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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 Its add-ons include specific laws by state, federal regulations, historical documents, and an array of other handy quick-reference tools.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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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