70 Sizzling Apps
Pump up your PC, PDA and smartphone with these lawyer-friendly favorites
Posted Oct 1, 2009 10:30 PM CST
By G. M. Filisko
Apps: It’s a little word for those mini-programs that can pay off big in productivity, knowledge or just plain fun. And they come at all price points, from expensive-but-worth-it to absolutely free.
Whether you’re a born techie or a reluctant one, you, too, can harness the power of technology with these 70 apps lawyers are sure to love.
1-5: WORD UP
You’re on the train to work and get a Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint document on your iPhone, BlackBerry or Symbian device (such as a Nokia or Samsung phone). Quickoffice allows you to open, view, edit and share that document.
“Quickoffice displays documents much better than the iPhone does by itself,” says Jeff Richardson, a partner at Adams & Reese in New Orleans who blogs about iPhone tools at iPhone JD. “I use it to keep briefs on my iPhone. If I’m in another attorney’s office and want to pull up something we put in a brief, I can do that.
“I also use Excel spreadsheets in Quickoffice quite a bit. I have a spreadsheet that computes post-judgment interest, and as I’m sitting with a client, I can say, ‘If this is paid on this date, you’re looking at this much interest and accumulating this much per day.’ ”
Richardson also creates PDF files of must-have documents, like case management orders for his large, consolidated class actions. “It’s very handy to keep these on my iPhone in Quickoffice so that I can pull them up if I’m in a deposition or in court to make sure I and my opponents are in compliance.”
Richardson doesn’t use Quickoffice’s editing features much. “It’s a bit of a pain to write on the iPhone, but it’s nice to have a program that allows me to change a document quickly.” Quickoffice for the iPhone costs $12.99; for the BlackBerry, it’s $29.95; and for Symbian products it’s $19.99.
For Jonathan Ezor, who uses a Palm OS, the combination of Documents to Go—which costs $4.99-$69.99, depending on the device—and Wordsmith for $29.95 is the answer. “Wordsmith is a better tool for editing and quick writing, but once I add formatting like footnotes that Wordsmith doesn’t support, I switch to Documents to Go,” says the assistant professor of business, law and technology at the Touro Law Center in Central Islip, N.Y.
“Documents to Go isn’t the quickest for editing in Microsoft Word, but it’s essential for on-the-go Word and PDF viewing, and basic viewing and editing of Excel and PowerPoint files.”
Sign up for Gmail and you can access the free Google Docs. “You can create spreadsheets, presentations and documents, and they’re living,” says John Hafen, an attorney at Hanshaw Kennedy in Frisco, Texas. “If you make a change to a document online, it’s not something you need to resave, and you can call back any prior version.”
Hafen also uses Google Docs for timekeeping. “I’ve created a very simple spreadsheet with four categories—client name, date, time and description of the work,” he explains. “When I’m on my iPhone, I can pull it up and capture my time. I used to lose time when I didn’t have my timekeeping system handy. With this form, I can capture time anywhere.”
James Elam, a solo who specializes in entertainment law in Philadelphia, is also a fan. “If I want to work on a document away from my main computer, I can e-mail it to Google Docs and pull it down from wherever I am,” he explains. “It also allows you to do collaborative work. If you post documents to the Web, multiple people can work on them at the same time. I also use it to keep my to-do list on the Web. Wherever I go, I can pull down my to-do list.”
Also available as a document management solution for the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Palm OS and Symbian OS on a firmwide basis is Worksite Mobility, which allows users to access, file and share files. Prices vary, but the typical price for a midsize-to-large law firm is about $175 per user.
6-30: RESEARCH AND REFERENCE
The iPhone offers a free app of the text of the U.S. Constitution. WaffleTurtle Software also offers a $.99 version that allows you to search the text. For additional founding documents for $.99, there’s the iPhone’s Manual for the United States of America with the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address, the Patriot Act and more.
The first foray into iPhone and iPod Touch apps by West, part of Thomson Reuters, features the eighth—and most recent—edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. The legal standard costs $49.99. “People are used to apps being cheap, so instinctively people wonder whether it’s worth the money,” says Richardson. “But I think it’s a good value considering how much the book and a version on your computer cost.”
WaffleTurtle offers searchable iPhone apps of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure ($2.99); Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ($4.99); Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Evidence ($2.99); Lanham Act ($2.99); local patent rules from seven federal district courts whose dockets attract great numbers of intellectual property cases ($2.99); Sarbanes-Oxley Act ($1.99); securities laws including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 ($4.99); federal copyright code ($1.99); and federal patent laws ($2.99).
