By Nicole Black
Although not all lawyers eagerly embrace technology, most lawyers jumped onto the mobile bandwagon right from the very start. That’s why in the early 2000s, lawyers were prototypical “Crackberry addicts” and from there quickly moved on to adapting to the smartphone revolution with relative ease. So it’s no surprise that in 2017, according to the latest American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, 94% of lawyers surveyed report that they “regularly or occasionally us(e) a mobile device for law-related tasks at home.”
Even at work, smartphones outranked all other computing devices as the most-used device, with 70% of lawyers reporting that they use smartphones at work. The next most popular device used in the office was desktop computers at 66%, followed by laptop computers at 51%, tablets at 25%, and e-readers at less than 1%. Solo attorneys were the most likely to use laptops at work, with 61% of them doing so.
When lawyers are away from their law offices, they use smartphones for a vast array of functions, with accessing email being one of the most popular at 89%. Accessing calendars and contacts follows closely at 75% and 73% respectively. Other popular functions include time and billing and expense tracking.
Tablet use while away from the office is also a regular occurrence. Here are some of the most popular uses for tablets outside of work: 93% of lawyers report using email, 50% access their calendar from their tablets, 42% view their contacts, 47% create documents, 21% track expenses, 20% use trial presentation apps, 23% use apps for time and billing, and 22% for web conferencing.
Since smartphones were first rolled out, iPhones have always been the smartphone of choice for the majority of lawyers and that trend continues in 2017 with 73% of lawyers using iPhones, 23% using Android phones, 3% using Blackberrys, and 2% preferring Windows Mobile.
Because mobile devices are so popular, so too are mobile apps, with 40% of lawyers reporting that they downloaded a legal-specific app to their smartphone. Legal research apps are, by far, the most popular legal app that lawyers use. And that same percentage of lawyers, 40%, reported that they’d downloaded a general business app their smartphone as well, with document storage apps being the most popular.
Speaking of apps, here are some of my favorite apps and tools, for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Download a few of these apps to increase your productivity and efficiency while on the road.
- First, consider incorporating a few email management apps into your digital life. Two useful apps are the EZDetach Outlook add-in for easily removing and filing an attachment and the SimplyFile Outlook add-in which makes it easy to file emails in the correct folder with one click and also allows you to turn emails into tasks and appointments.
- If you use Gmail, two useful apps are Gmail Snooze and Sortd. With Snooze you can temporarily archive your emails for days at a time according to the time frame you set for each email. Once the future date you set arrives, the email reappears in your inbox. Sortd overlays your inbox and allows you to revise the subject line of emails and drag and drop them into “to-dos” or add them to a “follow up” column.
- Or, consider foregoing email apps altogether in favor of a more secure and efficient alternative: online client portals. Using online portals, which are built into most legal practice management software systems, you avoid the cumbersome back and forth process of unsecure, threaded emails and instead communicate and share case-related information with your clients in one convenient, secure location via a mobile app or an online interface. You can learn more about the benefits of secure online portals from this infographic.
- As I mentioned above, legal research apps are among the most popular for lawyers. If there’s one legal research app that you download onto your smartphone or tablet today, make sure it’s the Fastcase app. This free app gives you full access to their database so you can easily look up case cites in court or even run case law searches, even if you’re not a Fastcase subscriber.
- Another really useful app for lawyers is a file management app. These are particularly useful for tablets. File management apps store all of your files in one place and some allow annotation of PDFs. There are a number of apps of this type, but one of the most popular is GoodReader ($4.99). My personal favorite is PDF Expert ($9.99).
- Finally, one of my favorite new free apps is Call Protect from AT&T. This app handles nuisance calls to your phone and immediately identifies spammers and telemarketers as soon as the call comes through. So if AT&T is your carrier, make sure to download this app.
These are just a sampling of apps that you may find useful in your law practice. You can find a thorough list of legal apps available here.
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