January 27, 2015 Article

The Best Smartphone Apps for Young Real Estate Attorneys

Make your life and job easier with these handy downloads

by Lisa Liebher

As an attorney, particularly a young attorney, any day is a good day when someone offers to make your life easier. That is why today is an excellent day: here are ten tips and apps that will make you more efficient and trim time from your daily tasks.  This list is designed for young real estate attorneys, but is applicable to attorneys in other practice areas as well.

1. Read your voicemail instead of listening to it.

To save you from having to take time to listen to your voicemail, the Google Voice app (free) will send you a notification of your voicemail via email or text message along with a rough transcription of the voice message. The transcription is sometimes comically inaccurate, but you are nearly always able to get the general gist of the voicemail message.

2. Access architectural drawings and property surveys on your phone.

Cloud computing generally makes life easier by allowing you to share and view files remotely. Which cloud computing options you use is a matter of personal preference, but Box (free for 250MB of space, $5 per month for 5GB) has several attractive features for real estate attorneys. It is capable of storing and reading numerous types of documents, from audio files of witness testimony to architectural plans and surveys, and it allows users to edit and comment on shared files—a feature not available through Dropbox.

3. Go around the traffic jam, not through it.

Waze (free) is a community-based navigation app that provides functionality similar to Google Maps or Apple Maps but that also provides up-to-the-minute information about road conditions by gathering data from users. The app’s information about road conditions has proved so accurate that Google Maps now incorporates some of Waze’s traffic and road closure information. Whether you are driving yourself or telling your cabbie which route to take, it will help you get to your hearing or deposition as quickly as possible. And to save you some money, Waze also provides real-time fuel prices at nearby gas stations. 

4. File your business cards electronically.

If your method of filing business cards is jumbling them in your top desk drawer with extra pens and old soy sauce packets (I may do this), Evernote (free) has a better method for you. The app scans business cards using your phone’s camera and then files each card with notes about your meeting. In addition, Evernote can link the business card to the person’s LinkedIn page. Other useful non-business-card features of Evernote including clipping and saving entire webpages and scanning and filing notes and documents using your phone’s camera. 

5. Be better at keeping track of time.

Keeping track of time while you are commuting or in court is a challenge. For attorneys who are used to using timers to record time, Hours by Tapity ($4.99) is a time tracker app that allows you to label timers with client and project names, save multiple timers, and review a detailed timeline of your recorded time. Additionally, you can access running timers through either the Hours app or your phone’s notification screen. For those looking to save money on a timer, Toggl (free) also allows you to create timers and label them with client and project names. The downsides of Toggl are that it only allows you to access your timers from inside the app and does not allow you to view the time increments recorded by a timer.

6. Keep your local rules at your fingertips.

For zoning, planning, and tax assessment information, local government websites can be one of the best resources. You can also access local and federal rules remotely by downloading them through Rulebook (free to download, 99 cents for each set of rules you download). The app allows you to view and search downloaded rules even when you don’t have an Internet connection and send links or selections to colleagues or clients. (Of all the rulebook-type apps, you know this one is good because it has been chosen as the exclusive mobile publisher of the Bluebook and the American Bar Association.)

7. Tell your boss about breaking news.

How you consume news is also a matter of personal preference, but for those still searching for their news routine, here are a few good options. For breaking stories, Circa (free) is an app that delivers important news stories as they happen, with articles written in a condensed format so that they are easy to read on the go. For legal news, Law360 (subscription required) and JD Supra (free; iOS app also available) are two websites that provide up-to-date coverage on all practice areas.

8. Work out in your office instead of going to the gym.

New fitness research (the same research that is the basis for CrossFit training) shows that the primary benefits of exercise come from a few minutes of muscle exhaustion. With that as a starting point, fitness researchers have designed the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app ($1.99), an app with videos of workouts designed to bring exhaustion to most major muscle groups in seven minutes, saving you from having to commute to the gym.

9. Pretend to be good at math.

We all are probably good at moving commas from here to there, but our math skills may be a little rusty. To “fake it until you make it” with math problems, you can use Photomath (free) to solve math problems by taking pictures of them. Point the camera at a math problem, click, and Photomath gives you the answer. Or for those working on environmental cases who need conversion help, Convertr (iOS, free) allows you to convert between 450 different types of units, including radioactivity, pressure, flow, and angle.

10. Know where you are supposed to be when traveling.

Forget making itineraries and keeping hordes of email confirmations when you are traveling for business or pleasure. TripIt (free) allows you to forward email confirmations from hotels, car rental companies, and airlines to a single email address, and the app then automatically generates an itinerary accessible from the app on mobile devices and on the web. Give your assistant access to your TripIt account and get details of meetings and dinner reservations all in one convenient place.

Keywords: real estate litigation, condemnation, smartphone apps for lawyers, technology for lawyers, young lawyers

Lisa Liebherr is an associate in the New York office of Alston & Bird LLP and an editor for the ABA Real Estate Litigation and Condemnation Committee in the Section of Litigation. The author would like to thank Ellen Minot Richardson of Boston University School of Law and Nick Gray of Museum Hack for their advice and guidance.

Copyright © 2015, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).