October 01, 2016

32 Great Apps for Lawyers in Any Type of Practice

By Matthew Odgers

Check out the apps your colleagues say help them be more connected and productive.

Stop us if you know someone who fits this description: You like discovering technology that makes your life easier, but you find digging up and trying out all the options exhausting and frustrating.

If that sounds familiar—maybe it’s you who feels that way?—your fellow lawyers have stepped up to the plate to give you a head start. Here they share 32 apps they say make their professional lives easier.

1. Asana (https://asana.com/)—“I started a new law practice a year ago,” states Jessica Markham of the Markham Law Firm in Bethesda, Md. “I’m now managing not only my own work but that of four employees. Managing workflow and keeping on top of what everyone was doing was logistically difficult, even with weekly meetings and constant checkins.

“My husband works in the IT field and introduced me to this app,” adds Markham. “My entire office uses it to organize workflow, and it has changed how we operate. The app is accessible by desktop or phone, and all work is organized by case name. People can follow tasks that are relevant to them, leave comments to other attorneys, update, leave questions, and report progress. It’s practice-changing. And it’s free.”

2 and 3. Google Voice (https://www.google.com/voice) and Google Hangouts (https://hangouts.google.com/)—“Google Voice allows you to pick a new phone number that rings all of your phones, plus you can text clients, attorneys, and others through either the Voice or Hangouts app,” says William C. Peacock, attorney and marketing director at Holstrom, Block, & Parke APLC in Irvine, Calif.

Todd Spodek of the Spodek Law Group P.C. in New York City is also a fan. “All of our work cell phones use Google Voice,” he says. “This allows us to control when the phone rings and what phone rings and has automatic transcription of voicemails. It also allows us to easily forward and save voicemails for our cases. It’s free and part of our Google Apps dashboard.”

4, 5, 6, and 7. PayPal (https://www.paypal.com/home) and Chase QuickPay (https://www.chase.com/ online/digital/quickpay.html)These are both free apps, though they may charge the person transferring money for the transaction. Spodek uses both. “The PayPal app allows clients to pay us, and it goes without saying that you want clients to have as many available options as possible to pay their legal fees.”

Also on the payment front, Kristin M. Lis of Smedley & Lis LLC in Woodbury, N.J., recommends Square (https://squareup.com/). “It allows you to accept credit card payments on your phone or iPad,” she says.

Oh, and to pay your employees, Lis uses Run (http://www.adp.com/logins/run-powered-by-adp.aspx). “It’s a super-efficient app for business owners,” she says. “You can submit payroll any time, any place.”

8. Business Tasks (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.appgenix.biztasks)—“I tried out several to-do list apps and found this one to be the best for synchronizing with my Google/Outlook Tasks, which I use to organize my day-to-day to-do list,” notes Sally Morin of Sally Morin Law in San Francisco. “It’s a free app on Android, and it also works seamlessly with Business Calendar Pro.”

9 and 10. LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/) and Pulse (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/)—“I spend some time helping attorneys market their practices while being compliant with state bar rules, and these are the two most important apps,” explains Anne Kleinman, president of Ad Infinitum in New York City.

“The easiest way today—although it could change tomorrow—to know if someone in your network has published a post on LinkedIn is through the Pulse app, where you can have your settings notify you,” she says. “What people are publishing is a great way to start a conversation, engage, and strengthen a relationship leading to referrals and opportunities without stumbling into the soliciting area.”

11. Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/)—Yes, Scott Behren of the Behren Law Firm in Weston, Fla., recommends it. “It’s a great way to reach clients who don’t respond to email or calls,” he asserts.

12 and 13. HelloSign (https://www.hellosign.com/)—“This app allows me to send our engagement letter through an email link so that clients can sign electronically and return it without the hassle of printing, scanning it into a PDF, and sending it back,” says Sonia Lakhany of the Lakhany Law PC with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles; she pays less than $20 per month for this app.

A similar program is DocuSign (https://www.docusign. com/). “This is the easiest signature program to use for both the client and our firm,” says Spodek. “The mobile app is great, and it saves a tremendous amount of time. We pay $10 per month, paid annually.”

14 and 15. Homesnap (http://www.homesnap.com/)—Lis says this app is used frequently in divorce cases. “It’s great for getting approximate home values—it seems to be more on point than Zillow,” she says. Also helpful in divorce cases because it provides “car values at your fingertips,” says Lis, is Kelley Blue Book (http://www.kbb.com/).

16, 17, and 18. Drafts (http://agiletortoise.com/

drafts/)—“Drafts makes it easy to capture text,” reports Andrew Legrand, founding partner of Legrand Law LLC in New Orleans. “This app is designed to quickly open and present a textpad so you can start taking notes. It automatically saves and syncs with iCloud, so no need to worry about backups. Advanced users can use ‘Actions’ to connect Drafts with third-party apps like email, text messages, and note taking to process the text once you’ve captured it.”

A similar tool Legrand uses is Byword (https://www.bywordapp.com/). “This is another writing tool,” he says. “It’s a simple text editor that allows you to write without worrying about the details of formatting. In my workflow, it’s where I first start writing out drafts of emails or work on individual clauses in a contract.”

