Legal Tech Tips
January 4, 2019 by Scott Addison
In this day and age, we are all inundated by ads for new gadgets and other nifty technology platforms. If you follow any legal tech reports or blogs, you know how much hype and excitement there is about AI and Blockchain. You also probably know by now that many states, including my home state of North Carolina, are incorporating a mandatory amount of CLE credits directed toward technology (despite the fact that our court system lacks sufficient funding to institute comprehensive electronic filing . . . but that’s a different soapbox).
With so many strains on the limited amount of time we have in a day, my struggle is always to find ways to make my job more efficient and manageable. In a small-to-medium sized law firm, it can be a challenge to find new products and technologies that will fit the balance at a reasonable cost.
As I reflect on legal technology advances over the last year or so, here are a few “techie” things that have made my life easier.
An Apple A Day…
My law firm is now completely Mac-based, but I don’t know how I survived as a litigator without an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil even before we to Macs. The iPad is such an incredibly powerful tool and reduces stress on the mind and body. I used to carry a huge litigation bag and/or banker’s boxes of case file materials to depositions and hearings, both in state and out of state. You never knew what exhibit or piece of information might be needed, so you brought it all.
Now, not only do you have the ability to store all of those documents on your iPad, you can store the documents for all of your cases on a single device and readily access documents stored in a cloud-based document management system. This may seem like old news to a lot of people, but there are always attorneys who bring multiple large notebooks to out-of-state depositions and cannot show a witness a document if they did not bring it with them.
With the iPad Pro, you can produce the document full sized, show it to the witness, and then email a copy to the court reporter to mark as an exhibit. Add in an Apple Pencil or other compatible stylus, and you can take notes, annotate documents and transcripts, and have witnesses do the same. No wasted trees. I can now travel to an out-of-state deposition and carry over 20,000 pages of documents in a backpack that weighs less than five pounds.
I cannot stress enough that any lawyer looking to embrace technology in his or her practice should, at a minimum, start with a mobile platform, and the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil will give you that launch pad.
There Is An App For That
In addition to documents, the apps available on the iPad make it simple to view, record, and retrieve once cumbersome files. Here are a few useful apps I regularly use:
- Osirix and Horos– Stand-alone software products that allow you to have a fully working medical imaging workstation on your laptop and a viewer on your iPad.
- GoodNotes and Notability– Note taking and annotation software.
- TrialPad (part of the LitSoftware suite of products) with an AppleTV – Easy to use software used to organize, annotate, and present evidence.
Once you have finished taking notes or annotating a document using an app like GoodNotes, it can automatically sync to specific cloud storage systems (Dropbox, Box, OneDrive), or it can be exported directly into your document management system (for us, that is DocMoto). No more notepads. No more scanning additional documents. No more pens running out of ink. No more clutter.
Copy. Paste. Repeat.
Lawyers tend to spend a lot of time typing the same things over and over and drafting similar documents. When responding to discovery, the same objections are frequently raised to multiple interrogatories and other requests. Form letters are repetitive. Every lawyer uses “go-bys” and cannibalizes from other documents and cases.
That is all well and good, but it can take valuable time to remember what case had the same issue, find a document you need, and locate the language to copy. This past year, I have made an effort to increase the use of document assembly and automation to save on time and consistency.
Our document management system (DocMoto) allows us to set “tags” associated with clients, matters, or subfolders. We can create a document from a “master document” that pulls information from those tags to populate fields in the new document. It assembles what we need based on information that was input when the matter was set up. You will find document assembly functionality in many other platforms.
Using a “master document” is also more useful than a “go-by” because you may have to tweak the language based on changes to the laws or regulations, or to change the style. If you rely on a “go-by,” you run the risk that it contains outdated language.
With document assembly, there is no searching, no copy and paste, and no typos. Some firms and platforms are even able to implement workflow automation, depending on the type of work. For example, the creation of a new matter can trigger the production of new documents, calendar entries, or what have you (see, for example, IFTTT, Zapier, MS Flow).
One of the best automation applications I have discovered this year is TextExpander.TextExpander allows me to set up “snippets,” which may be called upon with the simple stroke of a keyboard shortcut or by clicking on a menu item. It is especially useful in drafting pleadings and discovery responses, where the same objections and responsive language is used over and over again. Instead of typing, “Objection. Defendants, through counsel, object to,” I type “xobject” and move quickly through the objection.
Additionally, there is no limit to the length of the “snippet,” so I can call upon an entire page of standard objections by simply typing “xstdobj.” This allows for uniformity, consistency, and accuracy. TextExapnder also allows your entire team to share common snippets, and there is a community of other users who have shared compilations of snippets. Of course, other similar platforms exist, so find what works best for your practice.
Technology is not fool-proof, but don’t be a fool and do everything the hard way. Embrace technology and your work will be more efficient, less stressful, and best of all, translate into money saved for your clients.