Google Reader Closing – Alternative for RSS Feeds

Google Reader has provided my (and most everybody’s) sole source of news feeds from  favorite blogs for a number of years now. Google will close the Reader service on July 1st. After playing around with a few alternatives, I’ve landed with Feedly as my new RSS reader. Feedly is actually a very pleasant improvement over Google Reader. The web based service also has apps for iOS. Feedly’s iOS apps are very slick and sync with the online service. Marking items read, starred or tagged through a browser or an app syncs that info across all the platforms. Feedly also offers one-click sharing and archiving with a number of services. One click sharing includes LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. Archiving can be done in a single click to Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket and Del.icio.us. The all important ability to export from Feedly, however, is still in the works. The developers state that OPML export is on the way.

If you’re not convinced to use Feedly and still want to poke around looking for alternatives, here are some good round-ups:

Timestream Case Analysis Tool & Review

Case Analysis Using Timestream

Well designed and smooth interface. A nice approach to viewing cases from a chronological perspective and virtually no learning curve. Features a bit limited on the 1.0 release given for review and few quirks. Lawyers looking for a different view of their case facts might find a place for Timestream in their toolkit.

Getting Info Into Timestream

Putting events into Timestream is fairly straightforward, but with a few quirks. Events consist of date, time and description. Files can also be associated with an event via the Finder or drag and drop. Tags can be added to events. Tags are a bit quirky. If you have ever used a tagging system with software before (Evernote, DEVONthink etc.) you probably expect to be able to just start typing a tag in the Tags field and, if the tag already exists it will autocomplete. If the tag does not exist, hitting return will add a new tag once you finish typing the word. Timestream requires each tag to be entered using a mouse click on a “+” button and selecting the tag. This must be done for each tag added to an event.

Filtering & Searching Case Info

Searching can be done on the fly by selecting a tag, using word search across titles and descriptions or a combination of both. Searches on words can be single word, boolean and include at least rudimentary wild card support, e.g. surger* will return all results for surgery and surgeries. Saved searches can also be created using either or both, but with the added benefit that more than one tag at a time may be used for the search. Selection of more than one tag requires that ALL of those tags be present. I.E. it is an ‘and’ type search and cannot be changed to an either/or search for multiple tags. Searching only occurs on information entered in Timestream and does not extend to attached files, so it won’t search through any of the attached PDF text.

Case Analysis Mac Software Timestream

Summary

At this point, the software is well developed, does not seem buggy and provides a useful tool if you aren’t already doing case analysis in a manner that allows you to see your case facts chronologically. A few more features would be nice, including the ability to see events in a list or spreadsheet view as opposed to being stuck with the timeline view. It would also be good if the app searched the text inside attached files which contain searchable text. Additionally, import and export functions would be much appreciated and perhaps help with data entry as well. Finally, it would be great if all of your hard work could be shown in a ‘presentation’ view format or at least be exportable for use by other time lining software such as BeeDocs 3D Timeline. Although Timestream bills itself as capable of converting a timeline into a ‘multi-modal, multi-media presentation tool that runs in any web browser,’ that feature is not currently available in the testing program provided for review.

Timestream is cross-platform and there are plans for iOS apps as well. Pricing is not yet available.

Jury Selection or ‘Voir Dire’ With an iPad

The maturing iPad and iOS system offer a a number of approaches and apps for use in jury selection, or voir dire. Here’s a review of a relatively new player JuryPad, recent updates to JuryStar and reference to old standbys using a spreadsheet or Bento. One caveat to all of these methods for jury selection: During attorney conducted voir dire, you need someone running the iPad. Attempting to track juror responses and engage in a meaningful give and take with jurors during questioning while simultaneously operating an iPad is just too complicated. [March 15, 2013: Original post omitted coverage of iJuror, now covered below].

JuryPad: iPad App for Jury Selection – Review

JuryPad ($24.99) offers a fairly intuitive and standard iOS interface. Large icons and text make it easy to navigate. JuryPad uses a form input method for gathering juror information during selection process or pre-populating with information prior to selection if you are in a forum that allows access to jury pool names in advance.

