Experiments with : File Disposal – The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 as an Office Computer – and An Alternative to Expensive Litigation Software

Dear Colleague (and; this is so neat, I have included my family and friends mailing groups, BUT DO NOT HESITATE TO DELETE!);
 For the few who thought of me at all, maybe you thought I had stopped my newsletters. Not so! We have been pursuing some very exciting projects:
1.      The burst of shredding, hauling, and scanning energy dissipated with the holidays. But I have several hundred bankers boxes positioned downstairs with plans to scan the “bones” of the old cases and shred another 2000 files. On our way to paper LESS. Lean and mean is our goal.
2.      Those of you who have Windows XP machines probably share my concern that Microsoft is ending support, and security patches, for Windows XP on April 1. (The joke’s on us!). We have five of them.
3.      I intend to keep my antivirus updated, and to keep the machines running for a few months more, BUT I think I have a solution for a small office network as we have or for a “robust” home, or home office, user:
a.      I have purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tabletthat runs Windows 8.1. It’s the nifty one being advertised heavily on t.v.
b.      It has a magnetically attached keyboard/cover. It’s about the size of an iPad.
c.      So, my staff can carry it to the waiting room, the side conference room, or to home in order to work on flex time!
d.      No more being stuck to their desk!
e.      It connects to our network (office and home) just fine.
f.       It connects to the cloud, including Dropbox and others;
g.      It runs Microsoft Office and Outlook, just like your desktops and laptops!
h.      It has APPS much like an iPad or Android tablet, and a camera and video.
i.        I have connected to it a full wireless keyboard and mouse. (Cost $50.00, Logitech from WalMart)
j.        I have connected it to a docking station with extra USB Ports.
k.      I am adding full dual horizontal and vertical monitors! (Vertical so you can view a whole page of a document.)
l.        Functionally, it should work better for my document producers than their old Dell Desktops.
m.    If mine works, we can buy these, one at a time, for each staff member. We won’t have to dispose of and replace four desktop machines at the same time.
n.      We can learn Window 8.1 over several months, keeping staff in their comfort zone, and still using Office Pro and Outlook.  
o.      In a couple of months I should know if this is a brilliant move or dead end. Stay tuned.
4.      Over ten years or so, I bought a software suite for $300-400 called CaseMap. I have written about it a lot.
a.      The core of the Casesoft system is “object lists”, “top ten lists”, and “timelines”.
b.      For ANYONE trying to organize information, this is a sound way to do it. I’ll bet you could even integrate it with Evernote or OneNote.
c.      My two articles, “Something Constructive, How to Organize the Facts in Your Case” and “More About Organizing the Facts in Your Case” can be found with a simple search in my blog, www.burtonhunteresq.blogspot.com.
d.      This letter will appear as an article in my other blog, WV Lawyer – Tips and Techniques, www.burtonhunteresq2.blogspot.com.
e.      This week I got a quote from the Lexis/Nexis people who bought CaseMap and its siblings 5-6 years ago.
f.       Think of it as Robin Hood’s shire being taken over by Attila the Hun!
g.      My lovely little software package, $500-700 for three permanent licenses, is now an annual subscription.
h.      Being pricey, I skipped the updates the last couple of years, but I wanted fresh software for my paralegals.
i.        Remember, I am a sole practitioner!
j.        My costs to update (something I already bought)? $6000-$8000; egad!
k.      So, yesterday, after a quick tutorial to see how to make text wrap within an Excel spreadsheet cell, I created the BurtMapWorkbook.02.27.2014.
l.        There are 9 worksheets in the workbook:
                                                       i.      People;
                                                     ii.      Documents;
                                                    iii.      Events;
                                                    iv.      Places;
                                                     v.      Other objects (like physical objects);
                                                    vi.      “Top Ten Lists”;
                                                  vii.      “Legal Issues”;
                                                 viii.      “Factual Issues”; and
                                                    ix.      Timeline.
m.    I am giving it to you.It is not worth $8000. Neither is CaseMap, but you still can go to www.casesoft.com  and view their tutorials and promotional material explaining the CaseMap system. I think it’s a great way to organize those pesky facts! Just read “CaseMap 101”. It is NOT rocket science.
n.      The beauty of my spreadsheets, which, by the way, I have never used and do not warrant, is that anyone familiar with a spreadsheet can enter the witness name and contact data, document date and description, and other data.
o.      Once you have identified 5-10 legal and factual issues, you can link the data to the proper issue(s).
p.      You will have all your client’s  worries and goals in one place.
q.      With all these “objects” you can create a comprehensive “timeline”; what better way to tell your client’s concise story to the court?
r.       If your new client even took a h.s. course in Office, or just Excel, you can e-mail the workbook to the client.
s.       This is a great advantage to the out of town or overseas military client.
t.       When  it is time for a pre-trial memo, it’s all here, and you don’t have to pay Casesoft an annual license fee of $1200 per user.
5.      If you already have a great way to keep your facts organized, more power to you! But don’t tell me it’s your legal pad!
6.      If you don’t mind paying Lexis/Nexis thousands of $s, go for it.
7.      But if you just want a simple and cheap tool to make life a bit easier, check out BurtMapWorkbook.
Beware the coming blizzards:
a.      The one from the North, and  
b.      The paper one you will face if you do not become Paper LESS.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

1 Comment

  • I received my Dell Venue 11 on Friday. It’s basically the same as your Surface Pro (although of course I’m going to claim it’s better): the features are about the same, and it too runs real Windows.

    I’m particularly looking forward to using it for trial work. For the last 20 years I’ve had my witness and argument outlines–indeed my entire file–on my notebook. The notebook form factor isn’t bad for hearings when I remain at counsel table. When examining witnesses in federal or circuit court, however, the notebook is cumbersome: the tablet should be much better. One difference between it and the Surface is that the detachable keyboard–which I’m still waiting to receive–has its own battery. When it’s attached, the Venue pulls from the keyboard battery first, giving a runtime of over 11 hours. I’ve also ordered a stylus: I’m going to try taking hearing notes on the tablet since at present I take handwritten notes which we then scan into our database.

    I know you are trying to use your Surface more as an in-house computing device for the staff. That’s not an issue for us because we use docked notebooks for everyone except the receptionist. In fact, the only reason she is using a desktop is that it hasn’t died yet. We replace the attorneys’ notebooks every 5 or 6 years and just shuffle them down the line. With their notebooks, staff can undock and use them in the conference room, at trial on those rare occasions staff attend, at home, or at our other offices when we had them. A particular advantage of docked notebooks is that they are automatically kept synched with case files: an attorney or staff member never has to worry about whether the files on his or her notebook are up-to-date.

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