Throw-back Thursday To 3500 B.C.: What Your Law Firm Should Know About The Wheel & MS Excel

How about a throw-back Thursday history lesson (and then some law). It’s about Iraq—but way before the country was valued for oil, it was valued for ideas.

Sumer is a civilization that existed slightly before that of Ancient Egypt and located in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). By the late fourth millennium B.C., Sumer (or Ki-en-gir, ‘Land of the Sumerian tongue’) was divided into approximately a dozen city-states which were independent of one another and which used local canals and boundary stones to mark their borders, according to historians (read more about Sumer here).

There are at least four different translations (although they sometimes conflict) on the names of Sumerian rulers and their illustrious lengths of rule. It’s on one such document that an early Sumerian invention is described: the wheel, dating to circa 3500 BC.

You could perhaps claim that Iraq was forever—since as far as Sumer—destined to be a place highly influential in the creation of the car.

Besides the wheel, however, law firm professionals—people, in general—should be thankful for Sumer’s many crucial contributions to modern technology and language. For example, the civilization reminds us even today why there is no point, thousands of years later, in reinventing the wheel (although many people throughout history have tried).

Going back to the practice of law, think about how many new computer programs, tablet and mobile apps that organize case matter material, new-fangled software to organize all the details of your case.

Do we need it all?

When it comes to timesheets, timelines, case status updates, “to do” lists, and other casework assignments, Microsoft Excel has become a tried and true tool for lawyers and law firm managers.

And, its many features are available on the iPad, a favorite among attorneys.

So, last month, when Microsoft Excel rolled out a bunch of new features for Excel for iPad, you should have been paying attention. But, just in case you weren’t, here’s a run-down of Excel for iPad’s new design additions (thanks to AccountingWeb):

Pivot table functionality. In the first incarnation, pivot tables were literally trapped under glass, meaning you could only scroll the data around on the screen. Now, although the workbook must already contain a pivot table before opening it using the app, you have the capability to expand, collapse, filter, and even refresh pivot tables, as shown in Figure 1.The caveat on refreshing is that the source data must be within the same workbook as the pivot table.

Email documents as PDF. Previously, Excel spreadsheets could only be emailed in their native format, but you can now email spreadsheets in PDF form. Figure 2 walks you through the steps.External keyboard support. Using an external keyboard allows you to use the same navigation and data entry techniques that you do in the desktop-based versions of Excel..

Flick to select. You’ll quickly wish for this innovative feature in the desktop versions of Excel. Flick a cell’s selection handle in any direction to automatically select all data in that row or column for a contiguous area of the spreadsheet. It’s a huge advance in using Excel on a touch-enabled device.

Third-party fonts. You can now access third-party fonts installed on your iPad in the Excel app.

Picture tools. Excel for iPad now supports in-app picture editing.

Not yet convinced of Excel’s application to your law practice? Here‘s a detailed account of how lawyers can use Excel.

Not only that, attend The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course on “Excel Charts and Graphs Made Easy” on Friday, October 17, 2014, from 2pm to 3:30pm EST.

Remember the history of Sumer and Iraq and don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to (and don’t add unnecessary conflict in your professional life over it, either).

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