Bon App-etit: Expect a Windfall of New Legal Apps in the Coming Year
While the slogan “There’s an app for that” helped rocket Apple’s i-products into the stratosphere, that same catchphrase is now applicable for some of the most popular case management software for lawyers.
Total Attorneys, Clio, Rocket Matter and MyCase have all announced their software works with select apps and plug-ins created by third-party developers through their application programming interfaces—a boon for lawyers who are looking to tweak, customize and otherwise enhance their preferred case management packages.
“As a solo, it’s cost-prohibitive to create your own platform or to create software patches in order to integrate every functionality you’d like,” says Charles Basil, whose Basil Legal Services is based in West Hartford, Conn. “With a proliferation of … apps, attorneys can choose to add, a la carte, the functionality they need without having to pay for prebundled features they don’t use.”
Analysts expect the new third-party apps will make it much easier for attorneys to add features on the fly. The new apps are also expected to enable users to easily share data, which means much less exporting and importing.
Attorneys should also look forward to empowered communications from within their case management software as apps roll out that enable them to easily integrate their software with Outlook, Twitter and similar communications tools.
Allison C. Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting in Mount Sinai, N.Y., says apps most likely to arise from the new flexibility will be those that enhance productivity or help lawyers sync data across multiple devices. She’s also looking for apps that will improve the mobile experience.
There also may be a slew of new apps for case management software now used as stand-alone packages, such as bookkeeping, billing, accounting, document management and project management apps, she says.
“We may also see integration of specialized apps for specific areas of practice, such as trial apps and form- or document-creation apps,” Shields adds.
Tisha Dodge, president of Dallas-based Dodge Legal Group, says relying on third-party apps approved by the maker of her case management software, Total Attorneys, will save her the trouble of vetting new apps on her own.
“If it’s integrated with Total Attorneys, I have a level of confidence that the third party is going to have a good quality,” Dodge says. “I like to try something new to benefit my firm. But I don’t want to spend my time trying to find the right productivity tool and then find a reputable provider for that app. Total Attorneys allows me to try the app with a simple click and no loss of time.”
Some of the new apps already available for Total Attorneys include Legal Research from Fastcase; Payment Processing from Capital Payments, a plug-in; and Web Design & Marketing from Legal Web Experts.
Meanwhile, Clio is offering the third-party app ZenCash, which automates the receivables management process, and DirectLaw, a virtual law firm platform for solos and small firms. And Chrometa, a third-party app for tracking and categorizing time, is also available for Clio and Rocket Matter. One caveat: Given the critical sensitivity of data entrusted to law firms, some attorneys worry whether the same stringent standards they’ve come to expect from their case management software will be replicated by third-party developers.
“One of my biggest concerns with an Internet-based platform had been security of my information,” Basil says. “I’d like to have assurances that any applications are vetted by [my service provider] to keep all data encrypted, secured and absolutely inaccessible to the application producers.”