by Heather Hale
As primary decision maker of any business, particularly a law firm, and especially a solo practice, my job is made significantly easier when someone else narrows down the choices for me. With literally hundreds of thousands of apps available in iTunes these days it can be a daunting task for even the most tech-savvy among us to decide what’s useful and what’s not. Certainly there is some degree of trial and error (pun intended) to the process, and unfortunately for me, as a one-woman-show I rarely have the luxury of someone else narrowing it down. The good news for you is that you have me. I present you with, what is in my humble techie opinion, the top three apps for the small or solo practice using iPad. Cue drum roll.
Mint.com is a budgeting subscription service site, with a companion app of course, which integrates as many or few bank and credit accounts as you wish to give a comprehensive overview of what you’re taking in and – perhaps more importantly – what’s going out. This app’s usefulness stems largely from the wide range of customization available with each feature and the fact that the information can be accessed across multiple devices. First, the user can isolate the financial data to just a business account, or include personal banking too, as I have done, to really see the big picture. Another feature allows the user to create budget categories to track spending. The categories can be as broad as “business expenses” or as narrow as “stamps.” New categories can be created or the user can choose from the categories already listed in the app, and each transaction can be automatically or manually categorized. Tracking spending is probably the most important non-billable task a solo practitioner does and this app makes it as easy as possible.
Evernote only has a million trillion uses, but for me its a great way to edit and organize my current files. The user can create folders to arrange documents by client or by association, and if you are someone like me who is a part of several professional groups too, you know how important it is to stay organized. Brand new documents can also be created. Evernote assigns an email address to which you can “forward” documents so that you can collect information from multiple sources – the internet, email, and existing electronic files and folders. It plays well with other programs, like Dropbox and iCal, and allows the user to easily email or print documents directly from the app. If you aren’t a solo practitioner, even if you’re not a lawyer at all, I can still guarantee you’ll find this app useful.
I admit, I was a late-comer to the social media game, and with the dominance of Facebook and Twitter I was skeptical of the utility of LinkedIn at first. What I found, though, is that overwhelmingly more often I was asked to connect on LinkedIn at networking events instead of through a different platform. The LinkedIn app allows the user to follow up with recent professional acquaintances more immediately and from anywhere, a plus for me as someone who often forgets this all-important step in the networking equation. Increasingly other sites and apps are linking in to LinkedIn, expanding its versatility even more. Among LinkedIn’s less obvious advantages is the ability to add another layer of marketing to your strategy by posting news and updates, like if you have a new article coming out for LITIG8R TECH and you want everyone in your network to know about it, as a totally hypothetical example.
Aside from usefulness, hopefully you’ve picked up on the other trend uniting my choices for best apps – versatility. While paying for apps that really deliver is sometimes a necessary expenditure, it makes it that much more worthwhile when the app does double (or million trillion) duty. Adding a little more wiggle room in that Mint.com app never hurts, especially in the context of small business.
Find your favorites and happy app-ing!