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Effective communication is critical to a modern legal practice. Computer systems and associated software, broadband Internet equipment and presentation equipment are powerful tools for communicating and organizing information whether working in the office, at home, on the road or in the courtroom. The office typically functions as Mission Control for the attorney. The office technology center supports: 1) accessing key documents regardless of where the attorney works; 2) creating documents and presentations that are better able to hold the attention and educate the audience; and 3) working more efficiently. A group of networked computers and servers operate as the technology center hub. Ideally, the network backbone comprises a high-speed bandwidth bus supporting high data transfer rates. High transfer speeds are required to permit graphical documents to be transferred between computer systems without perceptible delay. If you plan to store and manipulate images and graphical documents, like Maverick in “Top Gun,” you’ll “feel the need for speed.” The computer network should be configured with remote nodes to permit laptops and other computers to connect remotely. The computer network may be designed to support the forwarding and receipt of e-mail to and from personal device assistants, such as the Compaq iPAQ. An attorney carrying an iPAQ who does not have access to an Internet connection or a laptop may still receive e-mails. At least one printer in the network should comprise a photo color printer, preferably with the capability of receiving a memory stick to print photos from a digital camera. One or more high-resolution scanners should be connected to the network to permit the imaging of key documents, which are stored on the data storage server. The software used in the technology center is an important part of the technology solution. There are seven basic pieces that form the software puzzle: First, there is the operating system from which the other software applications are launched. The operating system should operate seamlessly with the application software and support the features desired in the network. Second, word processing software permits the attorney to create legal documents. Preferably, the created documents are organized in a data management software application, such as PC DOCS, so that documents can be easily organized and retrieved. The data management software also allows the attorney to later search the documents by client, keyword, document type or other criteria. A third software component is a graphics package to permit viewing, creating and editing graphical documents. A software package such as Adobe Acrobat also permits graphical data to be compressed into smaller files for storage and transfer. A fourth component to the software solution is appropriate e-mail software. The e-mail software should permit other files (such as word processing documents and graphic documents) to be transferred to a recipient via e-mail. THE CONNECTIVITY FACTOR A fifth software component comprises litigation organization software, such as Summation or Paper Chaser. Litigation software allows an attorney to manage documents effectively in a suit. The attorney can construct an index field that identifies key categories of documents, such as liability issues, damage issues, etc. The person who reviews the document then fills out an index for each document by checking the appropriate fields. A summary field may be completed for each document, together with general bibliographic information. The litigation software permits an image of the document to be linked with the index for that document, which can be viewed on a computer when the user selects the document or index. Litigation support software permits the attorney to organize facts chronologically as well as by categories or issues. In addition to the organization capabilities of such software, the litigation support software gives the attorney remote access to every important document or transcript in the case. The software can be used portably on a laptop, or can be accessed via the Internet from another computer. The sixth software component facilitates connectivity to the office network and to the Internet. A Web browser application permits an attorney to view information posted to Web sites. Using a broadband Internet connection, an attorney can use connectivity software, such as Citrix, to connect to the office network and use software applications installed on the office network that are not installed on the remote computer. The connectivity software essentially establishes the remote computer as a node on the office network, allowing the attorney to run software applications remotely that the attorney uses at the office. The attorney can thus access applications such as word processing, e-mail software, a Web browser, graphics software and litigation support software without having that software installed on the home computer or laptop. For attorneys who face a difficult commute or who must work at home, technology exists that can provide increased flexibility. The seventh software component supports the creation and showing of presentations. Using a laptop computer and presentation software, an attorney can create presentations to the client. Associated technology includes portable digital projectors that connect to the laptop computer and project the presentation. Presentations can include still images such as pictures, time charts, flowcharts and documents, or may include video, audio or computer-generated animations. In addition to the computer, the attorney can use other presentation technology. Another option includes three-dimensional projectors similar to the overhead projector. Three-dimensional projectors can project objects as well as flat images and, unlike overhead projectors, do not require the projected items to be transparent. Technology thus provides the attorney with many tools for a modern legal practice. As noted above, technology makes it possible to organize and access key documents regardless of where the attorney works. The lawyer also can create visually stimulating documents and presentations to educate and capture the attention of the audience. The appropriate use of technology makes an attorney more efficient and reduces the amount of time it takes to perform most tasks. Michael Heim is a shareholder in Conley Rose & Tayon. Collin Rose is an associate with the firm. Both lawyers work in the Houston office. Their e-mail addresses are [email protected] and [email protected].

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