I Love Living in the Future

Right now I am in California (getting ready to visit the Googleplex–feel free to be jealous). Yesterday, for the first time, I flew on a flight that had in-flight Wi-Fi. The cost was reasonable ($5) and the flight was longer than I liked, so I decided to try the Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi worked fine and I had no problems using it. I love the fact that I was able to keep up with my email on the flight, so that when I landed, I didn’t have to spend the first hour after arrival playing email catch up.

While working through my email, I was able to experience the benefits first hand of going paperless and using a virtual fax service rather than an actual fax machine.

While somewhere over the great plains, I received an email from a client that I had represented two years ago. She told me that she needed me to fax something to someone related to what I had assisted her with two years ago.

Fortunately, I ran a paperless office that integrates with the cloud. This means that, from the airplane, I was able to retrive the document from Spider Oak. If I had my laptop, I would have been able to retrive it directly from my hard drive. However, I am traveling only with my iPad, therefore, I had to retrive the document from the cloud.

Finding the document was easy. Once I had the document, I had to fax it to the recipient. Because I use a virtual fax service, send this email was no different from sending an email.

Despite the fact that I was 38,000 feet in the air, in about a total of 10 minutes time, I had received the email, retrieved the requested document from a case that had been closed for two years, and had faxed it to the person my client wanted to have it.

Without technology, obviously none of this would have been possible. Because of the technology, however, I was able to handle this task quickly and efficiently, regardless of my location.

Saving Paper

A couple of recent experiences have prompted me to think about the number of wasted pages that attorneys generated. And I am not talking about poorly drafted arguments. I am talking about exhibits.

I am involved in an appeal in an insurance coverage case. The issue is discrete and is strictly a legal issue. There are no real facts at issue. In the case, the Complaint was 14 pages long. A similarly sized amended complaint was also filed, along with a counterclaim from another party. With answers to each complaint and counterclaim along with the motions for summary judgment and responses, there is, in total, maybe 300 pages of pleadings filed in the case.

The common law record on appeal, however, is 2,841 pages long. What is the rest of the record comprised of? For the most part, copies of insurance policies. I know, this is an insurance coverage case. The applicable policies are important. In this case, there were a lot of them because there were multiple companies and multiple policies involved.

However, the reality is that the provisions relating to the lawsuit comprised less than 10 pages from each of the policies. Notwithstanding this, the attorneys for the insurance companies attached the complete policies for every policy to both the applicable complaint (or counterclaim) and the motion for summary judgment.

This is something I see all of the time. I understand the desire to attach the complete policy to the complaint. However, is it really necessary to attach hundreds of irrelevant pages as an exhibit to a motion for summary judgment? In this case, those extra irrelevant pages amounted to, literally, thousands of pages. And that was just in the record on appeal. In the case before the trial court, those thousands of pages were served on three other parties.

In a less extreme, but still wasteful example, I was recently served with a motion to dismiss a complaint I had filed. The defendant’s attorney had attached a copy of the complaint to the motion. Why? Sure, give the judge a copy of the complaint when you provide him with courtesy copies of the moition. However, I can think of no reason to actually attach it as an exhibit to the motion to dismiss. It’s not like the complaint is information outside of the record. It’s what got the court file started in the first place. This seems to be a common practice in Illinois. Does this happen in other jurisdictions as well?

Anyway, what I am saying is think about the paper you are wasting. I don’t want to scan it, store it, or mail it, if it is irrelevant or unneeded. Certainly, there are exhibits that you need to attached to your pleadings. Further, there is no question but that in some cases you will have to attach an entire contract. However, if you exhibit is hundreds of pages long, and you are looking only at a couple of pages, think about paring down that exhibit.

The common law record on appeal contains 2,841 stamped pages. In reviewing the record, however, I noticed several unstamped pages that were missed because the pages were stuck together. As a result, the waste is even greater than it initially appeared to be.

What’s in My Travel Bag?

I recently received an email from someone asking what they should include in their travel bag. Without knowing their specific situation, that is difficult for me to answer. However, I can tell you what I travel with and explain why I have what I have.

  • Computer power adapter: This is something you want to make sure you do not forget. You don’t want to get somewhere and realize that you used the last of your computer’s battery during your flight.
  • Power Strip. I have been in way too many hotel rooms that have only one or two outlets. This makes it difficult to plug in everything that you need to power or charge. Some hotels have started including power strips in their rooms. However, I still take one with me.
  • Wireless Travel Router. I actually use one made by Linksys that is no longer available. I got a great deal on it when CompUSA was closing. Many hotels offer wired only internet access. I don’t like having to be tied to the desk to access the internet. A travel router makes it easy to create your own secure wireless cloud so you are not chained to the hotel desk.
  • Network Cable. I have a short piece of cat 5 networking cable (about 6 feet) just in case the hotel does not have a cable or in case the hotel cable is not long enough.
  • USB Connector Kit. One of this pretty much guarantees that you are able to connect your computer to just about any USB device. This is just very handy to carry around. Cables to Go makes a very nice kit.
  • Keypad. I hate trying to enter numbers on a laptop keypad. Therefore I always keeps a keypad in my bag. They also make wireless versions. I just wish someone would make a bluetooth version.
  • Headphones. If you are flying, you probably want a set of noise canceling headphones. Otherwise, I always keep a set of headphones in my computer bag in case I want to listen to or watch something on my computer.
  • MP3 player. It’s always good to have some tunes available to you when you are traveling.
  • Camera. To take pictures.
  • Kindle. I love mine and wouldn’t travel without it.
  • Chargers for the rest of your devices. Make sure you take what you need to charge all of the other devices you are carrying (phone, camera, mp3 player, etc.). Fortunately, most devices can be charged via USB, if you have the right connectors. Make sure you get those and lessen the number of power cords you have to carry.