JuryPad lets the user set the rows columns for the pool which is very nice because not all courtrooms have the same number of chairs/rows for holding the pool. The user can then place the jurors in the appropriate pool seat as they reflecting the actual courtroom layout visually. Each juror is represented by an avatar reflecting the sex and race of the individual juror. The inclusion of race in each avatar is a nice feature for Batson issues and giving a quick visual as to what is going on.

From the courtroom/pool screen, juror detail information can be quickly accessed, and you can complete any unanswered questions and fill in new information as it arises. From the layout screen it is also very easy to strike jurors for cause, as a peremptory by either side or chosen for being a member of the jury. JuryPad accommodates both the ‘seat and strike’ method as well as the method where all questioning is conducted prior to exercising strikes at a bench conference. When seating jurors, once the designated number of necessary jurors has been met, the app pops up a box telling the juror that the selection process is complete.

Visual cues are also included for jurors who have been stricken, but it would be better if the app indicated whether the strike was for cause or which side exercised the strike. Additionally, the ‘custom’ jury selection questions only allow for ‘yes-no’ type questions. This is probably the greatest problem for use in jury selection as open ended questions are the preferred method of eliciting information and opinions from jurors. Additionally, ‘custom’ jury selection question templates are an all or nothing approach. You must select a single set of custom questions to include in each trial. This is unfortunate because there are discreet issues in every trial which lend themselves to template based questioning, but which do not arise in all trials. For example, in a civil tort case, liability might be conceded but there is still a need to question regarding bias in deciding damages. It would be better if individual modules of custom jury selection questions could be added, rather than being forced to pick one long outline.

Last, JuryPad offers the ability to share a single trial with other trial team members. Allowing one team member to create the basic jury selection plan and share it with all others is a smart move and an easy way keep everyone on the same page.

JuryStar: iPad App for Jury Selection

JuryStar ($39.99) has been around longer than JuryPad. The app was originally considered for review on release in December of 2011. Unfortunately, JuryStar used a ‘locked’ jury grid which made the app useless for anything other than the seat and strike method, and even that was questionable considering that jury rows and number of chairs vary from courtroom to courtroom. Several updates from the developer have cured this original limitation, allowing customization of the number of rows and columns for juror pool seating.

Unlike JuryPad, the app does offer a more flexible load of ‘custom’ voir dire questions. And, individual modules of questions can be loaded in as necessary. JuryStar also uses a ‘slider’ to rate jurors on each area of questioning. The slider compliments and makes possible open ended questions resulting in a more natural  information flow during of voir dire. As information is gathered and jurors rated, the rating summary at the bottom of the jury box changes to reflect the bias of the potential juror. For example, the rating for each area of questioning is displayed in the juror’s box, i.e. an abbreviation for SPD reflecting attitudes about special damages displays a number -5 through +5 and provides a total of all question areas at the bottom. The app also provides a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button which changes the color of the box from yellow to red or green. JuryStar gives the lawyer an easy reference to raise strikes for cause and intelligently exercise peremptories.

When exercising strikes, the juror is removed from the pool and placed in a box reflecting peremptory us, them or court stricken. The undo button, however, can be a bit finicky. During use, the undo button only works for the last juror stricken and stops working altogether if you go back to the voir dire screen. A small mistake here could lock you into a pool that does not accurately reflect the strikes and completely derail the setup in JuryStar.

JuryStar gets a bit hung up on the user interface end. The app is a little bit unintuitive and is not iOS standard. Accordingly, there is a bit more of a learning curve with JuryStar. Additionally, JuryStar operates only in portrait mode with no rotation to take advantage of the wider screen in landscape.

