The legal industry is developing rapidly. Where once it was commonplace to refer to weighty tomes for case law and judgements it’s now de rigeur to turn to online databases and find the information in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the ease with which you can find corresponding judgements, read about relevant obiter or find dissents to bolster an argument. As the legal profession moves towards a digital and AI-enhanced way of operating, it makes sense to examine the apps which can make our lives easier, to free our time and allow us to spend more time working with clients to best meet their needs.
And let’s face it, beyond work time-saving, apps on your phone or iPad just make life easier. We all know that — and you only have to look at the rise (and rise) of a company like UberEats to know just how much people enjoy the convenience apps can provide. The American Bar Association's TechReport provides some insight into how lawyers and legal professionals are using technology, with a reported rise in telecommuting lawyers, an increase in mobile usage, and a movement towards technology-led work.
Lawyers reported that they used an assortment of mobile devices to get work done, and not surprisingly, smartphones led the way, with a considerable portion (79%) of lawyers reporting that they used an iPhone for work-related tasks. 18% reported that they used an Android smartphone, followed by Blackberry at 7%. Only 1.5% of lawyers reported that they didn’t use a smartphone for work-related purposes.
So, given that tech trends are on the rise, here are some essential mobile apps to help you in your daily legal practice.
One of the biggest risks for law firms is a cyber attack, and a good way to ensure your device and data are secure is with a strong password. The only thing about strong passwords is that they can be pretty hard to remember. That’s where a security and password app comes into play, and makes the task of recalling all those tricky passwords easy.
Dashlane (Free, but $3.99 USD/month for all features): How many passwords do you have and are they all the same? This is like rolling out a welcome mat for hackers. Dashlane is web app which can be used on Apple and Android devices, as well as across PC and Mac computers. This app provides a central location to store all of your passwords in your iPhone securely, plus the app syncs the passwords so that they are available on all of your devices. There’s only one password to remember — your master password — which you type in to Dashlane to access in the app to all of your other passwords. You can also store credit card and autofill data such as your name and address, making online shopping, browsing, and managing work a whole lot easier.
While Dashlane is among the best out there, there are also a range of other password managers, such as Roboform and LastPass, with the price point varying depending on the level of service. So choose your favourite app and keep those passwords safe.
Avast Antivirus: This mobile app gives you the capacity to block attacks and discover threats on your mobile device. If you’re using an iPhone, your threat of malware or virus attack is less than 1%, but if you’re on Android you’d better be securing your device because in a recent report from Nokia, Android phones were responsible for 47.15% of breaches. The free version of Avast provides some respectable features, with the pro model giving you greater capacity for protecting your device. Download Avast Antivirus for Android and iOS.
Legal/Legal Research Apps
TranscriptPad($89.99): Litigation aficionados will love this app, because it lets you load a court or deposition transcript straight into the app to read your iPad. You can code and annotate the transcript as you go and when you’re drafting your motion for summary judgment, you can easily extract the information for each particular issue and argument. This app is only available for iPad, but another transcript app, War Room, allows you to access your transcripts across a range of devices and makes it easy to share documents with others. War Room is $29 per user per month and gives you unlimited access.
AustLII (Free): AustLII for iOS is the official App released by AustLII, the most popular online free-access resource for legal information in Australia. Enjoy access to law on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch wherever you are. Browse legislation from the Commonwealth and from every Australian State and Territory, and cases from over 140 courts, tribunals and boards. Search over four million documents with the power of AustLII’s SINO search engine. Available at the App store and on Google Play for Android.
Lexis Red: For use on your iPad, laptop or PC, this app gives you access to LexisNexis’ looseleaf services and your firm’s legal library digitally. Cost (TBA): contact LexisNexis for a free trial.
HeinOnline(Free with subscription): Want access to a range of major Australian law reviews and other legal journals from around the globe? This app, marketed as one of the world’s largest image based legal research databases, lets you view a database of image-based PDFs. The app is free but users (or firms) are required to have a subscription to the HeinOnline service. HeinOnline is available only for iOS.
