Smart Phone: Should Solos Go Mobile?

At LOMAP, I don’t get all that many unique queries related to phone systems for attorneys; however, I do get lots of questions about smartphones; and, one question, in particular, crops up over and over again, as asked by solo attorneys (usually): ‘Can I use my smartphone as my sole, or primary, telephone?’

When I was first asked that question, all those years ago, my initial thought was that the answer was pretty simple: ‘Sure’.  I mean, Why not?  I’ve used my smartphone as a primary business phone for quite some time now; and, I would feel comfortable using it as my only business phone, if the need arose.

Over time, I have collected a number of advantages to list that argue for using a smartphone as your one business phone, or, less aggressively, as your primary business phone:

Cost.  It’s cheaper to buy and pay monthly for one phone versus two.  For solo attorneys, who must keep a weather eye on the bottom line, cost is always a primary concern.

Reception.  You’ve got to have good reception to make this work, though.  And, certain providers offer better reception than others.  (I have had better luck with Verizon than T-Mobile, e.g.)   This is also a matter of where you’ll be doing your talking: If your office has a firewall (a literal firewall, not the one on your computer), your reception may not be as good as it is in other places, and the smartphone option probably doesn’t work for you; if you’re going to be talking on the phone a lot while driving, you’ll want to have a sense of whether there are dead spots in the course of your travels — if there are, or if you don’t want to go through the trouble of finding out, you may just want to save your conversations for when you return to more stable coverage zones.

Cost, Part II.  You have to know what your minutes and text restrictions are (or if you have any, and if that’s cost-effective for you), as well as what your data package entails.  You should endeavor to select the best value plan for your business needs as they exist . . . or, as you can guesstimate as to how they’ll come to exist, if you’re starting up.  The last thing you want is to have your decision to save on the purchase of a second phone undercut by numerous cost overruns occurring because you chose the wrong service plan for the one phone you do have.

Battery Life.  Just as bad as dropping an important call — and worse, if you don’t have your charger handy — is having your phone die on you during an important call.  To avoid such an occurrence, you should endeavor to choose a smartphone with a long battery life . . . while also realizing the limits of that strategy: Smartphones, with bright screens and internet access, chew through battery life.  Make sure, then, that your phone is charged when you’re about to really need it; and, it doesn’t hurt to have a car charger, even if you’re not talking in your car regularly — even if you’re on the road only from time to time, that can become a convenient time to charge up.

Mobility + Internet Access.  Certainly, the primary advantage attendant on a smartphone is that it offers users the ability to go mobile, including the additional flexibility of (potentially constant) access to the internet — and so also all of the stuff that you access online.  Mobility and internet access available through smartphones are the chief drivers for their business use; for these reasons, smartphones are well advanced beyond traditional office phones, and a better option, if for these reasons alone.

Security + Privacy.  Of course, all of that mobility and connectivity carries with it some level of risk.  These tiny, light smartphones are easy to leave behind; and, if you haven’t locked your smartphone and/or if you haven’t engaged (or don’t know how to use) remote wipe capabilities, you could be in for a world of hurt if whoever picks up your mislaid device gets a nefarious purpose in mind.  If you don’t want your clients or colleagues knowing what your personal smartphone number is (if you’ve truly got the one phone —  and no separate, personal phone), you can use Google Voice to create an additional, business number, to mask, what is essentially, your personal phone number.

Recent survey results, for both businesses generally, and for legal, indicate that the trend for smartphone usage by professionals and attorneys is significant, and rising — including the usage of smartphones as sole, or primary, business devices.

While it’s clear that smartphones can work as solo devices for solo attorneys, that may not be the case, in every instance, for small firm attorneys, where the introduction of partners and, potentially, staff, and perhaps a large physical office space, or even remote offices, may make a more sophisticated phone system a necessity.

For those small firms with higher-level needs, Oregon law practice management advisor Beverly Michaelis has done a nice job compiling more sophisticated options at her blog.

8 Responses to “Smart Phone: Should Solos Go Mobile?”

  1. […] Correia  of LOMAP posted some important factors attorneys should consider in response to a question he frequently gets: Should solos use a smartphone as their primary […]

  2. jeanterranova

    Another issue for me is sound quality, in particular if you are using a head-set.  Any suggestions on really high quality head-sets to use with i-Phone?

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  4. If you do this, and eliminate the landline, is there a way to connect (I guess the term is “tether”) your office computer to your phone’s internet connection so you only have to pay for one internet connection?  And how would you send faxes? 

    • jaredcorreia

       @vtlawyer Since most smartphones these days require the purchase of a data package, I think the issue of paying for a separate connection is sort of moot.  You get your data package (internet access) with your phone, and it’s a cost of doing business.  I suppose that, if you wanted to be slick, you could use your smartphone as a wireless hot spot, and get internet on your other devices that way.  But, that tends to drains lots of power from your phone, and can be wonky.  I have a Droid smart phone, and have some trouble keeping the connection constant.
      You could send attachments instead of faxes, if people are willing (that’s where most traditional faxes have gone to anyway), or you could use an eFax solution:

  5. I think it’s a great idea to use your smartphone as your primary means of communication, but you should still have another number available(maybe an office number) so in case your phone breaks down, people can still get in touch with you.

  6. […] calls. That’s becoming more important, especially in an environment in which a number of solo and small firm attorneys only use smartphones, or use their smartphones more often than landline office phones. With the new app, phone call […]