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  • InsideTrack
  • September 01, 2021

    Legal Research: The Inside Scoop on Productivity Apps

    There are effective and low-cost apps available that assist practitioners in finding every billable minute of their day.

    Elizabeth Manriquez

    smartphone apps

    Sept. 1, 2021 – If there is one thing people are short on these days, it’s time. We are all pulled in several directions at once, so it is important to maximize the potential of our days.

    Web applications and browser extensions are a great tool for addressing this need, as they automate tasks and can greatly improve our productivity. Some of us may consider apps and extensions as mere entertainment or for commerce, but there are effective and low-cost apps available that assist practitioners in finding every billable minute of their day.

    Productivity Apps That Help You Save Time

    The Lit Suite Bundle litigation app package includes TrialPad, Transcript Pad, and DocReviewPad. Currently only available for iOS, this suite of products allows for seamless remote work options. Organize, annotate, and present evidence from your iPad, or use TrialPad with Zoom for remote depositions, trials, and hearings.

    Elizabeth Manriquez Elizabeth Manriquez is the scholarly communications librarian at the U.W. Law School Library. She is a member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW). LLAW's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.

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    Transcript and document review is easy and portable with these apps. A yearly subscription is available for $399/year. To check out TrialPad in action, this YouTube clip shows the San Diego district attorney putting it to effective and cost saving use.

    Another fantastic app to try is iAnnotate, which allows users to review and annotate documents as well as manage files. This app works well with many cloud storage platforms and facilitates document sharing among associates. Unfortunately, this app is only available for Apple users at this time. It is $9.99 to download.

    Not to worry Android users, there are several apps aimed at attorneys and legal professionals available in the Google Play store. For instance, Casefox, a legal management software system, offers its users an app that provides access to all the tools available from its web-based program. These tools include case and document management, client intake tools, legal billing and invoicing, calendaring, and several other tasks needed for successful practice of the law. All features are available at all price points, and there is a free version (prices increase with number of users and cases).

    Apps are good tools for boosting productivity, but they can also provide services necessary in our current technological climate. Boxcrypter provides “security for your cloud.” Available on both Apple and Android devices, Boxcryptor adds a much-needed level of security to cloud storage. All your files are encrypted via this app and can only be unencrypted with a password.

    If you use Box, Dropbox, or another cloud solution and want extra security, this is one of the most trusted names out there. You can get a companywide Boxcryptor account, though it could work either way for solo attorneys. You do need to set up Boxcryptor on your computer first, and then sign in with the app – this isn’t a standalone app.

    Browser Extensions that Boost Productivity

    In addition to legal apps, there are a myriad of browser extensions available to help us get the most out of our days. These extensions work automatically and can have long range benefits to our research and the research of others.

    One example of this is the RECAP extension from CourtListener. Courtlistener provides free access to opinions, oral arguments, information on judges, Visualizations, and a citator (similar to Google Scholar, it will tell you which cases cited to the decision, but not the form of treatment). They also have a database of millions of PACER documents and dockets.

    When you install the extension, you are effortlessly “freeing the law” when you search in PACER. Your documents will be added to the archive, making them available to researchers and furthering access to legal information.

    Another excellent extension is the Wayback Machine, provided by the Internet Archive. Similar to the website devoted to ending 404 errors and other web breakdowns, this extension automatically checks for archived versions of the webpage you are trying to access and provides a site map of websites based on archives of URLs.

    This extension is available on all major internet browsers. If the Wayback Machine has archived the URL you are looking for, you will be able to see the now-deleted webpage. I’ve found this extension particularly helpful when searching for previous employees or affiliations that have since been removed from company websites.

    RescueTime does double duty as an app and an extension. RescueTime tracks how much time you are spending on distracting websites, lets you set goals for “Focus Work,” and prompts you to meet those goals throughout the day. RescueTime determines which of your tabs is active and tracks how often and for how long you are there. It can also tell when you walk away from your computer and stops tracking when you aren’t there.

    Your logs can then tell you where your time goes and offer solutions for boosting your focus work. With many of us still struggling to acclimate to remote work, extensions like RescueTime, available with a free trial or $6.50/month, can be invaluable for structuring your day.

    Access Fastcase through Your Desktop and Mobile Devices

    Another tool to boost your research is one you have access to at no cost as a State Bar member: Fastcase. This online research tool gives you access to a comprehensive 50-state and federal case law database.

    The Fastcase app is simple to use. All you have to do is set up an account that enables you to save favorites along with a customized research history. Once you set up your account, it is easy to access the main screen to begin a search for case law or statutes.

    As a subscriber, you can use the system’s Mobile Sync feature to link your mobile and desktop accounts (look under “Options” in the desktop version). This feature syncs user favorites and usage history to your main Fastcase account, and allows you to retrieve saved cases from a mobile device and later read or print them from the desktop version.

    These Are Just the Start

    Whether an app or an extension, there are some excellent sources of technology available to legal professionals to help streamline the everyday business of the practice of law. Find more information on these apps and others by reviewing online guides, created by U.W. Law School librarians, for Android and iOS users.

    There’s More: Check Out the State Bar Member Programs and Discounts

    In addition to the apps and browser extensions above, your State Bar membership gives you access to practice tools and legal research resources to help you up your productivity. These include:

    Check out the Member Benefits page on WisBar.org for more information and to see additional benefits and services that are available to you.




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