What’s APPening

Legal Research on a Mobile Device

Posted April 18, 2012
Marc Brown, Office of Public Defense Services

Legal research on a mobile device? Certainly. Westlaw App? Not really. Although Westlaw does have an app, that app requires the user to have a WestlawNext account which, you may not be able to afford. However, if you have a Westlaw account, you can access it online as you would from your computer. Some interface problems do occur when using the Safari browser, pre-installed on Apple mobile devices. My work-around is to simply email cases to myself as a .pdf attachment then open the document in iAnnotate (one nice feature is that the hyperlinks in the cases remain live).

Another option for basic research is the Fastcase app (www.fastcase.com). Fastcase requires the user to register for free and allows the user to search for cases and statutes. For my purposes, the Fastcase app is not a replacement for Westlaw but it is quick and smooth, something Westlaw on a mobile device is not. I can see using the Fastcase app in court to quickly access a case or statute. If you have a Fastcase account, the app will allow for more research options.

Are you conducting legal research on a mobile device? Which apps are you using? Email me at marc.d.brown@opds.state.or.us and let me know which apps are working for you.

Pages | Hours Tracker

Posted February 12, 2012
Marc Brown, Office of Public Defense Services

For all the time we spend perusing the Internet, the majority of the time spent at a computer is occupied by word processing. As of now, there are no great word processing apps. However, there are some good ones.

Probably the best of the good is Apple's own app, Pages (http://www.apple.com/apps/pages/). This app, priced at $9.99, is designed specifically for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Pages is a basic word processor without the many bells and whistles we are accustomed to in Word but seems to include Word's most utilized features (I am using Pages to write this). The major drawback to Pages is its incompatibility with Dropbox (Apple is directly competing with Dropbox now that it has the iCloud). If I could save documents directly into Dropbox from Pages, the App would border on great.

Tip o’ the App to OCDLA member John Neidig for sharing his favorite app: Hours Tracker (http://hourstrackerapp.com). “Great app for tracking time spent on a particular client. Easy to use, can email hours to your bookkeeper, calculates $ according to fee, easy start & stop or come back later and plug in your time, and it's FREE. Have tried several others and think this is the best that I have found and it is FREE." The basic version is FREE, and the full version is $4.99.

More apps in the next issue. Remember, send the names of your favorite productivity apps to: marc.brown@opds.state.or.us.

Document Management Apps and Mobile Devices

Posted December 14, 2011
By Marc Brown, Office of Public Defense Services

A murder sent me down the pathway of mobile computing. Specifically, an appeal from an eight-week murder trial moved me to investigate mobile computing options. The transcript was nearly 6,000 pages and the entire record on appeal clocked in at nearly 17,000 pages. Being a particularly lazy sort, I began searching for a way to avoid carrying around that massive file. My initial idea was to press my early generation Kindle, which had the capability to support .pdf documents, into service. I experimented with a few short transcripts and, for various formatting reasons, concluded that the Kindle was not up to the task (in its defense, that generation Kindle was not designed for such a task). Eventually, I began to use an iPad.

My primary use for the iPad is document management. This aspect of mobile computing, for me at least, is critical. As an appellate attorney, I am regularly dealing with long transcripts and extensive files. No less so for trial attorneys with discovery that can run into the hundreds of pages or more, interviews, investigations and other related documents. Therefore, every attorney using a mobile device needs an app that can satisfactorily store documents, allow for quick and easy retrieval, and provide a mechanism for annotating documents.

iAnnotate, for me, has proven up to the task. This $9.99 app can handle large files, allows for easy organization of documents, and has a myriad of tools, some of which I will highlight below.

First, iAnnotate allows the user to create file folders similar to what would be found on a traditional computer.  As such, organizing document and files is familiar to a computer user. iAnnotate will convert a numerous formats, including Word documents, into a .pdf document. When reading a document, iAnnotate allows for multi-color highlighting, underlining, comment boxes, handwritten notes, bookmarks, and many other tools. The documents are searchable and, once highlighted, the user can view thumbnails of the highlights. The user can simply touch on a thumbnail and go directly to that highlight. In a way, this creates a hypertext link within your document, allowing quick access to specific documents.  Finally, the user can email the highlighted document or a summary of the highlights with specific page numbers, creating a handy index.

What iAnnotate does not do well, open Zip files, GoodReader, does sufficiently. Zip files are those files that use the file extension “.zip” and are compressed. For example, if you download OCDLA conference materials, you will get a Zip File containing the documents. This $4.99 app is, in my opinion, inferior to iAnnotate in most respects, but if you use Zip files or simply wish to download OCDLA conference materials to your mobile device, the investment may be worthwhile.

PDF Expert
I have not used PDF Expert, but it appears to function similarly to iAnnotate and is also priced at $9.99.

On a final note, my office now scans every document into a central database. As a result, I can easily create electronic files on my iPad. Although many offices have not switched to electronic files, that day is coming. The court system is moving forward on its e-Court project and, I predict that the near future will see electronic discovery becoming the norm. Therefore, if you need motivation to move toward electronic files, the thought of arriving in court with your iPad rather than six boxes of documents may be motivation.


What’s APPening — First Installment

Posted November 18, 2011
A new column by Marc Brown, Office of Public Defense Services

Welcome to the first installment of “What’s APPening.” Here, I will highlight and discuss various apps designed for general productivity and specifically for the legal practitioner. Each month, I will feature one or two apps of potential use to OCDLA members. I am also soliciting your suggestions. Send the names of your favorite producivity apps to: marc.brown@opds.state.or.us

Recently, the New York Times predicted that 20% of the United States population will use mobile computing technology by the end of 2012. Mobile computing includes smart phones, tablets, and numerous other devices that allow for data storage and retrieval from remote locations via a wireless internet connection (WIFI) or a cell phone network (3G, 4G network). A distinguishing factor between a mobile computing device and a lightweight laptop is the lack of a hard drive on the mobile devices. While that limits data storage on the mobile device, it also allows for greater mobility, longer battery life, and faster performance. Another distinguishing feature of a mobile device is the ability to design the functionality to suit the user’s needs. A mobile device comes with a few pre-installed “apps” or programs, but the user can easily install additional apps, many of which are either free or of minimal cost (for example, the Atomic web browser costs 99¢).

In the Courtroom
Mobile technology is showing up more and more both inside and outside the courtroom. The Oregon Supreme Court recently started using iPads on the bench and an increasing number of appellate attorneys are arriving at argument with mobile devices rather than large files stuffed with paper documents. Throughout the state, all the trial courts now have WIFI. The time is ripe to begin to consider how mobile technology can enhance your daily practice.

First App — Dropbox
One of the more useful apps is the free Dropbox, which can be installed on just about every computer or mobile device. For those of us who start a document on a work computer, pick it up again while working on a mobile device and then finish it on a home computer, Dropbox is a savior. Dropbox reduces the need to carry around jump drives or email documents hither and yon, while trying to remember which document is the most current. Dropbox allows the user to save a document on one device and have it immediately available on every other device with Dropbox installed. In fact, I started this article on my iPad, edited it on my laptop and completed it on my work desktop computer, all the while, saving it to Dropbox. Documents are saved just as they would be in any directory folder. In reality, the documents are being stored on a remote server (AKA “The Cloud”) and are accessible through the internet. If you are concerned about security of items stored remotely, read this post on the Dropbox blog. Ultimately, the issue of security of remote servers is huge and far beyond the scope here.