Lawyers at Toronto-based McMillan Binch are going wireless -- in the privacy of their own offices, at least.
Some are trying to go paperless as well although, they concede, reports of the death of the yellow legal pad are greatly exaggerated.
McMillan Binch plans to announce today that a dozen of its 140 lawyers can now use their laptops anywhere in their suite of offices without plugging in, and the rest will soon be wireless as well.
"McMillan Binch expects to be the first legal professional service business in Toronto with a firm-wide network wireless solution," Graham Scott, the firm's managing partner, said yesterday.
In practical terms, this means that all the lawyers can take their laptop computers to meetings and not have to jostle for the few spots around the table where they can plug in. The system gives them instant access to forgotten files, case law and legal precedents -- and allows them to scan their e-mails when they are away from their desks or in meetings with colleagues.
The competitive advantage is that it allows the lawyers to respond more quickly to clients, said Michael Whitcombe, head of the firm's corporate law department.
"As lawyers, all we have to sell is our time," Mr. Whitcombe said. "It's critical, in this day and age, that we make the best use of it."
Security is the other crucial aspect of the new wireless system that, the firm believes, is hacker-proof, said Chris Duncan, director of information technology for McMillan Binch.
"It's encrypted, that was definitely a big concern," Mr. Duncan said.
"The firm was careful to research more than one solution and, in particular, the security aspects because, in our business, data security is everything."
Mr. Scott, Mr. Whitcombe and 10 of their colleagues have been wireless for two weeks now. Mr. Whitcombe lugs his heavy litigation briefcase far less often than he used to -- "this is my briefcase," he said, pointing to his laptop, which gives him access to the firm's database and the Internet.
George Atis, chairman of the firm's technology and new media practice group, takes his laptop everywhere.
"We're trying, I'm trying, to go paperless, at least that's the idea. This [laptop]is my legal pad."
Mr. Atis said he can foresee a day when lawyers will be able to stay fully connected with their offices -- even when they are in court.
"This project has a significant, wide application potential," Mr. Atis is quoted as saying in a statement scheduled for release today.
"If Bay Street can get its act together soon and establish a wireless network in the downtown core -- let's say a 10-kilometre radius of high-speed coverage -- we should be able to walk across the street to another law firm or to our clients' offices or to court and remain fully connected to our e-mail and data in real time, without looking to dial-up from somewhere."