mobile computing

Virtual law firms allow practice on your own terms

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Virtual law firms allow practice on your own terms."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Virtual law firms allow practice on your own terms 

For years now I’ve been an advocate of Web-based computing and have asserted that it will change the practice of law as we know it. I felt so strongly about this that I wrote a book about cloud computing for lawyers that was published in 2012, and shortly thereafter, I was hired by a legal software company that develops Web-based practice management software.

So, of course you could argue that I’m biased. After all, I’ve got skin in the game.

But know that I speak from personal experience. Without the Internet, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Web-based computing has been integral to my career success ever since I returned to the practice of law in 2005 after a brief hiatus from my profession. During that short hiatus, I had my second child and re-grouped in the hopes of finding a career path best suited to my needs and interests.

It was in 2005 that I hung my virtual shingle, created a website, and began doing contract work for other lawyers. I also started my first blog, Sui Generis. The career trajectory that followed — contract attorney, of counsel for a local firm, legal columnist and then journalist, book author, national speaker, and New York-based director for MyCase, a legal technology company located in California — would never have been possible but for the Internet and Web-based computing.

Of course I worked hard, but even with hard work, my career path would have been impossible just a decade before. I was fortunate that my reentry into the legal profession coincided with the wide-scale proliferation of Internet-based technologies like cloud computing and social media. Otherwise, I’d probably still be handling occasional matters for local attorneys and struggling to find my way.

Rest assured, I’m not the only lawyer benefiting from the flexibility, convenience and tremendous possibilities offered by Web-based computing. As part of my job as a legal journalist, I often write about lawyers who use Web-based tools in their law practice. In fact, in just the past month, I’ve interviewed three different lawyers who have successful virtual law practices, which are online law firms that do not have brick and mortar offices. In every case, the choice to hang a virtual shingle rather than open up a physical law office was made because the lawyers sought to practice law on their own terms.

In one case, an attorney chose to open up a virtual practice because he and his wife enjoyed traveling. So they decided to pack up their family and move to Mexico for a while. They now plan to stay there indefinitely, since he was able to establish a busy law practice where he handles transactional matters such as estate planning and small business formation for clients located in the states in which he is licensed.

Another lawyer I spoke to has operated a thriving, full-time virtual law practice for over 6 years. Originally from Texas, she relocated to North Carolina due to her husband’s job and continues to handle estate planning matters for clients located in Texas, the state in which she is licensed. She originally hung a virtual shingle while living in Texas so that she could practice part-time and still have time to care for her children, but as they grew and after the family’s relocation, she gradually transitioned to a full-time practice.

In another case, an attorney told me that his family also relocated because of his wife’s career. Before they had kids they’d decided that one of them would stay at home and since she’s a surgeon, he made the choice to be the stay-at-home-father. But rather than leave the practice of law, he established a part-time virtual law practice handling estate planning matters for his clients.

Like the other attorneys I spoke to, he used a Web-based platform to store and access all of his firm’s files and for client communication purposes. That set up is what makes his virtual practice possible and he’s able to care for his children during the day and perform client work on weeknights and weekends. Eventually he envisions transitioning to a brick and mortar office while still handling some client matters virtually.

So the idea that Web-based computing will change the practice of law is no longer just a pipe dream — it’s reality. Lawyers are using technology to create law practices that allow them to practice law on their terms.So while cloud computing may not be changing every law firm, it’s changing the way that some lawyers practice law. It’s giving them more options, increased flexibility, and greater control — over their practices and their lives.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled " Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?"  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Will lawyers embrace wearable tech, and the future?

 

Technology is changing at a rapid clip. Devices that were once a marvel less than a decade ago, like e-readers, smartphones and tablets, are now commonplace. Cloud computing is on the rise and social media use and postings, whether by parties, witnesses or jurors, is now a factor in the vast majority of cases being litigated in courtrooms across the country. The times the are a changin’ — and quickly.

