Ever wonder what tools other lawyers use in their law practices? Well, I’m right there with you. I’ve always wondered how other lawyers get everything done (or at least appeared to get things done).
Well, we are going to open up our most frequently used tools and resources here for you to consider implementing in your practice.
Before digging into the resources we describe below, an important disclosure: Some, but not all, of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, we will earn a commission. This does not cost you anything. Please understand that we have tested and tried each product below and we recommend them because we believe they will help you in your practice. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you become a better lawyer. Enjoy!
Case Management Systems:
There are so many case management systems out there that are sure to overwhelm and the wealth of information regarding each is too much to consider. The ABA released a side by side comparison several years ago that might be of some help.
We would only urge you to try these case management for free first. Most systems allow you a free trial for a certain number of days so that you can get a feel for the interface to determine if you like it.
- MyCase gives you a free 30 day trial. The benefits of MyCase are detailed on its webpage.
- Clio gives you a free 7 day trial. Clio also details the pro’s on it’s webpage.
- RocketMatter gives you a free 7 day trial. RocketMatter also details the pro’s on it’s webpage.
Objectively, it is hard to say that one is better than the other. I’ve we’re being honest, it all probably comes down to preference. So sign up for a free trial for each of these programs and make your own decision as to which one works best for you.
When it comes to hardware, this is simply a matter of preference. If you like Apple products, use Apple products. If you like Dell, use Dell. Here is a list of hardware items that we use in our respective practices:
I use a Apple Macbook Pro MJLT2LL/A 15-inch Laptop (2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 Processor, 16GB RAM, 512 GB Hard Drive, Mac OS X) (2015 version) for all of my computing needs. When it comes to drafting documents, sending emails, and doing research, I’ve found that the easiest way to get it all done is to use the highest powered Mac out there. I don’t really store data on my hard disc so I’m not really worried about size of the hard drive. You should be worried, though, about how much RAM comes with your computer. The more RAM the better. You can never have enough RAM!
I use a Logitech Wireless Solar Desktop Keyboard K750 for Mac – Silver for typing. What I love about this keyboard is that it not only has the typical typewriter keys but it also has a number keypad off to the right. I dislike typing numbers without this number keypad because my fingers just don’t know where to go for some reason and I always get numbers wrong. My fingers know where to go on the number keypad though. Oh, and did I say it is wireless?
Twelve South – HiRise
I use the Twelve South HiRise for MacBook | Height-adjustable laptop stand for MacBook to elevate my Macbook Pro to raise it to eye level on my desk. I am 6’5″ so laying the laptop on my desk and working forces me to hunch my shoulders forward eventually leading to an achy back at the end of the day. This stand is easy to use and is adjustable to your height.
I use a Apple Magic Trackpad 2 (MJ2R2LL/A) to navigate around my MacBook Pro. This trackpad is just like the one on my computer but it works the same and it is wireless. It also allows me to use an extra monitor and elevate my MacBook Pro to eye level so I don’t spend the day hunched over my computer at my desk.
Yes, I’ve bought the koolaid and yes I have a new Apple iPad Pro (128 GB, Wi-Fi, Space Gray) – 12.9″ Display! It is like having two iPads in one. The multitasking features make computing on a tablet a lot easier and will give the MacBook Pro a run for its money.
You can also use the iPad Pro 9.7-inch (128GB, Wi-Fi, Space Gray) 2016 Model if you prefer the smaller version. I actually use two iPads: one 12.9″ and the other 9.7″:
I use my Apple iPad Pro (128 GB, Wi-Fi, Space Gray) – 12.9″ Display in conjunction with the Apple MJYR2LL/A Smart Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro
The functionality, when coupled with the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro, White (MK0C2ZM/A), is outrageous.
Google Chrome is by far the best option for internet browsing. It seems to me to be more stable than its counterpart in Safari or Internet Explorer. Mac users and PC users alike prefer Google Chrome as their browser of choice. It is what I, and many others, recommend. And it is free. Thanks Google!
Microsoft Office 365
No matter what devices you choose to use in your law office, you will need document processing tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. Some Mac users prefer Pages or Numbers for those things, but in most office environments (and certainly in almost all legal environments) Microsoft products are still the gold standard when it comes to word processing. That being said, ever since Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Kirk Koenigsbauer took the stage at the Apple Keynote event in September 2015, Microsoft Office on Apple devices became exponentially better on the MacBook Pro and on the iPad. For the cost of lunch, you can have a subscription to Office 365 Business Premium that includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Skype for Business on up to 5 computers (PC or Mac), 5 tablets, and 5 phones. This is a no brainer folks.
