The Virtual Law Office: How Android Applications Can Assist Legal ProfessionalsMichelle Heigelmann
February 19, 2013 — 1,224 views
Developers are taking advantage of Android's open source platform which is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel. For all you non-geeky types out there, Linux is an operating system released under the GNU General Public License 2, meaning it's free and open source software developed by contributors worldwide.
According to StockBriefings.com, as of December 31, 2010 there are over 200,000 applications available for Android. Android Market is the online application store through which users can download applications for their phone. Accessing and navigating through the Android Market is a pretty easy, rather intuitive affair. Some phones already have an icon, or shortcut, to the Android Market on the "home screen", but access to the store can also be achieved via the applications button on your phone
There are many free and paid applications out there specific to the legal profession. Users should be cautioned, however, many free applications for Android, like free applications that are otherwise downloadable from the internet, are simply limited versions of paid applications. Thus, functionality may be limited, and use of the program may be restricted to a trial period.
The cost of most paid applications for Android is rather nominal; a lot can be found for under $10.00; some are slightly higher.
I recently purchased an HTC EVO and have taken advantage of the Android Marketplace to download applications that will assist me in my virtual paralegal practice. Some of the more useful applications I have downloaded are:
Documents To Go is a valuable productivity tool for people that are frequently mobilized and who cannot always take their laptop with them. Documents To Go supports a number of commonly used file formats, including .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx,.ppt, .pptx and .pdf. The Word, PowerPoint and Excel components of the program each offer a high level of functionality, presenting a wide array of formatting and computation options. Documents in those formats can be created on your phone, or imported from your PC without any desktop or server conversion. Your documents can also be uploaded and synchronized to your Google Docs account directly from your phone.
At the time of this writing, Documents To Go is available for $14.99, which is one half of its normal $29.99 price. Yes, that may be a little spendy for an Android application, but I have found the benefits of the program make it worth every penny.
Droidlaw by default includes the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence. The program features an intuitive interface and its content is easily searchable. Search results can be bookmarked, saved offline to your SD card, or shared via Bluetooth, Facebook, Twitter, or email, among others. The base application is free, and a finite number of federal and state "add-ons" are currently available from $2.99 to $6.99. I am particularly excited about this application because after the release of its next version, Droidlaw has announced codes for all 50 states will begin roll-out.
CCJR Mobile also offers a variety of state codes for download to your phone. These are useful for legal professionals and law students who need frequent access to a particular code, and who may not have internet access available. The codes are fully downloaded to your phone, and are formatted in an easily browsable and searchable format. The cost to download the codes is reasonable, ranging from $3.99 to $6.99.
Time Tracker for Android by Binary Solutions is a great mobile application that helps legal professionals capture the amount of time spent on a task while on the go. The application allows for customizable categories, so tasks can be allocated to different clients and matters. The program does not offer the ability to upload or even print a report of the amount of time spent, but it is a useful tool for keeping track of your billable hours. The application is free.
As Android applications evolve and grow greater in number, legal professionals will be afforded the opportunity to carry virtual legal offices on their phones, complete with office applications and primary legal sources.