The good news is that in some cases, lawyers are adapting quite well, especially when it comes to mobile computing. In fact, according to the results of the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, nearly 91 percent of lawyers use smartphones in their practices and 48 percent use tablets.

That’s an incredible amount of acclimation in a very short period of time given that the first smartphone, the iPhone, was released in 2007 and the first tablet, the iPad, was released in 2010. In other words, lawyers — who are traditionally slow to adopt new technologies into their practices — seem to be taking to mobile like a fish takes to water.

Well get ready, fellow attorneys, for the next stage of the mobile revolution: wearable technology.

And, it’s not just coming soon — it’s already here. Google Glass is now available to the public, smartwatches have been available for a number of months now, and Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch, was just released, with rumors of an iWatch release in the fall.
That means you can pick your wearable poison. Apple or Android? Smartwatch or glasses? Or perhaps you’ll choose both.

I predict that for most lawyers, smartwatches will initially prevail and that we’ll see a quick uptick in use once the iWatch is released, since the vast majority of lawyers still use iPhones (62 percent according to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey results).

The reason smartwatches will be so popular with lawyers is that they offer an easy and unobtrusive way to filter only the most important information received on your smartphone. So if you’re expecting a priority email or phone call, you can program your phone to forward it to your smartwatch so that you’ll receive a subtle vibration on your wrist. This will come in handy when you’re in court, for example. So instead of causing a disruption in the proceedings, you can leave the room quietly and tend to the matter in the hallway with no one else the wiser.
Google Glass won’t be as popular at first, but over time I suspect that as new legal specific apps are released (the folks at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute are already working on some) and as forward-thinking lawyers find creative ways to use Glass in their practices, we’ll see lawyers increasingly using this technology as well.

I speak from experience. I recently obtained a complimentary pair of Google Glass for review purposes thanks to a helping hand from the kind folks at Justia, including Tim Stanley, Nick Moline and Vasu Kappettu. Glass is an incredible technology that offers tremendous potential.
Much like the iPhone when it was first released in 2007, Glass is a diamond in the rough and its utility will no doubt change over time as more apps are developed and users find creative ways to make it work for their needs.

So mark my words: The next stage of the mobile revolution has arrived. Learn about wearable technologies and be ready. Sure it takes time to keep up with rapidly changing technologies, but even so, it will pay off in the long run. Rest assured the time spent keeping up with new technologies will pay off down the road and is a far better option than the alternative: being left behind in the wake of inevitable change.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled " Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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 Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers

 

Every year I write about different legal technology surveys that are released. Many focus on how lawyers are actually using legal technology, such as the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey. But it’s also helpful to know how solo and small-firm lawyers envision using technology in their practices.

That why the results of two legal technology surveys about lawyers’ plans to use legal technology in their law practices are so interesting (disclosure: they were conducted by MyCase, the company for which I work). They offer a glimpse into the businesses of solo and small firm lawyers and provide indications of their assessments of the value that different types of technologies will bring to their law practices.

The first survey was conducted earlier this year. A large sampling of lawyers were asked about their key business challenges for the coming year. From the responses, it was clear that one of their highest priorities was to grow their practices and that implementing new technologies, such as mobile and cloud computing, into their workflow was an important part of achieving that goal.
According to the survey results, 35 percent wanted to grow their business by using technology to increase efficiency, part of which included streamlining their billing practices and making it easier for clients to pay them; 31 percent hoped to become more organized by better utilizing technology to move to a paperless office and by managing their time more efficiently using mobile billing tools; 12 percent sought to become better lawyers by becoming better organized and improving client communication; and, 11 percent planned to move their law firm to the cloud as part of their efforts to better manage their practice by becoming more mobile and facilitating more flexible client communication.

