We’ve all heard that technology can help us work smarter, not harder.
But in a sea of choices, picking the right technology can be half the battle.
For example, you can buy a traditional hard drive for $50 or a solid state drive for twice that. But when you consider that an SSD traditionally lasts longer and boots faster, that costlier investment suddenly seems worth it.
Time is money, after all, and such considerations should be top of mind when attorneys are deciding how to invest in technology, said Jeffrey Krause, an attorney and co-owner of Solfecta, a legal technology consulting firm with offices in Chicago and Waterford, Wis.
“If you’re billing by the hour, say $200 an hour, and you’re wasting 15 minutes a day [on slower technology] there’s basically 250 work days in the year. Do that math,” Krause said. “And, if you save two minutes every time you open your computer, think about how much that’s saving.”
To maximize new technology, he said, attorneys first need to analyze their workflow and find where time is wasted.
“It’s all about sitting down and evaluating what you’re doing now, before you put in the technology,” said Katrina Jasaitis, paralegal and Solfecta co-owner. “Analyze the workflow. When you really sit down and try to figure out what people are doing, that’s where you realize how inefficiently and randomly people can do things.”
As you consider the options, check out these tips and tools for working smarter on the go and at the office.
OLYMPUS Dictation: Free smartphone apps and subscription-based dictation delivery service, such as Olympus, make it possible to dictate into an iPhone or Android device, then send that recording electronically to whatever transcriptionist you choose.
COST: Apps are free; Olympus Dictation Delivery Service by subscription, $100 a year
GFI Max: The remote-monitoring system watches all your systems and sends reports when things aren’t working right. And it works on PCs, laptops, mobile devices, even servers.
COST: Prices vary; usually $25 per server, $5 per work station, per month
Livescribe: When you put this pen to paper, the words not only appear instantly on your tablet or smartphone, they also are stored digitally in the pen. Just plug into any computer to upload. Wireless transfer and audio recording also available.
COST: Pens start at $119.95, paper from $12.95
IFTTT: IFTTT, or if this then that, lets users write simple two-step recipes to sync apps, turn on lights, silence a phone and, basically, automate as much of your existence as you’d like. Integrates with dozens of apps and websites, including Facebook, Evernote and LinkedIn.
LastPass: This password manager lets you secretly create and store passwords. It also includes plug-ins for Web browsers and smartphones, so you can log in automatically when you’re online. That function also can be shut off if you’re worried about security.
COST: Free, with option for premium service for $12 a year
Multiple monitors: Some claim that more monitors equals more productivity. For many, the magic number is two. But some attorneys use three or more at a time. Keep one open for email, another for editing documents and turn a third on its side to view full pages without scrolling.
COST: Prices vary, but expect $100 and up
USB display adapters: Interested in using multiple monitors? Well, these little cords let you connect those monitors to your desktops, laptops and tablets. Find them online or in big box stores.
COST: Prices vary, but typically $15 to $50
Chromecast: Plug this into your television, load the software and mirror your computer or smartphone onto your TV screen at home to catch up on work. Can also be used in court to share videos.
Worlddox: A one-stop shop for document handling: organize documents, streamline the way you save files and interface with copy machines and scanners.
COST: $425 to $500 per user
Microsoft OneDrive: Want all the perks of Worlddox without the price? Try this. OneDrive offers cloud storage for photos, videos and documents with the ability to create, edit and share with Office Online.
COST: Free up to 15 GB; 1 TB for $6.99 a month, includes Office 365
Microsoft OneNote: This digital note-taking program lets users sync tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktops for ready access online or offline to notes, videos, screen shots and webpages.
Office 365: Microsoft promises users can take their offices anywhere with this email, calendar, online meetings, file sharing and video management program. Also includes access to Excel, OneDrive, OneNote and Link, an instant messenger-type interface used for conference calls.
COST: Subscription prices vary from $5/month to $12.50/month
Network Attached Storage: Back up your back-ups with this hard drive mirroring system.
COST: $250 for at-home systems, $550 to $600 for law office-level networks
ioSafe: Nothing is totally indestructible, but these hard drives come pretty close, Krause said. “They make hard drives that can be submerged under water for 24 hours. They can survive a fire of 1,500 degrees. And they can be run over by a tank.”
COST: $400 and up depending on hard drive size
Solid state drives (SSD): Traditional hard drives are mechanical, with moving parts that write data to discs. Solids state drives are more like a collection of chips, which make them more durable. Plus, they’re faster, booting up in seconds, rather than minutes. Ideal for laptops.
COST: Costs vary, but expect to pay double the cost of a traditional hard drive
Hybrid drive: Part traditional hard drive, part SSD, hybrid drives are ideal for boosting speed on desktops.
COSTS: Costs vary, but there are options from $50 and up
Still not sure what tech might be right for your firm? You can always call a professional.
“The one thing we can do is shine a light on some of these things attorneys don’t even know exist,” said Jeremy Tobin Cherny, tech consultant and owner of Tobin Solutions Inc. “They’re busy doing what they do. And there are a lot of things that come out in terms of new technology that they’ve never heard or, if they’ve heard the name, they haven’t had time to learn about.”
And though some of the above prices may sound steep, remember that options come at all price points, Jasaitis said.
“There are budgetary constraints,” she said. “So you might have to get creative. But that’s the great thing about technology. There’s always something that can be done.”