I am a little bit late with my “Cool Tech” post for 2018. Not surprisingly, I have found it much harder to write my blog on a regular basis once I became general counsel again. I’m not complaining though – I think being an in-house lawyer is the best legal job on the planet (other than Federal appeals court judge). If you’re attending the Annual ACC meeting in Austin, Texas in October be sure to check out my panel on contract risks on Monday, October 22 at 2:30 pm. Stop by for the session and afterward come up and say “hello!” Also, I just heard from the American Bar Association and they want to publish the second volume of my “Ten Things” book. That will come out sometime in 2019. And, when I publish this blog, I should have over 3,000 followers (which just blows my mind). Okay, enough digression, let’s get on with this edition of “Ten Things.” Long-time readers know that every summer I write about some of the “cool tech” I have come across and that I think in-house lawyers might find interesting too. You can catch up on the prior years here: 2015, 2016, and 2017. Everything I mentioned in these past posts is still worth reading. But, there is always more good stuff out there to talk about! And, as always, I receive nothing to mention the products in my blog. I just think in-house lawyers will find this tech interesting. Finally, I tend to skip big, expensive tech purchases as “Cool Tech” and look to discuss technology that is immediate, affordable, and useful. Here we go:
1. Skyroam. Skyroam is a portable internet “hot spot” device that you can take just about any place in the world and have access to the internet. I own one and I bought one for our daughter for her Semester at Sea that will take her to multiple foreign countries where internet service may not be as accessible or available as it is in more developed parts of the world. The device is about the size of an old flip-phone. You can pay for any number of day passes at $9.00 a day and can connect up to five devices. It was a godsend when the internet went out at our house recently. We were able to fire up the Skyroam and get back online in just minutes.
2. Poll Everywhere. I do a lot of speaking and nothing makes speaking better than when the audience is fully engaged. One way to do that is through audience polling. In past, you did this by asking people to raise their hands. Not everyone wanted to make their answer publicly known so participation in this type of poll was spotty. Later on, you had proprietary devices that were handed out to everyone in the audience and they could vote on an answer by pressing a button. Much better, but clunky and expensive. Poll Everywhere allows you to poll your audience in numerous ways via their smartphones (they can also use Twitter or laptops). For example, at your next team or department meeting you can poll the attendees or which tools they find most helpful, do they want a contract management system, or where to go for lunch? Each audience member sends a short numeric password that you create to a text number provided by Poll Everywhere. By doing so, they are connected to your poll. Once connected they can use their phone to vote on questions. The answers appear in real time on the screen (and are completely anonymous). There is a free version for up to 25 participants and then escalated pricing plans from there.
3. White noise machine. I also travel a lot and sometimes the hotel can be a little noisy. Okay, a lot noisy. Rather than suffer in (un)silence, I have found a couple of “white noise” devices that can mean the difference between waking up exhausted or refreshed. First, is the free White Noise Sleep Sounds app available on iTunes and in the Google store. Second, is the MyNoise app. But, a search of the app store on your phone will reveal plenty of other options. And, if you want to go old school, you can take a 1 lb. sound machine on the road with you. I recommend the LectroFan Fan Sound and White Noise Machine (there is a travel model) or the Wave Premium Sleep Therapy Machine. Regardless of which way you go, a good night’s sleep on the road is worth just about any price.
4. Bestek 6. If you’re like me, you need a lot of plugs for all your gear – especially when on the road or when visiting a different office. While outlets are nice, dedicated USB ports are even nicer. The Bestek 6 wall-mount charger solves all my problems. It has 6 A/C power outlets, 4 USB ports, and one docking station charge-plug for your smartphone. Not only does it solve my problems, but it also lets me be a hero when my group is sitting in a conference room with one plug. Rather than a no-holds-barred cage match over the single plug, I can offer up a less violent solution – the Bestek 6.
