More new iPhone apps for lawyers

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: iPhone, Portability, Productivity | Tags: , , |


This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “More new iPhone apps for lawyers.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


More new iPhone apps for lawyers

In July 2009 I wrote a column about iPhone apps for lawyers.

A number of interesting, new apps have been released since then, so I figured it is time for an update.

My previous column — published in the July 13, 2009 edition of The Daily Record — included information on the vast assortment of apps for databases of federal and state laws, thus allowing lawyers to carry relevant laws and rules in their pockets in an easily accessible format. Today there is a huge assortment of apps of that nature, since many different versions of those types of apps have been released in the interim. I’ll leave it up to you to peruse the app store for the laws specific to your jurisdiction and areas of practice.

One free app of this type to consider, however, is “Law Stack,” which includes full text versions of the U.S. Constitution, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 5) the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

If you are a LexisNexis subscriber, you definitely should download their new, free app, which allows you to quickly obtain and Shepardize cases, anywhere, anytime.

Dragon Dictation is another free app that is cutting edge and a huge money saver over the traditional software program with which you already may be familiar. The app allows users to dictate a message, which it then transcribes instantly. Users then have the option to edit it and send it via e-mail or text. The message also can be copied to a clipboard and pasted wherever you’d like using the iPhone interface. The transcription is amazingly accurate, making the app a must-have for busy lawyers on the go.

To stay on top of the latest legal news, you can download the ABA Journal’s free legal news app. JD Supra’s Legal Edge app, also free, is another great option for staying on top of the latest news and legal filings in your areas of practice.

One of my favorite apps that I use constantly is Zosh, a true bargain at $2.99. Zosh allows users to upload forms — PDF, Word, Excel, PPT, jpg and many other formats — that have been e-mailed, fill them in, sign them and send them right from your iPhone. There’s no need to print the forms, scan them, fax them or mail them. The app is a tremendous time saver and removes the hassle from that entire process. It’s a life saver and I absolutely love it!

Finally, for lawyers who travel frequently, TripIt is a really useful iPhone app that coordinates with TripIt’s corresponding Web site. After setting up an account,
simply forward itinerary confirmation e-mails from airlines or travel sites to your TripIt account, which allows users to have all travel plans in one place, easily accessible via an iPhone. A social networking aspect to the service also is available, allowing users to share their travel plans with family and friends in his or TripIt network.

There are plenty of other great apps for lawyers as well, and more are being released each day. Explore new apps as they’re released and give them a test drive. It’s worth the time and effort, it’s fun and it saves time and money in the long run.

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Print media must evolve

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: New Media 101, Portability, The times they are a'changin' |


This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Print Media Must Evolve.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Print Media Must Evolve

One of my favorite social media gurus is Gary Vaynerchuk. He really knows his stuff, and presents information in a format —video —that is universally appealing. Vaynerchuk has a personality that is larger than life and his enthusiasm for his passions —wine and social media —is downright contagious.

I’ve been a hard-core fan since I discovered his vlog —video blog —a little over a year ago. In my opinion, the man is brilliant. I was thrilled when he released his first book, “Crush It,” now a New York Times best seller, and had every intention of buying it. I truly wanted to buy it, but I held off because I knew I would never actually read it.

Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because lately I’ve had a difficult time reading “paper” books.

Before you shake your head in befuddlement and begin to mutter about the negative effects of technology, allow me to explain. When the Amazon Kindle was first released in November 2007, the idea of reading a book on some sort of newfangled electronic device seemed unappealing and unnatural. I dismissed the Kindle as some sort of fad that never would catch on.

Then, I bought an iPhone. My life has never been the same. I kid you not: The iPhone changed the way I look at, and interact with, the world. It’s hard to remember how I functioned without my iPhone tucked snugly in my purse, within arm’s reach at all times.

About six months ago, I discovered the Kindle app on my iPhone. I downloaded it, along with my first eBook. It wasn’t the ideal platform for reading a book —an iPhone screen is substantially smaller than a Kindle screen —but it wasn’t as horrible as I’d thought it would be. In fact, it grew on me.

After a while I preferred the format over that of a regular book. It was portable, easily navigable and the electronic books were cheaper than the paper versions.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I discovered Vaynerchuk’s book, “Crush It,” in the iPhone app store in “vook” format. (A “vook” is a book that integrates video clips into the text, and can be viewed either on an iPhone or computer Web

I purchased and downloaded his vook and began reading. It was fabulous! As I read each chapter on my iPhone, I intermittently viewed supplemental videos. Vaynerchuk was right there with me, explaining his vision and thought processes as no one else could. A few days later I downloaded a cookbook, “The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen,” by Eric Gower, and watched the author prepare the recipes included in the vook. I was a vook convert.

A week after discovering Vaynerchuk’s vook, I sat down for a cup of coffee and absently reached for a magazine. As I did so, I found myself wishing it was in the vook format.

