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 bought a Mitac 3026E notebook computer which has a footprint no bigger than a counsel's notebook.

It's about two inches deep and weighs little more than Volume 1 of the White Book. It has a disk drive built in and the only added weight comes from the AC power adaptor. On a good day, the battery life is just over two hours, more than enough for most train journeys.

I run Wordperfect software. The 386 processor is just fast enough to cope with the latest generation of the software, a Windows version which operates via an external mouse, although having cut my teeth on the earlier 5.1 version I continue to use it for simple documents.

I taught myself how to touch-type and am up to about 45 words per minute. Not as fast as the typists in chambers, but a lot faster than dictating text and waiting for it to come back.

I use my machine mainly for wordprocessing advices, opinions and plead- ings. With a template facility, I find I only need to spend time on the meat of a document as the computer itself handles the headings, backsheets etc.

Most of my work is done in chambers where the advantage of the notebook is that it does not monopolise desk space. But I often take my computer home to work and also to court when I'm away from London. It really is impressive to be able to produce high-quality, typed documents during the course of a trial when away from the

facilities of chambers.

I was particularly pleased to discover recently that my mobile telephone, a Nokia Orange, can be used as a modem, enabling me to send documents directly from my computer to chambers and solicitors, though I confess that I have not yet needed to use this feature.

I am now thinking of trading up to a more powerful, faster machine. I would like a built in CD-Rom facility as many series of law reports are now available in this format. In particular, my chambers has installed a stack system, much like an audio CD, which I would be able to access from home. Just think of it, the equivalent of a full set of the Weekly Law Reports and the All England Law Reports in my own home.

Never again will I be caught out late one night needing to look up an authority and facing an arduous and time-consuming trip into chambers.

Jason Galbraith-Marten is a barrister at Cloisters.