5. Notion. Like searching for buried treasure, trying to find the one solution to getting yourself organized is an elusive prize. This may be the most futile hunt since Moby Dick. But, next at-bat is a tool called Notion. Notion is a desktop tool/smartphone app that helps you turn a mess into art. Notion combines note-taking, task-management, and a spreadsheet into one app. You can paste in articles, YouTube videos, whatever. Its uses are only limited by your imagination to come up with stuff to store. If you’re on the lookout for a way to get organized, this might be the winner. For some great ideas on how to use Notion, see David Pierce’s review of the tool here.
6. Dragon. I am old enough that at one point in my legal career I used a Dictaphone to record my spoken thoughts and then turned it over to the word processing department to type out what I had discussed on tape. Quaint. And not really practical anymore. I also remember the first version of the Dragon transcription software. You spoke into a microphone plugged into your desktop and it “typed up” what you said in real time. To be honest, it wasn’t very good. To be really honest, it sucked. But the 15th version of Dragon is good. Really good. And if you are someone that is more comfortable speaking than writing, this is software you need to check out. There is also an iPhone version now (Dragon Anywhere), as well as a Legal Group version for the legal department. I gave the app version a test run and it’s amazingly accurate. While I am a very fast typist (another skill from a by-gone era), the Dragon transcription software is a good addition to keep around.
7. Praktio. Have you ever wanted a refresher course on contracts? Or looked for a way to help train lawyers on your team to handle contracts? Praktio is an online interactive training tool that teaches basic contract drafting and analyzing skills and can provide a deal simulator so lawyers can practice the art of contract negotiation and drafting in a “safe place.” There is even a beta program that teaches litigators about contract basics. If you are looking to up the game of the legal department in a manner that goes way beyond a couple of contract CLEs, this is the tool to check out.
8. OneTab. If you use the Internet a lot at work (and who doesn’t) you have probably been faced with a situation where you have too many tabs open at one time or with your browser crashing and all your super important tabs vanishing into thin air. My friend Jason Smith hipped me to OneTab. OneTab is a free Chrome browser extension and with one click you can save all your open tabs into a list. And if your browser accidentally crashes or locks up, all the tabs you have been working with are saved and can be restored one-by-one or all-together. You can do something similar with a crashed browser by re-opening that browser and hitting “Ctrl-Shift-T” at the same time. This will bring your dead tab or tabs back to life and can save the day if you had something important opened in your browser. It’s also free!
9. iMuto Portable Charger. Everyone knows there is nothing worse than getting stuck on a plane, airport, restaurant, holding cell, or any other place with no power outlet to charge your phone, laptop, tablet, or whatever. Sure, you can spend $10 – $15 and get an “okay” portable battery charger but you may not get even one full phone or tablet charge out of it. My solution? My new “battery buddy” the iMuto 30,000 mAh Portable Battery Charger. With this small device, you can charge your smartphone several times and still have power for your tablet or Macbook. It also has a LED screen that tells you how much power is left. It costs around $45.00 but it’s about the best $45.00 you can spend for peace of mind that you’ll be able to call, text, crush candy, or finish that critical email no matter where in the world you are.
10. Deals! Deals! Deals! Perhaps the best part about cool tech is buying it. Well, buying it when you can get a sweet deal. There are many websites that offer amazing deals on technology (new and refurbished). Here are just a few I use to snag cool tech at a cool price (and you can sign up to get “deals” emails several times a week from each):
- iTechDeals.com – the most consistent site for tech deals.
- Brad’s Deals – there are a lot of non-tech deals on this site but it’s worth wading through.
- Tanga – similar to Brad’s Deals but with more of a technology focus – and a lot of great deals (like an iPad4 for $179).
- PCM – all tech, all the time. A bit more hardcore than iTechDeals but if you have some serious technology needs, this is the place to come to.
- TechBargains.com – cool site, leans more toward gadgets (which I love). And has lots of coupons you can redeem online (e.g., 15% off at the Dell outlet).
If I had to list one honorable mention I would list the Amazon Echo, my first foray into artificial intelligence in the home. I love mine. Okay, so that’s it for this year’s “cool tech.” I hope you take a few minutes and check all of this out (along with past years’ lists). Even if you find just one thing that makes your job easier, it’s time well spent.
October 1, 2018
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