I’m always looking up “lawyer apps” that help attorneys with productivity, keeping track of billable hours or even offer tips on how to relax. That got me to thinking about whether or not there are apps for non-lawyers — to help with deciphering the law, pairing people with lawyers or even substitution for traditional legal services. As you know, there is an app for everything, so here is my review of the best legal apps out there for non-lawyers.
Decipher TextMessage (Web app, $29.99): We’ve all been in a situation where we need to extract text messages from our iPhone to prove our position or point. There are several apps (and some much cheaper) that extract text messages but for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch, I recommend using Decipher TextMessage to safely save and print out your text messages for litigious purposes. Decipher TextMessage is a trusted program used by lawyers, police officers and government officials for preserving any messaging data in a format that will hold up in a legal environment. Features include a 30-day free trial so you can sign up and print out what you need without spending any money. From the lawyer’s standpoint, it is great because text messages are saved with a time and date stamp and by contact, ensuring that the documentation will be upheld if there is a hearsay objection. Again, this is mainly helpful for attorneys and police officers but Decipher TextMessage recovers deleted iPhone text messages and iMessages, a feature that can make or break a case.
LawZam (Web app, free): This is an easy way for clients to find lawyers and vice versa. The app invites people with legal problems to visit its site and post legal questions that enrolled lawyers answer with a free consultation. The app also includes videoconferencing so both parties can see each other and “meet” before deciding to work together, which I find to be essential for both the client and the lawyer to do before forming an attorney-client relationship. There are other websites like these; the most commonly used one is AVVO.com, but from my cursory visit to the site, you may find the lawyers on this website more approachable and “real” because they are willing to partake in this brand-new, immediate way of interacting with clients. Through AVVO.com, you ask a question and get a response within the day but there is not the option to immediately video conference, text or call the lawyer. As we become more and more of a global world, I think you’ll see more sites like this popping up.
Disastr (Web app, free): This app assists people affected by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Essentially, it offers access to disaster relief, breaking news and links to legal professionals who can help in the aftermath of a natural catastrophe. Some of the information provided includes how to gain access to health care and navigate insurance after a disaster. The app’s creators stated: “With an old laptop, an Internet connection and three entirely Web-based tools (Como, Canva and Google Docs), we created Disastr with two people in less than 12 hours and at no cost.” It’s shocking how many people will benefit from the resources and peace of mind that this app provides in the midst of a disaster, especially compared to how quickly and inexpensively it was created.
Expungement.io (Prototype): The Mikva Juvenile Justice Council in Chicago is creating an app for young people to understand and experience the legal process for juvenile offenders. The tool will help juvenile offenders transition from correctional facilities back into the community, and will help young people in general understand the expungement process, which is the sealing of prior convictions or arrests. As an attorney, I can tell you the expungement process is long, complicated and arduous. If this app can help decipher it even slightly, it would go a long way in assisting people in reintegration into society.
DOL-Timesheet (iPhone, free): Hourly employees can use this app from the U.S. Department of Labor to double check their paychecks after recording their own hours in English or Spanish. Essentially, it’s used to record the hours an employee works, and it automatically calculates overtime at time-and-a-half the regular rate of pay. The app’s creators have said they launched the app in response to the changes in the law that are affecting a large percentage of American workers. In 2014, President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the overtime regulations. The DOL issued a final rule that raises the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455 per week to $913 per week ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to an additional 4.2-million workers; automatically updates the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability; strengthens overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime; and provides greater clarity for workers and employers. The final rule will become effective Dec. 1, giving employers several months to prepare.
CitizenshipWorks (Android and iPhone, free): CitizenshipWorks walks eligible immigrants through the naturalization process. Immigration is a very complicated legal process, so this app in no way replaces seeking out the advice of an immigration attorney; with that said, it can be very useful to get people on the right track. By using the app, people are able to determine their eligibility to become a U.S. citizen, find out what documents they need to make it happen and locate free or low-cost legal services to help them navigate the naturalization process. They also can use the app to study for two key tests that are part of the naturalization process: English and civics. Had the app existed 25 years ago, my French-Canadian mother would have benefited from the tutorial portion of the app; she passed with flying colors but was very nervous about it!
My Health Care Wishes Pro (Android and iPhone, $3.99): This app wins the first-ever Giampolo Law Group App Award (I just made that up, and there will likely never be another awardee!) by a landslide. In all seriousness, I highly recommend that my estate-planning clients download this app at the end of our work together. This handy app allows users to store health-care choices, instructions for end-of-life care and related info on a phone as a PDF, and it offers tips and links for planning health-care wishes. It also allows storage for living wills, health-care powers of attorney, health-care proxies, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment. Related information, such as details about personal health-care specialists, emergency contacts, insurance and any medical conditions or medicines to avoid administering, can also be entered. And if that isn’t enough, all stored documents can be emailed to a health-care provider and the app syncs to Dropbox accounts, which is the program that I currently suggest clients use to store their documents. It’s definitely worth the $3.99.