|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JULY 2011|
In case you hadn’t noticed, lawyers are traveling light these days. Thanks to ever-more powerful mobile devices and an ever-expanding array of useful apps, lawyers are leaving behind their laptops in favor of their iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android and Palm devices.
Increasingly, lawyers rely on their mobile devices for everything from legal research to office management. As they do, new blogs and websites are emerging to help them get the most from their mobile devices. These sites track new apps of interest to lawyers and offer tips and guidance on the use of mobile devices in a law practice.
In this month’s column, we round up some of the websites and blogs designed to help lawyers go mobile.
Platform Agnostic Sites
Mobile device users can be passionate about their platforms. One lawyer might be addicted to her Android, the next fanatical about his iPad. But websites need not take sides. They can be Switzerland, tracking apps and providing tips for all types of mobile devices.
That is the approach taken by Mobile Apps for Law, www.informedlibrarian.com/MobileAppsforLaw, a website that provides a searchable database of mobile apps for law and lawyers. You can use it to find apps compatible with any mobile device, whether you use an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android or Palm PC.
This is the most comprehensive site devoted exclusively to legal apps. It includes nearly 900 listings as of this writing, with more being added regularly. Search for an app by key words or by subject. The list of subjects includes both legal topics and jurisdictions, ranging from “agricultural law” to “Wyoming.” Search across all apps or limit your search by device. If you want only recent additions, you can limit your search to the most recent two weeks or month.
Search results show the title and publisher of the app, provide a description of its functionality, identify the devices with which it is compatible, give the date when it was last updated, and lists its price. Each result includes a link to the app’s download page.
To search the site’s database, you must have a subscription. The current “special introductory price” is $25 for one year. The standard price is $49.99 a year. The site is operated by Infosources Publishing, a New Jersey company that publishes reference materials for lawyers, law librarians, legal researchers and information professionals.
A less comprehensive but equally agnostic compendium of legal apps can be found at the site called Mobile Applications for Law Students and Lawyers, http://libguides.law.ucla.edu/mobilelegalapps. This site, part of the website of the UCLA School of Law library, lists a variety of apps selected because they “might be of interest to law students and lawyers.” The listings are compiled and maintained by reference librarian Vicki Steiner.
The site lists apps for all mobile platforms. It categorizes them under tabs for legal research and news, law school and bar exam study, productivity and fun. Even though it is not a comprehensive listing of law-related apps, it is a well-chosen and diverse selection.
Among law firms large and small, a recent trend has been to create their own, branded apps as tools for marketing and client development. Helping to track and evaluate these law firm apps is the mission of the blog Law Firm Mobile, http://lawfirmmobile.com. Launched in May 2011, the blog says it will “track, describe, analyze, and comment on developments in this sector, from iPhone and Android mobile Apps to mobile-ready websites to law firm pioneers in the use of tablet computing.”
The blog is written by Matt Gross, a principal of GoodScreens Media, a company that develops mobile apps and mobile websites, and the anonymous “The App Guy,” described as “an experienced technology and legal marketing professional.”
If instead of tracking law firms, you are more interested in using your mobile device to receive recall alerts, keep up with the latest list of the FBI’s 10 most wanted, or find the nearest U.S. embassy as you travel in a foreign country, then the site for you is USA.gov Mobile Apps, http://apps.usa.gov, a collection of apps from the federal government.
Here you will find a TSA app for 24/7 access to information from the Transportation Security Administration; a White House app for keeping current with the activities of the Obama administration; and MedLinePlus Mobile, for finding health information from the National Institutes of Health.
The “app” description is a bit misleading. While some of these are applications for either the Android or the iPhone, others are merely websites optimized for mobile browsers. Still, it’s good to know that you can follow the latest NASA mission ortrack a U.S. Postal Service package whenever and wherever you want.
Apple to the Core
When it comes to covering mobile devices for lawyers, not every site can or should be Switzerland. Plenty of lawyers already loved their iPhones, but when the iPad hit the market, many pronounced it a game-changer for law practice. Suddenly, it seems, iPads are everywhere — in conference rooms, in courtrooms, in depositions and pretty much anywhere there are lawyers.
One lawyer who describes himself as “a passionate iPad user” is Tom Mighell, a widely known writer and speaker on the use of technology in law practice. Mighell likes his iPad so much that he wrote a book about it, iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, published by the American Bar Association, and then he started a blog, iPad 4 Lawyers, http://ipad4lawyers.squarespace.com, providing information on the best iPad apps, along with tips and tricks.
Mighell was a litigator for 18 years who used technology in his owned practice and showed others how to use it. Now, he works as an e-discovery consultant. Thanks to his background as a practicing lawyer, he writes about the iPad with a focus on the practical aspects of using it in a law practice.
Another practicing lawyer who is equally passionate about the iPad is Joshua M. Barrett, a business attorney in Portland. Just a few days after Apple first unveiled the original iPad in January 2010, he launched his blog, Tablet Legal, www.tabletlegal.com, to report and comment on how he uses it in his own practice and how it can be used by others in the legal industry.
“This blog will discuss lawyers using the iPad, applications for the iPad and other developments specific to the iPad in the legal profession,” he wrote in his first post. He continues to do just that, regularly posting about useful apps and offering tips on how to use and get the most out of an iPad.
One other blog of interest to legal professionals is iPadmania, http://almipad.wordpress.com, written by Anthony Paonita, editor-in-chief of Corporate Counsel magazine. He started the blog in February 2011 as an “internal, for-our-eyes only” guide for employees of the magazine’s parent company, ALM. Soon after, Paonita opened the blog to the public.
He covers “what I find useful, interesting, amusing, or terrible, on the iPad.” He does not confine himself to the use of the iPad within the legal industry. But because he is a veteran observer of both the legal industry and legal technology, his blog should prove of interest to legal professionals.
In this column, I do not usually plug my own blog, LawSites, www.lawsitesblog.com. However, I feel I should deviate here only to mention that I, too, regularly review new apps there and sometimes even ahead of anyone else.
Whatever your device, use these sites to load up on apps and advice to help you make better use of it. And leave that laptop in your office.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.
© 2011 Robert Ambrogi