Denver Bar Association
June 2006
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Time Travel? How To Be In Two Places At Once: Learn how to make technology work in your favor

by Doug McQuiston

Editor’s Note: When you’re knee deep in unreturned e-mails, voicemails and stacks of paper, when your life starts to feel like a traffic jam, and when you need a helping hand to climb out of the chaos — call on The Docket. For the next few months, The Docket will be running practice management articles to help you take control of the wheel. Taking a few simple steps can save you time, energy and, most important, sanity.

When driving down the road of life, do you feel like you’re headed straight into a traffic jam? Knowing how to use the right technology can help put your life back in drive.
It’s 8:15 a.m., Tuesday morning. You find yourself shifting awkwardly on the hard wooden bench in the back of the courtroom in Denver District Court, trying to find a comfortable position for your long wait. On your way in, you check the docket. Your Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories is ninth-deep. Bummer. There goes your morning. On the bright side, at least you got a hearing. With all your preparation, you hope it’s worth it.

Being the diligent professional you are, you took huge chunks of your paper file home last night to get ready for the hearing. It required an hour just to sift through the
volumes of paper to get your "take-home" file ready. As you dashed out of the office, trying to catch at least part of your daughter’s 6 o’clock softball game, you hoped you didn’t leave anything behind.

At home, after dinner and bedtime stories, you dragged your overstuffed briefcase into your study, trying hard not to spill your cocktail while sitting down to flip through all of that paper. An hour into your review, panic sets in. You frantically searched for the latest pleading, Defendant’s Reply to your Motion. It was nowhere to be found.1 You know you had your secretary print the pleading a few days ago when you got it (late, of course), and put it into the "to be filed" box on the file clerk’s desk, just like you always did. It must not have caught up to the file. Dammit.

You slammed down the last of your cocktail in frustration. "I’m gonna fire that file clerk," you muttered to yourself. You couldn’t properly prepare without the Reply, so you pulled your shoes back on and grabbed the car keys for the drive downtown to retrieve the pleading. On your way out the door, you mumbled to your upset spouse that you would be home in a couple of hours. The clock on the microwave oven glowed: 10:30 p.m.

Luckily, T-Rex didn’t have any lanes closed, so you were at your office and up to your file clerk’s Inbox in only 40 minutes. Of course, there it was, right where your secretary had left it a few days ago. You grabbed it and headed home to complete your preparation. Finally, you crawled into bed around 2 a.m. for a few hours’ sleep before the hearing.

So, there you sit, bleary-eyed, but ready. You brought your Rocky Mountain News with you to read while you wait. As you flip through the paper, 8:30 a.m. turns to 9:30 a.m., which drags into 10:30 a.m. Finally, after the mid-morning recess, your case is called — 11 a.m. — showtime!

Ten minutes later, your hearing is over. You have your Order Compelling Discovery. Mission accomplished. You stop at your favorite burrito joint on the mall for a quick lunch, and get to your desk at 1:30 p.m. to start plowing through the 50 or 60 e-mails that hit while you were out. Before you know it, it’s 6:30 p.m. and you knock off for the day, with 15 e-mails still unread. Stuck behind the wheel in I-25 traffic, you curse the arrival of all this technology — the endless e-mails, the electronic court filing, voicemail, the whole bleeping lot of it — it only seems to have made your job harder, and given you less time to do it.

Sound familiar? If so, we have good news. You don’t have too much technology in your life — you don’t have enough, and what you do have you’re not using adequately, to make it work for you.

What’s the good news, you ask? Simple: With just a few adjustments in your approach, and maybe a modest outlay of dollars, you can turn it all around, take charge and make your machines work for you.

For the next few months, we will be looking at ways to economically leverage technology to allow you to be in two places at once: at the courthouse waiting for your hearing and at your desk in the office, catching up with e-mails and communicating with clients. We also will take a look at ways to allow you to access all files, anywhere, 24-hours-a-day, if necessary.

Imagine: no more late-night trips to the office to retrieve the misfiled (or unfiled) pleading; no more moments of panic when your client asks about a document you inadvertently left at the office. No more long fumbles through exhibit notebooks searching for a document to question a witness with during a deposition.

The technological tools we will examine fit a simple purpose: to make your work easier, economize your workday, leverage your time and lighten your load. Don’t worry — you won’t even have to know how to type to use most of them. If you can write, or even speak, you can become a technological wiz in no time. We will be looking at laptops, tablet PCs, scanners and even cell phone/PDA combinations. Each of these tools fit particular needs, and all have one thing in common: they will make you better at what you do, by helping you use your time better, and giving you more time to do what you do best.

One more thing: all of these tools have "Off" buttons, and we also will be learning how to use them, too.

Next month: digging out of the paper avalanche!

1. Because “you’re a paper person,” you print out all of those Lexis-Nexis® Justicelink copies of pleadings that beep at you annoyingly in your e-mail Inbox, then route them to your file clerk’s “Inbox,” pining for the “good old days” when pleadings only arrived in the mail.

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