What's App-ening
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What's App-ening

by Tom McNichol

September 2012

The world of apps has exploded in recent years; and like a lot of explosions, it's left a bit of a mess. But amid all the worthless ones, there are some apps that can actually make the practice of law a little easier, and in some cases maybe even a bit more enjoyable. Here are a handful of legal apps you may want to add to your mobile device:

Get on the Case, Fast
For legal research on the go, it's hard to beat Fastcase for the iPhone and Android.

Fastcase is made for those harried times when you're squirming on a hard seat just outside the courtroom, preparing an oral argument and wishing you had access to a few more cases to buttress your presentation. With Fastcase, you have instant access to a free searchable library of American cases and statutes - what the developer bills as "the largest free law library on the iPhone." The Fastcase collection includes cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, and constitutions, plus access to an archive of law-related newspaper articles and legal forms.

The app is free but with one important catch: You won't be able to print or email cases directly from your device. For that, you need to have a Fastcase subscription, which allows you to sync documents from the app to your desktop, where you can do with them as you please. Subscription plans vary from $65 to $95 per month. But there's a free 24-hour trial, so you can take a subscription for a test drive at no charge.

Settling the Matter
Legal settlement negotiations are a bit like a game of chess, with each side trying to stay several moves ahead of the opponent without upsetting the board. Now there's an app called Picture It Settled that can help attorneys map out settlement negotiations and break the process down to more manageable moves and countermoves.

The free app, which is available for Apple, Android, and Blackberry devices, is a "lite" version of software that uses proprietary algorithms and data culled from thousands of past case settlement negotiations to calculate the optimal negotiation strategy at each step in the process. Picture It Settled tracks the dollar moves that take place during the negotiations, as well as the time intervals that have elapsed between offers. The app then analyzes the offer history and graphs the effects that certain moves might have on the likelihood of a settlement. It then projects the expected results both in dollars and in the estimated time needed to reach that figure.

Picture It Settled won't close the deal for you, but it can help estimate how close you are to a settlement.

Tick-Tock Calculations
The billable hour may have seen better days, but it's still alive and kicking in the app world, with several good offerings dedicated to helping attorneys keep track of their precious time. TimeClock is a $3.99 Android app that tracks billable hours as you work, while a $2.99 app named EasyBiller performs many of the same functions on Apple devices.

EasyBiller calculates billable hours with several tools, including a timer and a start/stop time converter. The app lets you track your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly billable hour totals, so you can keep a running tally of how much income-producing activity you're generating. You can organize time entries by client and case names, and there's room for you to add pertinent details - like perhaps why it took so many hours to prepare that seemingly straightforward brief.

News at Your Fingertips
The world of technology destroys as well as creates, and among the valued bits of the past that the digital realm has all but obliterated are the old-fashioned newsstands that carried hundreds of newspapers and magazines from around the globe. But an app called PressReader recreates that newsstand in the palm of your hand - minus the inky newsprint, the smell of cheap cigars, and the curmudgeonly guy behind the counter who won't break large bills, no matter how nicely you ask.

PressReader hooks users up with a list of more than 2,100 newspapers from 95 countries, in addition to magazines from around the world. The publications you select pop up in digital form on your device, appearing just as they would look in print, from cover to cover. And since they're in digital form, you can search, share and comment on them.

The basic app is free (available for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices), but you have to pay for the issues you download. (Come on, you didn't get to smuggle newspapers out of the old corner newsstand for free, did you?) Casual readers can sign up for a pay-as-you-go plan that costs 99 cents per publication download. But the real bargain is the all-you-can-read plan, which provides access to the entire database of publications for $29.95 per month - a good deal when you consider the cost of subscriptions for most print publications.

The Joke's on You, Counselor
When you need a little comic relief to get through the day, what could be better than a treasury of lawyer jokes in your pocket? The Android Lawyer Jokes (free) and the Lawyer Jokes HD app for Apple iPad (99 cents) are chock full of some of the best (and perhaps worst) lawyer jokes around. The iPad app frames the debate nicely with this riddle:

Q: What's the problem with lawyer jokes?
A: Lawyers don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they're jokes.

Exactly. But if you're the sort of lawyer who can take the law seriously and still crack a smile, then a Lawyer Jokes app may be for you. Here are a few samples to try out on your more understanding clients:

Q: If you drop a snake and an attorney off the rooftop of the Empire State Building, which one hits first?
A: Who cares?

Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a vulture?
A: Lawyers accumulate frequent flier points.

Q: How many lawyers does it take to stop a moving bus?
A: Never enough.

Indeed.

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