travel abroad to get one. To break into the lawyers market, HCL Technologies has tied up with Manupatra, to provide its new laptop users with an in-built version of the Indian Law Legal Database clubbed with free trial for the first year. Manufacturers are using creative ways to sell their product in the market and lawyers are a great target for laptops, especially when they come at an affordable starting price of Rs. 31,310 ($664).

Having useful gadgets is a great plus in providing efficient and effective legal advice to clients. However, these gadgets are useless if the battery runs out when you are on the go.  Darshan Ramamurthy, an associate with Rouse, Dubai, uses the ‘Solar Monkey’. This curiously named device lets you power mobile phones, iPads, PDAs and other electronic devices, all using solar energy!  This is easy on the wallet too. Caution: Always keep a backup, because “When the lights go out…”.

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