“I frequently use these apps,” says Richardson. “It is incredibly useful to have the law in your pocket.”
Get definitions, synonyms, audio pronunciations, similarly spelled words and the word of the day for free on your iPhone with Dictionary.com, which includes a thesaurus.
And if you need to go back in time, there’s an app for that too. Lawyers who are out of the office can use the free Firefox browser app Resurrect Pages.
“We have a case in which a company’s terms and conditions are at issue,” says Mack Sperling at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Greensboro, N.C. “Our opponent says, ‘On this day, we had these terms and conditions on our website.’ My partner pulled up the webpage for that particular date, and they weren’t there.”
Photo by iStockPhoto.com
Evernote is a handy free app for clipping articles online, taking notes or recording a voice note on the go, says Hafen. “I use it to collect language I’ve used in past arguments, information I might use in a future motion, and snippets from opposing counsel’s briefs. I organize it by subject matter and tagging so I can find information quickly. The key for me, though, is that it syncs flawlessly with Windows, my Mac at home and my iPhone.” It’s also available for the BlackBerry.
If you don’t have the time to read every legal website and blog every day, signing up for RSS (really simple syndication) news feeds sends the headlines directly to your computer or mobile device. “FeedDemon for Windows is my favorite RSS reader,” says Hafen of the free app. “I use it to stay abreast of my practice subject matter, changes in the law and recent decisions. It also helps me stay current on industry news and current events, and syncs flawlessly with my Mac and iPhone.”
Walter Reaves, a solo in Waco, Texas, uses the no-cost Google Reader. “I couldn’t live without it,” he says. “I also just installed a free Firefox app, Accessibar, which allows you to increase the text size.” Accessibar also allows you to manipulate a webpage in other ways to make it easier on your eyes, including increasing line spacing and providing text-to-speech reading as you hover over type.
Not sure your search engine is pulling up the results it should? Surf Canyon, a free Firefox and IE browser app, claims to accelerate your search process with Google, Yahoo, Live Search, Lexis Web and Craigslist by finding relevant results even if they’re buried in page 100 of your search results. With each search, Surf Canyon adds a bull’s-eye icon you can click on to highlight the additional results.
Quite hot now is digital dictation, with the two leaders being BigHand and WinScribe, says Lyndon Burrell, senior manager of market development and professional services at Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry. “People have always said, ‘I have a BlackBerry and I wish I could do my dictation on it.’ Now it’s possible. Do the digital dictation and hit send.” Both programs are available to single users and firmwide. Costs vary for both, but for BigHand, for example, expect to pay $300-$500 per user for both firmwide desktop and smartphone access.
Why tax your fingers by typing Google searches? Google Mobile, a free Google and iPhone app, allows you to speak a search term or phrase into your iPhone to launch an Internet search.
Google Voice is a free Web-based phone service for Gmail users. It provides you with a phone number and voice mail access (which includes transcriptions of phone messages you can read on your computer or phone) and offers services like call blocking and conference calling.
“It allows me to make international phone calls at a huge discount and to have text and e-mail access to voice mails,” says Ed Valio, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney. “It also has a pretty slick Web interface to manage things like where calls get forwarded and which get blocked.”
Grimes & Smith in Georgetown, S.C., uses Google Apps, which offers businesses Gmail, a calendar and a website at no charge. An expanded version costs $50 per user per year. “We use the standard version,” says Charles Smith. “The only expense we have is the domain name registration.” For that affordable fee, Smith’s firm gets the flexibility it needs.
“We have a first-class e-mail service with a branded version of Gmail with our domain, which we can control,” he says. “We can assign and add e-mail addresses, and it has all the features of Gmail. My partner has a smartphone, and he can get all his e-mail on his smartphone.”
The group calendaring is also useful. “If my secretary wants to make an appointment for me and I’m not in the office, she can plug right in and schedule the appointment,” explains Smith. “I also have a to-do list set up on our intranet, and my secretary and I can both see it. Google Apps also allows you to set up a website. Google hosts it and provides the interface to make changes.
“I’m not a technologist,” Smith adds. “I’m a lawyer. Google Apps is easy to use, but it has enough power to configure it the way you want.”
Though you can get Google Calendar as part of the Google Apps package, you can also use it as a standalone app and sync it with your iPhone. It does just what it says—organizes your schedule.
It’s also emerging as a useful tool for divorce lawyers. “We’ve heard of at least two lawyers recommending Google Calendar and Google Docs for divorced couples managing custody and visitation rights,” says Sara Jew-Lim, a Google global communications associate in Mountain View, Calif. “The parents collaborate on the Web so they can keep track of their kids’ schedules, homework and expenses. There’s only one schedule and only one budget, and it’s always viewable online, so it mitigates the potential for disputes.”
