This article focuses on accessories that help us get the most out of our devices. I will also review some of the issues we should keep in mind, to use our technology responsibly and ethically, including security issues, law society rules, and what I call “technology etiquette.”
A few months ago, a lawyer friend waded into a lake with his phone in his pocket. I suggested he put his phone in a bowl of rice and keep it there for a few days as this trick has worked for me in the past. Unfortunately, this trick did not work and my friend lost his contacts, e-mails, text messages, and who knows what else. For him, it was the wrong gear for the wrong time.
Having said that, when choosing any type of “gear” you should always read reviews and speak to others before making the purchase. For this reason, I do not promote any specific products but instead focus on the different categories of products available.
Tip: Have a different case for your different needs and switch them accordingly.
Wallet-style case: It is elegant and light and when you are at the office it should be more than enough to protect your cellphone, tablet, or notebook. It is also easy to switch out.
Hard-shell/waterproof case: If you value what is on your device, you should always have a rugged case. You will need it when you take off on a road trip or a weekend retreat. You might not use it all the time, but you will certainly appreciate it when you do.
Portable projectors, printers, and scanners
Tip: Consider storing all of these items in their own cases so they are ready to go when you need them.
Portable printers: Many companies sell printers approximately the size of a book, use batteries, and print on standard printing paper. Although it will not replace a desktop printer, it can be essential if you are at trial and away from your office.
Portable scanners: Technically, your smartphone can work as an excellent scanner but there are also excellent portable scanners available that outperform the smartphone if you are doing a lot of scanning.
Portable projectors: A quality portable projector may also be adequate for your office, so you can use it in your boardroom as well as take it with you.
Health and ergonomics
The sit/stand desk convertor: Many famous people, including Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway, preferred to work standing at a “standing desk.” Instead of a separate standing desk, there are “hybrid” desks that can be raised to standing height so your computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse are still useable.
Keyboards and mouse: If you suffer from tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome then you will want to have options for positioning your hands more comfortably. A handheld mouse operates like a remote and allows you to control the cursor with your thumb. Keyboards can be placed on trays that attach to the desk and positioned to multiple angles.
Issues to be aware of when using technology
As lawyers, we must learn to practise in an online environment ethically and responsibly. Part of this journey is choosing the right gear, the right gadgets, and thinking about what “more” is involved.
• Include “privileged” in the Re: line;
• Have a “disclaimer” automatically generate at the end of each e-mail that tells the reader about confidentiality and liability;
• Ensure that you have permission to communicate confidential information by e-mail; and,
• Remember that once an e-mail is sent, it will exist forever!
Patriot Act: What do they know about me?
• Remember, cloud storage is often based in the United States and is therefore subject to the Patriot Act, which allows the United States government to access your data without your consent;
• Take a close look at your cloud storage to ensure that you are protecting your client’s private information; and,
• This includes iCloud, Gmail, and Dropbox!
Legal Profession Act, SBC 1998:
• This act permits the Law Society of British Columbia to make rules for law firms, in addition to lawyers, and allows the law society to examine records;
• In s. 36 of the Legal Profession Amendment Act, the LSBC can investigate if they have reason to believe there is a breach; and,
• I interpret “records” to include information stored on your smartphones, computers, and tablets.
B.C.’s Law Society Rule 4-43:
• If the law society discipline committee reasonably believes that a lawyer or former lawyer may have committed a discipline violation, they may investigate your records;
• This may include your Dropbox account, smartphone, laptop, and even your e-mail; and,
• The lawyer must produce records, including passwords, encryption keys, and not alter or delete records subject to investigation without written consent of the executive director.
LSBC Code of Professional Conduct:
• Rule 3.3-1 and Commentary 7 is where client confidentiality is made a requirement for lawyers;
• Client property and confidentiality, including records, must be preserved; and,
• It is important to advise clients in writing that any electronic communications may not be secure, and confirm client’s consent to receive electronic communication.
Most law societies across the country have similar rules. Make sure you’re aware of your responsibilities in the jurisdiction you practise in.
• All of your devices should be password protected;
• Passwords should be changed regularly;
• The device should be set to lock and require password input after one minute of inactivity or less; and,
• The best passwords are memorable to you, but engage multiple types of digits, for example: Go8dP@s$w0rd.
Backup and storage:
The LSBC’s “Cloud computing due diligence guidelines” suggest you autosave your data. If you are going to use cloud storage, remember to look at the “Cloud computing checklist” to assist with cloud security.
Siri and other AI (artificial intelligence) trackers:
• Lawyers are one of the only professions that can be told secrets and are required, by law, to never, ever reveal them except in extraordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, technology can breach that trust. For example, a man in Florida stands accused of murder and part of the evidence includes:Records of him asking Siri where to hide a dead body;
• Records of his phone’s flashlight being used nine times that night; and,
• Records of his phone’s GPS location being at the scene of the crime.
Updating your devices:
Updates are important because:
• They protect against the latest security threats;
• They allow your device to work properly with your apps and other programs;
• They patch vulnerabilities; and,
• They help keep your devices working reliably.
As lawyers, we can demonstrate we are professionals through our use of technology. Some basic rules to follow include:
• Don’t use technology as a soapbox;
• Get to the point when writing e-mails;
• Communicate at the same level of integrity you would if meeting in person or writing a letter;
• Don’t text or read e-mails in the middle of a conversation; and,
• Be extra aware of how you are using technology when in court.
For more information, see my article “Technology etiquette.”
Just as we cannot fall behind on legal developments, keeping up with trends in technology is a constant cycle. Not everyone is interested in the subject but we all know somebody who is. Make that person your friend.