What’s Available for the Mobile Attorney

Reprinted with permission from: New York State Bar Association Journal, February 2018, published by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

 

An increasing number of attorneys are adopting a mobile work style. In and out of the office, they are working from home, traveling to meet clients, and, as always, going to court, devices in hand.

A range of technology is available to support seamless mobile work. The right hardware and software, and some time spent getting used to them, let lawyers take advantage of the ability to work anywhere as they would in the office.

Connectivity

You can bring your own internet with a mobile hotspot. Standalone devices that range in price from $20 to $100 can provide you with internet wherever you go, whether it’s the train home from the office or a remote cabin in the wilderness.

You probably already have a mobile hotspot on you. Many smartphones give you the option of creating a network connection for other devices. This will consume data, so be careful of this feature if your plan is not unlimited. Another drawback is that you won’t be able to rely on your phone when it doesn’t get service, such as in that remote cabin. In such scenarios, it’s best to bring along a separate device, such as Verizon’s JetPack, or Samsung’s Mobile HotSpot. If your firm has an IT department, it might have hotspots available for loan.

Many firms are issuing attorneys laptops that can be docked (more on docking below) in the office and connected to the firm’s network via virtual private network (VPN) when they are taken on the road. Together with Wi-Fi connectivity and VPN, you can work on your laptop as if you were at your desk at work. Additionally, if the firm’s standard desktop deployment is on the laptop and Outlook is in cached mode, attorneys can work with documents and email even without internet access. When you do get internet access, the emails and documents will sync with the network in the office via the VPN.

Hardware

As mentioned above, a docking station at work, complete with two or more monitors, keyboards, and phone, is a highly mobile-friendly setup that many firms have adopted in the last few years. Attorneys can plug in their laptops when they arrive and enjoy the full benefit of having large monitors to work on (studies show that multiple screens can boost productivity), and take the laptops with them when they leave, continuing their work at their next destination.

Powerful, lightweight laptops and laptop-tablet hybrids have entered the market to meet the needs of this increasingly mobile workforce. The Surface Pro, an example of the latter, weighs two pounds, can be used either as a laptop or tablet, and features powerful processing and storage. Features such as handwriting-to-text translation make it a leading option among attorneys. The Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon is another popular lightweight Windows device.

Blank Rome LLP credits a 2015 firmwide Surface Pro rollout with boosting efficiency, productivity, and associate happiness.

Laurence Liss, the firm’s CTO, told LegalTech News, “We’re trying to cut back on paper and make people more productive by being able to move around, and also more responsive to our clients and their colleagues. For example, people now can obviously take their tablets to meetings, to other peoples’ offices, and they have all their documents or their emails at their fingertips.”

Applications and Documents

With the tools described above, attorneys can empower themselves to work smoothly wherever they go. Some may want to take it further, however, and work not only on their laptops but on other devices. For that, many of the most common legal applications, such as the document management system NetDocuments and the billing programs like Rippe Kingston and 3E Elite, offer cloud implementations that can be used as apps on smart phones or tablets. Programs like Citrix, on the other hand, allow you to log in to your desktop from an iPad. Many attorneys are already relying on Citrix for snow days and other work-from-home occasions.

Staying Secure on the Go

Laptops are sadly prone to being left in taxi cabs and airport lounges. The trove of confidential client data on a typical work device makes security conscious attorneys rightfully wary of the mobile work style. This is an uncomfortable scenario, but it can be made less stressful with measures such as BitLocker, a full-disk encryption feature that prevents unauthorized access. BitLocker is included with Enterprise editions of Windows. Anyone working with privileged data should strongly consider this option.

As mentioned above, a VPN is highly recommended for working from places like coffee shops and hotels, which typically have insecure connections.

Most modern laptops and some phones also come with fingerprint readers, which simultaneously boost security and convenience. Mobile attorneys take advantage of them to sign in quickly and employ tight security. Mobile device management (MDM) solutions, such as Microsoft Intune, give you and your IT department control over mobile devices and laptops. If they are lost or stolen, for example, they can be remotely wiped. Finally, consider a privacy screen protector, which not only keeps curious and prying eyes from your client’s emails but also reduces glare, allowing you to enjoy the sunshine while you work.