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Best New Apps for Lawyers – March & April 2014

Well, to say that March and April of 2014 have been crazier than I expected would be a MAJOR understatement. Regardless, I’ve neglected you wonderful readers of my blog for far too long, and I pledge not to allow it to happen again for, well… at least for a few months.

Ok, my daunting schedule aside, I’ve decided to combine the best apps from March and April into one post. And, by my review of the apps, I may really be making my life difficult. On the other hand, there are always plenty of interesting new apps to check out. Well, once more into the breach, dear friends, once more!:

iOS:

new apps 1FireChat by Open Garden, Inc., free.

This app may not have any particularly important features for lawyers, per se, but it’s one of the coolest features that I’ve seen. And, since this is my list, here it is! Did you know that iOS 7 included a hidden little gem called the Multipeer Connectivity Network? Me either. What does it do? It connects you. To other phones. Without WiFi OR wireless signal.

So how does FireChat take advantage of that little system? By turning your iPhone into a can on a string… connected to every other can in the area. You can send messages and even photos to those around you. Even more important, you can create exclusive groups for your communication. Sitting in a mediation and want to talk to co-counsel, without shouting across the room? How about reminding your associate (or boss!) not to forget about a topic during a deposition? No need for a wireless signal, a WiFi connection, and its drain on your battery is reportedly minuscule.

new apps 2Microsoft Office for iPad by Microsoftfree (use of more than the most basic features requires an Office 365 subscription).

So is this kind of cheating? No, it’s not. Why not? Because even though it seems a little obvious, I’m still only counting them as one app! More importantly, even after more than a decade of trash talking about Microsoft, the Big Three of Office – Word, Excel, and Powerpoint – are still the best game in town for most lawyers.

new apps 3Word for iPad brings the top word processing software in the U.S. to iPad in a way no other app has been able to do so far – it looks and acts EXACTLY the same as your desktop or laptop (I wonder, does it have the same infuriating problems with bulleted lists? I digress). Among the really nice features of the app are that, by operating through Office 365, your documents are seamlessly saved to the cloud, meaning wherever you left your document on your iPad, you’ll be able to pick up on your desktop, without missing a beat.

new apps 4Excel for iPad gives you the tools and features of the desktop/laptop version of the best selling spreadsheet program available. One of the most irritating things about translating regular Excel spreadsheets to the apps that allowed you to view them on your iPad was that the more advanced an Excel user you were, the less useful your spreadsheets became. Not anymore. Now, all your favorite formulas, charts and graphs come right along with your spreadsheets. Even better, they’ve included a special formula keyboard, to accelerate the pace of your calculations!

new apps 5Powerpoint for iPad finally puts the entire toolset of this deep, feature-filled presentation software to the iPad. One has to wonder if it’s too little, too late. Has Microsoft allowed apps like Keynote to take too large a lead? Possibly, but many who love the tools available on Powerpoint will find the app to be a nice safety net, even if they’re regular users of other presentation apps. Just like the other Office apps, Powerpoint allows for real-time collaboration on projects, which could really enhance the utility of this app.

new apps 6North Carolina Structured Sentencing App by UNC School of Government, free.

While most apps like this have limited reach, due to the unique elements in each state’s criminal laws, this app makes my list for three primary reasons: 1) its an app designed specifically for use in the legal profession, 2) it’s North Carolina, my home, and 3) it was developed by UNC, my alma mater. GO HEELS!

This app guides users through the North Carolina’s structured sentencing grid with an interactive approach through the complex web of structured sentencing. As the user is guided through the process, the app provides information about potentially available mitigating or aggravating circumstances, and the app will be regularly updated as the law changes.

The North Carolina Structured Sentencing mobile app was created with generous funding from the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities, a UNC–Chapel Hill award recognizing innovative faculty scholarship that directly and positively impacts constituencies outside the university. Thanks to that award, the app is available free of charge.”

new apps 7Triggerfox: The Mobile Address Book for Professionals by Triggerfox Corp., free.

If I never hear another comment about how bad attorneys are at client relations, it’ll be too soon. Here’s the app designed to help you better communicate and keep track of your clients, without the usual complete change in your personality that it usually requires!

Designed for use by professionals, Triggerfox gathers all your contacts into one place. Big deal, so do all those other apps you’ve already told us about. True, but Triggerfox is more than just a contact collector. By importing your social media networks, Triggerfox filters out all but the most important updates from your feed. View articles that are trending on your social networks and share them with the clients you feel are most impacted by them. Important client have a birthday coming up, Triggerfox even allows you to send handwritten notes right from the app. Usually to improve your relationships with your clients, you actually have to do something, but for those who don’t have time, check this app out.

Android:

new apps 8IFTTT by IFTTT, free.new apps 9

For the uninitiated, IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a powerful task automation system. Simply put, it allows you to set conditions, known as “recipes,” on any number of activities, which trigger certain actions. Set your recipes so that every time you add a new photo to Instagram, it automatically uploads to your Flickr account. Use your ESPN app to change the lighting in your house through the Hue app to UNC Tar Heels colors at the beginning of every basketball game. Trigger notifications on your phone if your weather app indicates it might rain tomorrow. The possibilities are (nearly) limitless.

The image on the right shows just some of the thousands of options available!

new apps 9TalkNotes Plus by MobileAppTek, $1.99

In my never-ending quest to replace the legal pad, one of the most difficult things I’ve come across is filling the need to take notes about a phone call while on the phone. Technically, most smartphones are equipped to handle such a task, especially if I’m using my Bluetooth headset. However, none of the built-in features ever really did the trick.

TalkNotes Plus seeks to solve that problem. Automatically opened anytime you receive a call, you’re able to take notes about the call, add notes or information to the contact information page (which is extended through the app), update calendar information which is also synced automatically with Google Calendar, and review notes from previous calls, all without ever hanging up the phone. The app is also compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S-Pen, bringing us one step closer to replacing the legal pad!

new apps 10CallWho Smart Contacts by Arik Felznestein, free.

I’ve routinely joked that the worst feature of most smartphones is the actual “phone” part. The rest of the system always seems to run pretty well, but the voice quality and connection leave a lot to be desired. And don’t even get me started on how annoying it is to find the phone numbers of the 10 or so people I call fairly regularly, but who I just don’t feel I want to list as “favorites.”

Enter the CallWho Smart Contacts widget. CallWho is a “context aware” widget that puts your contacts in order based on your call history. Those who you call most will be collected at the top, but situational algorithms add even more value. Miss a call from someone recently? Their name will appear at the top. Call your dad on Sunday afternoons? Then on Sunday afternoons, his name will move right to the top of the list. Fully customizable, and with the promise to add to an already significant list of options, CallWho solves one of my biggest problems with smartphones. Now if they can just make it so I can actually hear what’s being said…

new apps 11QuizUp by Plain Vanilla Games Corp, free.

I wrote about this app when it was released on iOS, and the resulting explosion of interest in the months following its release (not to mention the hours of time lost myself playing the game) justified the attention. Well, QuizUp is now available to gobble up the free time of Android users as well!

QuizUp is the “largest real-time trivia game ever,” according to its developer. Need a little break? Challenge your friends or other players online across 250 different categories of useless knowledge! The system includes over 150,000 questions, with categories ranging from sports, TV shows, business, art, history, music, geography, and many more.