The second survey asked lawyers in firms of less than 50 people about how they planned to use new technologies in their law firms. The respondents were nearly evenly split between solo practitioners (57 percent) and larger firms (43 percent). In particular the survey focused on learning more about how and why lawyers planned to use technology to increase productivity.
The survey results indicated the majority of respondents planned to invest more in technology to help them run their practices over the next year. Like the earlier survey, respondents indicated that the biggest planned technology investments revolved around going paperless and increasing efficiency: 73 percent reported that they were moderately to extremely likely to increase reliance on technology over the next year and 33 percent were likely to increase reliance on mobile in the coming year.

In terms of the specific technologies most likely to be implemented, 35 percent reported that they planned to digitize documents and 16 percent planned to start using comprehensive law practice management software. Also interesting was that respondents reported that they hoped to use new technologies to decrease inefficiencies related to client communication (31 percent) and time entry (25 percent). And, the traditional method most likely to be abandoned in favor of new technologies was the pen and paper appointment calendar, with 60 percent of respondents indicating that they planned to stop using it.

Other interesting findings included the fact that 64 percent of respondents agreed that there was a connection between increased mobility and profitability and only 37 percent respondents were not optimistic about increasing profits despite the less than robust economy and increased global competition for legal services. And last, but not least, when it came to increasing profits by bringing in new business, 46 percent of respondents agreed that word of mouth remains the best way to get new business and 29 percent agreeing that referrals from colleagues were one of the best sources of new business.

So that’s how some solo and small firm lawyers plan to grow their law practices by using technology in the near future. Are your goals for your law practice aligned with the survey results? What types of new technologies will you use in your law firm over the next year?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


8 handy gadgets for the mobile lawyer office

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "8 handy gadgets for the mobile lawyer office." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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8 handy gadgets for the mobile lawyer office

For the 21st century lawyer, mobility is key, since a mobile law practice makes it easier than ever for lawyers to practice law no matter where they happen to be. That’s why, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, more lawyers are going mobile than ever before, with nearly 91 percent of lawyers surveyed reporting that they have used smartphones in their practices and 48 percent of lawyers surveyed reported using a tablet at work.

But in order to have a truly mobile law office, you need to have the right accessories. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the road trying to make do under less than ideal circumstances.

But never fear! What follows is a list of my favorite gadgets for the mobile lawyer.

First, there’s the the Aidata LHA-3 LAPstand Aluminum Portable Laptop Stand which retails for $38.99. I use this stand all the time. It raises my laptop up to a more ergonomic viewing level and is incredibly versatile, allowing you to set up shop no matter where you happen to be. Using it, you can view your laptop at multiple angles and it’s very lightweight at only 1.8 pounds.

Next, continue increasing the ergonomics of your mobile law office even more by dumping the clunky mouse. Instead, avoid wrist pain by switching to the Wacom Bamboo pen and tablet. It retails for only $49.99 and is well worth the money. This handy, pen-like tool can be used to navigate the Web with ease. It’s quite thin and light and takes up very little room in your laptop bag. And as an added bonus, it can be used to sign or annotate documents or create sketches, if you’re so inclined.

Next up, consider investing in a portable keyboard to go along with your ergonomic mobile office. I prefer Apple’s Wireless Keyboard ($69.99) because it’s full-sized, lightweight and very thin. It takes up very little space in your laptop bag and can be used with both your laptop and tablet.

Another stand to consider is the StabilePro iPad stand. Although pricey, ringing in at $107.99, this attractive stand raises your tablet to eye level and, when used with your portable keyboard, creates a functional work station. Another benefit, the stand rotates side to side and front and back, making it easier to view your tablet’s screen from any angle.

Avoid battery drain on the go and invest in Monster Outlets to Go. This compact tool makes it easy to keep your devices charged while on the road. It includes both electrical outlets and a USB port and costs only $19.95.

Another option is to use an iPhone case with a built-in battery pack. The Mophie Space Pack iPhone 5/5S case with battery charger is a great choice since not only is it a battery charger, it also includes up to 16 GB of backup storage. It costs a hefty $149.95 but depending on your needs, may be well worth the price.

