The Verdict Is In: Pocket PCs Are a Hit With Attorneys


, Jan. 17, 2001 — For lawyers, time is always an issue: find time, make time, no time.

Pocket PCs can buy time.

Bob Manlowe, an attorney with Williams, Kastner & Gibbs in Seattle and chair of the firm’s Crisis Management & Media Relations Practice Group, recently fired up his Pocket PC while out of town on business for 10 days.

He read his email, reviewed pressing legal documents and responded to urgent issues — all on his Pocket PC.

Seattle attorney Bob Manlowe says the Pocket PC can help attorneys save time and do their jobs more efficiently.

It was fast, easy and efficient, he said. It was also small — not as cumbersome as a laptop. The truth is, attorneys already have enough to carry.

“One of the greatest advantages the Pocket PC has over other wireless handheld devices is that you can check your email and read the attachments,” Manlowe said. “For attorneys, a lot of emails that are sent are focused on the items or documents that are attached.” With many other handheld devices, users can’t open any attachments.

Manlowe got his first taste of a Pocket PC at an annual meeting of the International Association of Defense Counsel in July 2000. At that show, he saw Microsoft’s Law Office of the Future demo of the Pocket PC, heard about upcoming wireless technologies and features, and from that saw the potential uses of the device for himself and his fellow attorneys.

Cell phones and fax machines can provide only so much value in the way of two-way communication, and laptops can be cumbersome. Having a small, light Pocket PC capable of sharing and altering documents and files is extremely valuable to people involved in the legal profession, who are often away from their desks, yet still need to see, evaluate and share information.

For example, the Pocket PC has the ability to learn Manlowe’s handwriting and transcribe the letters he writes on the screen into accurate typewritten notes with Microsoft CE Transcriber — a free download, and a great advantage over other personal digital assistants — so that edits can be sent back with the document in email.

It’s this kind of feature, Manlowe said, that will have many lawyers scrambling to get their hands on a product that provides convenient, two-way communication beyond email. The ability to edit documents, complete them, and send them to the appropriate people in a short space of time is what a lot of lawyers are seeking, he explained.

Wireless Pocket PCs also offer other advantages, he said.

There is the ability to do Web searches with full graphics on a color screen, Manlowe said. This feature can be an asset while on the road or in court looking up relevant documents on the fly — when time is of the essence. The color screen adds a surprising amount of context when doing a Web search and is very easy to read, he added.

“With a Pocket PC and the ability to find documents online and print on an infrared printer, for example, you don’t have to rely on fax machines or people in the office,” he said. And in court, being able to find, locate, print, and submit relevant case documents in a matter of a few moments is an obvious advantage.

Voice recognition, the obvious next step in technology for the Pocket PC, also will be of great benefit to attorneys. Anything that enables an attorney to be more self-sufficient and responsive is a bonus.

It’s all a matter of time.

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