If you needed any proof at all that we’re living in an online world, this one simple fact should confirm it: There are over two million apps in the Apple store for iOS devices. From games, health and fitness, and educational apps, you can find an app to help with pretty much anything in your life. Beyond apps, there are hundreds of software as a service (SaaS) companies, making billions of dollars a year, that can help you manage everything from expense reports to data sets to legal research.
As a fan of technology, and legal technology specifically, I spend a lot of time researching what’s new, helpful, or just plain interesting. Below are my top 10 as of this moment in 2016. All of them will either help improve how you run your law firm, plan for retirement, or will improve your personal life in some small but excellent way. They run the gamut, from legal research SaaS systems to crowdsourcing traffic reports in order to find the best driving route.
Without further ado, here are 10 technologies that I think will make you smarter, faster, and maybe even better looking.
Casetext is a legal research start-up founded in 2013 that has put 10 million cases and statutes online. Their mission is to make the full text of any legal case available to anyone ‘ and to make it easy to read and understand. Members of the legal community, including lawyers, judges, and law professors, annotate cases to cross-reference and link cases to make researching easier. This is not a flash in the pan; last year, a Casetext blog post was cited in a brief to the Supreme Court. To date, the company has raised over $8.8 million in funding.
Lawyers generate 26,000 documents on an annual basis, and send and receive countless emails ‘ all which have to be tagged and filed on the firm’s server. Metajure is a Document Management System (DMS) that automatically captures and catalogs all documents, and creates a unified and searchable database that operates much like Google. It pulls from personal computers, network drives, or other storage sites such as Microsoft SharePoint, Worldox, and NetDocuments. If you’ve been wondering how to better access and monetize your data, Metajure is worth a close look.
How do you pull together your case when there are all those texts, tweets, emojis, and Facebook posts to get your arms around? For family law, business law, and workers comp issues in particular, this type of data can be extremely relevant. With both Everlaw and Logikull, even the smallest firms can afford to make e-discovery easy. Both are SaaS platforms with well-built and intuitive user interfaces that include drag and drop functionality, and both are backed by some of the most reputable investors in the world.
If you are an avid investor or are in business law, SEC filings are probably important to you. Rank and Filed bills itself as “SEC filings for humans,” and was created by Maris Jensen, a former SEC analyst who wanted to make corporate filings easy to search and understand. Using the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval (EDGAR) system, she gathers data from EDGAR, indexes it, and returns it in formats meant to help investors research, investigate and discover companies on their own. Given that all SEC filings are technically public information, her “Why did I have to build this?” question at the bottom of her page is valid. Maris, I’m glad you did build it. The filings are beautifully presented.
For those practicing family law or who co-parent kids with a former spouse, SupportPay is a must-know. The company, which has been featured in the likes of Forbes and the U.S. News and World Report, enables parents to share child expenses and exchange child support/alimony directly with each other.
With Robinhood, you can trade stocks for free. It’s true. You don’t have to lose money to pay fees anymore. How does Robinhood make money? They accrue interest from customers’ uninvested cash balances, and don’t charge the customer for it. They are also testing margin accounts from which they would also collect interest, should it go live.
If you’re at all like me, you use a debit card instead of cash most of the time, making the days of digging change out of cash cushions obsolete. Acorns squirrels away (pun intended) money from your debit card into a retirement account, rounding up on every single transaction and taking that difference, whether it’s 80 cents or two cents, and setting is aside for you. You can also transfer a lump sum at any point in time.
Legal clients may like this app the best out of all of these. Hemingway is a word processing application that helps you write like Hemingway ‘ bold and clear. The app will highlight sentences different colors to indicate how to improve your writing. Yellow sentences need to be shortened or split up. Red are dense and complicated that your reader will get lost in trying the follow the sentence. Blue highlights adverbs, which should be replaced with ‘verbs with force instead.’ Hemingway himself might use this, were he alive today.
Scheduling meetings can be time-consuming with so many busy schedules to coordinate. Meet Amy, your new personal assistant. All you have to do is cc: Amy on meeting requests, and “she” will take it from there. Amy is, of course, artificial intelligence, but I’m all for a robot doing some admin work.
Sometimes there are days when Fido needs to have someone check in on him (those stitches in his side need tending), but the family can’t make it. Or you need a new place to take him while you’re on vacation. That’s where Rover steps in. Rover help you find and book local dog sitters and walkers in over 10,000 cities. The site has reviews and includes how many repeat clients each sitter has. The sitter sends photo and text updates while you are away ‘ and Rover provides insurance in case your dog needs to go to the vet.
Technically, that’s 10 technologies (11 if you’re counting by company), but here are two of my very favorites for the sheer joy they bring to my life every day.
This is, in my opinion, a tribute to what we as humans can do. Your texts are boring if they are just words and the occasional smiley face from the pre-sets. You need an emoji that looks more like you. Enter Bitmoji. Create your avatar from a menu of facial features and body builds, and you’ll show up in all kinds of fantastic greetings. Now, I can respond to my wife with “Totes adorbs” and “Hi MoFo.” She loves it. Truly.
Waze might be why the Internet exists. And what I mean by that is this is a great technology that actually does something that you couldn’t have done before we were all connected by the huge data pipeline in the sky, particularly with handheld devices. Forget mapping your road trip with Google. When you use Waze, you have the advantage of real-time, crowd-sourced knowledge from other Waze users who will tell you if traffic is terrible north of Seattle, if there is an object in the road to watch out for, or a cop waiting to nab speeders. The app provides alternate routes with ETAs, making your journey more informed and most likely, much easier.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.