Next up, avoid the risk of a water-logged tablet and purchase a DryCase cover for your tablet. For $59.99, this flexible, clear tablet case will protect your tablet from water, whether you’re at the beach or hiking in the rain.

Finally, splurge and buy yourself the Pencil iPad stylus by FiftyThree. This stylus is incredibly sharp-looking and functional. And, it works just like a pencil. You write with the pencil tip and erase with the eraser end of the stylus. The graphite version costs $59.95 and the walnut version, which includes a magnetic strip to attach it to your tablet, costs $79.95.

So now that you have a few ideas about tools to enhance your mobile office, the next step is to add a few of them to your arsenal. Which ones will you buy?

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can bereachedatniki@mycase.com.


Will lawyers take advantage of wearable tech?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Will lawyers take advantage of wearable tech?" My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Will lawyers take advantage of wearable tech?

Wearable technology: it’s been the topic of discussion in technology circles for some time now. Pundits have forecasted that in 2014 there will be a rapid uptick in the use of wearable technologies such as smart watches and Google Glass as prices drop and they become more readily available.

 

Last week, some of those predictions came true when Google Glass was finally released to the general public — albeit for just one day at the very high price of $1,500. Even so there continue to be well-founded reports that a consumer version of Glass will be released in the fall for the much lower price of $600 and that Apple will most likely release the iWatch in September.

 

The question remains, however: will these technologies catch on with the general population? And even more importantly to readers of my column, will lawyers have any practical use for these devices?

 

Some lawyers have been convinced from the get go that Google Glass has a place in law office. One such lawyer is Mitch Jackson, a California personal injury lawyer. In November 2013, Mitch suggested on his blog that lawyers would indeed find uses for Google Glass, such as during voir dire (online: http://jacksonandwilson.com/48-hours-of-google-glass/): “Last night I was playing around with Glass and trying to figure out how to have notes or an outline appear. For example, maybe notes to use during an interview or an outline to use during a deposition or jury selection. I may be picking a jury and starting trial in 2 weeks using Glass. The judge is OK with me using Glass in court … I’ll be using the outline functions I mentioned above and, recording my voir dire for later review and use.”

 

Of course, not everyone is convinced that Google Glass will benefit lawyers. Jeffrey Taylor of the Droid Lawyer blog, a staunch believer in the effective use of technology in the practice of law, remains unconvinced (online: http://thedroidlawyer.com/2014/04/google-glass-may-finally-have-a-place-in-law-firms/): “Long-time readers know that I’m not too enthusiastic about the potential of Google Glass in law firms. Namely, I’m just skeptical that Glass actually adds value to a lawyer’s tech arsenal. Of course, I’m not saying Glass isn’t valuable or useful, I just don’t know that lawyers can fully benefit from such an expensive piece of technology.”

 

But even Jeffrey was impressed by one Phoenix-based personal injury law firm’s recent use of Google Glass. As reported in a recent Business Insider article (online: www.businessinsider.com/lawyers-use-google-glass-to-win-cases-2014-4), attorneys James Goodnow and Marc Lamber from the law firm Fennemore Craig started using Google Glass in a very creative and innovative way as a means to record the effects of serious injuries on their clients’ lives.

 

For example, they loaned a Google Glass device to one of their clients, a double amputee, so that he could wear it to record and document his day-to-day activities and the severe limitations that he faces because of his injuries. Thus far it proven to be a novel and effective use of Google Glass.

 

So there’s a lesson to be learned here, my fellow lawyers: don’t automatically discount new technologies just because they’re different and untested. Instead, learn about them, keep an open mind, and think critically — but not skeptically — about their use in your practice.

 

Not all emerging technologies will have a place in your practice, but some have the potential to streamline your practice and allow you to better represent your clients — it’s oftentimes simply a matter of being able to imagine the possibilities.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached atniki@mycase.com.


