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Technology Tools and Tips for In-House Lawyers
Technology continues to drive and change corporate America. For in-house counsel, technology also impacts the pace and intensity of the workplace.
Increasingly, in-house lawyers do more with fewer people, and, for many, technology tools are not viable choices due to company budget constraints. However, the core role remains the same: Give sound, practical and timely legal counsel.
What follows are some tips and tools to help in-housers succeed in a 24/7 legal world.
Before attending a meeting, organize the goals and agenda by diagramming them in a "map" using an app such as Mindjet, which has iPad and desktop/laptop versions. At the meeting, show the diagram or map on a high-definition TV or project it onto a screen. At smaller meetings, simply share your iPad. This allows the group to alter the map and make assignments on it so that attendees leave the meeting understanding the big picture, yet with discrete tasks.
During the meeting, attendees can share diagrams (no more wall whiteboards) and take notes (typed or by hand) using apps such as Noteshelf or Bamboo Paper. My favorite note-taking app is NoteMaster, because it syncs with Google Docs. After the meeting I can access the notes from my office computer (or any other computer). No more hunting for notes.
On an iPad, the GeeTasks app allows the user to track "to do" items. Organized by folders, these same items also appear on the user's desk computer. Use Date Wheel to calculate dates on the iPad and the 12C Calc app for math calculations. Sign PDFs in emails with HandySign PDF or PDFpen. To comment on contracts and documents, first create PDFs using PDFConverter, PDFExpert or PDFCreator; then use one of those apps or iAnnotate PDF (my favorite) to complete the task. This makes it easy to email, there's no paper to lose and it's less expensive than AdobePro on a desktop.
Legal Content and Other Information
Review outside counsel profiles on the LinkedIn app to learn about their expertise, blogs and focus. Then, move on to other paid resources such as the Lexis Advance app and the WestlawNext app. If "free" is the best option, access the iTunes store and search for apps using the terms "legal" or "law." Take a look at Fastcase and Bookends. Also, search for state statutes. Finally, iTunes University has some great legal podcasts.
In-house lawyers can follow their companies, competitors, legal topics and people in the news, on blogs and on Twitter for free. Just set up Google Reader on the computer and use the iPad using apps such as Mr. Reader, G-Whizz! and Reeder. Other apps offer similar information but in a magazine or newspaper format: Flipboard, Zite, Byline, and Early Edition 2.
Later this year, Microsoft may offer its Office Suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) as iPad apps. Microsoft is playing catch-up because many lawyers already use other apps that do a decent (but not perfect) job of integrating those popular office tools with iPads. Some apps run on an iPad; many, such as DocsToGo (my favorite), Office2 and QuickOffice store documents in the "cloud." Other popular apps are GoodReader and ReaddleDocs. As an intermediate step, I sometimes use CloudOn, a web-based service that allows me to create or revise documents using Office Suite at the CloudOn website all with an app and an Internet connection.
If touchscreen typing is difficult, use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which "connects" to the iPad.
Also, don't forget about security. I use a passcode to "open" my iPad and I avoid using public Wi-Fi for Internet access when I'm using my iPad for confidential work.
Keith H. Mullen of Dallas co-chairs Winstead's financial services industry group. He has a passion for using technology to reinvent the relationship between a company's business platform and its lawyers. He blogs at www.lenders360blog. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in Texas Lawyer.