 

Overall, it’s a tough call as to which app is better. JuryPad wins not only on price, but also ease of use. JuryStar wins on feedback, ability to rate jurors during voir dire, and custom question templates but loses ground for it’s interface and undo function. Both would be recommended in the absence of any other approach and both certainly excel over the old scribbled notes on yellow legal pad method.

iJuror: iPad App for Jury Selection

Almost immediately after posting, the developer of iJuror contacted me asking to include that app in this post as well. iJuror ($19.99) provides many of the same features discussed above. But, iJuror offers just about the best over-all summary/visual feedback for rating each juror. Both color and rating can be made to appear, as well as race/sex on each individual juror. The panel can be customized and, best of all, roulette style pickers can be customized as well for quick data entry during selection on important key issues. While offering some benefits over JuryStar and JuryPad, iJuror is somewhat confusing in layout and user-interface. There are two modes for jurors, info and note, yet the notes field is contained in the info mode while none of the detailed demographic and stock info is detailed in the note mode. Additionally, answer space for custom text questions is limited to only about a single sentence. Exercising strikes is relatively easy, and jurors can be placed in the box by drag and drop. The app also offers two additional ‘in-app’ purchases: Juror Scoring ($4.99) and Juror Behavior ($9.99) which expand the capability of the app beyond initial voir dire and selection.

Old Standbys for iPad Jury Selection

There are also a few old standbys for jury selection. The spreadsheet method, which still gets used from time to time, can be easily modified to incorporate a wide variety of issues and circumstances. Numbers on the iPad is a simple, easy to use spreadsheet app and can easily adapt to creating a jury selection template. It’s not that great, but it’ll do in a pinch. There’s also this old but simple Bento approach to jury selection developed here on MacLitigator some years ago. The Bento template is still my preferred method to this day mainly because of the filters built in which allow marking jurors as those to be stricken (either peremptory or for-cause) and then viewed as a final panel. JuryPad and JuryStar, however, are both getting very close to replacing that old Bento approach.

Trial Notebook iPad App – Review

TabLit recently released Trial Notebook ($69.99), an app aimed at making trial preparation easier and more organized for lawyers. The app is a great concept with a good start, but is still a bit rough around the edges and a bit of a learning curve as it took about 2 hours to become familiarized and comfortable working with the app.

Trial Notebook Concept

Any lawyer who has taken more than a few cases to trial is familiar with the concept of a trial notebook. Everything that matters gets placed into the three or two ring binder ‘notebook’ and neatly organized by tabs. Though each lawyer may have their own preferences, the basics in a civil case usually include tabs for: Case Info/Summary; To-Do List; Witnesses; Jury Selection; Jury Instruction; Damages; Exhibits; Pleadings/Orders; Opening; and, Closing.

Making the Trial Notebook Electronic – iPad

The iPad begs to be used as an electronic version of the trial notebook. Transitioning the trial notebook concept to the tablet platform makes perfect sense. TabLit’s approach takes the standard concept of a trial notebook and adds in the features which would be expected of an electronic version, including word search for the entire notebook. In each ‘tab,’ Trial Notebook allows creation of two main types of page: outline mode or checklist mode. In addition there are two other types of page: a ‘document’ based page and a ‘contacts’ based page. The contacts page will pull info from iOS Contacts. However, it is a bit unpolished in use because it doesn’t allow searching or sorting of iOS contacts, making it virtually impossible to locate the contact you want to add to your trial notebook.

Trial Notebook currently allows Dropbox integration in a ‘download’ only mode with no two-way sync. Documents, including images, PDFs, and Word docs all download fine and are viewable in the app. In fact, Trial Notebook was extremely fast and stable while downloading an entire set of folders and subfolders on a complex litigation case that is just weeks shy of a jury trial, including a prior trip up the appellate court ladder. Many other apps have choked and crashed trying to download data this large from Dropbox. PDFs are not indexed even if they have been OCR’d, only text within the app shows up in searches. The app also includes the ability to track the admission of exhibits, i.e. documents are added from the main library to an ‘Evidence’ or ‘Exhibits’ page and they can be check-boxed (customizable). The developers plan to include two-way Dropbox sync as well as PDF annotation in a not-too-distant release. A premium pay-to-use service is also in the work. The service allows staff to collaborate and add items to a notebook via an online interface. Allowing staff to modify and add items through a web-based interface at the office and sync those directly down to the iPad is a good idea for attorneys on the go.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the ability to pick an item from anywhere else in the notebook and drop it on the page you are currently viewing. So, in use, you could include a reference to an exhibit within a witness examination outline and the reference would also pull the checkboxes for admitted/denied. At that point in the examination, after moving admission, you could then check the appropriate box and the check would also be reflected on the main exhibit list page. Checklist items (for example for elements of proof) could be used in the same fashion. Additionally, tapping the hyperlink will jump you directly to the referenced item. Unfortunately, there is no plan to allow presentation of the exhibit via an AppleTV or VGA adapter cable. Also, beware: there is no ‘back’ button or recent item navigation so it may make it hard to find your way back to the examination outline in the middle of trial.