Assembling a travel bag is not something that happens overnight. It takes time (and sometimes a trip where you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I forgot to bring X.”) As I mentioned above, I picked up my travel router at a store closing sale, my wife grabbed my keypad for me at an after Thanksgiving sale for less than $5, I picked up my USB kit at a Tiger Direct sale.

The trick is to know what you want and just keep your eye open for good deals to stock your travel bag.

I am curious as to what I missed. What do you carry that I don’t. Alternatively, does anyone think I am crazy for carrying what I do?


On a positive note, I have made my first post in Sean Carter’s attempt to get people blogging regularly.

Laptop Bags

According to statistics released earlier this year, travelers lose more than 600,000 laptops a year at the largest and medium sized airports in the country. At the 36 largest airports, more than 10,000 laptops are last a per week.

This means that you need to pay close attention to your laptop when traveling through the airport and especially when going through security. One of the (many) things I hate about going through airport security is the fact that they make you take your laptop out of its case. I think that this just makes it easier for someone else to snatach your laptop.

A solution to this problem is to fly with with a checkpoint friendly laptop bag. If you travel a lot, you might want to look at this list of checkpoint friendly laptop bags. Anything you can do to make your trip through the airport faster and more secure is something you might want to consider.

The Mobile Law Firm

At The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog, Evan Schaeffer reports that he and his wife, Andrea Lamere, are spending the month in Arentina. Given that their firm consists of Evan and Andrea, some people may be wondering about how they are keeping their practice going while they are both in Argentina.

In his post, Evan reports that the ubiquitos nature of wi-fi in Buenos Aires makes it easy for him to work while there. He reports he is using services such as Skype, iPhone, MyFax, Google Calendar, Google Notebook, and Slingbox to keep in touch with home.

Read his entire post here. It’s a nice primer on how to practice while away from home.

I would also note that all of the services that Evan talks about are useful even if you don’t leave the country. For example, I use an electronic faxing service to receive my faxes. I will never go back to having only a fax machine. It is simply too convenient to be able to receive my faxes anywhere that I have internet access.

Is the iPhone/iPod Touch the New Laptop?

Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed an interesting series of posts from both Dennis Kennedy and Ernie the Attorney. Dennis has posted a three part series in which he explains the process that he went through in deciding to purchase an iPod Touch as his new laptop computer.

At the same time, Ernie the Attorney was posting a series of entries about his trip to Panama during which he left his laptop at home and took only his iPhone. After his experience, he concluded:

As you recall, last week when I went to Panama I didn’t bring a computer. I mentioned that I relied heavily on my iPhone, and that I was able to do a lot of work with just that device. But, I pointed out, that the trip was for pleasure so I didn’t really need a computer. If I had been away longer, or if I had been required to do more work on the trip, I would most certainly have brought my laptop. But, for a short trip that doesn’t involve a lot of work, I can say that an iPhone works just fine. In fact, I would venture to say that the iPod Touch would work fine. My daughter had one and was able to check email and do most of the things that I did on my iPhone.

Although his phone service did not work in Panama, he was still able to make calls using his iPhone.

I thought my iPhone would be able to work on the local phone network here in Panama. It did last time I was here, but not this time. AT&T assured me it would when I checked right before I left on my trip. “”Yes sir, you’re signed up for the Intenational option at $3.99 a month,” the representative told me.

That turned out not to be true. But doesn’t matter because I have the TruPhone app for my iPhone which lets me make low cost calls using the free Wi-Fi at my brother’s beach paradise.

I found both of these series of posts quite intriguing. It certainly sounds attractive to be able to travel without a laptop and still be able to get some work done. However, I doubt that I will be traveling down either Dennis or Ernie’s path in the near future. First, as I have mentioned before, I hate iTunes, and I would be tied to it to use either product effectively. Second, with respect to the iPhone, I hate AT&T’s service (which is your only real option with an iPhone). My wife and I both have Treos. She has AT&T service, I have Verizon. Often I will have better reception than her. Also, when traveling to the less populated areas of the country (where we have family), she often has no reception, while my phone works just fine.

Nevertheless, if you are considering trying to lighten your load while traveling, check out these posts from Ernie and Dennis and consider leaving the laptop at home.

Using TripIt

I have written before about TripIt. TripIt is a travel organization website that allows you to forward your reservation confirmations to the website and it automatically builds a travel itinerary for you. When I wrote about TripIt before, I had not yet tried it.

I am currently traveling in the Pacific Northwest right now and have used TripIt to organize my trips. After trying it out, I admit that I love it.

Adding reservations is a piece of cake. You simply forward them to plans@tripit.com. You assign them to a trip on the website and your trip is automatically populated with the reservation information as well as information such as weather, maps, and directions.

Also, they have great customer service. I made reservations with a regional hotel chain as well as a single hotel. TripIt could not automatically interpret the reservation information. This means that I had to enter the information manually (not really an onerous task). Given that I might stay with either hotel in the future, however, I submitted a request to TripIt for them to add these reservations to their programming.

I received a personal response from someone at TripIt who asked me to resubmit the reservation email and copy her on it. After doing so, I received a second email from her telling me that TripIt has parsed the information from my emails and added them to my trip.

Additionally, I can easily access TripIt via the web browser on my telephone. Plus, I can send an email to TripIt and the service will email my trip to me. This is very convienant while traveling.

In sum, this is a great service, that is easy to use, and is staffed by friendly, helpful people. What is not to like? I will be using TripIt for any future trips.