This is a guest post by Erin Page, Esq., a senior law librarian and reference attorney at Fastcase.
The rise of the mobile device is old news. People from all walks of life have smart phones, small laptops, and tablet devices. Lawyers are no exception. “Lawyers access the Internet regularly (73%) or occasionally (21%) while out of the office, most likely on a mobile device,” totaling a stunning 94% of attorneys accessing information away from the office.
It is highly unlikely that this trend will change, as millennials finish entering the market and Generation Z begins attending law school. So let’s talk about some tips for using a mobile device to improve your workflow as an attorney.
The following is not an exhaustive list, but might inspire you to hunt for further improved efficiencies while you're on the go. I take into account four factors: location, time, simplicity, and cost.
There is no doubt that having a mobile device means improved workflow and accessibility, regardless of your location. Docket got delayed due to another parties emergency motion? An attorney can whip out a smartphone and check messages or send emails. On a plane to a deposition? A paralegal’s laptop fits on the tray table for uninterrupted time to proofread that brief. Waiting to pick up a child from an after-school activity? Sneak in some research time on a tablet. According to the American Bar Association (ABA) 2015 Legal Technology Survey, “The mobile device most used by lawyers remains the smartphone (90%), followed by the laptop (79%), and the tablet (49%).”
While all practitioners might prefer for their day to be segmented into neatly billable hours, it is rare that an appointment, traffic jam, or travel requirement won’t interrupt and interfere with such large blocks of time.
Legal research, especially with a expert practitioner, is something that can be easily broken into segments and fit into these small, otherwise wasted segments of time. When the docket at the court is running 15 minutes late, that is 15 minutes of intensive review of a pertinent regulation for a later motion in the case. When a phone deposition ends 12 minutes early, that could be 12 minutes of research regarding the rules of evidence and the applicability to the witness’s statement. Such recovered time can be a godsend for a busy practitioner.
Mobile apps based on traditional desktop programs tend to be designed with greater simplicity and fewer features than the original program. This can lead to greater ease of use for a novice user or a more experienced user who does not need the more elaborate options for their current inquiries. The simplified user interface can also allow a user to understand what the purpose of the more elaborate features are and make a conscious decision if the additional features are useful for this particular need.
Cost is always a factor with any business professional, legal professionals included. Many mobile apps are free, have a low initial cost, or provide an a-la-carte billing option. This is in contrast with many desktop applications, which are moving to a monthly or annual subscription to avoid the intricacies of individualized monetization.
A cost-savvy legal professional can frequently take advantage of these lower cost options to reduce or even eliminate some of the costs associated with applications in their office. This can be a special boon in situations where the client is low cost or even pro bono and the attorney is concerned with providing quality service without breaking the bank.
One mobile app that checks all the boxes is Fastcase's legal research app, which is free to subscribers. It's available in the Apple app store (with separate apps for iPhone and iPad) and through Google Play. As long as your data provider has coverage, you can quickly review caselaw and statutes from anywhere, at any time.
However, the best part about the app is the "mobile sync" function. If a user has access to the full Fastcase platform, whether as a bar association member or as a retail subscriber, mobile sync allows members to connect the app to their desktop account. Detailed instructions are available at fastcase.com/mobile-sync.
For those affiliated with a bar association that does not have a relationship with Fastcase, subscriptions are available for as low as $65/month. I encourage you to sign up for a free trial through the Fastcase website.
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