Productivity apps help lawyers manage time

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Productivity apps help lawyers manage time." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Productivity apps help lawyers manage time

According to the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, 91 percent of attorneys have smartphones and 48 percent use tablets in their practices. So more likely than not, you own either a smartphone, a tablet, or both. And now that you own a mobile device, why not use it to increase your productivity?

To help you do just that, here are some of my favorite productivity apps that you might want to consider.

First there is my favorite to-do/calendar app combo: Any.do and Cal. Both apps are free and were developed by the same company. Most importantly, the apps integrate, making your tasks and calendaring system a seamless, intuitive experience.

Any.Do is a user-friendly and versatile to-do app (iOS, Android, and web app) that is flexible enough to fit into most workflows. You can add tasks via the Web interface or the smartphone app. If you add a task using your smartphone and include the name of someone stored as a contact on your phone, the app will connect the task to your contact and will automatically include a link to any contact information relating to that person.

Another great Any.Do feature is that the Web browser extension integrates with Gmail, prompting you to add an email-related task at the end of each email. The task you create is then linked to the email, so that you can quickly return to the email, should you need to do so in the future.

Cal, the corresponding calendar app integrates with Any.do so your Any.do tasks are listed within the Cal interface. Cal connects with the native iOS app, Google calendar, or any other calendar that you’ve set up on your mobile device.

You can connect the app with your contacts so that whenever you enter an event, such as “Meeting with Mary,” the app will search your address book and suggest contacts with that same name, which you can then link to the event. The app then automatically includes the contact information so that you can email or text him or her from within the event with just the touch of an icon.

You can also add a location and, once you’ve done so, the app suggests businesses that match the location. After you choose the correct business, a map appears along with a navigation button, so that you can then pull up turn-by-turn instructions via Google maps.

If you’re in the market for a voice mail system other than your phone’s native system, YouMail, a free iOS and Android app, might be just what you’re looking for. One of its best features is the ability to forward voice mails to your email. Being able to do this makes it much easier for me to remember to respond to or take action in regard to a specific message. You can also email a voice mail to someone else as well — something that occasionally comes in handy.

YouMail also makes it easy to organize your voice mails. Instead of being forced to store all of your voice mails in one location, you can create sub-folders (ie. “follow up,” “work” or “personal”). Once you’ve done so, you can then file received voice mails into specific folders after you’ve listened to them.

For contact management, consider Brewster, a free iOS and Android app that facilitates contact management across your social networks. Once you download this app, it collects all of your social network contacts along with your phone’s contacts into a fully searchable database. This is a wonderful feature because for those of you who travel often, since it makes it so much easier for you to locate (and network with) your connections who live wherever you happen to be traveling to.

And last but not least, Springpad is a great app for note taking and keeping your life — both online and offline — organized. Using Springpad you can create notes and collect and organize many different types of files — including photos, Web pages,UPCs (of wine, books or other items) scanned via your smart phone, online recipes, and notes or reminders — using any Internet-enabled device.

So there you have it — an assortment of apps to help you stay organized and increase your productivity. So why not get started today? Download a few apps and see how much time you save!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


6 must-have apps for every lawyer’s new iPad

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "6 must-have apps for every lawyer’s new iPad." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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6 must-have apps for every lawyer’s new iPad

You received exactly what you’d asked for this holiday season and now you’re holding a shiny new iPad in your hands. Now what? How do you figure out which apps to download to help to make you a more effective, efficient lawyer? Well, you’re in luck! Get started by downloading the 6 apps suggested below:

 

First, purchase PDF Expert ($9.99). It’s my favorite app for PDF annotation and storage. Using this app, you can easily import documents from many sources, including email attachments, your computer’s hard drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive and GoogleDocs. You can import a range of file types, including iWork, MS Office, Power Point, text files, images, music and video files and more.

 

Then, using this app you can fill in forms, add typewritten text in any number of fonts and colors, or insert handwritten text into documents. You can also mark up documents by highlighting text or striking through words.