Documents, Email, Notes and Productivity Apps
Microsoft Word (free, but $99.99/year for Office 365): As practically every lawyer uses Word or receives Word docs regularly, using Microsoft Word on your Iphone or iPad makes a lot of sense. With an Office 365 subscription, you’ll be able to view, redline edit, send comments and send the amended document back to another party via your Iphone or Ipad. It offers easy formatting and it synchronises seamlessly to your desktop plus you can use Excel or Powerpoint.
Reminders (Free): This built-in app from Apple is great for keeping simple to-do lists. But You can also use Reminders with Siri to create time- and location-based reminders. Always forgetting to pick up your drycleaning when you’re nearby? Create a location-based reminder which goes off when you’re in proximity of specific places and addresses so you never forget again.
Notes (Free): Again, another built-in Apple app which gives you the capacity to jot notes down on the go and then email or text the notes to yourself or a colleague straight from your iPhone.
Gmail and Inbox (Free): The official Gmail app makes it easy to check your emails on the run. The newly redesigned app brings the best of Gmail with real-time notifications, multiple account support and search across your entire inbox. A handy feature is the ability to switch between up to five accounts, so if you use Gmail for business and at home, you’ll like this one. Available on Android and iTunes Apple Store for iPad/iPhone.
Microsoft Outlook (Free): For both Android and Apple users, Outlook is a free email app that helps you get more done from anywhere with one unified view of your email, calendar, contacts, and attachments. Outlook automatically organises your most relevant emails and makes it quick to organise your inbox. You can schedule, share, and organise your inbox across OneDrive, or Dropbox with just a few taps. Outlook works with Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, iCloud, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.
Otter.ai - (free with premium options) is an award winning app for voice to text dictation that uses AI voice recognition to provide rich notes from meetings and video-calls. Otter goes beyond standard dictation by allowing you to add in other photos and media relevant to the meeting. For example, you could take a picture of something you drew on a whiteboard during a meeting and that photo would appear in your notes at the point in the meeting in which it was discussed. You can also integrate with video conferencing tool Zoom to transcribe video calls such as client consultations. All transcripts can be searched and edited from any device. You can train Otter to recognise special terminology such as legal terms and it gets to know who said what using it’s speaker id voice recognition. This is a new app that’s been tried and tested among the Smith’s team.
Dragon Dictate (free): This app is one of the traditionally well known voice to text dictation tools. The program is powered by Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® and it is specially developed software that allows you to speak and instantly see your text appear on the screen in front of you. Dragon Dictate allows you to speak and capture text on the go, and while it might take a bit of getting used to (and it may not be as convenient as your secretary or assistant typing up your dictation) it’s a pretty good start and great for solo operators and small firms! Dragon comes in a standard version, but the Legal-specific version is tailored for Australian Lawyers.
Box (Free with premium options): Box is a content management, workflow, and collaboration tool which gives you the capacity to securely store, manage, and share all your files, photos and documents with 10GB of free cloud storage from Box. If you work remotely and want to access your files from anywhere, Box makes it simple so long as you have an internet connection. You can also subscribe to the Personal Pro plan for $79.99 per year to receive 100GB of storage and a larger file upload size of 5GB. Available on iOS or Android.
Dropbox (Free with premium options): Similar to Box, Dropbox is an online storage vault for your files. This is cloud-based storage which can act as your firm’s ‘virtual’ server for file storage and sharing, however it is important to think about data security with anything hosted online. Your data is protected by SSL and 256-bit encryption (bank grade security) but if you’re concerned, you may want to store non-confidential documents like pleadings, exhibits and important correspondence on Dropbox. At the end of the day, cloud-based services and apps are usually much safer and more secure than email, which lawyers never seem to worry about anyway! Another useful feature for lawyers is that when in court Dropbox’s deep integration with Microsoft Word for iPad allows quick, on the fly edits to documents. A tick for productivity, profitability, and portability. Dropbox Pro is $12.99 per month (1000GB storage). Available on iOS or Android.
