Which apps do lawyers like to use? For our summer 2013 download, A Matter of Time, National Purchasing Partners (NPP) identified a list of 20 — many of them free — for document review and markup, scanning, recording, note-taking, time-tracking and much more. Here’s a a closer look at five of the iOS apps aimed at revving up your practice’s productivity.
1. SignNow. This free app has so many practical applications for busy attorneys, it’s a shoe-in for the number-one spot. Whether you’re signing a letter of representation or powers of attorney, or closing a real estate transaction, with this app on your iPad or iPhone, you can sign documents anywhere or get anyone’s signature. It can be a real life-saver if you’re out of town on business, or dealing with family matters, too. Simply upload any PDF or Word doc from your email, Dropbox or camera, then sign with your finger and email the signed document, or save it to a free SignNow account. You can also use it to fill in PDF forms, turn a picture into a PDF, and get signatures from clients online or on their mobile devices.
2. ScanBizCards HD Lite. Business cards may seem so last century, but they’re still a necessary part of the networking ritual. Use this app and you might actually follow up with the people you meet at networking events and conferences. Instead of allowing stacks of cards to languish at the bottom of your desk drawer (along with all your best intentions), you can use this business-card reader app and your iPhone’s camera to scan cards right into your phone in seconds (or you can submit them for 100 percent accurate human transcription). Unlike similar apps, ScanBizCards doesn’t just scan and add contacts to your address book. There are 28+ premium features — including an option to send a quick email to your new contact and the ability to add calendar reminders. (See how easy it would be to follow up?) ScanBizCards syncs to all your devices, and it has real-time backup to the cloud and web access to your cards. Check out the videos. HD Lite is free; the paid version includes a one-year web sync subscription. Available for Android and Windows, too.
3. Presentation Clock. This $.99 timer app does one thing but it does it extremely well. Seasoned public speakers know how important timing is — run short and you’re up there babbling like an idiot and begging for audience questions. Run too long and you rudely infringe on fellow speakers’ time, and can be pegged as a bore. Either way, if you want a return engagement, practice the timing of your talk with this handy app, and bring it along to your presentation. Large, easy-to-read numbers change colors at thresholds you determine. When the timer hits 0:00, the colors invert from red on black to black on red and continue counting up indicating how long you’ve gone over.
4. iTimeKeep. By now, most practice management and time and billing software companies — especially those developed for the cloud — have introduced apps that let users perform various functions, like tracking time, from their smartphones and tablets. But some have come to the party a little later than others. Enter iTimeKeep, a mobile time-entry app from Bellefield, designed to bridge the gap and seamlessly integrate with leading legal time and billing software systems. One of the most popular timekeeping apps in the iStore, iTimeKeep integrates with Amicus, Tabs3, Elite, Aderant, Legal Software Systems, ProLaw, Omega, Orion, Total Office (formerly Client Profiles), Rippe & Kingston, Juris, PCLaw, Carpe Diem, DTE, Time Matters, Timeslips, LawBase and others. iTimeKeep has iOS, Android and, most recently, BlackBerry 10 versions, and launched a desktop version this summer as well. The app’s features include the option to use the free app in standalone mode or to connect your devices via the “Bellefield Connect” to your desktop and firm time-and-billing database.
5. Word Lens (Google Translate) is one of those apps that can get a “gee whiz” out of the most jaded apps aficionado. (New York Times columnist David Pogue had the crowd at ABA TECHSHOW 2013 agog when he showed Word Lens in action during his keynote.) If you think a business card scanner is nifty, imagine if you could take a picture of your Italian colleague’s card … and the scanner translated every item into English for you. That’s right. Word Lens allows you to “see the world in your language,” by instantly translating printed words using your phone’s built-in video camera. Point your camera at a sign, for example, when trying to navigate the streets of Berlin, and watch the app translate it into your language. Just let that sink in for a moment. Plus, no network connection is required. Currently language packs are available for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The app itself is free, but language “packs” are purchased in-app. (Update: Since this article was published, Google purchased Word Lens and incorporated it into Google Translate.)
Bonus app. Columnist Dan Gold is a big fan of IFTTT, and he writes about the power of creating automation “recipes” here, in “Automate Your Productivity with IFTTT and Evernote.”