The best apps for lawyers not tethered to a desk

Newer, younger and solo law practitioners are becoming more mobile as firms cut costs and overhead expenses by becoming increasingly virtual. To make that transition, it’s important to have the right tools and technology. Some industry experts have referred to smartphones and tablets as the new “practice platforms.” Any lawyer seeking to move in the direction of the “mobile lawyer” should be familiar with these useful apps that help make mobile practice, as well as the transition to virtual operations, possible.

The set up

When I think of all the wonderful things my smartphone can do, I usually think of accessing the Internet anywhere anytime and checking email with similar ease. Converting a smartphone to a portable office requires downloading a few simple foundation apps that can help a virtual practice get up and running.

The Find My iPhone app for Apple and Find My Phone app for Android are great apps to begin with for security-minded lawyers. Of course, other security considerations may apply.

Next, the mobile lawyer’s calendar and email functions should be synced with an office computer. This is essential not only for efficiency purposes but for liability purposes as well. Microsoft Exchange, which serves as a mail server and manages calendars and contacts, is a go-to product many lawyers are already familiar with.

Of course, Microsoft Word is available for smartphones and tablets. Black’s Law Dictionary also has an app, which contains more than 45,000 terms, cross-references for finding related concepts, and audio pronunciations for many difficult legal terms.

The action  

Perhaps the most interesting and best apps for lawyers are in the category of legal research. The ability to quickly research while in the back of a taxi or waiting in an office or courtroom hallway is paramount to functioning as an efficient mobile lawyer.

Fortunately, there are many tools and apps available today that allow lawyers to do just that. Fastcase offers a comprehensive library of primary law from all 50 states. U.S. Code is available for Apple devices and offers an app that contains the complete text of all federal statutes. LawBox presents a mobile law library with court rules and statutes for a limited number of states.

Replicating work that might traditionally have been done in an office is also made possible by several document-related apps. Working with PDF documents can be simple and convenient with tools like Scanner Pro, which transforms Apple smartphones and tablets into personal scanners. Just as Microsoft Word is available as a smartphone app, Adobe has created a mobile reader app that is available for smartphones as well.

In addition, one of the leaders in mobile note taking and organization, Evernote, offers a handwriting app for iPad, which syncs with the user’s Evernote account. This app, called Penultimate, combines the ease of the traditional yellow legal pad with the technological benefits mobile lawyers seek.

The future

Again, this is a basic overview of apps to help newer, younger or solo lawyers get started with mobility-focused practice. As the number of lawyers taking the show on the road increases, industry-specific mobile technology will surely grow.

Since statistics show that the majority of mobile technology users prefer Apple devices, some apps are not as readily available for non-Apple devices. However, options do exist. Additional recommendations for potentially useful apps for Android devices can be found here, while a list of helpful apps for Apple devices can be found here.