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Outside the safe office environment, accessing your documents or research materials via the internet can be frustrating. Although many firms now recognise that much legal work can be done from home, the practicalities of linking users with a firm’s data has presented a real hindrance. But with the advent of digital subscriber line (DSL), this should change.DSL transmits digital information over ordinary copper telephone lines turning them into high-speed data links. Typically, individual connections will provide from 512 Kbps to two Mbps downstream and about 256 Kbps upstream, enabling customers to download information at between 10 and 20 times the speed of a conventional modem.The good news for DSL customers is that unlike the ordinary phone system or ISDN, your connection is always on, with no dial-up time. Charging is via a monthly fee of about £50 plus VAT, and there are no additional call charges for calls to the internet. Using the same connection, customers will be able to make and receive telephone calls or faxes while they are online, although these will be billed at the normal rate.The system is ideal for lawyers who wish to tap into their firms’ document-creation packages, online know-how databases or to access online dealrooms. It will enhance significantly existing services such as video-conferencing and online education and enable users to download information, images, video clips or graphics almost instantly.One complaint is that providers will insist that they are used as the customer’s internet service provider (ISP). In other words, it will be necessary to access services by passing briefly through the provider’s portal. BT will, for example, make content available from Reuters, FT.com and Prestel Online. BT also plans to offer legal information from Desktop Lawyer. Other providers will no doubt offer a different range of content.It will not take long for the system to spread beyond relatively fixed PCs, enabling lawyers to access their materials on the move. In the medium term it will be delivered seamlessly over multiple devices and technologies – providing customers with access to their chosen content and applications through their WAP phone, organiser, laptop or TV.www.openworld.com www.whatis.com

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