Being a student has its perks: you get structure with freedom; people don’t judge you if you still live with your parents; and companies and organizations still offer you a whole lot of freebies. To make the most of your time in university and get ahead of your cohort, take advantage of those freebies – especially by learning to use software and programs that practicing lawyers employ every day. It will give you a leg up on your competition because you will have already developed an efficient way of working when it comes to your articling years.
Here are some of the most common applications and software that you should start using while studying:
Research and Note-Taking
Research will continue to be an integral part of your legal practice, so why not make it more efficient? There are two apps that can be installed on your iPad or Smartphone: Black’s Law Dictionary and Fastcase. Both are useful for looking things up on-the-go.
Black’s Law Dictionary lists 45,000 legal terms that are stored on the app, so you don’t have to have service to look something up. Fastcase can be accessed through a local bar association, and provides case law, statutes, federal filings and more – you’ll never be stuck for case law to reference in moot court again.
If you’re using a Mac, DEVONthink makes a great piece of software that you can store legal memo research and large writing projects on. The Pro version has a really great intelligent feature that helps you file your data and make connections between related terms and notes.
For note-taking in court and while researching, there are a few things you want to consider when looking for a good app: Is it easy to use? Is it secure and backed up? Can I easily export them to other apps or print them out? With that in mind, Notability makes an excellent app that allows for smooth handwriting and intuitive filing. You can also email the notes and back them up to Dropbox.
Case Management & Billing
When preparing a case, you will amass a lot of your own files and information. It is also likely that one client will have multiple lawyers and departments working a single case. For that reason, using case management software stores information in one place that can be accessed by those working on the case. To get practice using one of these applications, start using a program like Needles when you’re working on group projects or mock court cases. Google Drive is another great application because your team can access the files from anywhere.
When you’re a lawyer, your time is valuable and keeping track of where it goes is imperative to the financial aspect of your business. Cloud-based billing software like Clio connect the front and back ends of a company – your time logged from your computer or even your phone, stored securely and backed up on the cloud and is billed automatically. This is one of those freebies mentioned earlier – Clio offers this task management and billing software at no charge for law students.
Security is a huge concern when it comes to storing legal documents. First, you don’t want a computer to crash and lose all of your research, case preparation, or client information. Second, and most importantly, if you’re taking steps against losing client data you need to take reasonable steps to ensure that the information you store is not shared with third parties.
Dropbox is one of the most common services people use to sync files across multiple devices; however Dropbox is able to access and hand over your files should they be subject to a subpoena, which can happen before you have had time to argue for an injunction.
As an alternative, many lawyers choose to use SpiderOak. The program cannot access files if you’re not logged into the site. Even if they are subpoenaed, they will be unable to hand anything over until you’re logged in or have had the opportunity to fight it in court.