Smartphone applications making legal lives easier

By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News

In the fast-paced world of technology, it's easy to be intimidated by the variety of products and services that are out there today.

The good news is that the latest applications and devices are designed to be "very user-friendly."

Michelle Gilbert, public relations manager, Michigan/Indiana/Kentucky Region, Verizon Wireless, mentions just a few that are geared toward attorneys.

"DroidLaw is a one-stop shop for legal reference material," she says.

"Lawyers can find federal rules of civil procedure, evidence, appellate procedure, criminal procedure and bankruptcy procedure. Additionally, there are several add-on apps that provide state-specific information."

Another add-on to DroidLaw is Historical Docs that provides the U.S. Constitution, Articles of Confederation, and the Declaration of Independence, Gilbert says.

Many legal periodicals and journals have Android apps that allow users to read the latest legal news, while many title companies offer apps that permit users to search for information from public property records.

Apps are not always about all work and no play. Some could encourage a friendly game of trivia among colleagues, such as "Dracula Was a Lawyer," an Android app that offers hundreds of fascinating facts from the world of law.

More generic applications might be helpful too.

"There are thousands of apps that could potentially benefit attorneys," Gilbert says.

"It really just depends on their interests and needs. Could you benefit from news or weather apps? What about navigation? If you use Facebook or Twitter, there are free apps that let you social network right from your smartphone.

"Some other popular favorites include a free dictionary, a compass and a flashlight."

For those who feel more comfortable with good old-fashioned pen and paper, Gilbert says there's no reason why you can't use both.

"Your smartphone should work to complement and enhance your life and only replace when it suits your needs."

Angie Frye, council for the Midwest area for Verizon Wireless, remembers when she got her first Blackberry.

"I had to figure this thing out because you can respond at any time," she says.

Today she relies on her Android, which she says is a lot more customizable.

"You can make it look however you want. You can call your assistant or one of your associates with a little widget. Just the platform alone is helpful to lawyers."

Frye, who used to work in a law firm, says the number one complaint tends to be billing, as in how burdensome it can be to track your time.

"Nowadays, things are much more fast-paced," she says. "You respond to e-mails and phone calls while you're out of the office.

"Everything you are doing in the course of a day can be tracked by using timekeeping apps that keep track of the time in real time."

Some that are compatible with Android are Timesheet by Boyd and Jenerette, TimeClock, and Contractor Pro.

Frye says apps are easy to download and most are free or very inexpensive.

There are a variety of reference apps to help with statutes or rules of civil procedures which can come in handy before a trial.

Legal dictionaries and glossaries may also be of use. You can even use your Android camera to photograph a document, which you can then turn into a PDF to send to someone.

Frye, who does legal app presentations for attorneys, says one of the best tools is the Bump App that allows users of certain smartphones to simply "bump" their phones together for an instant exchange of contact information.

"For lawyers, networking is huge," she says.

"You don't have to worry about carrying around all those business cards or finding them when you need them."

Published: Mon, Nov 29, 2010

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