Picasa is a free, Web-based Google service that helps you organize, edit and share photos. “If I’m away from a scanner,” explains Philadelphia solo Elam, “I can photograph a document and e-mail it or load it onto the Web through Picasa.”
For use on any Web browser, the free Eyejot lets you create and receive video messages.
“If a client e-mails me with a problem, it takes me seconds to go to Eyejot and click on ‘Record new video,’ ” says Elam. “I can say, ‘You asked me about this. You should also consider these things and get back to me with further questions.’ That takes a minute instead of writing a letter. And my clients are international—they like to see my face.”
At $39.95 per year, LogMeIn Ignition lets you access all your computers no matter where you are. “It lets you control a remote computer from your iPhone,” says Valio. “I can be away from my home or network computer and launch this app on my iPhone, and up comes my system.”
Though your iPhone will identify Wi-Fi access in your area, Valio says WiFi Checker, a free iPhone app, gives that iPhone function a boost. “It’s more robust than the list of local access points that shows up on the iPhone,” he says. “It lists all the wireless networks and runs a quick test to see if they’re open and can access the Internet.”
“Two complementary e-book readers have enabled me to read well over 100 e-books on airplanes, subways and in checkout lines,” says Touro Law Center’s Ezor. He’s referring to the free Mobipocket reader and eReader, both of which work on most smartphones, PDAs, laptops and desktops. “They’re like Kindles for my Palm OS. Whether it’s reference books, fun reading or free downloadable e-books, you can read anywhere.”
“As a Twitterer with more than 1,300 followers, I love the TwitterBerry app for the BlackBerry,” says Frederic Abramson, a “tech obsessed” solo in New York City, of the donation-supported app. “If you attempt to view Twitter through your BlackBerry browser, it’s not helpful. You can’t scroll down and see what people are tweeting, and you can’t retweet, or forward tweets. It also locks up, and you have to take out the battery.”
Twitterberry is free and offers a wide screen for your tweets and allows you to do a tweets timeline that shows the messages in order. “It may take 30 seconds or a minute to refresh,” he says, “but you’re able to get 300-500 tweets.”
On his iPhone, New Orleans lawyer Richardson uses the free Twitterrific.
He used to use the also free TwitterFon, but Twitterific has now become his preferred Twitter app.
46-62: TASK MANAGEMENT
Apps that simplify the task of keeping time are probably the most valuable to lawyers, says Burrell of RIM. “Once they’re installed, you can set them up to automatically track all the time associated with meetings, phone calls and writing e-mails, and you can tie those back to particular cases and matter numbers.
If you have an impromptu meeting, you can pick the client and enter the details of the meeting, and it’s uploaded to the time-capture solution.” Airtime Manager, $29 per month for rental or $399 to purchase, is a BlackBerry app.
On his iPhone, Andy Gaunce, an associate at Hunter Maclean in Savannah, Ga., uses Chronology-Timer ($2.99). “I’ve started using it to capture those phone calls in the car,” he says. “I just hit a button at the beginning and end of the call, and it’ll be there for my timesheet.”
Looking for a free app to provide reminders and create to-do lists? The world is your oyster. With Jott, you can use your voice to send e-mails and texts to your iPhone contacts, take notes, set reminders, manage your lists and post to Google Calendar, Twitter and Facebook. With the BlackBerry version, you can reply to e-mails with your voice.
Also available for the iPhone are Toodledo ($2.99) and the $.99 Grocery IQ. “You put in your grocery shopping list and the program organizes the items by category,” says San Diego lawyer Michelle Sullivan about Grocery IQ. “And it has a function that lets you e-mail the list to your spouse in a pinch.” Also for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Google is the no-cost time-management app Remember the Milk.
For a reminder to do recurring tasks, there’s Habits, a $1.99 iPhone app. List the tasks you need to complete regularly, such as sending your quarterly client newsletter. You’ll get a reminder and be able to track your success in completing those events.
“I use DaysFrom all the time for things like determining when an appellate brief is due and when the record must be lodged,” says Richardson of this $.99 iPhone app. “It’s a quick and easy way to count days. The app does such a good job that even if I’m at my computer and I could count days on a calendar, it’s faster to do it on my iPhone.”
If Firefox is your browser of choice and a search turns up several cases or statutes, the no-cost Jureeka automatically adds a hyperlink to those if there’s a free version available.
