Best New Apps for Lawyers – December 2013

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season, taking a little well-earned respite from the chaos that is December. For me, it means having some time to put together my set of New Year’s resolutions that I’ll ignore approximately 31 hours into the new year. It also means taking some time to write more articles, and putting together my next installment of the Best New Apps for Lawyers. So here are the best apps, released or receiving a significant update, from December 2013: iOS: SG Project OnePage 5 by Simple Genius Software, $4.99. Legal professionals are gradually gaining an understanding of how useful project management tools and software can be in a law firm. By allowing a project manager or leader to track various elements of a project from planning through completion, they have a better handle of how a project is moving along and where additional resources should be committed. These tools can be incredibly effective for a legal professional utilizing associates, paralegals, and technical staff to work on different parts of one client’s case. Enter Project OnePage 5. This app provides the 30,000 foot view of all active projects that a manager has running at any single time. Utilizing a 12×12 approach (12 total tasks and 12 time slots per project), OnePage gives the project manager a broad overview of each project that is pending, restricting your attention to only the most important information and preventing you from getting lost in the details and minutia. Ideal for providing timely updates to your clients about their matters, this app gives you a broad look at all pending projects in... read more

12 Awesomely Funny Gifts for Lawyers (with Issues!)

12 Awesomely Funny Gifts for Lawyers (with Issues!) – Vol. 1 (You’re here) 12 Awesomely Funny Gifts for Lawyers (with Issues!) – Vol. 2 12 Awesomely Funny Gifts for Lawyers (with Issues!) – Vol. 3 Shopping for lawyers come holiday season can be a real drag. I know, I am one. However, I’m one of those fun-loving types, who enjoys little pranks and tricks, provided nobody is too embarrassed, and the property damage keeps any potential criminal convictions in the misdemeanor range. To me, there’s nothing better than a really funny gift. Gag gifts are nice, and have good humor value. But the truly excellent gifts are those that are both funny AND useful. So this holiday season, I’m here to offer some assistance to anyone who is looking for some gift ideas for attorneys like me (i.e. “with issues”). Here are my 12 Awesomely Funny Gifts for Lawyers (with Issues): 1) The Billable Hour™ Brass Desk Clock – $49.95 Make sure that your desk always looks professional… at first glance! This handsome desk clock, with a  classic – and classy – design, gives the look of stylish professionalism to all the senior partners who may walk by on their way to lunch. Fortunately for you, all the real decision makers consider the idea of entering into your office to be beneath them. On closer inspection, it’s an excellent homage to the life-consuming practice of billing time. Or, in the event you feel like bringing the soul crushing experience of billing time home, it’ll look great on your home office desk. Yes, I’m referring to the coffee table that also... read more

Who Wins with Non-Lawyer Ownership? Just the Bankers (Part 2)

Part 2 of 2 in my series regarding non-lawyer ownership of law firms. Click here to read Part 1. 3) Non-lawyer ownership will not cause society to pay less for legal services. Seriously, can you imagine making this pitch to some investment bankers? “So we have this law firm, but we think it costs too much for the public to use our services. So we want to charge less, and make less money.” Well, that’s what the argument is making, but on a macro, industry-wide level. In order to argue that non-lawyer ownership is a solution to society paying too much for legal services, you rely on the premise that by allowing non-lawyers to own law firms, the total amount that society will spend on legal services will decrease. I’ve heard of the concept of making the pie bigger (the “rising tide lifts all boats” concept), I’ve heard gaining a bigger slice of the pie (i.e. the competitive advantage concept), but I’ve never heard anyone involved in business who successfully pitched the idea to REDUCE the size of the pie. It’s logically incompatible to argue that we should make the practice of law more responsive to market forces by allowing non-lawyer investors, while simultaneously arguing that by allowing such investment, we will decrease the overall amount of money our society spends on legal services. The opposite will happen. 4) Innovations don’t “trickle down.” The reason you innovate is to make your firm “bigger, stronger, faster.” You use those competitive advantages to beat the other firms. Walmart and Best Buy have both been pioneers in streamlining competitive processes in their... read more

Who Wins with Non-Lawyer Ownership? Just the Bankers (Part 1)

