Recently, I wrote here at Law Technology Today about my office ergonomics set-up. For this post, I wanted to follow up with gear that I use when not in my office. Like many lawyers, I spend a fair amount of my time on the go. Whether you work on trains, in planes, waiting at court, or at coffee shops, here are some thoughts you can adapt for your work outside of the office.
Having a laptop is a great way to be productive when away from a desk. I looked for gear that makes it more comfortable and efficient to use. Some of these might make a tablet more comfortable, too: many tablet cases now include keyboards, but perhaps you’d prefer a less heavy case, and a separate keyboard.
TAKE A STAND
First, a stand, to elevate the laptop to a comfortable eye level, so you can sit up straight. First, I tried one that is a large platform on jointed legs (may not be that exact model, but similar). It’s nice for when I want to sit on the floor by the fireplace – which happens regularly in the winter – but was too bulky and heavy to carry around. Next, I tried one that folds up small and unfolds as a tripod (this one or similar). Because I found it doesn’t hold the laptop snugly, it’s now part of my desk set-up: it’s stable enough for that, but if someone bumped my table at a coffee shop, I think it would drop my computer.
Then I found one that folds compactly, holds a laptop securely, and weighs less than either of the others. It’s worked well for almost a year, and while it cost more than the others, I’ve found it to be worth the money. Of course you don’t need to spend money on this: you could carry around a few of your law school casebooks. I think that would be a bit heavy and bulky, but that’s your call.
Or you can check out any of the DIY solutions, such as this cardboard one, or this cardboard one, or any of these (and I have used winecorks) – but I like the one I use for height adjustment, durability, and portability.
GET KEYED UP
To make the ergonomic set-up work, you’ll need an external keyboard and either a trackpad or a mouse. If your computer is Bluetooth-capable, I suggest getting wireless versions of each, as having no cables will make it easier to transport and set up. I chose a third-party keyboard that has USB-rechargeable batteries, and I have an Apple trackpad. Choosing a mouse or trackpad seems like a personal decision, based on your preferences, so I’ll just say that I have gotten used to using many of the gestural controls on my laptop, and didn’t want to give those up. An external trackpad is also much less bulky than most mice. One important security note: some non-Bluetooth USB receivers have a security vulnerability, so it seems prudent to use only devices that communicate via Bluetooth.
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF
One piece of equipment I recommend for any attorney doing work outside the office is a privacy screen for your laptop. Years ago, the viewable angle on most screens wasn’t great. Now that most laptop screens are visible over a range of 90° to 120°, you have to consider confidentiality and privacy. Get a high-quality privacy screen, and you can be more confident in protecting the information you’re working on, whether you’re getting tea, on a plane, or at a conference.
GET IT TO GO
You’ll need a way to carry all this. I have a laptop sleeve, but don’t usually use it because my work bags have padded and lined laptop compartments. You may want a sleeve. I bought a case that holds the travel stand, and my keyboard, trackpad, and charger.
I use it for plane travel, but for around town, I generally skip it to keep weight and bulk down. Consider how gentle or rough you are on your gear, and if your bag has pockets to keep the items secure.
Of course, not all the gear I carry revolves around my laptop. I usually carry my Livescribe 3 smartpen (which I reviewed here, and still use) with the small flip notebook, which I use mostly for client-related notes. I nearly always carry a Moleskine or Field Notes for other notes: they fit in a pocket, and you can sit on them without breaking them.
Do you have questions about the types of gear I’m using, or suggestions? I’d be glad to hear from you in the comments. Or, connect with me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Google Local), or email me at my firm’s Contact Me page. Note that I bought all of the products I’ve tried, and wasn’t paid for my opinions or reviews.