Suddenly, it all clicked.

The future for print magazines is offering readers an ad-free, subscription-based magazine in a digitally-accessible format that uses video and interactivity. In other words, provide a variation of a vook, accessible online, on mobile devices and on ebook readers such as the Kindle and Nook.

The magazine’s Web site could be ad-supported with articles and video clips, but the vook version would be a seamless interface, easily navigable with supplemental videos. So, for example, a travel magazine would include videos of various locales; a
beauty magazine, videos showing how to apply make up; a cooking magazine, videos of the food being prepared; and a technology magazine, videos of various devices being tested.

A few days after I conceived the concept, I learned Condé Nast had just announced it was in the process of creating a workable concept for digital magazines, and that “Wired” would be the first to appear in that format. The digital format would be for use on Apple’s yet-to-be-announced, and long-awaited, Tablet and possibly mobile devices, using Adobe technology. Videos were not mentioned as part of the interactive digital format.

I think the format will become mainstream within two years if magazine publishers ensure the digital versions include video, are ad-free and are accessible on e-book platforms and mobile devices. Like books, people want to take their magazines with them in an easily portable format, rather than be tied to a computer.

Some may balk at first, but eventually will embrace the technology. Rest assured, portable digital media is the next wave in the evolution of the dissemination of information. Magazines and newspapers will evolve into a digitally-accessible format or cease to exist.  There’s simply no other option.

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Change is good

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: Cloud computing, Collaboration, Portability, Practice Management, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Is cloud computing really less secure than the status quo?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Change is good

Last week I attended on a press pass the Canadian Bar Association’s “Law Firm Leadership Conference.”

The conference’s theme was “Change Management” and, accordingly, the focus was on ways in which law firms can innovate, and thereby alter, the course of theprofession.

One of my all-time favorite legal scholars, Richard Susskind, spoke at the conference, one of the main reasons I chose to attend it. I’m very glad that I did. All in all it was an enjoyable and educational conference, and I left Toronto with a number of thought provoking issues to ponder.

First, should the leaders in our field be benevolent custodians or jealous guardians of the profession? When phrased that way, the answer seems obvious: Of course we want to be benevolent custodians with only the best intentions, carefully making choices that will improve our profession for the generations that inherit it.

The reality, however, is just the opposite. Lawyers tend to carefully guard the profession and are reluctant make changes that might alter the way things have always been done. We revere precedent and distrust change. As a result, we cling to the past, making decisions about technological changes and innovation that ultimately harm our profession in the long run.

That is a mistake since, as Susskind aptly noted, any lawyer who takes the time to research emerging technologies would wholeheartedly agree that these new platforms fundamentally change the practice of law. Attorneys who deny that fact are reacting emotionally, rather than intellectually.

New technologies have the potential to radically alter the ways in which legal services are delivered to consumers. Forward thinking attorneys are embracing virtual law offices, law practice management cloud computing platforms, social media and collaboration tools. Innovative practitioners understand the importance of using knowledge management to alter the consumer experience first, and the law firm’s systems second.

There has been much talk in recent years about pricing legal services differently, including the death of the billable hour and the increase of flat fee services. As Susskind stressed, however, the key to change is to deliver legal services effectively and efficiently. Ultimately, it boils down to delivering value to legal consumers by working differently, rather than through pricing services differently.

The key to working differently is the use of emerging technologies. To do so, the legal profession as a whole must embrace technological change. Attorneys must make it a priority to learn about and understand new technologies, then incorporate them into their practices.

As another conference speaker, Patrick Lamb, noted, law firms must change their culture. That’s not simply a matter of using one or two new technologies, but a matter of changing attitudes. He emphasized that law firms’ youngest members are the key to accomplishing the attitude makeover required.

Generation Y attorneys are less attached to the status quo. They are part of the connected generation and grew up with the Internet. For them, it’s not business as usual: They understand how to use the new technologies and are not averse to change. These attorneys are the future and the inheritors of the profession. Law firms should be generous benefactors and give their younger attorneys the opportunity to lead the charge to change.

Because, as we all must understand —change is good.

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Law Practice Management in the Cloud

Posted on May 12, 2009. Filed under: Portability, Practice Management |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Law Practice Management in the Cloud.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Software as a service (SaaS) is defined at Oracle.com as “[a] software delivery model in which a software firm provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client.”

At Webopedia.com “cloud computing” is defined as a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second.”

The complexities of modern law practice are such that managing a law office in the absence of practice management software programs is nothing short of impossible. Traditional law practice management software can be expensive, however, cumbersome to navigate and prone to annoying glitches that occur so frequently that your IT consultant becomes a permanent fixture in your law office.

Sound familiar? Well, it doesn’t have to: Law firms today can avoid the headaches caused by traditional practice management software by using the services of any of a number of companies that provide SaaS.