“I would write a shorter sermon, but once I start I get too lazy to stop.” Today in the Prism Legal blog, I read an article titled “Rule against Outside Investment in Law Firms Stifles Innovation.” In the article, the author asserts that the “dangers” of allowing non-lawyer ownership in law firms are largely theoretical, but the “harm” in refusing non-lawyer ownership is “concrete and immediate,” including: Legal costs remain higher than they otherwise would be Lawyers cannot pursue professionally rewarding paths Investors miss an opportunity to earn a return Society continues to pay more for law that is possible or necessary Innovations these firms create cannot “trickle down” to conventionally owned law firm. The author then suggests that those who support upholding the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership should bear the burden to provide justification as to why the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership prohibition should stand. Basically, he argues: “We should change. If you can’t give me good reasons why we shouldn’t change, I win.” I accept his challenge, but with a caveat. I believe that the burden is on the party seeking change to demonstrate why it’s necessary. Neither his article, nor any of the other articles arguing from the similar position, provide logical arguments for change. As was reported in the Lawyerist: “I don’t see the advantage to law firms, unless something about law firms makes them incapable of changing their business models without non-lawyer investment and control. That’s a scary concept without a strong justification.” I also believe that to allow non-lawyer ownership would fundamentally and irrevocably change the way legal services are provided (which, for... read more

5 Keys to Complying with New Ethical Rules on Technology

Despite the fact that the ABA’s new rules on technology are over a year old, there continues to be a great deal of discussion about what they mean. I’ve seen, and been asked, many questions about the extent to which the ABA’s rules now “require” attorneys to be familiar with new technology. During several conversations, it really struck me how differently the new rules can be interpreted. It also struck me how several commentators, most of them legal consultants, have used various news stories taken out of context to push this idea that the new rules are so sweeping in their scope that they fundamentally change how attorneys practice law. They don’t. However, since so many people seem to disagree, I decided to create this little guide – a “How-To” manual for lawyers to look at when they’re confronted with a question about what types of technology they should be using. So here are my 5 Keys to Complying with New Ethical Rules on Technology: 1) Ignore anyone who claims the ABA Model Rules require lawyers to be competent with technology. The inspiration for this piece comes from a series of tweets that appear to have been inspired by an article by Megan Zavieh on the Lawyerist, titled “Luddite Lawyers are Ethical Violations Waiting to Happen.” Megan’s article, which is incredibly well-written, discusses how lawyers are being held to higher standards regarding their use of technology. However, the article frequently confuses a lawyer’s duty to be candid with a tribunal with a lawyer’s duties to provide competent representation (e.g. a court’s disapproval of an attorney’s claim that a person... read more

Review: eDiscovery Assistant for iPad

The prospect of taking on a case where eDiscovery is likely can be a daunting task, even for seasoned litigators. Just how daunting? Well, eDiscovery is the reason for the contentious debates about modifying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding discovery in general. Many seasoned litigators will turn a case down simply because it will involve eDiscovery. There are dozens of apps and hundreds of companies whose sole purpose is to provide all the eDiscovery assistance a firm can handle (or can afford). However, those companies have no interest in making sure you only buy the services you need – they’re selling services, after all. No, what you need before you even call your first eDiscovery contractor is a guide, a detailed walkthrough of the whole process. Enter eDiscovery Assistant for iPad, by ESI Attorneys, LLC, your guide to the eDiscovery process. It Helps Me Do… eDiscovery Assistant proclaims itself a “one-stop resource for all the rules, case law and practical information” for conducting eDiscovery. The app will provide you the legal roadmap for your case, while giving you advice on the logistics and order-of-operations you need to follow. It Helps Me By… eDiscovery Assistant provides two different methods to help guide you through the eDiscovery process. For those who have little-to-no experience with eDiscovery, it provides a fully customizable roadmap for your case. For those litigators who feel more comfortable with eDiscovery generally but have specific areas of concern, eDiscovery Assistant provides every individual section from the roadmap as an a-la-carte option. When you first enter a case in the roadmap, eDiscovery Assistant takes you to the customizable... read more