Google Drive(Free): A component of the Google Apps for Business suite, at $5/month per user (with 15GB storage for free). A good stand alone storage option or it may even act as a complement to Box or Dropbox for storing files that you don’t need to share with clients. Download it on Google Play.
Good Reader(US$6.49): Described by Mashable as ‘a Swiss Army knife of awesome’, this app for iPhone and iPad gives you the capacity to read virtually anything, anywhere: documents, books, movies, maps, pictures, and more. Need to sign a PDF? No problem — you can sign documents with just three taps, highlight and mark-up documents, and enjoy access to a wide range of servers to easily sync and store your data: Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and box.com to name a few. Buy it on the App Store for $9.99.
CamScanner(Free): This app turns your smartphone camera into a scanner - much like the name suggests. With this app you have a great solution which gives you the capacity to manage documents across your devices, starting from capturing information through to storing, sharing, annotating and managing documents. All you have to do is download the app, take a photo of any paper document like a note, receipt, contract, etc, and CamScanner can auto crop the image, enhance the image quality and create an industry standard PDF file. You can then easily upload the document to the cloud using programs or apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Doc, Box.net or iDisk.
Evernote(Free with premium option available): This is a note-taking app that allows you to organise your life; it’s the app that every lawyer should have. You can use Evernote across all of your devices, ensuring that you always have your information to hand. Evernote offers three tiers of service for personal use: Basic (free), Plus ($34.99 per year), and Premium ($69.99 per year). Students are eligible for discounts with Evernote, and the company also has a Business plan, which costs $12 per person per month. Why go premium? You’ll get better security, collaboration, more storage space, offline access, and faster word recognition. Evernote is available across a range of platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry. Evernote Scannable is also available on iTunes, giving you the capacity to scan and instantly store contracts, receipts, business cards, and any paper that comes your way.
HelloSign (Free with premium option available): A clever application that allows you to sign documents from anywhere. Use this app to scan and edit documents easily, place an addendum on a contract or insert a tick checkbox. This app also allows you to edit a PDF so it is ready to send. Available on iOS and Android.
AnyFont($2.99): Install any additional font format on your iPhone or iPad and use it in other apps like Pages, Keynote or Numbers.
LinkedIn (Free): It is a bit of a no-brainer including LinkedIn on this list, but just in case you’re not using it — you should be! Not so much for productivity but for networking and keeping your finger on the pulse. With LInkedIn you can build and nurture your professional network, stay up to date with the latest business news, join industry networking groups and find your next dream job. Available on the App store and on Google Play for Android.
Notability ($13.99): Touted as Apple Mac’s App of the Year, Notability allows you to take notes, mark up documents and keep track of files with ease. When you want simple note taking without hassle, Notability makes life easy. For iPhones and iPads on iOS.
Skyscanner (Free): When you want to find the best deals on flights to anywhere in the world, at any time, Skyscanner gives you the control to search flights from any airline and finds you the best deals at the touch of a button. This app is free, but beware when booking through the app; it’s often better to use Skyscanner to find the best deals and then book them directly through the airline as opposed to a third-party booking site which may cause more headaches in the long run.
FlightAware Flight Tracker (Free): This is a great app for searching flights and staying up to date when delays (inevitably) happen. You can sign up for push notifications for departures and arrivals, and even get pings for gate changes, delays, and cancellations. Sometimes you’ll even get FlightAware notifications before the airlines themselves! Download now: Free; iOS, Android.
SeatGuru (Free): Are you picky about your seat on planes? Long legs? Prefer the aisle seat? This TripAdvisor product available on Apple iTunes and Google Play lets you find low airfares, pick your ideal seat on the plane, and get real-time flight alerts.