 

Fastcase is another great app. This free app includes cases and statutes from all 50 states and the federal government and allows you to conduct free legal research on the fly, even if you don’t have a Fastcase subscription.

 

For a mobile scanner, consider the Scanner Pro app ($2.99). It allows you to use your iPad’s camera to capture an image of the document, then converts it into a PDF which you can then email or upload into any number of integrated online storage services.

 

Every lawyer needs a “to-do” app and Any.DO is a great choice. This free app is user-friendly and versatile and is flexible enough to fit into most workflows. It’s available as a browser extension for Chrome and other Web browsers as well as an iPad app. You can add tasks via the Web interface or the smartphone app, and can even share them with others if necessary.

 

But what sets it apart is the way that it integrates with your smartphone and with Gmail. So, if you add a task using your smartphone and the app will automatically include a link to any contact information stored on your phone relating to that person. The Web browser extension integrates with Gmail, prompting you to add an email-related task at the end of each email. The task you create is then linked to the email, so that you can quickly return to the email, should you need to do so in the future. Finally, the developers recently came out with a great, free calendar app, Cal, that integrates with Any.DO and GCal or your native iOS calendar.

 

Next, download Google Now. This free app is Google’s intelligent personal assistant that is designed to provide you with the information most relevant to your daily life, right on your smartphone. Like Siri, Apple’s personal assistant, the Google Now app responds to voice commands and also provides “information cards” catered to your needs, based on your interaction with your phone. The information is gleaned from your phone’s GPS data and the data that Google has collected regarding your search history. It then personalizes its results and predicts which “information cards” will be most useful to you.

 

And last but not least, don’t forget about law practice management apps. Most reputable Web-based law practice management companies offer iPad (and iPhone) apps which provide lawyers with 24/7 access to their firm’s documents, client files, contact information and more. And, some, such as MyCase’s app (the company for which I work), even offer a client-facing app which allows clients to securely communicate with their lawyers and access all of their case-related information as well.

 

So there you have it — a great list of apps to get you started. Download a few of them and see how much your new iDevice helps you to streamline your law practice and improve your productivity in 2014!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


2013 holiday gift ideas for tech-savvy lawyers

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "2013 holiday gift ideas for tech-savvy lawyers." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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2013 holiday gift ideas for tech-savvy lawyers

It’s that time of the year again. Time to eat good food, spend quality time with loved ones and friends, and buy presents — lots and lots of presents.

So, what about the tech-savvy lawyer in your life? Are you wondering what to buy for him or her? Well wonder no more, because I’ve got plenty of suggestions for you right here in my annual gift guide for lawyers with a passion for technology and gadgets.*

No doubt your technology-loving lawyer already has a smartphone and a tablet, so I won’t waste your time discussing those this year.

But if the lawyer in your life is taking steps to move toward a paperless law office, here are a few apps to consider gifting that will make the process easier. First there are an assortment of note-taking apps, but some of the more popular ones include Evernote (free), Notability ($2.99) and Springpad (free).

For document creation, consider Apple’s iPages app ($9.99), Office² HD for Word docs($7.99) or Office 365 for iPhone (free). For PDF annotation and storage apps, take a look at Goodreader ($4.99), PDF Expert ($9.99), iAnnotate ($9.99) and ReaddleDocs (free). Finally, scanner apps are a must-have for the paperless law office and a few good choices include Scanner Pro ($2.99), GeniusScan (free) or TurboScan ($1.99).

Another important piece of the puzzle for the mobile lawyer is a light, but powerful laptop. The new Macbook Air is a great choice and has incredible battery life, but for a cheaper, albeit less powerful alternative, the new Chromebook is also worth considering.

Of course books always make great presents and lucky for you, there are a number of useful and interesting books that were released over the last year that would be ideal presents for any lawyer.

