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    So, You Want To … Use Non-law Products for Legal Productivity

    Learn about some gaming products that aren’t marketed specifically to lawyers but could be great for your legal productivity anyway.

    Tison H. Rhine

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    Many productivity products are designed specifically for, or at least marketed directly at, lawyers like you. On the hardware side, for example, there are scanners, phone systems, voice recorders, servers, and network-attached storage units – to name just a few – as well as more personal items, such as pens, business-card holders, and a variety of leather goods. And, when it comes to software and services, there are products directed at lawyers to help with tasks such as dictation, off-site reception, and note-taking – not to mention too many case management and billing applications to count.

    Indeed, there are many good products aimed at legal professionals – and if you are interested in learning more about such items, chances are good that I have a few recommendations for most of the above categories (not business-card holders, though … no thank you).

    But, what about all the products that just don’t often pop up in a lawyer’s publications, mail, email, or browser? Surely, there are items you could use in your practice that even your Amazon account doesn’t know to recommend (perhaps you mostly buy sticky notes, replacement phone chargers, and assorted baby, wedding, and graduation gifts).

    So, here are some products that you might not have considered for use in your law practice but are worth knowing about anyway.

    Input Tools are Input Tools

    Although most lawyers wouldn’t think to look at gaming peripherals as potential practice tools, given the amount of time that both PC gamers and lawyers spend in front of their computers, it should not come as a surprise that some products that are marketed almost exclusively toward a subset of video gamers actually have much broader applications.

    Logitech G13 Programmable Gameboard

    What It Is: This device is a keypad with 22 fully programmable “keyboard keys,” plus a small, programmable thumb-joystick and two other buttons (also programmable), all of which are meant to be used with only one (currently just your left) hand. There is also a small LCD screen, which can be used to show things like the time and date or CPU and RAM usage but can also serve as an RSS newsfeed, a POP3 email monitor, and a countdown clock/timer.

    Tison Rhineorg trhine wisbar Tison Rhine is the advisor to the State Bar of Wisconsin Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice411). Reach him at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, or by org trhine wisbar email.

    Manufacturer Says: “Whether you’re rescuing hostages, on a quest with your guild, or saving humanity, you don’t want to worry about hand fatigue or hitting the wrong key. Introducing the Logitech G13 advanced gameboard – a hybrid gaming keyboard designed to complement your Logitech gaming keyboard and mouse – giving you game-changing comfort and control on a Mac computer or a PC.”

    I Say: Don’t waste your time on a lost cause like humanity (just joking!); this keypad is a productivity beast. With a total of 25 fully programmable keys and buttons, the possibilities for shortcuts, hotkeys, and other macros are endless – you can even enter entire text blocks with one button press – and the software included to manage it all is very easy to use. With it, not only can you customize each of the keys quite easily, but you can also create multiple profiles, so that entire sets of key bindings can quickly be modified based on the type of task or program used (this can either be done manually or by having the software scan your computer and offer suggested defaults for programs it recognizes, such as Word and Excel). These profiles can also be copied directly to the G13’s internal memory (so you can take the keypad with you and still have your personalized functionality).

    The customizability doesn’t stop here, though. After you’ve used the keypad for awhile, you can view a heatmap of the buttons you’ve pressed the most. You can then use that information to help you remap those common inputs to buttons that are the easiest for you to reach. The LCD display and keys themselves can also be backlit with customizable RGB lighting. Admittedly, this feature is mostly cosmetic – after all this is a “gaming” keypad – but because the colors can be made to change based on profile, it is actually somewhat helpful for at-a-glance indications of which profile you are currently using.

    Finally, as added benefits (and for some, like me, the primary benefits), the G13’s joystick can be mapped to mouse movement directly and easily within the Logitech software, and with its contoured design, it is more ergonomic and comfortable than most computer inputs. For these reasons, the G13 is also a fantastic tool for those lawyers (and staff!) who, because of long days spent typing and mousing (or for any other reason), suffer from tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other discomfort.

    Combine all this with the easy-to-use, always-right-there timer and countdown clock (great for billing or timed productivity methods like the Pomodoro Technique) and the customizable RSS and POP3 feeds (just press a button to open the article or email on your monitor with the program of your choosing), and you really have to wonder why this isn’t marketed more to professionals.

    Where to Find It: Amazon, Dell, Newegg (list – $79.99, but can often be found for under $50)

    Steam Controller by Valve

    What It Is: The Steam Controller looks like a modern video game controller (which it is), except that instead of having twin analog joysticks and a D-pad (think “plus sign”), there is one analog stick and two circular touchpads.

    Manufacturer Says: “Experience a new level of precise control for your favorite games. The Steam Controller lets you play your entire collection of Steam games on your TV – even the ones designed without controller support in mind.”

    I Say: You may not have heard of Valve, creator of the largest online gaming sales platform, Steam – as well as video game juggernauts like Portal, Counter-Strike, and Team Fortress – but the extremely successful corporation, cofounded by former Microsoft employees, is well regarded for its progressive approach to employee self-management, creativity, and productivity (this notwithstanding the fact that the third and final episode of its fan favorite game, Half-Life 2, was never released and likely never will be – boo).

    Surely, there are items you could use in your practice that even your Amazon account doesn’t know to recommend.

    Valve tends to hire people who are not only skilled technically but also have an eye for end-user product applications. So, I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that when they decided to create a video game controller that would allow players to use it to play any game anywhere – even those that would normally require a mouse and keyboard – they ended up designing a highly customizable one that can also replace a mouse and keyboard for nongaming tasks. As it turns out, the Steam Controller can be used effectively and quite easily for general Windows navigation.

    First of all, unlike other gaming controllers, which can also be mapped for general Windows use (much like the Logitech G13 mentioned above, but often requiring third-party software and considerable fiddling), the Steam Controller works with Windows right out of the box – just plug the wireless receiver into one of your computer’s usb ports, and press the big button in the middle with the Steam logo on it to turn it on (the one that looks like a locomotive’s crankshaft and connecting rod). The right touchpad will then control your cursor, the shoulder buttons perform left and right clicks, the left touchpad acts as scrollwheel, and the joystick functions as up, down, left, and right arrow keys.

    Other buttons are mapped to things including Tab, Escape, Left Control, Mouse Back and Forward, Page Up and Down, Space, and Return. You can remap anything you want, should you choose, using Steam software, and as with the Logitech G13, you can create various profiles. You can even set the controls gyroscopic sensors, to perform various functions based on how you tilt the controller.

    In the end, what you have is a novel mouse (and partial keyboard) substitute that is well designed (for example, if you flick your finger across the right touchpad, the cursor will keep moving) and will produce much less strain on your wrists, shoulder, neck, and back (everything is connected).

    Where To Find It: The Steam Store and Amazon ($49.99, often discounted to $34.99)

    Wrap-up

    Our minds may be busy churning facts and legal analysis, but our bodies are busy, too, performing the thousands of tiny hand, wrist, and arm movements used to create those clicks and clacks that make up so much of our days. In the end, perhaps both or neither of these products will be a good fit for you or others in your office, but they are certainly worth knowing about, and if you didn’t already, now you do.

    In the next issue, I’ll discuss even more great tech products that you may not have heard of.

    So You Want To …

    As attorneys, when there is a task we want to perform more efficiently, or an office product that we believe could improve our lives in some way, visiting stores and scouring the web to determine the best solution doesn’t always make it to the top of our to-do lists. Rather than go without, let Practice411 do the work for you.

    So, this month, you want touse generic products for legal productivity.

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