Spodek recommends Google Keep (https://www.google.com/keep/). “It’s a free note-taking app that allows you jot down voice notes, tasks, lists, and pictures,” he says. “I’m in court a lot and on the go, so this is a great place to compile data and preserve it.” Like Google Voice, this is free and part of the Google Apps dashboard.

19, 20, and 21. MyCase (http://www.mycase.com/)—“This is an online case management system that’s easy for clients and meets all of our needs,” says Spodek. “There are more complicated options that are overkill. For it, we pay $39 per month per attorney and $29 per month for paralegal or staff.”

A related function is practice management. Peacock uses Clio (https://www.goclio.com/), but says any cloud practice management platform that has an app with a time-tracking feature built in is a must.

Benjamin Luftman, a founding partner of Luftman, Heck & Associates in Columbus, Ohio, uses Salesforce (http://salesforce.com/), calling it “invaluable” for his practice on many levels. “My firm is the largest-volume criminal and defense firm in Columbus, which has a population of about 1 million people,” he says. “I have a caseload that keeps me in court most days handling hearings and trials. Salesforce lets me manage my practice from my smartphone.

“I can manage my contacts and keep track of messages from clients; keep my calendar updated and get reminders; as well as do actual case management,” adds Luftman. “I can also access police reports, investigative notes, and CD or DVD evidence.”

22 and 23. ScheduleOnce (http://www.scheduleonce.com/)—“This is an online booking system that eliminates the back-and-forth over email about scheduling (the ‘Tomorrow is no good for me, but how about Friday?’ ‘No, I’m out of town, but how about the week after?’),” reports Lakhany. “It links to my Google Calendar, so it shows others only available times but doesn’t show what I’m doing during unavailable times.” Lakhany pays less than $20 a month for this app.

A full calendaring option Morin recommends is the $4.99 Business Calendar Pro (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=mikado.bizcalpro). “This app is much more robust than the default Android calendar,” she says. “It allows you to synchronize multiple Google calendars, set a variety of reminders and a variety of views, and has built-in navigation that you can just click to make it to your next meeting.”

24. Skype (https://www.skype.com/en/)—“You can have face-to-face appointments no matter how far away your clients are,” says Lis. “I’ve had appointments with clients in Florida and Washington, as well as those who are two hours by car and can’t come for in-office appointments.”

25 and 26. Dictate + Connect (http://www.dictateconnect.com/)—“The best dictation app on the market—period,” asserts Legrand. “It’s the best because it does what a stand-alone dictaphone can do and more. Dicate + Connect allows you to insert audio; cut, move, and paste audio; and it records only when you’re talking so you can leave it on record and not worry about too much dead space on the recording.”

Morin recommends Voice Recorder (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.app.studio.voicerecord). “I use this app for dictation, drafting blog ideas when they pop into my head on the go, and recording independent medical examinations of my clients to keep the doctors on their best behavior,” she notes. “It’s much better than the built-in mobile phone audio recorder because it saves the audio files in an organized way and in a format that’s easy to share via email or edit with audio-editing software.”

27 and 28. WhatsApp (https://www.whatsapp.com/)—“This is the most universally used free chat program,” contends Spodek. “It’s preferred by most people and allows me to talk and chat to my clients overseas for free. Clients often prefer it, too, and you want to use the technology that they prefer.”

It’s also a recent addition to Peacock’s list because “the end-to-end encryption is more secure than email,” he says.

Another option is Slack (https://slack.com/). “Our team loves Slack as our main, all-day team communication tool,” says Morin. “Slack allows us to stay in touch all day long—from the office with the desktop version or while working off-site with the mobile app—without having to use email.

“We tried using Google Hangouts as our chat platform,” adds Morin. “But GHang allows you to communicate only on one channel, so messages would get buried and difficult to find. Slack allows you to create a separate channel of communication for each case, matter, or project your team is working on, and you can ‘mute’ any channels you don’t want to be bothered with.”

Morin suggests using the free version as a starter and test run. But she upgraded to the pro plan for $8 per month per user.

29, 30, and 31. Lastpass (https://lastpass.com/)—“Security is key for lawyers these days and there’s no excuse to not use a password manager that costs only $12 per year,” says Legrand. “In addition to improving security, Lastpass remembers username and passwords, so it actually saves time when you need to log in to a web-based service.”

Two more for security? “I use PrivateInternet Access.com (https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/),” says Peacock. “It’s useful for making sure the other people on the Starbucks or courthouse public wifi don’t snoop on you and your clients’ sensitive data. Also, since there’s sensitive data on your device, locating the device and wiping it if you can’t recover it is a must.” For that, Peacock suggests Android Device Manager (https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager) or FindMyiPhone (https://www.apple.com/icloud/find-my-iphone.html).

32. TextExpander (https://textexpander.com/)—Legrand calls this app “a godsend.” You program snippets and phrases, and then when you later enter that snippet, it expands into a phrase. “It’s an easy way to store repeatable text,” says Legrand. “It can be as simple as a legal citation format or something more in depth, like a standard of review. The possibilities are endless, but it’ll definitely save your fingers typing time. My entire bio can be created with four keystrokes).”

Matthew Odgers

Matthew W. Odgers is the founder of the Odgers Law Group, a business law firm based in San Diego.