Because I use all Apple Products, I have gravitated toward simply using Mail for all of my email needs. I have several different accounts that I use for several things. I have my law firm account, a junk mail account, a personal account, and an account for OnDemandLawOffice.com. All of them work easily with Mail and allow me to see what is coming in from each. The folder system is easy to manuever so I can easily process my emails into an @WaitingFor folder, @NextAction folder, or any other folder that fits my work scheme.
Evernote is my digital brain. I am a big fan and loyal reader of Michael Hyatt and he convinced me (via his blog) to take the plunge to start using Evernote. I spent a lot of time reading through his numerous posts on how to use Evernote and I became convinced. I now use it for everything business and personal, but I don’t use it for case files. I started out using the free version, which is entirely sufficient at first. However, once I became hooked, I eventually took the plunge to go premium. And I’ll simply say, it was worth it. I’m in Evernote every single day and it has changed my ability to store and access resource material and business information.
For MacBook Pro:
I like finder just fine, but for speed and productivity, I much prefer Pathfinder by CocoaTech. I never open my Finder anymore. The website tells you all the reasons to, at least, try it for free for 30 days. All I can say, is that it is what Finder should be. Just for the dual pane view, I would pay the $39.95 for this product.
Even Mac’s need cleaned up. The problem is that with a Mac, you never remember to do it. CleanMyMac3 by MacPaw reminds you every 30 days. The scan feature is quick and easy and it cleans my mac without me having to think about it. I’ve never had any problems with this app and, in my opinion, it has saved me from numerous user inflicted problems.
Why waste some much time typing out the same thing over and over again. One of my most frustrating things is typing out my signature block and a certificate of service in a pleading or motion. What most lawyers and paralegals do is go to the last word document you typed out and copy and paste the content, but even this takes time. I stopped doing this when I started using TextExpander. Now, I can type a short code and, boom, the content appears in my document. This one tool saves an incredible amount of time.
TrialPad is the best trial presentation software out there. There is no counterpart for Microsoft tablets and it ease of use, stability, and functionality in the courtroom make it by far the best thing since sliced bread. You can organize your exhibits, label them, track whether they have been admitted (or not) all within this program during trial. I’ve used it numerous times in trial and I’ve never had it back fire.
TranscriptPad is complementary to TrialPad. It is produced by the same people and it allows you to take your e-transcript and create issue codes and print certain portions of the transcript relevant to that issue code. This helps with preparing your witness directs and crosses and it also puts the information at your fingertips for impeachment of a witness on the stand. I review all of my transcripts in TranscriptPad because there is no better alternative. PDF transcripts are the new thing coming out but even adobe doesn’t have the functionality of TranscriptPad.
I use Goodreader to organize, sync, and view my files. I carry my iPad with me at all times so whenever the fancy strikes, I can pull up any case file and any document within that case file. I can highlight, redact, or take notes on a document just like I could if I were using the actual piece of paper.
We use LexisNexis for legal research and the best tool for syncing my searches and for doing searches on my iPad is LexisAdvance. While we could easily get into a debate over which is better, Lexis v. WestLaw, this is not the appropriate forum. WestLaw has its own app called WestLaw Next that is equally iPad friendly.
There are tons of books out there that purport to help lawyers in their practice. But by far the most influential book to us in setting up a quality systems that we can trust and rely on is Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. In this book you will learn why a system is absolutely imperative to practicing law and being happy about it. This is not a book for lawyers. It is a book for people who want to be productive, efficient,
We recommend Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World for those who think that good lawyering involves handling 5 tasks at once. Cal Newport dispels that belief in this book and describes why science show that deep work makes you more successful and why it makes you feel better at the end of the day.
Many lawyers out there accomplish so much in the first quarter of their lives that, when they get to the second quarter, they get lost. Drift begins and then all is lost. Instead, every lawyer should create a life plan. There is no one better to help prevent drift than Michael Hyatt and his book Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Hyatt walks through the process of eliminating drift and creating a life plan so that you can feel accomplished at every stage in your life.
You’ll notice that these aren’t law books and that is on purpose. So many lawyers are disenfranchised by this whole law thing. It is time to get out of our little bubble and start listening to what others have to say about life, work, and happiness. Just because we have an Esq. behind our names doesn’t mean we have more time than others, we are smarter than others, or we have the market cornered on life (even though many of us readily give that false impression). Let’s be honest with and about ourselves. There are only 168 hours each week for all of us. Learn to use them well. These books are a good start.