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As a solo practitioner with a demanding work and family schedule, I’m always on the go. Between client meetings and depositions, I’m often attending parent-teacher conferences and baseball games and shuttling the kids to school, music and dance classes. My practice depends on my ability to take calls from clients, access files and handle paperwork from anywhere. I can share many horror stories about work matters completely taking over vacation or family time because of outmoded traditional communication. Luckily, I’ve found a handful of tools that solve the access problem and make my life much easier.
I love being a lawyer, but I love being a husband and father, too. Mobile technology and a few key apps allow me to stay connected from anywhere, putting me smack-dab in the middle of the boardroom—even when I’m working with my young one on a Lego project. Here are five tips I have to share with you:
1. Get a smartphone and tablet. Really. I would be lost without my iPhone and iPad. I conduct much of my business while out of the office, and these mobile devices have saved me hours, providing a robust platform of freedom and flexibility. I’m no longer coupled to my desk. Instead, I’m able to complete my duties as a husband and father while staying connected—receiving and responding to emails and correspondence from anywhere.
2. Embrace the apps. Phone, email and Internet are great, but what really makes my iPhone and iPad valuable are the apps. For example, eFax allows me to send, receive and forward faxes right from my phone, so I can review critical documents from home (or the baseball field). The documents are securely sent and stored, so I know that my client’s privacy is retained. We’re lawyers, so paperwork is a big part of our lives. But printing out, signing and faxing documents is nearly impossible from the road (unless you have a really cool van). So I also use eFax to attach an electronic signature to documents from my iPhone and iPad, and forward it on, making sure the paper trail doesn’t grow cold while I’m coaching my son’s baseball team. Another of my favorite apps is Notability, where I can add handwritten, voice and typed notes, which are then saved as PDF documents.
3. Make changes in real time. There are always changes to be made to contracts and other documents. Why not do them in real time in front of the client? Nothing says you’re on top of things like whipping out your tablet, editing the language of the clause in question, signing off on the changes and sharing the finished product with all the parties—while they are sitting right across the table from you. Personally, I really like Documents To Go for revising Microsoft Word documents and PDF PROvider to create PDFs from websites.
4. Consider the cloud. There’s not a briefcase in the world large enough to hold all my files and folders. Instead, I put everything in the cloud. Cloud storage services like Sugarsync and Dropbox secure my documents online and give me a clutter-free life, able to access any document from anywhere at any time. They also work surprisingly well with other office productivity apps, many of which sync automatically to your cloud account. Scanners, note-taking apps and the like serve as a lawyer’s office assistant on the go! (And this one never calls in sick or leaves at 5 p.m. … well, almost never.)
5. Coordinate phone and email service. I’ve set up phone calls to my office to simul-ring out to my cell phone. When a caller leaves messages for me, they are emailed so that I am always accessible and always connected when I need to be.
Scott D. Brenner is a solo practitioner in New York City and Special Counsel to Drohan Lee LLP’s Alternative Investment, Commercial Litigation, Regulatory and Corporate Governance Practice Groups. As a veteran commercial trade and business lawyer with approximately 20 years of diverse experience, he represents foreign and domestic businesses ranging in development from early and emerging growth stages, to middle market and multi-national corporations. Contact him at email@example.com.
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