My editor just presented me with a challenge: think of three tech things that lawyers won't need in 2014.
Three? I'll give you five. In fact, I could do this all day. I'll even skip the obvious choices, like PDAs. (Remember Palm Pilots?) Here are five devices that are either obsolete, or soon-to-be, in 2014:
5. Landline Phones
My stepfather still wants his rotary-dial phone back. Sorry folks, but the landline is (near) dead. Instead of paying phone companies for a multi-landline system, consider using something like Google Voice (which forwards incoming calls to multiple phone numbers, such as your staff members' cell phones) or for larger firms, going for a full VOIP solution.
I use the former. If you need a VOIP solution, there's some discussion of your options at the Lawyerist. Ooma, a well-regarded VOIP provider for single-line home users just released a business version as well, though again, we haven't personally used it.
Bottom line: landlines are dead. A prepaid cell phone with unlimited talk and text is $30 a month now. Why pay for a wire?
4. Fax machine
old-timers senior partners still insist on using fax machines. You may have to keep one around for rare occasions, though if you're ditching your landline, that may not be an option. Virtual fax services can serve as a handy substitute for those once-every-six-month faxes that you need to send or receive.
Some guy named Bob Rankin ran down the free (and low-cost) services that handle incoming and outgoing faxes. Again, we can't offer recommendations -- our dusty fax machine has sat unused, and unloved, for quite a while.
3. Desktop PCs
Whaaa? No seriously, the desktop PC, as you know it, is on the way out.
You've heard about Windows 8, right? Though Microsoft will drag us, kicking and screaming, into the touchscreen age, and though your office PCs may last through the end of 2014, the writing is on the wall: laptops, tablet-laptop hybrids, and all-in-ones are the future.
Why? Standalone touchscreen monitors are expensive and hard to find. Windows 8 was designed for touchscreens, and is an absolute pain to use with a mouse. We've seen a flood of touchscreen all-in-one PCs (a bummer for repairs), 2-in-1 tablet-laptop hybrids, and laptops with touchscreens.
What's the alternative? Leap Motion has a device that can track your hand movements to allow you to control the screen with touch-free gestures. If you've seen "Iron Man," and wanted to control your computer like Robert Downey Jr. controls JARVIS, we're nearly there. That's probably 2016 or so, though.
2. Tablets (Kinda)
Again, whaaa? Look, iPads and Android tablets are great for consumption. But if you want full productivity, and full compatibility with everything, those awesome iPad tablets that we all know and love are not something that you will need in 2014. (Yes, need. Lawyers. Technicalities. I cheated.)
Besides, with Intel's newest chips, you can get a tablet that runs full-blown Windows 8.1. It's like the iPad, but less pretty, yet it's an actual computer that runs Microsoft Office and the rest of your beloved legacy software.
1. USB Flash Drives/CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays/Physical storage
It's the cloud. Want to send a file to your associate (who is on vacation), or opposing counsel (whom you only wish was on vacation)? Add it to your cloud storage folder and email her the link. The learning curve on cloud storage is minimal, and you're far less likely to lose your files when they are stored online than you are to lose that USB flash drive.
Ditto for external hard drives, burnable CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays. Netflix is replacing disc-based video. Spotify and iTunes are replacing CDs. Box and Dropbox are replacing your flash drives. Will you make it through 2014 without using any physical data storage device? Probably not, but we're willing to bet such uses will be increasingly rare.
What device are you ditching in 2014? Tell us your thoughts on LinkedIn.