Reading the July/August issue of Law Practice Management magazine, an interesting ad caught my eye. On page 3, 3M corporation advertises RFID to track paper files.

RFID means Radio Frequency Identification. This is a passive chip that, when subject to a radio query, broadcasts back identification information. It’s likely to replace bar codes for many applications. This is not a futuristic technology that may or may not happen. It’s here. Though there have been bumps (see Wal-Mart Cancels RFID Trial As Companies Get Realistic About The Technology in the July 14th issue of Internet Week, many consumer product manufacturers continue to test the viability of RFID tags to track pallets now and perhaps individual consumer units in the future. The 3M ad suggests that law firms tag files or boxes with RFID so they can always be found.

So much for background. Just last week I was meeting with a law firm about some tech issues. A partner expressed interest in knowing who was in the office via a Web-based, check-in/check-out system. Since we had our “vision hats” on, we talked about the possibility that lawyers might someday wear RFID tags and the building would “know” if they are in our out and where they are. Of course, this raises many privacy concerns and I am not sure this is a good idea. But certainly the technology is available if the goal is to know – automatically – if someone is available.

Along these lines, instant messaging offers a similar feature – presence detection. That is, most IM programs broadcast whether a user is available or not. Various features are available to control revealing this information or automatically sending a message that you are away from the PC (because, for example, you have not touched a key in 20 minutes). I know that many firms have tried or actually rolled out IM, but I am not sure many are using this feature.

I would be curious to hear if anyone has reactions [not flames:-)] to using RFID or IM presence detection in a law firm. [By the way, I am working on upgrading my blog to allow comments and other features.]