By Ian Hu, claims prevention and practicePRO counsel at LAWPRO.
It’s gift-giving season. Here are 5 gotta-have apps and websites for lawyers. The principle behind each of these is the same: they are easy to use, affordable, and produce immediate gains. Best of all, many of them are free or low cost.
1.WordRake (wordrake.com – starting at $129/yr)
Wouldn’t it be great to have another lawyer at your fingertips, ready to proofread your letters, memos, emails, and factums with a click of a button?
It’s here, and it’s called WordRake. WordRake will go through your document and recommend changes to make your writing more concise. It’s as easy to use as spellcheck. The app installs a WordRake “button” into Word for Windows, and you click it to “rake” through your document and make recommendations. You then simply select which recommended changes you’d like to accept. We have it on good authority about a third of WordRake’s recommended changes are accepted. WordRake works with Microsoft Word and Outlook. Okay, so it’s not a human being. But it IS available 24/7 and will likely improve your legal writing.
Here’s an example of the kinds of changes Wordrake recommends:
2.Photofeeler (photofeeler.com – free, $5/50 credits and up)
Confused about which photographs to put on your firm website or your LinkedIn bio? Wondering if you look more professional with your hair one way or another? Answer those questions with Photofeeler. You upload your photograph to the website and users like you and me will rate the photograph in terms of competence, likeability, and influence. There is no limit to the number of photographs you upload, the cost is minimal to none, and the results are reliable.
3.GoToMeeting (GoToMeeting.com, $39/month), Skype/Google Hangouts (free)
While Skype and Google Hangouts are effective and affordable (read: free) for meetings with clients and lawyers not in the office, GoToMeeting goes the extra step by showing attendees what you see on your computer at the same time. GoToMeeting also offers call conferencing if you don’t want to go web-based. You can speak with attendees using a webcam or voice only, and can walk through documents together. This is a helpful collaboration tool.
4.Evernote (evernote.com – free, $28.99/yr plus, $57.99/yr premium)
Evernote is both an app and a website, where you can store all kinds of information including research memos and cases, business cards, and internal policies. It is an extremely powerful tool for all kinds of lawyerly endeavours. When researching case law, you can clip what you see on CanLII or any other research site and save it into Evernote. Everything you clip can be grouped together under a heading of your choosing and is searchable for later use. In time, all the case law you have ever researched will be kept in Evernote, which then becomes your searchable database.
When you meet someone at a networking event and they hand you a business card, you can take a photo of it with your cellphone Evernote app, which will then extract the words from the business card, find that person on LinkedIn, and store it in your Evernote rolodex.
Similarly, law firm policies and practice management tips can be emailed or saved into Evernote. This includes photographs and articles.
The premium version of Evernote will recognize words in documents you scan in, which then become searchable. The ability to organize, save, and search virtually any kind of information you put into Evernote makes it versatile for managing your research library, contacts database, and law practice policies.
5. Mailchimp (mailchimp.com, free)
E-newsletters can supplement or completely take over snail mail marketing. Mailchimp is an easy-to-use e-newsletter service. You can design your templates according to your firm’s look and feel, keep track of multiple sets of contacts, and best of all look at statistics like what percentage of people actually opened your e-newsletter. As a free service it’s terrific.
Use it, master it!
Remember that, like any tool, technology is only useful if you master it. While some of these apps are easy to master, others will require some time and patience. With the help of technology, an organized law practice will help you minimize the risk of claims in addition to improving your bottom line.