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Mobile devices lighten loads, boost productivity for attorneys

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

New Albany attorney Derrick Wilson is frequently in the courtroom, and when he needs to check on a fact quickly, he turns to his trusty smartphone.

His phone, which runs on the Android operating system, is loaded with applications that help him perform the functions of his job at Mattox & Wilson.

“On DroidLaw, I have the entire Indiana code,” he said. “In a pinch, if you’re trying to find a code on the fly, it’s there.”
 

wilson-derrick-mug.jpg D. Wilson

Derrick Wilson is one of a growing number of attorneys who have found that mobile devices enable them to be more productive and handle tasks on the go. And with the ability of phones to link to desktops and remotely access documents, the days of lugging bloated attachés to court may be numbered.

“You’ve got to think of your phone now just like a briefcase,” he said.

Task management and reference

DroidLaw is one of many apps designed specifically for lawyers. Its add-ons include specific laws by state, federal regulations, historical documents, and an array of other handy quick-reference tools. But some of the most popular apps among lawyers weren’t necessarily designed with them in mind.

Jeff Goens, cofounder, president, and general counsel for the Carmel-based company, Dialawg, explained the trend he has noticed.

“In my world, and in several of my colleagues’ worlds, a lot of what we’re using on our mobile devices are not necessarily tied to practice,” he said. “A lot of the non-legal apps are particularly interesting today, because they’re helping us manage the business of law, rather than the practice of law.”

Goens – an iPhone user – ranks Tungle as one of his favorite apps. It’s a calendar application that

allows him to easily schedule group meetings. He can send a meeting invitation to multiple recipients, then invitees select all the times that work for them. Tungle then finds the common times that work for all parties.

He said that finance-related applications, billing apps, and time-trackers seem to be quite popular among lawyers, too.

Derrick Wilson said he, and his secretary, appreciate the functionality of Dictadroid. The dictation application allows him to quickly record a draft of a letter, which he then emails to his secretary to prepare. He said it’s the best dictation app he’s used so far. Not all apps are able to accurately transcribe the words someone says.

“I had used others, and I kept getting bad feedback from my secretary,” he said.

Notes and document management


wilson-bill-mug.jpg B. Wilson

Bill Wilson of the South Bend firm Anderson Agostino & Keller has an iPhone, but he prefers to use his iPad as a work tool. Bigger than a smartphone, but smaller and more lightweight than a laptop, the iPad serves as a notepad and stores many of his clients’ files.

“Literally, I can take a fairly heavy file and legal pad and leave those behind and just take the iPad to the courthouse,” he said.

Several applications exist for iPad users who want to use their devices as a notepad, including Evernote, WritePad Pro, and Penultimate.

Doug Hill of Hill Fulwider McDowell Funk & Matthews serves on medical review panels, hearing proposed medical malpractice cases. He generally takes his iPad to hearings.

“When I’m taking notes at a medical review panel meeting, I do it in Pages, which is an Apple word processor, and then I keep it in Dropbox, and then I can access that anywhere,” Hill said.

Dropbox, when installed on a desktop and remote device, allows users to transfer files back and forth from computer to mobile device and to store data remotely, or in “the cloud.” Compatible with the iPhone operating system (iOS), Android, and Blackberry, it’s among the more popular apps for file sharing. But recently, Dropbox’s privacy policy has been the subject of criticism.

Seth Wilson of Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons said that the cause of concern for some Dropbox users is who can access their documents.

“As I understand it, from reading their privacy agreements, the big question with Dropbox is ... whether one of their employees can decrypt the information that’s on the servers under a request from law enforcement,” he said.

But Dropbox continues to be a popular feature on many smartphones.

“From a functional standpoint, Dropbox has taken the lead,” Seth Wilson said. “It just works very smoothly, so I think they’re going to be the target of everyone’s animosity.”

Security

Derrick Wilson said that if you do essentially use your phone as a briefcase, you need to think about what could happen if someone steals it.

“There are certain programs that will remotely wipe your phone – those are the kinds of materials you have to have,” he advised.


wilson-seth-mug.jpg S. Wilson

Bill Wilson is a fan of long “random gibberish” passwords and recommends setting your mobile device to require password activation if it has gone into sleep mode. He said that while retyping his 20-character password after 10 minutes of inactivity may be tedious, it’s a small price to pay to guarantee his clients’ security.

Goens said attorneys should carefully read terms of service for any applications they use – especially those that store data remotely.

The future of mobile lawyering

While many lawyers seem to prefer the iOS, Android is gaining ground overall in the mobile market. In the second quarter of 2011, ratings and business research giant Nielsen reported that of 20,202 smartphone users surveyed, 39 percent were using Android, 28 percent were using iOS, 20 percent were using Blackberry, and the remainder were using Windows Mobile/WP7, Palm/HP WebOS, and Symbian OS.

While it appears Blackberry may be losing ground in the smartphone battle, Goens said he still would not recommend one phone over another.

“I would say to people who are making a purchase decision, you have to think about what’s really right for you,” he said. While he uses an iPhone, he knows that some people will always prefer Blackberry’s tactile keyboard.apps-factbox.gif

Mobile tablets may very well continue to grow in use as tools for lawyers. Bill Wilson has already noticed that trend.

“Here in St. Joe County … I can tick off a number of people that I know that show up to the courthouse or mediations or things with their iPads, using them to take notes or whatever it is that they’re doing. That’s a pretty significant change from just a year ago,” he said.

Derrick Wilson said he thinks it may take a while for the smartphone to catch on as the top tool of the trade.

“I think a lot of people aren’t using their phone as much as they could,” he said. “But then again, this is not going to replace your notebook for now.”•

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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