Meet Siri, Your Virtual Personal Assistant: The Case For Smartphones In Law

It wouldn’t be too surprising to hear the following conversations between a young female associate—overworked and overwhelmed—and her assistant:

“What is the meaning of life?”

“All evidence to date suggests it’s chocolate.”

Or, on especially late nights:

“Why am I here?”

“I don’t know. Frankly, I’ve wondered that myself.”

Except, these conversations occurred between a person and her virtual personal assistant—the iPhone 4S’s new intelligent voice recognition system, Siri.

In reality, Siri is designed to answer questions, such as “how much to make a photocopy at Kinkos?” “What time is my trial today?” or “where’s the nearest law library?” Siri’s groundbreaking technology in voice recognition makes Apple’s iPhone the receptacle of perhaps the most advanced artificial intelligence on the planet.

If there ever was a question about the utility of a smartphone, Siri puts it to rest.

Advances in mobile technology, like Siri, could be the reason why an increased number of law firm professionals are carrying smartphones.

A recent American Bar Association (ABA) survey conducted between January and May of this year discovered that nearly 88 percent of lawyers use a smartphone for law-related tasks while away from their primary workplace. In large firms, those with 100 or more lawyers, 98 percent of lawyers use a smartphone.  

Of the lawyers who reported using a smartphone, 46 percent were BlackBerry users, 35 percent were iPhone users, 17 percent were Android users, and 3 percent ere Windows Mobile users.

Technology is evolving everyday. So, even if you’re already satisfied with your in-house personal assistant, there are still a myriad of other reasons to own a smartphone for use within the practice of law.

Email at your fingertips.

Lawyers are always on call. That means, answering emails on the walk to work, during lunch breaks, and often right before bed.

That’s why it’s unsurprising ABA Legal Technology Resource Center survey participants reported email as the primary use for their smartphone. However, quite surprisingly, 92 percent of lawyers surveyed not only agreed that email was the primary function of their smartphone, but they also placed email in front of standard telephone functions, like making a call, in terms of importance.

It appears that these days, a phone is used less for dialing numbers and more for dealing with client inquiries.  

Legal apps.

Hands-down, the most creative and productive use of a hand-held mobile phone? Legal apps.

For the majority of smartphone users, this means BlackBerry apps, which include:

  1. The Law Pod: The Complete Federal Rules of Procedure (Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, Criminal, and Evidence), on your Blackberry.
  2. Family Law Reports: Allows professionals within the legal industry to access the Family Law series of Reports.
  3. Patent Reference: An On-The-Go “Patent” learning and reference App with interactive tutorial and search topics, including:  Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademark, Patents, Patent Documentation, and the Patent Process.

Even those smartphones without Siri should be able to access the following iPhone apps:

  1. BizExpense: Legal expense reports made easy. Document your expenses via images, e-mail, currency conversion, and password protection. 
  2. DocScanner: Scan documents on the go. Take a photo of any document with your iPhone camera and this app automatically converts it to a PDF document. 
  3. Black’s Law Dictionary: One of the most comprehensive legal dictionaries at your fingertips.     

Calendars.

Punctuality is a necessity in the field of law. And, with so many court cases and client meetings to attend, lawyers will find the calendar feature of smartphones an indispensable addition to their pocket.

This year, 80 percent of ABA survey respondents listed Calendars as one of the primary uses for their smartphone, a significant increase from 73 percent in 2010. With the plethora of reminder alarms and calendar-contact coordinated options, there are no more excuses for missing an associate’s birthday or that big partner announcement (not that you would…).

Games.

Finally, while attending case-matter meetings, use your smartphone to check email, record conversations on a microphone app, and look up important trial dates to contribute productively.

But, while stuck on a interminably boring conference call in your office, take back that unrecoverable hour by playing a level or two of Angry Birds, Chess, or Sudoku. Games create the final, unspoken value-add to the even the most accomplished lawyer’s smartphone.

-WB

 

For more smartphone application ideas, read “New Whistleblowing Rules And The iPad Apps To Manage Them,” and “Lawyer App Of The Day: Smartphones, Cowboys, And Fee Payment Options.

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