A new year is upon us! As I write this, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is going strong in Las Vegas, and soon you’ll be hearing all about the devices, software, and other tech that will drive the future of our world! However, it’s also important to know about the present. What can you do NOW with the devices you have NOW. In other words, what are the best apps out there?
These are my Best New Apps for Lawyers – December 2014:
While it’s not the sexiest part of being an attorney, keeping track of your finances is a must. There are hundreds of apps and systems available, but few have the established clout of Microsoft Money.
Keep your entire financial portfolio at your fingertips, for free. With updates about stock, financial, and commodities markets, you’ll always be up-to-date. Tools like a tip calculator (for those of you who need it), mortgage calculator, retirement fund guides, and more give you everything you need to manage your finances. Sync with your established version of Microsoft Money for quick access to all of your financial information.
It’s not sexy, I know. But it’s necessary, and it’s tax season.
In the past, I’ve been somewhat critical of Intuit, Inc.’s absurd lobbying in opposition to free online filing of tax returns, but even I have to admit that this year’s offering is nice. Simply snap a photo of your W2 with the app, and TurboTax takes care of the rest. Allowing you to share your information across platforms, you’ll always have access to your info, whether via phone, tablet or computer.
To make up for the lack of sexy in this app, I’ve added this video:
Workflow by DeskConnect, $2.99.
In a word, this app is AMAZING! Do you automate any part of your workflow? If not, you’re behind. Way behind. If you’re at all interested in catching up – and making your life much easier – check out Workflow.
If you’ve ever used IFTTT (If This Then That), you have a basic understanding of how the system works. Basically, you program a group of actions, such that every time you do one thing, the system triggers one or more things to happen. On IFTTT, for example, every time I sent out a Tweet, the contents of the Tweet are automatically recorded on a Google spreadsheet. I don’t have to do anything, it’s just recorded.
Workflow takes all of that a step further. Instead of just one action with IFTTT, you can run a whole series of actions based on one tap on your screen. The app categorizes the possible actions (calendar, contacts, documents, maps, music, photos & video, scripting, sharing, text and web). Want to trigger an Uber ride? Look under maps. How about the end date of a task? Calendar. Choose from a list of popular workflows, or script your own.
Nobody would call the keyboard on your iPhone “convenient,” or “accurate,” or “easy to use.” In fact, based on the sheer number of third-party keyboard apps released since iOS 8 became available, they pretty much suck. So how can they be better? Well, some of those third-party apps rely on “swipe” style keyboards. Snipboard goes in a different direction.
Do you have little pieces of text that you routinely find yourself typing in over, and over, and over? I sure do. Signature lines for emails, certain addresses, my reminder to people that while I maybe a lawyer, I’m not their lawyer. Snipboard lets you create your own list of words or phrases that you can insert with a tap. No more dealing with autocorrect somehow changing “Brian” to “Asian.” (Don’t ask me, but my wife’s phone did it all the time!)
Your best defense in this world of weekly reports of hacks is a strong password (and probably two-factor authentication). Trouble is, strong passwords are difficult to remember. Moreover, a truly strong password is unique, meaning you use a different one for every login you have. You’re going to need some help!
Enter pwSafe 2. The second version of the excellent password manager, pwSafe 2 is designed to take advantage of the capabilities of your new iOS devices, particularly the fingerprint reader. Additionally, it is compatible across platforms, allowing you to access your information on your computer, tablet, or phone. Backup your data to Dropbox or iCloud to ensure that it is kept secret and safe. You know, like Gandalf suggested:
Competition is a good thing. Although Google Maps has long dominated the market for smartphone navigation (even despite being left off the iOS system), it’s good to have a new challenger to keep Google on its toes. HERE, previously a Windows Phone exclusive, provides that competitive option.
In many ways, HERE is generally comparable to Google Maps, which is impressive in and of itself. Offering overhead views, turn-by-turn navigation, and up-to-date traffic and transit info, it has many of the same features. Where it stands out, however, is where it sought to differentiate itself. HERE allows you to download interactive maps, ensuring you’ll never be lost, even when you don’t have an internet connection. Another feature for the traveling lawyer – speed limit warnings!
Customer ratings have come to legal services! While sites like Avvo may currently have the market cornered on reviews of lawyer services specifically, Yelp is getting into the game too. And they’re bringing their formidable toolset along with.
The Yelp for Business Owners app will allow you to keep engaged both with your clients, which is important, but also with your online reputation. The internet is more important than ever for people searching for legal services, so it’s crucial to pay attention to what your prospective clients are seeing! Track interaction, respond to reviews and comments, and always stay up-to-date on how your legal services are rated by your clients.
Recently, I discussed my belief that the future of legal research was visualized search results. Turns out, it’s not just legal research that will be revolutionized this way. Task management apps have frequently been featured on this site. That’s because, in my opinion, task management is an area that is hugely benefited by technology.
With DropTask, you simply drag your important activities into your to-do list. From there, you organize them into color-coded visual circles based on their topic or level of urgency. That way, you’re able to visualize your workload and task list in a new, unique way. Additional options even allow you to turn DropTask into a collaborative project management system.
ParkMe Parking by ParkMe, free.
I’m a sucker for unique concepts. This app will help you park your car. How? By tapping into the largest database of parking spaces there is. Find the cheapest parking around, whether in a lot, on the street, or in a deck, complete with the most up-to-date rate information available.
Running on a meter? That’s fine too, because ParkMe will actually track your time and let you know when your meter needs to be fed! Interestingly, ParkMe was released in alpha (for the uninitiated, it’s before beta), so expect frequent updates.
Threema by Threema GmbH, $1.99.
Already available on iOS and Android, Threema is an app for messaging. Revolutionary, right? Well, this part is: Threema promises end-to-end encryption for all of your messages. Not sure why end-to-end encryption is important? Check this out!
Threema guarantees that messages sent to other phones can only be read by the intended recipient. While this feature is important to a lot of people, and for a lot of reasons, it’s particularly important for attorneys! The ethical obligations to protect confidential information extends to communication with your client. While many systems use cumbersome and user-unfriendly portals for encryption, wouldn’t you like to be able to encrypt simple phone messages?
WatchESPN by ESPN, Inc., free.
Because. Just because.