First there’s “The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis” by Andrew Harper, which offers an insightful, albeit depressing, look at our profession and the forces that have led us to the somewhat tenuous position that we find ourselves in today. Next, “Google Gmail and Calendar in One Hour for Lawyers” by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch is a step-by-step guide for lawyers interested in learning what features and functions are available in Gmail and Google Calendar, as well as related services such as Google Chat, Google Talk, Google Hangout and Call Phone.

And, last but not least, there’s “Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers” by Ernie Svenson, which teaches lawyers how to create, maintain and improve a legal blog, all the while developing new business relationships and opportunities.

And, if you’d like some holiday music with a legal theme to set the tone for your holidays, take a look at the holiday-themed albums offered at LawTunes.com.

Finally, if these suggestions aren’t enough for you, you can always check out The Billable Hour (thebillablehour.com), a website that offers unique gifts specifically tailored to lawyers and legal professionals.

* All of the suggestions above are based on my personal experience and preferences, but rest assured — I haven’t been compensated monetarily by any of the vendors for these recommendations, although in some cases I was provided with review copies of some of the products mentioned in this article.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Lawyers, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel

For years now, I’ve been writing about the intersection of technology and the legal profession. And for years now, I’ve urged lawyers to learn about emerging technologies. My belief has always been that it’s the dawn of a new age — one where cloud and mobile technologies have the potential to save lawyers time and money, allowing them to focus more on representing their clients and less on administrative functions.

Unfortunately, our profession as a whole has been slow to respond to my rallying cry. While small sub-groups of lawyers are incredibly tech-savvy, many lawyers continue to practice law as if it were still 1999.

So earlier this week, when I attended a New York State Bar Association Appellate Law CLE, I was dismayed at the very outset when I noted that I was the only attendee — out of approximately 100 — who was using a laptop. And of the remaining lawyers, only a handful were using tablet computers.

What little faith I had in my profession’s ability to change with the times was reduced substantially and I reluctantly resigned myself to the idea that 2013 was apparently not the year that Upstate New York lawyers saw the light.

And then, at the end of the day, everything changed.

It started when New York Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Pigott took the podium to offer appellate practice tips. I’ve heard Judge Pigott speak on a number of occasions and he’s always entertaining and down to earth and this talk was no exception. But what took me by complete surprise was when he encouraged attendees to check out the Court of Appeal’s website and then listed all of the information that could be found on it, including webcasts of oral arguments, transcripts of oral arguments, court forms, e-filing capabilities, and even appellate briefs. His inclusion of this information in his presentation gave me hope and made me wonder if perhaps there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel after all.

But what happened next took me completely by surprise: ex-New York Court of Appeals Judge and now Federal Second Circuit Judge Richard Wesley began his presentation. At first, it seemed like a rather typical — and very helpful — presentation on various tips for appellate attorneys. And then suddenly he veered into a side discussion of the benefits of iPads. You heard me correctly: iPads!

He explained that he takes his iPad everywhere and that he and all of the other Second Circuit judges use iPads on the bench. On the bench! And that he converted everyone at a judicial retreat last year — even the 80-year old judges. He advised us that during oral arguments, the judges access Westlaw right from their iPads and also have PDFs of the briefs in front of them with hyperlnks to the cited cases. On their iPads! On the bench!

After his talk, I approached him and asked him to share more about his iPad use. His eyes lit up and he held out his iPad (housed in a black leather case with built-in Bluetooth keyboard, in case you were wondering). “It’s the best!” he said. “Look I can access my entire docket right now! See? Each case is listed and then I can access all the documents in the cloud — right here on my iPad! And when I read briefs, I type notes in the margins and then send it off to my law clerks. It’s great! I can work from wherever I happen to be!”

At this point I was beside myself. I mean, I couldn’t have scripted this better if I’d tried! And this, from a federal court judge no less. But, even though I knew I should just call it a day and walk away before something happened to ruin this perfect moment, I had to know what app he used to annotate his PDFs. I figured it had to be one of the clunkier ones — probably Adobe’s more conventional app. After all, he was a federal court judge — I mean, how tech-savvy could he be?

