Want to find a few ways to be more efficient? As The JBA board member chair of the Bulletin and Communication, I invite you to read on for a list of practical ideas, tools and websites that can make you more productive, efficient and knowledgeable. Many of these suggestions are easy to incorporate into your daily routine, are customizable, and some are free!
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Each day, iPhone users download tens of millions of apps. Many of these apps and programs are free or available for a nominal fee. But how many are worth downloading? Apps take up space on your iPhone. So, try to find out as much as possible about the app before you download it or buy it. And, if you are not using the app, delete it. To assist you in this process, here is an overview of some of my favorite apps, which are also some of the most popular apps by general users. BlackBerry and other non-iPhone users don’t tune out, there is more than coverage of apps in this article.
• Dragon. Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation for PCs and iPhones is a fast and convenient way to save time by dictating a message and having it transcribed almost immediately and fairly accurately. The app is free! And it will allow you to dictate for about 20 seconds at a time, and then it will stop recording and show you what it has transcribed.
• Copy2Contact. Keeping good records of our contacts is important. You can use Copy2Contact to copy, review and save new contacts and appointments in just seconds. It will revolutionize the way you manage your address book and calendar. The program for PCs costs around $40. There is a free app for the iPhone and a similar program for BlackBerry users.
• Shazam. The “name that tune” app. How often do you hear a song you like but can’t remember the name of it? With this app, all you have to do is start the Shazam application, hold the iPhone close to the music source, and press the “Tag Now” button. Shazam will give you the artist, title and album of the song in a few seconds.
• Pandora. This is by far one of my favorite apps. You can create stations with the music you like and bookmark songs, artists and playlists. The website and the app both stream extremely well and provide great listening at home, at the gym or in the car. The Pandora One version eliminates the ads and costs about $30 a year. Enjoy instant musical uplifting with this app!
• Alarm Clock. I love not having to worry if the front desk is going to remember to give me a wake-up call in the morning. When traveling, and even at home, I use the simple and reliable alarm clock on my iPhone. If you decide to use this option, just remember to check that the sound is turned on, and that it is loud enough to awaken you.
• The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel’s free app gives you not only the temperature now with wind and sunrise and sunset times, but also includes tabs for hourly, 36-hour and 10-day forecasts.
• Epicurious. This virtual cookbook has about 30,000 recipes that can be browsed in categories such as “healthy lunches,” “low-carb mains” and “decadent desserts” to help you plan small meals or family dinners on the go. You can see what percentage of people who made a recipe would do so again, and can save recipes to “favorites.”
• Shop Savvy. A must-have for bargain hunters, this app lets you instantly compare prices and deals. Just scan the bar code of an item and you will receive a list that compares the best prices online versus the local store. You can also see customer reviews of the product.
• News apps. Including NYTimes, USA Today and Jacksonville.com.
• Angry Birds. This is the top-selling paid app game and has been described as “dangerously addictive and loaded with personality.” Angry Birds lets you use a slingshot to launch birds with destructive powers at egg-stealing green pigs stationed on or within various structures. The game relies on vectors and physics principles to best angle the “angry bird.” It is hard to put down your phone once you’ve started playing!
• Google products. In addition to its popular and powerful search engine, Google offers many terrific technology tools that are useful to lawyers. Because it would take too long to cover them all here, I am mentioning some of the products and providing background on others. They include: Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Alerts, iGoogle, Google Maps and Google Earth.
• Google Scholar. This is an online search engine where you can find relevant cases by name, topics or key words. The “advanced scholar” allows you to narrow searches to opinions in specific states, dates and/or phrases. In my immigration practice, I use this tool to obtain articles and references to the foreign national scholars and researchers that I represent. The opinions and articles have “cited by” and “related articles” links that help me strengthen my clients’ case. The drawback, there is no citator service that flags when an opinion is overruled or called into question.
• Google Translate. This free program allows selected text to be translated to any one of nearly 60 languages with one click. The program is especially helpful for quickly deciphering messages or documents from foreign clients. However, the translation is not always accurate. The Google Translate app will translate the text and play your translated text. For the “listen to translate” option, push the play button to hear a digital version of your comment in your chosen language. Try it! It is pretty amazing!
If you want to learn even more about how you can use Google to improve your practice, order a copy of a new book published by the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section, “Google for Lawyers: Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools,” which provides guidance on accessing the full power of Google as a search engine, as well as tips on using Google’s free and low-cost tools that can help any attorney compete with the big firms and their large research and technology budgets.
• Date Calculators. Attorneys frequently have to determine deadlines for trial court pleadings, appellate briefs, contractual obligations, etc. Immigration attorneys need to know the exact date to respond to a request for additional evidence or the date when to file a permanent labor certification application. Fortunately, there are easy-to-use programs that can assist with this task. A good free cite that I use all the time is timeanddate.com. iPhone users should check the “Court Days” app.
• 10 Minute Mentor from the Texas Bar. Wouldn’t you want to have a good mentor available every time you need one? The 10 Minute Mentor website contains about 400 10-minute videos on a variety of legal topics.
Although some substantive law topics are Texas-based, many are not. The site also has videos on general topics like law practice management and technology. The videos are high-quality and Free!
… And More
• Two computer monitors. One of my favorite ways to improve productivity and maximize workspace is the second monitor that has been added to my computer. Having multiple monitors makes many computing tasks easier by allowing us to keep more windows visible. For example, when doing research online, I can have the research page on one monitor, and the second monitor open for drafting a memo, letter or just note-taking. Give this a try, you will want to have it at home also!
• Headsets for the office phone. Wired or Bluetooth-enabled phone headsets for your office can give you immense freedom. You can walk away from the phone while talking, review reading material more easily, type or write, and even stretch without cradling the phone against your neck. This is another tool that makes my office days more productive.
• Camera for much more than pictures. Try using your phone’s camera to capture and organize information in your daily life. Take a picture of an address, the phone number on a sign, the street intersection where you parked, the label on a bottle of wine you love, the price on a new gadget to look up online, and so much more!
• iPad. Completely wireless and portable, iPads can be the tool of choice when working away from the office, meeting with clients or even while in court. The iPad is perfect for doing research, taking notes, creating presentations and reviewing e-mails and documents. With touch-screen technology and 11 hours of battery life, iPads are changing the way we do business. The new iPad 2 made a great product even better. Enjoy it!
I hope that you have found a few tips and suggestions that are helpful to your practice and life. A growing number of us are relying on technology for our daily life and work, and more useful tech tools are developing every day.
In addition to technology, I hope you also continue to enjoy Jacksonville as a great city in which to live, do business and be a lawyer!