Best New Apps for Lawyers – November 2013

Plenty of new apps were released or updated in November. While you were eating Thanksgiving dinner, I was… well, probably eating Thanksgiving dinner. But afterwards, I put together the Best New Apps for Lawyers from November 2013 for both iOS and Android. iOS: Knock (to Unlock) by Knock Software, Inc., $3.99 Although this app has relatively limited applicability (only for iPhone owners who also own a Mac computer), my recent discussions about security and the sheer ingenuity of this app requires its inclusion in this article. The concept: using a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, you can unlock your password-protected Mac with just two taps on your phone. You don’t have to open the app or even take your phone out of your pocket. Two taps, and your computer is unlocked. Also, since it utilizes Bluetooth connection, you’ll never accidentally unlock your computer by tapping on your phone while miles away at work. The only caveat: it may not work for older Macs. So check the compatibility first! TextExtractor – OCR Scanner by Alex Lesley, $0.99 We have plenty of experience now with apps that are able to scan documents into electronic format. Now, the next step: optical character recognition. TextExtractor is designed to be an easy-to-use app that provides state-of-the-art character recognition of any document you scan into your iOS device. Able to analyze documents that have been scanned in via your device’s camera or saved in the photo album, TextExtractor is able to recognize English, Russian, French, German, Spanish, and Italian text. Once captured, you’re able to copy, edit, and save the recognized text in your archive. You’re... read more

6 Excellent Mind-Mapping Apps for Android & iOS

I’m a visual person. My office includes two large white boards that I constantly fill with my thoughts, take a quick photo to upload to Evernote, then wipe clean just so that I can fill it right up again. To me, it’s part of the brainstorming process – new ideas emerge as part of being able to see what ideas I already have. I never thought much about mind-mapping apps, though, until someone recommended that I try out iThoughtsHD. It was an absolute revelation. The ability to track my thoughts and ideas in a visual thought tree was so much more helpful than any note taking app had ever been. I’ve used my mind-mapping apps for deposition notes, trial preparation, eDiscovery organization, and, most importantly, organizing my thoughts for this blog. For those lawyers who, like me, prefer to be able to visualize your brainstorming or notes, here are 7 Excellent Mind-Mapping Apps for Lawyers: 1) iThoughtsHD Developer: CMS Platform: iOS Price: $9.99 iThoughtsHD is my preferred mind-mapping app. With all the basic tools you would expect with mind-mapping software, iThoughtsHD allows the user to create mind maps based on a wide variety of different template options. Additionally, iThoughtsHD comes with a massive toolbox that allows the user to enhance and share the maps they create. Dozens of icons are available, and nearly everything is customizable, allowing the user to be incredibly creative, producing unique-looking maps each time out. iThoughtsHD’s sharing capabilities are impressive as well. The app comes with built-in support for both Box and Dropbox, and supports direct export in PDF and OPML file formats. iThoughtsHD also... read more

4 Routinely Ignored Benefits of Video Depositions

Last week I attended an all-day CLE on depositions. I’m an experienced litigator, and have taken or defended over 100 depositions in my career, including depositions of parties, witnesses, and experts. I’ve participated in depositions in federal and state court cases, representing plaintiffs, defendants, and third-party witnesses. My hope was that this CLE would offer some interesting tips and hints about depositions from attorneys with styles different from my own. I was wrong. However, what baffled me most was the presentation’s nearly complete omission of information about the use of new technology in depositions. (To view my discussion of excellent iPad apps for depositions, click here) The only technology discussed was the use of video, but even its well-known advantages were barely mentioned. No time was dedicated at all to discussing benefits or uses that we may not have thought of yet. So I decided to supplement their offering, based on my own experience. Here are 4 Routinely Ignored Benefits of Video Depositions: 1) Video testimony is simply more persuasive… to the judge. We’ll start off with an easy one: video is simply more persuasive. Anyone who has conducted a jury trial, or who has had to convince anyone of anything, that video is more persuasive. However, anyone who thinks that video depositions are ONLY for use in trial is missing any number of HUGE opportunities to harness the persuasive power of video. Guess who else is subject to the persuasive power of video: judges! Having experienced it first-hand (unfortunately on the losing side), I can tell you that judges are just as susceptible to the persuasive power of video... read more
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