“I use PDF Expert,” he replied. “It’s the best app. I initially used another one, but it just wasn’t as full-featured and intuitive.”

I couldn’t believe it! He used my PDF-annotation app of choice! I was nearly speechless at this point. But somehow, I managed to I pull myself together, thanked him for his great talk, and told him how impressed I was with his tech-savviness. And then, as I walked away, he left me with these parting words “I love my iPad! It’s made me so much more productive!”

I had to pinch myself. Was I dreaming? Had my profession finally turned the corner? And what in the world was that blinding light before my eyes? Either I was about to pass out, or maybe — just maybe — that light at the end of the tunnel that I’d been convinced was an oncoming train was actually, at long last, daylight!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Mobile apps for the paperless law office

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Mobile apps for the paperless law office." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Mobile apps for the paperless law office

More than ever, lawyers are realizing the value and time-saving capabilities of mobile devices. The flexibility and convenience of practicing law on the go is especially apparent when lawyers take advantage of mobile apps created for creating, storing and organizing documents and notes. If you haven’t yet discovered the many benefits of creating and accessing digital documents on your iPhone or iPad, why not get started today using some of the iOS apps discussed below?

First, your iOS device is perfect for taking notes no matter where you happen to be. Some of the most popular note-taking apps include Evernote (free), Notability ($2.99), and, my favorite, Springpad (free). All three of these apps offer a vast assortment of note-taking capabilities, including a variety of methods and integrations which allow you to access your notes on both your device and online. Springpad and Evernote also offer Web-based interfaces which make it easy to clip and store websites, images and more using any Web-enabled device.

For document creation, one of the best options is Apple’s Pages app ($9.99), which offers full-featured word processing right on your iPad or iPhone. If you prefer Microsoft Word, then you can use the Office 365 app for iPhone (free, but not yet developed for the iPad), although that app requires that you have an Office 365 subscription and doesn’t offer many of the popular features found in Word, such as the ability to track changes.

For a more full-fledged word processing app for Word documents, take a look at Office² HD ($7.99), an app that lets you view, edit and create Microsoft Word-compatible documents, Microsoft Excel-compatible workbooks and Microsoft Powerpoint-compatible presentations right on your iPad.

Next up, apps that facilitate the storage and annotation of PDF documents. There is a lot of competition in this space and as a result, there are a number of PDF apps that are popular amongst lawyers.

First, there’s Goodreader ($4.99). For many lawyers, this is the app of choice for reading and storing PDF documents. although I find the interface to be a bit clunky. My preferred PDF annotation app of choice is PDF Expert ($9.99), because it has the cleanest and most intuitive interface. Like Goodreader, it reads most documents types and and once you’ve imported documents, you can create folders, name your files and store them away.

It also has fantastic annotation features, making it incredibly easy to fill in forms by adding typewritten or handwritten text into documents. You can also mark up documents by highlighting text or striking through words and easily input text into blanks found in documents. Other popular options to consider include iAnnotate ($9.99) and ReaddleDocs (free).

Finally, another way that you can use your iPhone and iPad to manage documents on the go is by using a scanner app. There are a number of document scanner apps available either for free or at very reasonable prices of less than $10. These apps make it easy to scan a document using your device’s camera function. You simply take a picture of the document and then send it to the recipient via email. Many also give you the option of printing the document or uploading it to a cloud-based document storage website such as Dropbox, Evernote or Google Docs. My scanner app of choice is Scanner Pro ($2.99). Other alternatives include GeniusScan (free) or TurboScan ($1.99).

So there you have it: an assortment of apps that make it easier than ever to create and manage documents on the go. So download a few of them today and give them a test drive. You might be surprised at how easy it is to to stay on top of your busy law practice no matter where you happen to be.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.