Taking advantage of SaaS law practice management software allows firms to focus on the ever-important task of practicing law while the SaaS provider operates, updates and maintains the practice management software.

Advantages include lower costs due to reduced overhead, less hassle related to maintaining the and upgrading the case management system and greater flexibility, since the Web-based system can be accessed anywhere, at anytime.

Before making the leap to a Web-based practice management system, however, there are a number of important factors to consider.

Learn how the company will handle confidential data, the portability of the data and the format in which information will be provided should your firm choose to remove data from the system.

The contract with an SaaS provider should address those issues and also include a non-disclosure clause that indicates that all data are the property of the law firm and may be exported in a readable format on demand.

The security of your firm’s data is of paramount concern. Security issues to consider include: What type of facility will host the data? How frequently are back-ups performed? Is data backed up to more than one server? How secure are the data centers? What types of encryption methods are used and how are passwords stored? Are there redundant power supplies? Is there more than one server? Where are the servers located? If a natural disaster strikes one geographic region, would all data be lost?

If, after balancing the benefits and drawbacks, you decide to use a Web-based practice management system, there are a number of excellent SaaS providers that offer software to manage law practices online, including Clio (www.goclio.com), Rocket Matter (www.rocketmatter.com) and LawRD (www.lawrd.com).

Each software platform offers unique and useful features, which I’ll be comparing and contrasting later in the month during a screencast at lawtechTalk.com.

When law practice management software creates more problems than it solves, it may be time to make a change. After careful consideration, firms may find that the affordability and ease of use of a Web-based practice management system make it a perfect fit.

Attorneys may just find themselves praising, rather than cursing, newfangled technologies.

Now that would be a nice change.

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Making Your Law Office More Portable

Posted on August 26, 2008. Filed under: Portability, Productivity, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Making Your Law Office More Portable.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Making Your Law Office More Portable

I know, I know. Some of you are wondering, “Why in the world would I want to take my law office with me? It can stay right where it is, thank you very much.”

Rest assured there are a number of legitimate and, dare I say, logical, reasons to consider making certain aspects of your law practice more portable, not the least of which are flexibility, efficiency, and convenience.

The ability to access relevant information anytime, anywhere saves both time and money. Free or inexpensive online applications and resources provide lawyers with cost-efficient alternatives to the traditional office-based law practice.

As we all know, time wasted is money lost. One of the more frustrating aspects of practicing law is finding yourself unexpectedly delayed, in court or elsewhere, and knowing that if you just had certain information you would be able to make productive use of the time.

Portability provides you with the ability to do just that by allowing you to access contact information, e-mails, documents and other relevant information with the touch of a button.

The first step toward portability is to invest in a smart phone, and if at all possible, a laptop. Smart phones, such as the iPhone or Blackberry, are an indispensable part of the portable office. Smart
phones allow you to access your contacts, your e-mail accounts and the Internet no matter where you are.

Internet access is extremely important, since it is the key to the portable law office. Web-based applications and the ability to utilize them via your phone or laptop free you from practicing law within
the confines of your office.

Web-based e-mail is ideal and Gmail is one of the best email systems available. It’s free, has a huge storage capacity, conveniently groups related e-mails into “conversations” and has a number of
unique mechanisms that assist in organizing, labeling and accessing stored e-mails. Contacts are easily managed and accessed via Gmail, and, best of all, Gmail is compatible with the vast majority
of cutting edge Web-based productivity applications.

Gmail can be easily used in conjunction with office-based e-mail servers. For example, my work e-mail address is set up so that all messages are forwarded to my Gmail account. Messages from that
account are automatically labeled and filtered as they are received into my Gmail account. And, my Gmail account is programmed so that all new messages sent from the Gmail account are sent from my
work e-mail address. In other words, my work e-mail address is the default address for all new emails created from my Gmail account.

Opening a Gmail account also automatically provides you with access to a number of free and useful Google applications. The first is Google Calendar, a simple and intuitive calendaring system that is fully integrated with Gmail.

Another very useful application for the legal practitioner is Google Docs, a Web-based word processing system. With Google Docs, you can upload or create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms.

You can then access and edit the files via any computer or smart phone that has Internet access.  You can also permit others to access the files, thus providing a simple way to share and col-
laborate online.

Once you’re familiar with Google’s Web-based applications, the world is your oyster and true portability becomes a reality.

There are innumerable free Web-based productivity applications and organizational tools that are compatible with Google’s mail and calendaring systems. I’ll discuss some of the options in the near
future, but in the meantime you can visit the blog Practicing Law in the 21st Century (http://21stcentury law.wordpress.com) and explore the many applications available by clicking on the navigation tabs located at the top of the Web page.

Portability is the key to practicing law in the 21st century. Once you’ve made the jump, you’ll wonder how you managed to get work done in the “old days,” when the portable law office was simply a

–Nicole Black

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