Four lawyers and a laptop

Four lawyers, four bits of kit and four opinions about why the laptop computer has changed legal practice in the Nineties

I first used portable computers in 1982 and they were optimistically described by their manufacturers as "luggables".

Weighing in at over 13kg and needing an external power supply, they were a far cry from today's laptops and had a fraction of the processing power.

Today, with one PC on my

office desk and another at home, I mainly use my laptop, a Digital HiNote Ultra II, when travelling or when my wife or children beats me to the home computer.

I opted for the machine because it was compact and light and had powerful multimedia facilities.

Taking up less space than a sheet of A4, it weighs a mere 1.8kg, and a cleverly designed multimedia unit

(6-speed CD-Rom, amplifier and speakers) attaches neatly underneath adds only 0.9kg.

For those with technical minds, the machine is powered by a 133Mhz Pentium chip and has 16MB RAM and a 1.35GB hard disk. With two modem PC Cards I can connect to the office email system and also access materials via the Internet while on business trips.

The cellular modem works reasonably well and has proved useful for sending and receiving email in airport departure lounges or on the Eurostar. Several of my clients insist on communicating primarily by electronic means and expect me to be readily contactable. They don't care where I am on the planet provided I

respond to my email and voicemail promptly.

Apart from communications, I find the laptop very useful for client and conference presentations (using Microsoft PowerPoint software) and for reviewing and commenting on draft documents which colleagues have sent me as email attachments.

Christopher Millard is a partner at Clifford Chance and joint-chair of the Society for Computers & Law.