The Best Apps for Lawyers and Law Firms
The iPad isn’t just a game or a toy — it’s a tool that increases efficiency with a number of applications pushing to the forefront as top iPad apps for lawyers. Attorneys are increasingly using iPads in their law practices as part of developing paperless law offices or simply as tools that enable them to do more of their work remotely or while sitting in a courtroom. Whether you want to telecommute, work remotely, operate a paperless law office or have a virtual law practice, the iPad is a must-have tool for your law office.
Dropbox is a free file-sharing system that allows users to share files such as photos, documents and videos from one device to another, whether they be computers, iPhones, iPads, or even Android and Blackberry devices. Any files shared to a Dropbox folder are automatically shared among the devices and people the attorney has authorized. A lawyer can carry the iPad to court to read and notate client files rather than carry paper files. Dropbox is one of the best tools a lawyer can add to his law practice for creating a paperless law office. The bigger the file, the greater the benefit.
ReaddleDocs is a document manager for the iPad that saves documents so they can be accessed anywhere. ReaddleDocs can access PDFs, MS Office documents, Apple iWork files and any other document that’s been converted to PDF. The PDFs can be highlighted using multiple colors, and notes can be added. Files can be uploaded or downloaded using file-sharing services such as Dropbox, GoogleDocs, MobileMe and iDisk. This iPad app for lawyers is a great tool for reading and marking depositions and trial transcripts. Important pages can be tabbed, significant passages can be highlighted, and reference notes can be added from the iPad without having to open the file on the computer.
Attorneys are divided over whether GoodReader orReaddleDocs is the best document viewer for the iPad, so many lawyers download both. GoodReader can display books, movies, maps and pictures while also providing the ability to annotate documents, zoom up to 50x, conduct a text search, and leap from point to point in the document with PDF hyperlinks. GoodReader allows lawyers to “flatten” PDF annotations so they’re non-editable but are displayed in any application that has the ability to use PDFs. GoodReader was the #1 selling non-Apple iPad in 2010. Both GoodReader and ReaddleDocs are very reasonably priced, so there’s no reason not to download both to find out which works best for you.
The Fastcase iPad app provides portable access to the entire Fastcase law library and legal research system entirely for free. The app produces legal research results at an amazing speed, allowing the user full access to state and federal cases all over the U.S. Additional services are available by upgrading to a full Fastcase subscription, but a subscription isn’t necessary for using the free iPad app for legal research. Ever been in a courtroom and wished you could look for a case to cite that you forgot to print? With the Fastcase iPad app, lawyers can do last-minute legal research without leaving the courtroom.
Penultimate is the app that turns an iPad into a legal notepad. Instead of taking notes with pen and paper, lawyers can use a stylus or even just a fingertip to write notes on the iPad by hand. Notes can be saved as PDF files or sent as emails in your handwriting. Penultimate can also be used for sketching, diagramming and anything else you might want to do on a sheet of paper — except for making paper airplanes. The program may not be a complete replacement of paper for those who write in small print, which is difficult on Penultimate, but it’s a convenient way to jot down some basic notes, a phone number, or other information you may need on the run. And it’s erasable, so Penultimate is a great tool for brainstorming ideas too.
If you want to accept credit cards with your iPad or even your iPhone, Square Register is the credit card processor for you. You’ll receive a free card reader that plugs into an iPhone or iPad to take credit card payments from MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover when you register on their website. There are no monthly fees — you’re charged a fee based on each credit card transaction. Square Register doesn’t even run a credit check on you before accepting you into the program, but they take a little longer to pay than some credit card processors. Nonetheless, lawyers using Square Register seem happy with it so far.
TrialPad for the iPad is a powerful tool for organizing case presentations for the courtroom. Unlike many apps that have merely been adapted by lawyers to use in their practices, TrialPad was specifically designed by lawyers for use in the courtroom. It lets attorneys organize, annotate and manage their case files for court hearings, jury trials, mediation presentations and other settings. A document or photo in TrialPad merely has to be converted to a format compatible with Adobe PDF. Along with tools such as highlight, redline, and redact, TrialPad allows you to display images and exhibits using a projector or a monitor.
iAnnotate is a PDF reader and annotation tool that provides more power than most annotation apps. The iAnnotate app is one of the most important iPad apps for lawyers who want to go paperless because it makes it easy to open documents from email, fill out forms, sign contracts, make notes and mark documents through highlighting or underlining. If you make a mistake, just erase it with Undo, Redo, or Erase. The app can import Word and PowerPoint documents, and it converts websites into PDF documents. Annotations can be flattened into the PDF so no one can modify them after you send them out, and you can tab through multiple open documents.
William L. Pfeifer, Jr., is an attorney and a freelance writer who has written extensively on legal issues and the practice of law.
Since 1993, Pfeifer has been a trial lawyer and appellate attorney with an emphasis on criminal defense, civil litigation, and family law. His law-related publications include a book on how to start a law practice and a lawyer joke book, and he has also published articles in bar association journals and legal newsletters on issues related to the practice of law. Pfeifer’s articles on legal, political, and consumer issues have appeared in professional journals, newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and online. His law practice now focuses almost exclusively on appellate law.
Pfeifer earned his bachelor’s degree from Samford University in 1989, where he was the first recipient of the William M. Lunceford Award for Excellence in Philosophy. He earned his law degree (J.D.) from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1993, where he was a member of the John A. Campbell Moot Court Board, served on the Board of Editors of the Law and Psychology Review, and was inducted into the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society.
I know first-hand the challenges attorneys face in operating busy law practices. This site is designed to be a central resource for everything lawyers need for running a law firm. Here you can learn about law practice management, law office technology, marketing for lawyers, legal news, legal ethics, continuing legal education (CLE), developing legal skills, and other issues affecting attorneys.
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