I’ll be working remotely from the mountains of North Carolina for the next nine weeks or so (mostly in Hendersonville and Asheville if you want to do lunch).
The available technology makes it pretty easy to do exactly what I’d be doing if I were sitting in an office.
I’ll give you a quick rundown of the devices and software that I’ll be using.
SmartPhone: My most important piece of equipment is my phone. I’m currently using an iPhone 4S, but I think the technology has advanced to the point where most any of the high-end devices on the market would successfully serve your purposes. I switch back and forth between iPhones and Android phones as the next shiny object grabs my attention. I’m increasingly finding them all to work equally well. I’ve got an app for nearly everything I do installed on the iPhone, and it’s easy for me to keep in touch and up-to-date regardless of whether I have my computer with me.
VoIP: I forward all of my calls to my iPhone via Vocalocity (or VoIP provider). The system acts as our switchboard and answers and routes the calls. Before I answer, I’m informed as to who is calling via the built-in call screening system. I use the Vocalocity iPhone app when I want to place an outbound call and screen my number from the client. Of course, I have an unlimited plan from my provider (Verizon), so I don’t worry about minutes.
Computer: I use a MacBook Air (I have the most recent model with an 11″ screen). Obviously, it requires a WiFi connection to connect with my data. I’ve got Internet service in the house we’re living in and I can, when I’m away from the house, tether it to my phone for data (a $20 add-on from Verizon).
Salesforce: Our practice management system is built on Salesforce, and I’ve got instant access to all of our client info as well as data regarding opposing counsel. The system integrates our marketing data as well so I can track initial consultations, retainers, marketing campaigns, etc. We’ve built dashboards summarizing all of the important data so I can immediately identify issues.
NetDocuments: We’re paperless, and our documents live in NetDocuments. I can pull up any document coming or going instantly and email the document to others. Of course, we also store all of our reference material (CLE manuscripts, treatises, etc.) on NetDocuments as well.
QuickBooks: We keep a copy of QuickBooks on a rented server. I wish we could switch to a hosted accounting system, but we haven’t yet found anything that meets our needs, so we just put QuickBooks on a server at Atlas Networks because it specializes in hosting these types of applications. It works for us for the moment and allows me to keep up with our cash position, etc.
Google Apps: My email, calendar, and contacts live on Google and sync nicely with my MacBook and my phone. I can’t say enough good things about our experience with Google; plus, I love the incredibly reasonable price.
Skype: I’m in constant touch with our entire team via Skype. I keep Skype open on my MacBook 24/7 and use it for videoconferencing all day long. I’ve found the Skype app on my iPhone cumbersome and power hungry, so I use Imo as my Skype client on the phone for messaging with the team.
Westlaw and Fastcase: I’ve got easy access to both of these legal research services via my Web browser or phone.
Accessories: I try to keep the technology light and portable on the road. I carry a power cord for the MacBook and a single USB retractable cable (for charging the phone). I have set of earbuds and a Countrymen microphone (for recording podcasts). I also keep a small USB flash drive, a VGA adapter for connecting to projectors, and an Ethernet adapter. I used to have a bag full of accessories, but I narrowed it down to the above.
iPad and Camera: I don’t have an iPad with me. Why? Just personal preference, I suppose. I’ve tried them on a couple of occasions, and they don’t fill any particular need for me. I use a Kindle for reading when I’m out in the sun, and I need a keyboard for much of what I do (like typing this article). If I could replace the Air with an iPad, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, for me, an iPad just means carrying one more thing, and I’d rather avoid anything extra if it’s not going to make a difference. I’ve also stopped taking a camera with me. I shoot all of my pictures on my iPhone, and that works pretty well. Check out my latest photos.
Conference Room: Obviously, I don’t have an office when I’m traveling. I have to depend on the kindness of strangers plus coffee shops when I need a meeting place. Up in the mountains, I’m fortunate to have a good friend, an Asheville divorce lawyer, who helps me out when the need arises (loan me your conference room, and I’ll link to your site too).
With this kit of hardware and software, I can do everything I need to do. It’s light, portable, powerful, and effective.