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January 15, 2014
Business travel? Leave these tech gadgets behind

By The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service

Technology is supposed to improve productivity, not create extra baggage charges. Traveling for business purposes usually is stressful, leaving the traveler very little time for relaxation. Lugging around devices you don’t really need from airport to car to hotel just increases your stress level.

At the 2013 ABA TechShow, LOMAS Practice Management Advisors witnessed several attendees unpacking not one, not two, but three or more gadgets as part of the settling in process at the start of a seminar. According to helpful advice from Law Technology News Magazine, experienced attorneys globetrot with a bare minimum of technology. The LOMAS staff thought some of these tips were pretty obvious, but below are our choices that give a fresh viewpoint.

Let’s take a look at what should not go into your luggage when packing for a business trip:

Portable Printer. They’re small, inexpensive, lightweight, and, oh, so tempting. Don’t pack it. Instead print to PDF and don’t worry about the burden of also packing the paper, ink cartridges, cables, and slow speed of these little gadgets. Besides is it really likely you’ll need to print something while on the road? If so, use the hotel’s business center or a nearby UPS or FedEx store.

Backup Phone. If your primary phone is stolen or breaks while you’re on the road, you could make calls with Skype or similar services via your notebook. Many attorneys have developed a habit of packing an extra phone, just in case. As with all gadgets, availability and pricing change fast. Low-cost replacement phones are available at most discount and convenience stores. Leave that extra phone at home.

CDs/DVDs. Just a few years ago (seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?), everyone traveled with a carrying case of CDs/DVDs. We did it for security in case our laptops were stolen; we did it because we were carrying more data than our laptops could hold. Well, the cloud is lightweight. Storing your data via cloud services such as Dropbox (and there are many other similar services) gives you secure access from anywhere. If you’re worried that you may not have reliable Wi-Fi service at your destination, simply store whatever data you need in encrypted files on an SD memory card (so much smaller than a CD).

Cameras. Digital cameras have come a long way over the past decade or so, but so have smart phone cameras. Unless you have a pressing need to document something with high-quality resolution, it doesn’t make sense to waste precious luggage or briefcase space on a separate camera with its own batteries, charger, memory cards, and cable.

Standard Tablet. Certainly, tablets have made their way into the courtroom; one has only to look at the popularity of the TrialPad app. Despite what commercials you’ve seen and blogs you’ve read, tablets really are lousy business tools. Imagine, for instance, creating or editing a contract on a glass keyboard. Your fingers will never forgive you. Connecting an external keyboard and mouse to a tablet can turn the device into a marginally acceptable business system. Yet, if you consider adding these extra devices, you’ll likely discover that newer, slimmer laptop models are actually less cumbersome and lighter than a tablet bedecked with accessories. The possible exceptions are Surface type tablets where the keyboard is part of the cover (also Zaggkeys for Apple, or Asus Transformer Pad). If you really want to bring along a device for reading in-flight or while lying in your hotel bed, consider a basic Kindle or Nook reader. These devices are relatively inexpensive and much smaller and lighter than a standard tablet. Also, if you lose your reader, you won’t have to worry about sensitive data falling into the wrong hands, as you would with a tablet.

Portable Hard Drive. A typical portable hard drive is smaller than a paperback book (remember those?), stores up to 2 terabytes of data and costs between $80 and $150. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal until you realize that a portable hard drive will also soak up precious battery power from your notebook and can be rendered instantly inoperable by a drop or sudden jolt. While a portable hard drive can hold much more data than a single SD card, and costs far less on a per-gigabyte basis than its silicon counterpart, the choice really boils down to a trade-off between reliability and convenience versus cost and capacity. Travelers should always opt for the former over the latter.

Portable GPS/Satellite Navigation Unit. No need to pack the Tom-Tom. A smart phone can help you find your way around town. Free or inexpensive apps such as Google Maps provide turn-by-turn driving directions that work just as accurately as a stand-alone GPS device.

Portable Dictation Device. Don’t pack this either. Just about any smart phone can serve as a portable voice recorder, so why pack a stand-alone voice recorder? Apps such as iTalk Recorder (iOS) or Smart Voice Recorder (Android) are appropriate for recording your personal notes and minutes at meetings of small groups. Portable dictation devices are not good tools for recording events at large-group meetings. For that, you’ll need more robust equipment from the meeting planner.

Travel Alarm Clock. The first alarm clock was invented in 1787. The digital alarm clock was introduced by GE in 1981. Professionals and business executives have carried portable travel alarm clocks since they became a mass produced item in the 1930’s. Are you frustrated at having to learn new programmable clocks at every hotel stay? Use the alarm on your smart phone coupled with the hotel’s wake-up service. Most hotel wake-up services are automated and can be set from your bedside telephone set. Additional rise- and-shine apps are Alarm Clock Pro (iOS) and Alarm Clock Xtreme (Android).

The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service (LOMAS) can be reached at 850-561-5616.

[Revised: 04-11-2014]