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 have recently been given a new toy – a Toshiba Tecra 700 CT laptop computer. For the computer buffs, it has a 1GB hard disk, 16MB RAM, one floppy disk drive, one CD-Rom drive and two PC Card slots.

It runs Windows 95 and Lotus Notes, which Baker & McKenzie is making its standard desktop program.

I use the machine both in and out of the office. When I'm in the office, one PC Card slot connects to the

office network and I can read email and connect to the house systems in the usual way. When I leave the

office, I use the other PC Card slot to connect to the network over a telephone.

I also carry a second card to use with my mobile phone

if I cannot gain access through an ordinary telephone line.

The results of this are that I never need be out of touch with my office. This may not be new – people with laptops have been able to download email and messages for some time. But this laptop is the first I have had which is powerful enough to double as the computer I use in the office and the one I take away on business.

In effect this means I travel with my office. Apart from this reducing the number of

people who correspond with me by post, I no longer have the common problem, which will be well-known to laptop users, of having half my emails on the portable computer and half on the

office one. The software that makes this possible is version 4 of Lotus Notes.

It's only recently that technology has man- aged to produce laptop computers which combine the power to run the software I have described and are still light enough to be lugged across Heathrow Airport without inflicting physical injury.

My Toshiba Tecra is still heavier then my previous laptop which was a much older model, and is heavier than I'd like. But the advantages of having just one source of electronic information as opposed to several outweighs the muscle strain and I try to convince myself the exercise is doing me good.

I'd recommend the system to anyone, provided they are prepared to invest not just in a powerful laptop but in the software which can take advantage of its extra power. Otherwise, stick to something lighter.

Harry Small is a partner at Baker & McKenzie.