Thursday, May 31, 2007

Virtual Lawyer Test #2 – It keeps getting better!

I just returned from two days in NYC. My experience as a "virtual lawyer" keeps getting better. All I brought with me was a cell phone (Motorola RAZR), a laptop (Compaq v2000), and an iPod mini. Despite two days on the road, I felt almost as comfortable working out of the office as I do working in the office.

This trip was so much better than previous trips. First, there was less to carry with me. Second, it is easier to find Internet access. Third, software and web-based services are getting easier to use and more feature rich.

There was less to carry because I downsized my phone (from a Motorola MPx200 smartphone) and eliminated the PDA device. I now rely on the laptop as my PDA. It just makes life simpler. For my next laptop, I may downsize to an ultralight model. The smaller the devices, the easier it is to have a portable office.

I have also moved to the paperless office, religiously scanning documents as they come in and minimizing paper documents or returning paper copies to the client (after scanning them). Scanning documents means that I don’t have to drag any client files with me.

Traveling from Boston to NYC, I took the Limoliner bus. The Limoliner has wireless Internet (via Satellite), 120V AC for plugging in the charger for computer and cell phone, and fold-up tray tables (like the air lines). The leather seats are more comfortable than my office chair. I can work on documents, respond to emails, and listen to music. I can forward office calls to my cell phone and voila, it feels like I’m still in my office (except for the occasional bump). The ticket cost (which includes a meal) was only $158 round-trip.

I didn’t go to NYC for business; I just wanted to join my wife who was attending a conference for work (which meant I got to stay in a free hotel room). We spent a romantic evening in NYC, walking around Times Square and having dinner at Gabriel’s on W60th Street. I got almost as much work done on the bus as I usually get done in a full day (fewer distractions on the bus) and I was able to enjoy the evening in the city. I also met a friend for lunch that I hadn't seen in 30 years and I got a tour of the gold vault at the Federal Reserve (worth about $150B). As I rode the subway to meet my friend, I listened to a legal seminar on my iPod.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza, which provides wireless Internet ($14.95/day). I paid for one day access which included a 24-hour period. After we checked out, I waited in the lobby for my wife’s conference to finish. I could have gone to Starbucks, but I managed to piggy back off the Lehman Brothers conference for some free wireless. While I waited for my wife’s conference to finish, I watched a great webinar from LexisNexis on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). I used the ear phones from the iPod to plug into my computer to listen to the webinar. I also used my cell phone for a conference call with a client addressing questions about the document I emailed to her on the bus ride down.

We planned to return on the 3pm Limoliner. However, the bus had a strange mechanical problem and was delayed. So, we left our bag on the bus and ducked into the MOMA (modern art museum), which was only one block away. We saw some great paintings (by Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper). When the bus was ready to go, they called me on the cell phone and we headed back. Although there was traffic on the way back, I plugged in my computer and managed to crank out a few more documents. The four and a half hour ride went by without notice.

It is not surprising that you can work while you travel. What is amazing is how easy and enjoyable it is to work while you travel. There are a few things I would improve (like having a smaller laptop), but overall the Virtual Lawyer Test #2 was a great success.

What would make work on the road easier for you? What kind of “virtual lawyer” experiences have you had lately?

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