Still think that calling and e-mailing from your BlackBerry is a great productivity booster?
Consider this: The gadget in your hand now boasts more power than the computers of your childhood. So why stick to traditional smartphone tools like calendars, task lists, contacts, as well as phone and e-mail, when a bevy of useful applications are just waiting for you to discover them?
This doesn’t just apply to the BlackBerry. Third-party developers are driving a veritable flood of applications for Apple Inc.’s popular iPhone, with 15,000 applications created since July 2008.
Meanwhile, mobile phone manufacturers churn out devices that run Windows Mobile, Symbian and the emergent Google Android. Even venerable Palm Inc. is finally updating its smartphone operating system. And all of these platforms nurture their own application ecosystems.
Road-warrior attorneys need to follow these developments. Why? Because BlackBerrys might not be their smartphone of choice several years from now. That might sound like a brave thing to write in these pages, but consider: Windows became a default computing choice based in part on the availability of “killer apps” for PCs. In the same way, the vitality of each smartphone’s software ecosystem may well decide its future market share.
So what else can lawyers do today with smartphones besides make calls and send e-mail? Here’s a short sampling.
Billing and accounting software
- PCLawTE from LexisNexis (which also owns The Lawyers Weekly) enables lawyers to download case information to smartphones, change records and update the main database from those changes. The Travel Edition is $150 and is compatible with Palm OS, Windows Mobile and the BlackBerry.
- Xpenser, which is available in free and paid editions for all smartphones, boasts “fire and forget” expense tracking. Users can send expenses to Xpenser.com using e-mail, SMS, IM and Twitter, as well as plain old phone calls and computer-based tools, to store for later retrieval. Xpenser data exports to Excel and Quicken.
- RideCharge, free for the BlackBerry, lets users book taxis using corporate credit cards, associate expenses to client matters and send e-mails to assistants listing all expense details to expedite billing.
- Time Matters, another LexisNexis offering for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Palm, features apps that synchronize changes to most types of records back to the main database. Contact LexisNexis for pricing.
- Rocketmatter.com, a software as a service (SaaS — meaning it works within a web browser) offering, features a version optimized for smartphone browsers. The price varies according to the number of users so visit the website for exact pricing.
Working with Microsoft Office documents
A smartphone, compatible folding keyboard and Documents To Go software from Dataviz, available for all smartphones but the iPhone, may comprise the best compact first-draft device for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents. Excel too, but even on the relatively large screens of later Palms, entering formulas and reading information is an exercise in forced patience, at best. The price of Davatiz software varies according the number of users and edition, visit www.davatiz.com for more detailed pricing.
Printing and faxing documents
It might not be an environmentally friendly thing to do, but when faced with documents that fall into the Excel spreadsheet category, try printing instead of squinting. Tools like Fax2Mail Mobile from Premiere Global Services, suitable for the BlackBerry and Palm, lets you
send documents, e-mails and other information to a fax machine. Fax2Mail Mobile is free with Fax2Mail licence. Visit www.premiereglobal.ca/en/desktop-fax/mobile-printing for pricing.
Smartphones start up instantly, which makes them more convenient than computers when simply checking for recently updated information. The start-up screen, which features the time, date and little else on many phones, can be enhanced using applications like Pocketday from Cross River Systems LLC to display e-mail, a call log and calendar information. Pocketday works on BlackBerrys. Visit www.pocketday.com for pricing.
E-mail. Letters. SMS. Text messages. Photos. Smartphones hold plenty of communication, all of which lawyers can archive to a secure server using services like CyberSynchs, which is free for the first two months and $2.99 per month after that. Added bonus: use online archives to transfer information to replacement smartphones.
Remote meeting and collaboration
Trigger Cisco WebEx Meeting Center on a smartphone by clicking the appropriate link in an invitation e-mail. There are
several ways of using WebEx to meet online using a computer. Right now, iPhone users must receive an e-mail inviting
them. They can’t (yet) set up meetings on iPhones and invite other users. This is free for the iPhone.
FusionGo from Exterro Inc. shows all navigation holds, displays updates and enables users to approve actions and upload information, among other capabilities, all in real time. FusionGo works on the BlackBerry and iPhone, see www.exterro.com/mobile for pricing.
Web browsers are standard issue on today’s smartphones, so lawyers can access web-based research services from their phones. How readable a given service is depends on its layout, although sites are creating separate web pages that read well on smartphone screens.
While the following are American examples, they indicate what most likely appear in Canada soon.
Scott Waxman, a partner at Delaware law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, drove the development of the eDelaware smartphone software, which contains the full text of key Delaware statutes, all of which are available even when out of range of wireless connections. When in range, eDelaware automatically downloads amendments to statutes and new case law summaries. The software is free for the BlackBerry.
Cliff Maier at Waffle Turtle Software has created patent reference applications which retrieves United States utility patent information. Other Turtle Software apps let mobile lawyers browse Sarbanes-Oxley, the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The software works on the iPhone and ranges in price from $0.99 US to $7.99 US.
Evernote, with free and paid versions available for the iPhone, lets users copy information from a variety of document types, including web pages, and make that information searchable from its web-based “storeroom.”
The American Bar Association Journal, following more widely known news outlets such as The New York Times, the BBC and Google News, released a free smartphone-friendly newsreader, which can be used on an iPhone app or web browser). Other outlets, such as The Toronto Star, have created web pages optimized for smartphone browsers.
Need to carry documents that are available as e-books? Applications like Stanza (free on the iPhone) from Lexcycle Inc. and Mobipocket Reader (free on Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry) let people store e-books on their smartphones.
Avvo Inc. released Last Call (iPhone, not available in Canada, free) to help users estimate blood-alcohol level après-revelry. One “last-resort” button in this application helps the tipsy find a DUI-specialist lawyer near the user with the highest rating in the Avvo directory.
LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, free on most phones, lead a charge of web-based social networks that have developed clients for several smartphone platforms.
Google shrunk Google Earth, a free iPhone app, to fit smartphone screens. Expect smartphones, many of which feature global positioning system (GPS) technology, to offer mapping out of the box (if they don’t already).
Urbanspoon, free on all smartphones from Wanderspot LLC, uses your phone’s location to find restaurants near you. AroundMe, free on the iPhone from TweakerSoft throws other establishment types, like hotels, gas stations and banks, into
Myriad apps let lawyers use their phones as voice recorders. Time-saving features in recorders like Note2Self Audio Recorder from Web Information Solutions, Inc., $1.99 on the iPhone, include the ability to automate e-mailing completed recordings to transcriptionists.
Check out more iPhone apps aimed at lawyers at: