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Mobilize Your Enterprise Part 2: Case Studies

What do lawyers, field technicians, and salespeople have in common? Find out how each of these groups is using the latest in mobile technology to get the job done.
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Mobilize Your Enterprise Part 2: Case Studies

In my first article in this series, I defined mobile enterprise applications and proposed an approach to choosing and implementing such applications. This looks at three cases in which enterprise mobile applications can have an impact on costs and efficiency. In each case, solutions are applied based on commercially available products.

Law Firms

The life of a lawyer is filled with paper: case files, schedules, notes, court documents, and thousands of volumes of research material. This complex web of paper is ripe for automation, and some law firms have embraced technology to find a competitive advantage over their more conservative rivals (An excellent example of a U.S. firm that has followed this path is Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott).

Law office desktop software include CD-based and online legal research, case management, document management, and timesheet/billing solutions. Because many lawyers are also highly mobile by nature, it is natural for them to use laptops and mobile offices when working on cases outside their home base. These "road warriors" are early adopters; they were the first to embrace cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), and are ideal candidates for mobile applications.

Some of the legal mobile workflows that can be automated are as follows:

  • Collaborating with co-counsel or client

  • Accessing and managing case and client data

  • Accessing and updating schedules and calendars

  • Capturing time and expense information

  • Making travel arrangements

  • Doing research, including citation searches

  • Creating, filing, and serving a pleading or motion

  • Sending documents such as retainer agreements to clients and other legal professionals

  • Forwarding documents or photos to an expert for analysis and evaluation

Hardware Solutions

Let's start with hardware and network recommendations. There are a couple of logical choices in the device area. A laptop has the advantage of being usable as a complete mobile office with access to CD archives and full-screen document-editing capabilities. This would be the first choice for those legal professionals who are away from their offices for extended periods. For those who are based most of the time in one location, but need to access and update information in the courtroom, a wireless-enabled hand-held such as a Palm Pilot, Blackberry, or Handspring Treo may make more sense. These devices are less expensive, and can be integrated with existing desktop or laptop systems. They are also less obtrusive in court than a laptop. However, for this case study, a lightweight laptop is selected as the most versatile single-device solution.

For connectivity, the laptop can use an internal modem, a cellular modem card, or a data-enabled cell phone with the appropriate cable (see Figure 1). The first option requires access to a phone jack and it is a good solution if most access will be from hotel rooms, a home office, or other suitably equipped facilities. The last option can be a cost-effective mobile solution, particularly if the user already owns a suitable cell phone. Connection kits consist of a cable and some software, and are typically priced below $100 (US). In most cases with today's 2G cellular networks (for example, CDMA, GSM, and TDMA), you pay for the cellular airtime, and need to dial into an ISP for Internet and email access. When using a cellular modem card, you need to arrange for a separate connection for this card. Many of these cards work with packet-switched networks such as CDPD or GPRS, and the charges are typically based on the volume of data transferred. (The pros and cons of these alternatives will be discussed in greater detail in a later article.) For this case study, an existing data-enabled cell phone and a connection kit are used.

Figure 1Figure 1 Cellular modem with connection cable and cellular modem card.

Wireless Email

The mobile application solution that probably gives you the best bang for the buck is wireless email, which can be used in the following legal mobile workflows:

  • Collaborating with co-counsel or client

  • Making travel arrangements

  • Sending documents such as retainer agreements to clients and other legal professionals

  • Forwarding documents or photos to an expert for immediate review and analysis

In this case study, it is assumed that the law firm uses Microsoft Exchange and Outlook for its corporate email. The firm can then use a WirelessKnowledge product called Workstyle for Microsoft Exchange. It works with Exchange to provide browser-based access to email, calendar, and contacts. The calendar access gives the added bonus of helping with scheduling while a user is on the move. Another advantage is that this product can provide access from a wide range of mobile client devices—including Palms, Research In Motion (RIM) Blackberry pagers, and cell phones. There are many options when it comes to mobile email, but most of them are designed for consumer use. Enterprise solutions must take into account security and integration with existing email and workflow products.

Time and Expenses

For many lawyers, capturing detailed timesheet information is directly related to their ability to bill accurately for their services. This can be a daunting task if not automated. A time-management product (such as Carpe Diem Electronic Time Sheet) can help here. This product supports time and expense entry, including the use of real-time timers to automate task logging. It integrates with backend billing and accounting systems and features three mobility options: Mobile Functionality, CDWeb, and TimeReporter. These options are good illustrations of how mobility can be implemented. The Mobile Functionality option uses a client/server approach in which you run regular desktop client software on a laptop and synchronize it with central servers over the Internet or intranet. CDWeb is a pure browser-based solution that does not rely on special installed client software. TimeReporter runs on a Palm hand-held and supports time entry and a stopwatch timer to improve accuracy of entry. It relies on cradle or wireless synchronization to update the central server.

Legal Office Management

A more complete approach to automating the mobile legal practice is to use a purpose-designed legal office management product such as Amicus Attorney. This product automates the common areas of legal practices—including files, contacts, calendar, timesheets, and research. Synchronization allows you to take legal practice information on a laptop or transfer it to a Pocket organizer. The client/server edition of this product also allows Internet or dial-up access to central data, enabling remote-case and document management.

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