Uber (Pay for trips): Uber is a private driver for cities across the world, giving you the freedom and flexibility to get a ride from anywhere in comfort. A new feature we are loving is the business profiles feature which allows you to select if a trip is a work or personal trip. Select 'business' and you get your trip summaries sent to your work email and weekly / monthly expense summaries. Very handy for expenses. Available on Google Play and Apple iTunes.
Google Maps (Free): An obvious one but a goodie! And for litigation lawyers, Google maps can come in handy when preparing witness statements for trial. You can have the witness mark exactly where he or she and the other parties (or vehicles) were located on the Street View of a particular address. After the witness has marked up the photograph, you can save it and email it to the relevant person.
Pictures, Video, Communications and Meeting Apps
Facetime (Free): A simple video call app which operates over iPhone and the iOS operating system. The app comes preinstalled on your device and gives you the capacity to speak to people with full video capacity from anywhere in the world with a network or internet connection.
Google Duo (Free): Don’t have an iPhone? No worries — Google Duo allows you to make and receive high-quality video calls from any device, including your laptop or desktop computer. Simply download and you’re off. Download on Android or iOS.
Zoom Meeting App(Free, with paid options available): This video meeting app gives you the capacity to host video meetings securely from wherever you are. An American app, Zoom offers a range of tiered prices based on what your needs are, with the free tier providing a respectable range of features. Plans start at $20.99/month/host and move up from there, with Zoom offering a secure way to hold meetings with remote team members, clients, and more. You can even integrate Zoom with a range of apps such as your calendar app, and provide clients with a simple login to join meetings hassle-free. Sign up for Zoom.
Feedly(Web, iOS, Android) this feed reader allows you to compile your favourite news sources and gives you the option to get all your news in the one spot.
NewsBlur (Web, Self-Hosted Web, iOS, Android) sick of getting news you don’t want and none of the stuff you do? NewsBlur gives you the capacity to curate your feed based on what you want to see.
Inoreader (Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone) this app makes it easy to search and save your content for easy access.
Square: This is not an app per se, but does make payments via phone super simple. Once you’re set up with the Square hardware it’s easy to take in-person payments from anywhere. Find out more about Square online.
Xero (Free with subscription options): Use Xero’s mobile app to manage your business while you’re on the move. You’ll need to be signed up for Xero to use this app, but once you’re signed up this is a great cloud-based billing, accounting and invoicing option for SMEs. The starter plan is a very respectable $25 p/m and the most popular standard plan is $50 p/m. Reconcile, send invoices, add receipts and create expense claims – anywhere, anytime – on your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone. It also streams your bank account information directly onto the platform which makes billing and banking easy. Download on the App Store or on Google Play.
MYOB OnTheGo (Free with subscription): Popular with accountants, you can use this app for invoicing and cash flow management, available either on the App store or Google Play. Send and track invoices from your smartphone, check who has (or hasn’t) paid you in real-time and easily stay on top of late payments.
Receipt Bank (Free): Helping you save time and money on processing expenses, award-winning Receipt Bank extracts the key information from your bills, receipts and invoices, removing the need for manual data entry. Receipt Bank can then publish the data to your accounting software or it can be downloaded as a spreadsheet or used to create expense reports. Neat. On Google Play or App Store.
Capture.it (Free with subscription): The mobile app on iOS and Android, designed for lawyers who need automatic time capturing on their smartphones or as many devices as you require. With the Silver package ($16 p/m), you can automatically track emails and calls, create time entries and start timers, plus capture expenses. The Gold package ($30 p/m) includes instant revenue reports, automatic time capture from your PC and Outlook, task based billing codes and other additional features.
TSheets ($5 per user per month): This app from Quickbooks makes time tracking simple thanks to its GPS-capable time tracking capacity. Available for download on iOS and Android, you’ll find that time tracking is simple with this easy to use interface.
Laura is a QUT Law School graduate with extensive experience in legal writing and research for Smith's Lawyers on compensation topics.