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Technology: What is the best computing set-up for traveling attorneys?

Technology on the go is all about devices, power, internet and printing

Attorneys travel quite a bit, as do all modern professionals. Airports and cab rides, conference rooms and coffee shops — work needs to be done wherever they are. Many people ask, “What is the best computing setup for traveling attorneys?” While everyone is different and there is no single solution regarding matters of taste, here are some guidelines for surviving the woes of business travel. Technology on the go is all about devices, power, internet and printing. If you optimize these four categories, you can make traveling with technology a much more manageable process.

Devices

It all starts with a good smartphone, which can be a lifeline throughout your travels. Your smartphone is your first response device for emails, calendar appointments and phone calls, so no matter what you chose, make sure you are comfortable with the device. There is no reason to weigh into the iPhone versus Android phone debate as long as you carry a modern smartphone with up-to-date software. Consider adding a Wi-Fi tethering option to your smartphone’s data plan, which will be described in further detail below.

A good laptop is invaluable when traveling. You should carry the lightest possible laptop, with the smallest screen you can tolerate. Skeptics argue that small, light laptops are not good everyday devices; however, when you are in the office your laptop will likely be connected to a full-sized keyboard, mouse and monitor via a docking station, so your laptop’s actual screen size will not come into play very often. The weight you save by going small will become a godsend during travel. Make sure, however, that you travel with all of the connectors you will need. For example, many lightweight laptops do not have built-in VGA or HDMI connectors, which are needed for modern projectors. Carrying additional connectors may add a little weight to your bag, but having them with you will save quite a bit of aggravation.

Some people prefer to travel with a tablet device, such as an iPad. Tablets are lightweight, easy to use, and transition well for personal tasks, such as reading books or video chatting with family members. The problem with tablets is that they often are not able to perform all of the business functions you will need throughout your travels. As long as you also have a laptop with you, however, there is certainly nothing wrong with carrying a tablet — if you are willing to carry the extra weight. If you decide to travel with a tablet in lieu of a laptop, it is recommended to acquire a bluetooth keyboard/cover for the device. While a keyboard/cover will add additional weight to your tablet, you will likely welcome the ability to type on a physical keyboard when responding to emails or drafting a contract on the go.

Power

Travel with all of the power cables you will need for all of your devices and make sure that you have all of your devices fully charged. Consider having power cables which are always stored in your work bag so you do not accidently leave the cables you need at the office. In regard to charging your smartphone or tablet, consider bringing only the USB cable needed for each device and leaving the actual outlet connector at home. You will still be able to charge your devices through your laptop’s USB port, and the weight you save by not carrying the outlet adapters will be appreciated. In addition, many hotels and airline waiting areas have USB outlets available for use, making outlet adapters superfluous.

Consider traveling with a battery pack which can hold enough charge for your smartphone and tablet in case of emergency. Such battery packs are available at any technology store and the emergency power is definitely worth the weight.

Internet

Access to the Internet is essential. Thankfully, there are countless ways to connect online in every major city and airport. That said, your smartphone’s cellular connection should be the most reliable and ubiquitous when traveling. If your smartphone supports 4G speeds (likely through an LTE cellular connection), then you will have all of the bandwidth you need for email, document sharing and even casual video conferencing. As a result, I recommend enabling Wi-Fi tethering on your cellular plan, which can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for your laptop, tablet and even a couple of additional devices from a colleague. Many public Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops, such as Starbucks, are also reliable and nearly ubiquitous. Be wary of hotspots run by less reputable companies, though; they are often poorly maintained and may be a security threat.

Printing

Printing while traveling is often the weakest technology link. Printers are often out of paper or ink and, even at nice hotels, it is difficult to know how to connect to printing services with ease. If you do need to print at a “business center,” consider converting all documents to PDF format and then emailing the PDF document to yourself so you can log into a convenience computer and simply print, using Adobe Acrobat. Also consider printing to locations such as FedEx Office, Staples, Office Depot and the like. Many such stores are found throughout the nation and all have printing services online. Google Chrome can print directly to any FedEx Office store in the world with just a couple of clicks, which can be a real lifesaver when traveling.

Business travel is an exercise in maximizing the technology you have with you. Choosing the right devices and keeping an eye on weight and power will ensure your devices are comfortable to handle and full of charge when you need them. With the right technology and a little forethought, your access to the Internet and printing services should be an easy to tap into modern necessity. All in all, the best computing setup for you may take a little experimentation, but following these guidelines should point you in the right direction.

Contributing Author

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David Carns

David Carns is Vice President, eDiscovery Client Services at @Legal Discovery, LLC. He can be reached at dcarns@legaldiscoveryllc.com.

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