Run your Solo Practice from Your Smartphone


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Running your own solo practice carries lots of responsibility, along with some nice advantages—like the ability to work from a variety of locations.

With the right combination of services and applications, you should be able to run your solo practice from your smartphone.

Ditch the landline

Google Voice and Skype are both cheap and good services. Google Voice does not cost anything to use, but it does piggyback your cellphone’s minutes, so you could end up with a higher wireless bill. A year’s subscription to Skype can be purchased for less than $30.

If your business phone number is either a Google Voice number or a Skype number, you can take those calls directly on your cellphone. With Skype, there is an application that runs on both Wi-Fi and 3G signals. Because Google Voice piggybacks your existing numbers, the calls just come straight to your phone.

I use both. Calls come into my Skype number and then forward to my Google Voice number after a couple of rings. When I am out of my office, I can make and take calls without anybody knowing the difference. On top of that, it is much cheaper than paying for a landline, which runs about $60 a month.

Access client files from your smartphone

I use Dropbox. Like any other file storage system (cloud or otherwise), it carries security risks. Compared to the alternatives, however, I am comfortable using Dropbox.

There has been more than one occasion where I am out of the office and need to quickly view part of a client’s file. The Dropbox app makes that happen—and quickly.

Be aware, however, that Dropbox’s mobile application has a security risk—a data snooper can potentially view the Metadata for any file that you access on your smartphone. Metadata is the name of the file, file type, size, and modify time. For the most part, this is not critical data—unless you name your files “Incriminating conversation with witness X” or something along those lines. In other words, you need to be aware of the risk, but if you take the appropriate precautions, using the mobile app is ok.

Take appropriate security precautions

Smartphones are awesome because of their utility relative to their size and convenience. But if you are carrying around client files in your pocket, you need to take appropriate security precautions. Your smartphone should have a password and the auto-lock function should be turned on. Most phones will also automatically erase all data after a certain number of failed attempts to enter the password.

I would avoid using any client-specific apps that do not have their own specific password function (Dropbox has one). Lastly, both Android and iOS have applications that allow for a remote wipe. Make sure you know how to use that program in the event you lose your phone.

Smartphones can do much more than make phonecalls—so make the most of it!



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  • All great uses of a smartphone. I’m beginning to research credit card swipe attachments that hook directly onto your smart phone so you can take payments from anywhere. Does anyone have any experience with these?

  • I haven’t started my office yet (or passed the bar yet for that matter), but at home we’ve been using Obihai with out google voice service. It’s been great.

    Obihai plugs directly in to your broadband router and lets you plug a standard corded or cordless phone to make VOIP calls through google voice. The quality is great and it incorporates right along with our Google voice service. We can switch calls from our cell phone to the Obihai landline when we get home. It’s worked really well for us.

  • fakelawyer

    The title of the post is misleading. “Run your solo practice” includes things like billing, invoicing, tax accounting, and appointment keeping. This is just a pitch for google voice and dropbox. The latter of which is not secure enough for lawyerly use thanks to at least one announced data breach, in addition to the issue with metadata mentioned above.

    Are law students writing these articles? Unemployed college drop outs?

    • If you want to know who is writing the article, all you have to do is read to the end. Or click on the name in the byline.

    • Fakelawyer, the ability to read and comprehend is essential as a professional. The title of the article included the words from your smartphone. Thus, using logic and low level comprehension skills one would readily recognize this post deals with applications on the smartphone that will enhance one’s professional practice.

  • Josef Kurlinkus

    I’ve been using squareup for credit card payments with my iPhone. I don’t have a lot of clients paying with credit card, so the fact that there is no monthly fee and no minimum use is really beneficial to me. The percentage that they take as a fee is probably higher than some could get for high volume use, but for me it makes much more sense to use square for the few times I need to use it.

    • If you use it infrequently, then something like Square is great. If you’ve got a merchant account with someone like Authorize.Net (my provider) or Intuit, most are creating apps and card swipe dongles that do the same thing for less money. I rarely use it, since my clients generally pay their invoices via Freshbooks, but it’s nice to have.

      • Cailin M. Gudio

        May I just thank all of you people for the information you share? It really is all very helpful, especially for those of us who are just beginning to set up our own solo practices.

        Many, many, many thanks!