Best mobile apps to practice law from your pocket

With the availability of so many apps, lawyers can now conduct business anywhere in the world, says Ron Collins, president and founder of Gavel & Gown Software, Inc., in a video post on the ABA blog Law Technology Today.

In just the last couple of years, lawyers’ use of mobile devices has grown considerably. According to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, 52 percent of law firms have tablets. Forty-one percent of solo firms and 44 percent of lawyers in small law firms use them. This is up from 29 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2011. “The use of tablets by lawyers for practicing law has almost quadrupled in two years,” Collins says.

Apple devices are far more popular than Android ones: 91 percent of tablets used by lawyers are iPads and 73 percent of smartphones are iPhones. And, most of the productivity apps are primarily available for Apple products.

“You can stop thinking that the iPhone and iPad as just a utility to play Angry Bird, get your email or maybe read a book,” says Collins. “It can be a full practice platform.”

Here are some of Collins’ favorite apps and services to keep the business of your firm moving when you are not in the office.

Basics

Find my Phone helps you locate and disable your mobile device if it is lost or stolen. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Microsoft Exchange is calendaring software, a mail server and contact manager. If you use it in the office, you’ll want it for your mobile device, too. “You don’t want two calendars or contacts. It’s just a formula for a malpractice situation,” warns Collins. “Make sure you have one management system or one integrated system reading from the same data.”

Microsoft Office includes the popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps.

Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Index offers Apple users access to a database of more than 1 million lawyers and law firms globally. Use it to find an attorney referral or look up opposing counsel’s background on the fly.

Blacks Law Dictionary is the most widely cited law book in the world, with more than 45,000 legal definitions. Offered at $55, the app is available for Apple and Windows devices.

Patent for Apple devices retrieves U.S. utility patent information, particularly claims, title, inventors and other information, with just the patent number.

Trademark Analysis is a free app for Apple devices that allows users to review, analyze, annotate and share trademark reports.

Legal research

Fastcase includes primary law from all 50 states and offers a 24-hour free trial.

LawBox is a mobile law library for Apple devices that offers statutes and court rules for Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.

U.S. Code is an app for Apple devices that includes the entire U.S. code. A review on the iPhone J.D. blog provides detail on use.

Legal magazines

ABA Journal for iPhone and iPad provides the latest legal news from the ABA’s flagship publication.

ABA Litigation Journal  is published by the Section of Litigation and is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Legal News Reader retrieves the top stories from legal news sites and delivers them to your iPhone.

Track billable time

iTimeKeep is designed to work with different accounting systems.

CLE Tracker is an easy-to-use program designed to track your continuing education credits.

Amicus TimeTracker is an extension of Amicus Attorney management system that enables lawyers to make time entries on mobile devices.

Scan documents

Scanner Pro

CamScanner

Work with PDFs

iAnnotate is used to mark up and share PDFs and is available for both Apple and Android devices. “Say you have a draft agreement from someone, you can scan it onto your tablet and then mark it up – so you still have original PDF and marked-up version, all there,” says Collins.

Assemble documents

HotDocs is a software program that generates of transactional legal documents and forms. It queries users for all the information necessary to generate such documents.

Take Notes

Penultimate is an iPad handwriting app. “Just scribble on your iPad and your notes will be captured and become searchable,” explains Collins.

TrialPad for iPad helps users organize and present evidence in presentation. It allows you to highlight text and show comparisons as well as exhibit stickers and video clips, among features.

TrascriptPad for iPad allows you to review and annotate transcripts. “I remember going into the courtroom with a briefcase full of transcripts…they were all marked with yellow stickies and highlighters,” says Collins. Now you can leave that big briefcase behind.”

Access and manage documents

DropBox is a personal cloud storage service that is frequently used for file sharing and collaboration. The service provides 2 gigabytes of storage for free and up to 100 GB on various for-fee plans.

Box is another online file sharing and cloud content management service. Focused on the needs of business, the company provides up to 50 GB of free storage for personal accounts. Collins says that Box offers more security controls than DropBox.

Amicus Cloud is a practice management system that can integrate with DropBox and Box.

Calculate dates

Deadlines on Demand provides automated rules-based legal calendaring for smaller firms.

Two non-app mobile productivity tips from Collins

Easy document creation through dictation - Your iPad or iPhone can be your on-the-go assistant. Just touch the microphone on the keypad of your device to create documents hands free through dictation.

SMS shortcut – Save time with this handy texting tip that will convert short abbreviations into your most commonly used phrases. “If you type ‘mvos’…when you hit the space bar, it will be expanded into ‘meeting with the other side,’” explains Collins. For iOS, go to “Settings,” then “General,” “Keyboard” and select “Add new Shortcut.” On Android, go to “Settings,” then “Language & Input.” Next, tap “Personal dictionary,” then “+” in the top right, before adding your phrase and shortcut.

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