The proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the workplace has dramatically changed how business is conducted, and the legal profession is no exception. Nearly everyone has a mobile device, but how many of us use these devices to their full potential? Think about how you are using your smartphone in your daily affairs. Can that same technology do even more to help you give your clients the best possible representation?
Count the Ways
Offhand, I can name six ways your smart device can make your law practice more efficient.
1. Research. Being able to access LexisNexis and other legal databases from a client’s home or hospital room can be a powerful advantage when guiding your client’s expectations and planning strategy for presenting your case. You can access these databases quickly via your smartphone, without having to bother an overworked paralegal. Instead of having to say, “I’m not sure, but let me research that and get back to you,” you can say, “I’m not sure, but let’s look that up right now.” Being well prepared, on the spot, can give clients a favorable impression of your skills and ability to represent them. Apps for research include ArticleSearch and Fastcase; plus, for accessing the info on your office desktop system remotely, there’s LogMeIn.
2. Document sharing. Suppose you were up all night drafting a brief and now it needs to be proofread by a paralegal or approved by a partner. Document-sharing and collaboration apps like Google Docs allow you to store documents in the cloud and share them with others (while controlling access to them). This allows you to seamlessly upload documents in progress for review, comment or proofreading. Other apps for document sharing include GoodReader, Evernote, Dropbox and ScannerPro (which turns your smartphone into a scanner so you can upload and share scanned documents on the go).
3. Dictation and note-taking. If you have to travel for work, finding someone to take dictation for you can be extremely difficult. Often it’s just you in a hotel room, trying to get your thoughts in order. New voice recognition and dictation programs allow you to automatically convert speech into text, creating a document that you can email or share using options like those listed above. You can also make a voice recording and email it to your secretary or paralegal for translation into text, depending on how your practice is set up and how many layers of approval a given document needs. Good examples of apps for dictation and note-taking are Dragon Dictation, SomNote and PenSupremacy.
4. In-court research and fact-checking. Of course you always want to check the judge’s or arbiter’s rules for using mobile devices while proceedings are in session. Many tech-savvy jurists will permit such usage as long as it is relevant to the proceedings at hand, while some will not. However, being able to pull up a witness deposition while they’re on the stand giving self-contradictory testimony can give you a huge edge on cross-examination, because their testimony is right in front of you and you can search for key terms such as “night of August 11th.” Apps for in-court research and fact-checking include FederalCourts and WestlawNext.
5. Depositions. The voice-recording and Facetime functions available on next-generation smart devices offer an excellent way to have both a visual and written record of depositions. You can use these to analyze not only what was said, but also how it was said, without having to wade through hours of video to find a specific instance. Right from your device, you can also look for micro expressions and nonverbal communication cues that may potentially signal falsehoods, giving you another tool to use in building your case. A popular app for creating depositions is Depose. Others include Paperless Deposition and Edepo.
6. Case management. Being able to track and schedule tasks, billable hours, expenses and travel time, as well as keep notes and case documents readily available and organized, is crucial. Goodcase’s CaseManager app can help you accomplish this. Its calendar function allows you to keep track of daily, weekly and monthly tasks associated with a given case, and gives you “day at a glance” scheduling capability. This is particularly helpful for those with a heavy caseload but a small or nonexistent support staff. The only real drawback is that it does not currently support file sharing. Other apps for case management include Lawyers Case Diary, TimeMaster and LegalPlex.
Most practice management software programs now offer cloud access and iPhone and Android apps for use on the go as well.
If you are already doing these things, you’re ahead of the curve. If not, it’s time to think about ways to make your smart device work as hard for you as you do for your clients.
Melanie Atkinson is a client communication specialist at the Edmonton, Alberta, personal injury law firm of Cummings Andrews Mackay, LLP. She has a passion for technology and how it pertains to all aspects of the legal industry.