7 Essential Apps for Busy Legal Professionals

From lawyers to librarians, we’re all asked to shoulder more responsibility as prior staffing levels become relics of bygone economies. We are also becoming more mobile, working remotely, traveling to meetings and speaking at conferences.

In this environment, applications that aid in our productivity have become increasingly important as evidenced by the popular 60 apps in 60 minutes drills we see at many conferences. Last week I was involved in a similar presentation at the ABA Annual Meeting,  and although I’m not a fan of the shallow, rapid fire format, it spurred me into sharing a few of the apps I’ve come to rely on.

Instapaper – Every day we come across heaps of interesting posts and articles. Some we skim and share on Twitter and Facebook, and others we save to digest later. The free Instapaper browser extension provides the opportunity to save web pages with 1-click. And it syncs to mobile devices with offline access to articles during a flight or a subway ride.

Evernote – From recording ideas as they occur to creating blog posts, this application does it all. And, it syncs across the desktop, mobile and web. For a more in depth look, check out the recent discussion on Lawyerist about this invaluable (and free!) tool.

Buffer App – Just about everyone who uses Twitter in a meaningful way will tell you that a third party app is essential, and although I’ve tried many, including TweetDeck and HootSuite, I keep coming back to the beautifully simple Twitter.com web interface. Now, with the new Buffer App, I don’t have to leave.

With a simple browser extension download, you can tweet from inside Twitter. Have a busy day ahead with little time for Twitter? Queue or Buffer your tweets and they’ll go out at evenly spaced intervals throughout the day. Or, if the idea of scheduling tweets make you gag, then access your Buffer during free moments throughout the day and click on “Tweet now” since you’ve already queued the meaningful posts you want to share.

Analytics App – Most of us have a blog or web presence and need to track metrics to determine what’s working and what’s not. Or to feed our ego about that awesome post that garnered viral worthy traffic numbers. There’s no better way to track these number than with the free Google Analytics. Throw in an additional $6 and get the terrific iPhone app.

Zosh – this mobile app eliminates the nuisance of printing, signing and faxing documents. And for those of us who truly went paperless and ditched the printer, it’s essential. I’ve used this app less since I bought the pricey Adobe Acrobat that allows me to fill-in forms, append signatures and create PDFs, but it still comes in handy on the road or when I don’t have access to my computer.

Google Apps – This is by far the most important suite of applications that I use — from email to documents, spreadsheets and presentations. It’s all stored in the cloud, allows for collaboration on projects…and it’s free! Upgrade to Google Apps for Business for only $50 a year and get additional storage along with a few other perks.

Dropbox – For the few documents that I store on my local hard drive, I gain some peace of mind by synching it to the cloud with Dropbox. Paid versions provide 100GB of storage and  more, but I’ve only used the free 2GB version as Google Docs and other cloud storage applications pick up the slack.

Most of these apps I use daily.

Instead of 60 apps in 60 minutes, I’m more inclined to do 15 apps in 50 minutes the next time I present for a proper discussion of each and with the last 10 minutes reserved for a collaborative sharing of other useful apps.

So here’s your 10 minutes to share the applications that you find useful.

  • http://mnconsumerattorneyblog.com/ Anne Hansen Gathje

    Hasn’t Dropbox fallen out of favor with lawyers due to security issues?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Not this lawyer. The “security issues” generally cited are pretty much just FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), not good reasons to stay away.

      That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about Dropbox just like you should be concerned about all your technology. The concern with Dropbox boils down to this: are you concerned that, in carefully limited circumstances (including pursuant to a subpoena), employees of Dropbox can access your data (just like your office cleaners, your archival storage facility, the post office, your secretary, etc.)? That doesn’t concern me.

      However, I no longer use Dropbox on my smartphone. This has nothing to do with Dropbox, and everything to do with the fact that I can’t set a long, secure password on my phone and still use my phone. I have also pulled other apps that can access client files, since I can’t protect them as well on my phone.

      But if you want to try ratcheting up your security, take a look at SpiderOak. The upside is that it does appear to be more secure, because SpiderOak is not able to access your data except while you are logged into the website, and then only while you are actually logged into the website. Of course, it is also younger than Dropbox, and less tested, so I’m less sure the company will succeed, and I’m less confident that it has made the mistakes Dropbox has learned from.

      • William Chuang

        DropBox just doesn’t pay a lot of attention to security. The first problem is that they can access the information. Secondly, they can disclose the information to law enforcement without giving you a chance to move to quash the subpoena. Third, DropBox was found to be leaking the metadata and names of the files stored on their computer. Fourth, DropBox allows anyone with a particular file on your computer to access your files even if you change passwords. Fifth, oh yeah, they left everyone’s information unprotected by a password for several hours after a software upgrade. Oopsie daisy.

        Lawyerist is doing their readers a disservice by soft-selling critiques of DropBox as “FUD”. At the very least, let your readers know that they can mitigate these risks not only by using another service but also by using TrueCrypt to encrypt the files stored on DropBox.

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

          Good points, William. I’ve read some of your helpful writing on the subject. (Dropbox also discusses TrueCrypt on their site). We’ve also covered it here on Lawyerist.

          Bottom line, as Beverly Michaelis notes in this instructive post on the Oregon LPM blog, “Be an active, informed consumer. Remain vigilant.  Privacy policies change and so does technology”

  • Jessica Dobias

    Great post. I actually have never used Zosh, but I love UPad for my iPad. It’s essentially a legal pad for your iPad and it works nicely with a stylus. I have signed many a documents, including IRS forms, contracts, and applications with it and the App never fails me!

    I agree that Google Analytics is a must! Evernote is really great too!

    I’m a big fan of HootSuite, but now I am tempted to try Buffer.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

      Thanks, Jessica! Thanks for the iPad tip. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve yet to get one. Not sure why I’m holding out. Guess my laptop and iPhone already satisfy my needs.

      HootSuite is great but I love the way Buffer App integrates with the website (and bit.ly). It has significantly improved my Twitter experience. Let me know how it goes if you give it a test drive.