YourABA May 2013 Masthead

What you need to know about Android apps

Daniel J. Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel

Apps, which are merely computer programs that run on smartphones and tablets, allow lawyers to use these devices to be more productive and efficient without being tethered to their offices, said Daniel J. Siegel, author of Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers. The advantage of using Android apps is that they run on a wide range of devices, from phones to the Kindle Fire to full-fledged tablets, so attorneys have numerous choices about which device to use, said Siegel, founder of Integrated Technology Services and the principal of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel LLC, in Havertown, Pa., and in Maine.

Siegel shared his advice on useful Android apps in this edition of First Focus:

How can apps generally help lawyers be more productive? Can they ever have the opposite effect?

They do so by allowing lawyers to do a wide range of tasks, including preparing, editing and reviewing documents, answering email and text messages, accessing their client files, capturing billable time, and preparing for everything from depositions to trial, from just about anywhere. While it’s possible that some apps could have the opposite effect, there are some who believe that having a diversion, such as playing games like Angry Birds or solitaire, actually is a good opportunity to take a break.

What are some of the best apps for guarding the security of your phone?

There are many good security apps. My favorites are Lookout and Norton Security, both of which have a wide range of features, including anti-virus and anti-malware protection. These apps, and others, like SeekDroid, can help track a lost or stolen device and permit the owner to wipe the device if it isn’t going to be returned. One of my favorite features is Lookout’s Lock Cam, which will take and send you a picture of anyone who enters an incorrect password while trying to unlock your device. Most of these apps have free and premium versions, and often the free version is sufficient. You should always try a free version when available.

What are your top three recommended apps for helping lawyers stay organized?

I like Evernote, Kaiten Email and Business Calendar. Evernote is a full-featured app that works on and can synchronize with virtually every mobile device and with your computer. It captures virtually anything you find or work with, including websites, photos, documents and videos. Kaiten, which costs $4.99, will remind you of Outlook and is very easy to use and user-friendly. Finally, Business Calendar has tremendous flexibility and lets you see appointments in virtually any way you want. Plus, all of these apps are easy to customize so that they work how the user wants, not how some geek thinks they should work.

What are your top three recommended apps for working on Microsoft Office documents?

There are many apps that let you work with Office documents (but not an Office app). My favorite is Kingsoft Office, which looks like Office with a ribbon bar that will make users feel at home. CloudOn is the closest thing to Office because it uses an Office 365 interface. Finally, Documents to Go is a solid app that has been around since the days of the Palm Pilot. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

What are the most useful law office apps? Why?

In addition to the apps I mentioned, I like Fastcase, an easy-to-use legal research program, iTimeKeep, which tracks time and works with many popular programs, and PushLegal, which has an impressive mobile library.

What utilities do you need to keep your device running? What are a few essentials?

In addition to Lookout and Norton Security, there is also Norton Utilities for the Android, which will make users who have the desktop program feel right at home. I like ZD Box, a great utility that helps you manage every aspect of your phone or device, and does so without using lots of resources, and it tracks your battery usage. Another nice app is ASTRO File Manager, which lets you see and find files anywhere they’re stored on your device.

Anything else crucial to mention about lawyers using Android apps?

The days when most high-quality apps were only available for the Apple iOS operating system are long gone. With more than 700,000 apps, the Android store is every bit as robust as iTunes. While there aren’t as many legal-specific apps, every day more and more of them are being released, and there’s no doubt that eventually most apps will be available for both operating systems. Of course, unless things change, iOS users will still be tied to Apple hardware, while Android users will be able to buy and customize the device with the features they want.

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