December 2016Volume 22Number 3PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Legal technology resources for your practice

Do you sometimes wonder how we ever lived without those little mini-computers that we all carry around in our pockets and briefcases these days? Hopefully by now you have found many ways to use the incredible mobile power of apps on your device to make your practice more efficient. The technology world moves quickly, so just when you get comfortable using one app, three new ones are released that are even better. Our busy lives sometimes make it difficult to keep track of the vast number of new apps that are released constantly, so here is a list of a few apps for both iPhone and iPad that can help you with productivity in your legal practice. (All of these are compatible with Apple products, but they may or may not be available on other platforms.)

Slack—This is a group collaboration tool that has the tech world buzzing. It works by allowing you to create what it calls “channels” that your team or group can access to communicate and collaborate on projects. You can also create private channels if you have sensitive information to which you only want a few people to have access. The app allows you to share files, pictures, documents, spreadsheets, and any other electronic information with the group. The app syncs with Google Drive and DropBox as well as other document storage services. You can use it on your phone, tablet, or computer so it is available no matter where you are. There is a free basic plan that you can use to see how it works, and then there are various paid plans if you need something more robust or more extensive features. This app allows multiple attorneys and/or support staff to collaborate on a file and to communicate with one another about the project all in one place. You can even make a client a user if you have a situation where you need to collaborate and communicate with the client. (As an aside, it is a good idea to be aware of this app when you are conducting discovery, as it could hold relevant documents and communications just as email or a hard-drive can.)

TrialPad—This is a powerful and sophisticated app for trial presentations. You can use this to present evidence to a judge or jury without having to use expensive presentation software on a computer. You can run it from your iPad so it is easy to use with a little practice and generally user friendly. You can make presentations to a group by connecting a projector or TV. The app contains a feature called “Callout” which allows you to enlarge certain sections of text for a jury or audience to view on a screen or projector. You can then manipulate that text with highlights or notes or animation if necessary. Within the app, you can organize your cases in folders with smaller organization subfolders within each case, just like a paper file. When you’re in the middle of trial you have all of your exhibits at your fingertips within the app and can bring them up and display them in the courtroom as needed.

TranscriptPad—This is an excellent app for any attorney who uses an iPad and works with transcripts. In fact, if you are drowning in transcript documents this might be a lifesaver for you. You can use it to review transcripts and you can carry every transcript with you at all times within the app. It allows you to organize cases in folders and then to store transcripts within those case folders so that you can find what you need easily and quickly. As you are reading, you can highlight key sections or answers in various colors if you want to use a color-coding system, and you can flag certain answers or pages to return to them easily. You can even code certain issues as you read and then generate a code report within the app that gives you a list of those issues to review or to concentrate on.

PDF Reader App—Some type of PDF document app is a must-have for any lawyer in any type of practice. The PDF file format is ubiquitous now, and you must have a way to interact with it. There are several good apps available in the app store for all different platforms and devices. My long-time favorite is PDF Expert, but GoodReader and iAnnotate are both excellent programs as well. These robust apps allow you to work with PDF documents just the way you would if they were pieces of paper in front of you, but with a seemingly infinite number of tools. You can use them to highlight text in numerous ways or you can fill in blanks on forms. You can use the app to have a client sign a document, and you can store your own signature as a stamp within the app to sign documents. The apps have stock stamps available or you can create custom stamps that say anything you want them to say. You can add text notes or editing notes to any document, or you can add exhibit stickers and page numbers to documents. These apps make it easy to add new pages, to merge multiple documents, and to rearrange and delete pages within a PDF document.

ADR Mediation Tool—If you use mediation in your practice, this simple but full-featured app allows you to enter pertinent information about your case including any contingency fees, case expenses, and the result you want for your client. The app then provides you with a settlement target based on the information you enter regarding the case. As negotiations progress in the matter, you can enter demands and offers into the app and immediately see the mid-point without having to do the calculations yourself. You can put in different scenarios to provide an estimate of the effect that a certain demand or offer might have on the bottom line. There is also an option to display all of the results graphically in bold colors so you can see the history and the results of the negotiations, which is an excellent way to illustrate for a client what has happened and where you are in a given settlement negotiation.

Courtroom Objections—This is a type of “guidebook” app that could be beneficial for all lawyers, and might be especially helpful for new lawyers. This app gives you lists of common objections organized by category, such as Objections to Form or Objections to Admissibility. Within each category, there are subcategories, which include objections like Ambiguous or Assumes Facts. Within each subcategory, there are guides to the wording of the objection and an explanation of the rule, as well as possible responses if your question is the one being objected to by opposing counsel. The app also provides the relevant Federal Rule of Evidence for reference. This app could be open on your phone right next to you on the trial table and work as an immediate reference during a trial or hearing.

Kimberley Crum Klein is a partner at Klein & Mosser, LLC in Elgin where she focuses on Criminal and Family Law.

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