Ever since the iPad was first introduced in 2010, the legal world hasn’t been the same. Every day there are new apps introduced to the App Store that compete to increase the productivity of lawyers. Despite much of the legal world falling behind technologically, the iPad’s plethora of legal apps has been one area that continues to grow and evolve. It’s good to see this as I can personally attest to certain courts (that shall remain nameless) that still consider a VCR to be a valid, usable piece of technology.
These days you can use an iPad or other mobile devices in almost every aspect of the legal profession. There are apps that can help with research, document management, storage and organization, as well as trial presentation. There are even apps that are designed to manage your entire firm – intake to invoicing.
When it comes to legal research, have a look at Fastcase. Fastcase, available to both Android and Apple users, allows you to search legal statutes from all 50 states at the swipe of a finger. It uses keywords and algorithms to suggest results relevant to your search and allows you to jump right to the relevant portion of the case. This can significantly cut down on the time it takes to do your research. Plus, the obvious benefit is that you don’t have to use a laptop or library for your last-minute searches.
There are, of course, more practical apps out there such as CamScanner or Dropbox. CamScanner is an app that you can use to scan documents from your mobile device directly to PDF. You simply open the app, select a new scan, then use your built-in webcam to snap a quick picture of the document. It will automatically crop the corners of the page, flatten the image, adjust contrast, etc. You end up with a high-resolution PDF of your document in seconds. If you have multi-page documents, you, unfortunately, must scan each page individually, which can get tedious quickly. However, it’s a great tool for when you have a last-minute exhibit you want to add to your trial presentation database. As a trial tech myself, I’ve used this app to quickly scan an exhibit that was handwritten by the witness, then pull it right up on the projector moments after it was created.
Dropbox is, of course, one of the most popular cloud storage apps on the market. With Dropbox, you can upload documents to one computer, then access them on your tablet, smartphone, or literally any computer in the world if you are able to log in from a browser. Dropbox keeps up to date with security regulations and encryption, so you don’t have to worry about security, and their servers almost never go down. It saves a local copy on your device so that even when you’re on an airplane, you’ll still have access.
Then there are document management apps such as ReaddleDocs, GoodReader, or iAnnotate. These are similar to Dropbox in that you have access to your documents wherever you are, but with the added functionality of being able to annotate. You can highlight, add notes, draw, etc., then save as a PDF and send to a colleague or client. They’re great tools for transcript review and marking. GoodReader includes the ability to pull up videos, pictures, maps, books, etc. Once you’ve annotated a document, you can “flatten” it to prevent it from being edited by anyone else you send it to. It also has the ability to open documents directly from your email app.
If you’re a solo practitioner or operate out of a small law firm, Clio or MyCase are good options for you. Clio meets all of the basic needs of a law practice such as document management, billing, time tracking, reporting, accounting and client management. It also integrates with many other apps, making it highly functional for the iPad. MyCase is much of the same, though designed differently, focusing on efficiency and organization. It helps you get organized with contacts, calendars, cases, documents, time tracking and billing. It also has a built-in client portal and secure client communication integration.
Lastly, if you’re using an iPad, you’ve likely already heard of TrialPad. TrialPad is hands down the best trial presentation app available for the iPad. From within the app you can access your Dropbox or other cloud storage accounts, build a case, and present it to a Jury in a digital format. With the right adapter you can connect to most existing courtroom presentation systems, or just bring your own. You can even connect to a projector or TV wirelessly using an AppleTV and wireless network, allowing you to wander around the well of the court pulling up exhibits as you go. TrialPad has the standard trial presentation tools that the more expensive PC-based programs have, like callouts, zoom, highlighting, annotating, and redaction. You can even display images and videos right from your iPad. I highly recommend spending some time practicing this app before bringing it into the courtroom, but it’s very user-friendly and a quite powerful tool once you’ve learned how it works.
There is potential to greatly increase the organization and efficiency of your law practice with nothing more than a few inexpensive apps on your iPad.
This brief summary is but a fraction of the available legal apps on the App Store. If you find something that wasn’t addressed here, there’s more than likely an app for that.