“It saves you that additional step and money of going to Westlaw or Lexis,” says Sperling of Brooks Pierce. “But there are a lot of times where Jureeka includes a link, and when you click on it, you get a message saying it couldn’t find the document. You can’t expect free things to be perfect.”
Sperling is also a fan of the free Firefox app CiteGenie, which translates improper citations into Bluebook form and even includes accurate pinpoint cites. “You can put the case name in italics or underlined,” says Sperling, “and it has a range of citation forms—in addition to the Bluebook—you can choose from. If you’re in a state that has a particular citation form, you can choose that, too. CiteGenie saves you a couple of clicks, and anything that saves a click is a nice option to look at.”
If you’re a visual person, a simple to-do list might not work for you. A bubble chart, however, may be the ticket. That’s where Bubbl.us, a free program for any Web browser, comes in. “I use this for mapping out my workload so I can create visuals for myself,” Elam says. “I create a bubble chart showing me all the projects I’m working on so that I can see them at a glance. I also use it for my personal administrative tasks. You can put anything you want in the bubbles, and you can add sub-bubbles and as much text as you like.”
FireShot is a free Firefox app that lets you capture an image of the webpage on your screen, even when sections aren’t visible on your screen. Sperling prefers the $34.95 ClipMate for the same functions. “It lets me cut out a piece of anything on my screen during an Internet search and save it in a separate file,” says Sperling. “I use it a lot in my blog, and if I’m working on a brief and want a picture of something or an excerpt from a document, I can cut it out and paste it to my brief. That’s more flexible than capturing a full screen.”
Want to e-mail a webpage to a client in a printer-friendly format? PrintPDF, a free Firefox app, allows you to save a webpage as a PDF file from the Firefox browser.
If you’re always forgetting to bill a client for an expense, for $10 per month Exgis Enterprise can help you avoid that oversight in the future. It allows you to enter expenses into your BlackBerry as you make them so that when you later do your expense report, you or your assistant can access the complete list. If you want more than a list of expenses, you can also create your entire expense report.
“BackupBuddy has saved my bacon more than once,” Ezor says. “While Palm’s HotSync backup program is a wonderful thing, there are files and formats it doesn’t always capture. BackupBuddy fills in the gaps so I have an image of my handheld on my laptop. If anything ever gets deleted or I have to get a new one, I can rebuild the environment. It will also do regular backups to the secure digital card. It’s made upgrading to new or replacement handhelds a breeze rather than a chore.” BackupBuddy starts at $24.95. Palm’s HotSync is free.
63-70: MAPS, FUN AND GAMES
Not sure where you are? Need driving directions or phone numbers and addresses of nearby businesses? Google Mobile offers a free mapping app you can use with any Web browser and download to your BlackBerry, iPhone or other smartphone.
Another directional genie is AroundMe, a free iPhone app that allows you to search for the nearest gas station, restaurant or other business. “I was just in New York City and typed in sushi within a certain radius,” Gaunce says. With AroundMe on the job, Gaunce found sushi.
Then again, say you know where you really want to be. Snow Reports is a $1.99 iPhone app that lets you fantasize about being on the slopes when you’re stuck on the job. “When I sit and wait for my case to be called,” says Sullivan, “I check what the snow levels are.”
And let’s face it. Looking at weather forecasts is helpful, but it’s also curiously addictive. Richardson suggests no-cost apps provided by the Weather Channel and Weather Underground for use on an iPhone.
For those times when you know it’s futile to fight the urge to goof off a bit, there’s Fieldrunners from Subatomic Studios for $2.99. A fast-moving and addictive military-themed game, the object is to build bigger and better towers with which to wipe out waves of enemies that can attack from all directions on land and in the air.
For the less ambitious, there’s always Paper Toss, an electronic variation of “wastebasket-ball.” With a flick of a finger, you lob a cyber-paper-wad into a trash can from varying distances and angles. The free version subjects you to ads; the $.99 version doesn’t.
And, of course, no lawyer-geek should be without at least one portable Star Wars gadget.
“The kids told me about this one,” says Sullivan about Lightsaber Unleashed. “It turns your iPhone into a Jedi light sword. You wave it and it goes whoooooom, and it’s like fighting with lightsabers. The kids and I turn it on at the dinner table.”
AND ONE WE COULDN'T RESIST
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WANT MORE APPS? LOOK HERE
It should be noted that names, prices and functionality of apps appearing on these pages are all subject to change. With that in mind, visit these app stores to find more cool apps:
BlackBerry App World:
Marketplace for Windows Mobile:
G.M. Filisko is a lawyer and freelance journalist based in Chicago.