My prior post suggested stepping back from the day-to-day change to examine fundamentals. Among other points, I suggested lawyers might not need notebooks. Fellow blogger Dennis Kennedy raises a good point about my comments. 

Responding to my statement that “some clear-thinking firms now understand that with the advent of Blackberries and inexpensive home PCs, it is probably no longer necessary to equip every lawyer with a notebook PC,” Dennis sent me an e-mail saying

“While there may be more nuance in your position on this than shows, I am concerned about the implications. Specifically, many IT directors can seize on your conclusion to justify equipping lawyers with inadequate tools. In fact, I’d suggest that increasingly common free WiFi Internet access makes the future of Blackberries open to question. I can see the benefits to IT directors but that approach takes lawyers backwards. I can easily make the case for more notebooks and the combination of Tablet PC or notebook, WiFi, OneNote and CaseMap and other litigation tools is extremely powerful for litigators.”

I think the resolution is the “hidden nuance.” My point, not stated clearly enough, is that IT managers must constantly monitor needs and adjust accordingly. Today, in some firms, lawyers with notebooks hardly ever use them. Some firms regularly send at IT person to walk the halls and see how many notebooks are sitting on desks. The data suggest that many rarely leave the office. To the extent that a lawyer has a wireless handheld device (and likely a home PC) and therefore rarely, if ever, carries a notebook out of the office, then a desktop computer should suffice. If, however, a lawyer has legitimate need for a notebook – to work at home or while traveling, then IT should provide one. A wireless handheld unit is by no means a substitute for a notebook for every lawyer.

The general point is to meet the reasonable needs of lawyers but that the definition of “reasonable needs” can change over time. WiFi may indeed soon completely change the tools we use (including cell phones and handheld wirelesses). Just another reason periodically to assess needs, tools, and strategies to make sure they are all in alignment.