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Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

May, 2004


The Lawyer’s Guide to Palm Powered Handhelds
by Margaret Spencer Dixon

(A book review by John Anderson)

The new Palm Powered devices are everything that laptops were originally meant to be. The ultimate portable electronic assistant pulls together all of your valuable information and puts it at your fingertips while truly freeing you from the bulk and slow boot times of their big brothers. Today’s new personal digital assistants (PDA) can do much more than keep track of your phone numbers and calendar items. They offer a powerful way of keeping all of your information protected, easily accessible and sharable with your office staff. You can easily use these devices to keep track of everything from frequent flier miles to your favorite recipes, plus a whole lot more.

If you haven’t yet made the jump from paper organizers or have a PDA that you feel you aren’t getting the most out of then the ABA publication The Lawyer’s Guide to Palm Powered Handhelds by Margaret Spencer Dixon is one of the best sources for advice, tips and general helpful information. Dixon, a consultant specializing in time management and stress management, focuses on basic ideas and techniques and offers many valuable Internet resources. In the end, she delivers a balanced informative guide that will not go out-of-date as quickly as many other books of this nature. Best of all, it is written with “the non-‘Techie’ in mind” in a language that is easy to understand.

After a short description and history of PDAs, you are quickly introduced to the benefits and ease of use that PDAs hold over their paper counterparts. There is even a helpful appendix that can guide you in your decision of which handheld is right for you.

Even if you aren’t tech-savvy, you will be a PDA guru by the end of this book. Terms and techniques such as HotSyncing (allowing you to always have your work and PDA information match) are easily explained with the emphasis on making you more organized, efficient and effective.

Special sections of the book give real-life examples and helpful tips on how actual lawyers use their PDAs in their day-to-day lives. Dixon goes into great detail about each of the most-used applications, breaking each down into separate sections that allow you to get as much or as little information as you need. The author also draws upon the expert tips and views from other legal professionals, all of whom are experienced Palm users. They lend their voices to share their valuable suggestions and experience.

The first portion of the book plots out all the ways that you can use your PDA and lists some of its many benefits. After that, it’s on to the second section, which gets into the actual usage of your PDA, starting with an informative tour. Each of the major features are explained with the same great attention to detail. The way they are broken down lets you easily go back and review them without an extensive search of the index. If you’ve never before picked up a Palm device, this roadmap will make you very comfortable with navigating the menus and application features. This is also where you are introduced to Graffiti, the handwriting recognition script that lets you quickly and easily enter information or edit documents. The characters closely resemble the printed capital version of each letter. Usually a little practice will make you an expert in no time. If you intend to enter large amounts of information, portable keyboard peripherals are also available. These are also covered in this book.

The last portion of the book is just as valuable to current Palm users as the beginning chapters are to those of you just starting out. They are the chapters that show you how to get the most from your handheld devices. The information in these last few chapters will make you a power user in record time with tips on adding new programs to your handheld, using your PDA for timekeeping and addressing issues of ethics, privacy and security.

Currently, newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal make their publications available in PDA format. More legal material is becoming available for download in PDA-compatible format everyday, and in the future you will be able to access law reviews, newsletters, magazines and educational program materials using your PDA.

Software companies are also recognizing the potential of the PDA in the legal community and companies are now offering PDA versions of time and billing programs such as Abacus, DTE, PCLaw and TimeMatters. New Palm Powered devices can access the Internet, giving you access to your e-mail wherever you go.

This publication clearly has something for all lawyers who own or are thinking of purchasing a Palm Powered Handheld. It answers your questions, dispels your doubts and quells any fears you may have about the device or the information it carries.

I personally found the book easy to read, very complete and the type of book that will stay on my bookshelf as a reference for years to come.



Publications : Bar Bulletin: May, 2004

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