Text formatting on the outline pages is a bit odd, with icons that are pixelated and reminiscent of Word ’95. Additionally, there are many spots in the app that, from a user interface standpoint, are just plain silly. For example, when creating a New Checklist type page, you are presented with the option to save or discard the new page via an ‘X’ button or save via a ‘floppy disc’ icon…. Really. A floppy disc icon on an iPad.

Picking nits aside, the app really is a great concept and the developers are very responsive. As the app matures and further develops these 1.0 bumps will, no doubt, be resolved. If you don’t already have a system in place for an electronic trial notebook (such as Circus Ponies Notebook; OmniOutliner; PDF based or otherwise), TabLit’s Trial Notebook could provide you a useful starting point.

 

Fantastical for iPhone

Calendar Alternative for iPhone

Fantastical has been released for iPhone. Long available for the Mac, Fantastical for the iPhone is exactly, precisely, what a calendar should look like and how a calendar should function on your iPhone. Limited time initial release pricing is only $1.99 and so so worth it.

PACERPro – Federal Court Dockets Simplified

Solving Federal Court Docket Headaches

Managing documents and pleadings from the federal court PACER system can be frustrating. Anyone who has accessed a lengthy docket or attempted to download a motion for summary judgment, memorandum in support and attached exhibits has experienced the dissatisfaction of the current, somewhat dated, federal system interface. Navigating, searching and finding documents across the entire federal court PACER docket system has been near impossible. PacerPRO attempts the herculean task of not only corralling unruly downloads and searching within a single case docket, but also undertakes the herculean task of providing an accessible means of searching across all federal court case dockets.

PacerPRO takes a significant step in the right direction, providing a clean and easy-to-use interface for not only accessing the PACER system, but also managing the documents once they are located. The most interesting aspect is that they are using a sort of ‘crowd sourcing’ approach to gather up prior searches, making search quicker. The downsides right now include no search of the actual text contained in the pleading, memorandum etc. as well as limited fields available for search (e.g. Court, party names, case number, filing dates).

Highlights from the press release include: Searching PACER – Search, filter and save results across multiple courts simultaneously; Document Management – create and save collections of documents, reflect changes in the docket, and organize document collections; Mobile Access – Entirely web-based, PacerPRO provides attorneys access to important case information anywhere at anytime, iPad application, maintain offline collections.

Although PacerPRO does not yet allow the ‘dream’ of an all-areas backstage pass to federal filings, it takes a serious step in the right direction. Firms or lawyers who find themselves regularly wallowing in lengthy court dockets or desiring to search across the federal court docket system will likely find PacerPRO well worth the subscription price. Occasional federal litigators may not use the service frequently enough to justify the monthly cost.

Bento Upgrade – No Contact Syncing

Bento is a great application for everything from tracking client info to conducting jury selection/voir dire. But, when is an update/upgrade not an upgrade? The new Bento iPad is a significant upgrade over the prior version. To get the improved iPad version and still sync data with your Mac, you need to update the desktop version of Bento. However, doing so eliminates the connection between desktop Bento and the Contacts app under Mountain Lion. Here’s how to keep syncing Contacts with Bento all the way around.

Bento – 4.1x – Address Book, Contacts and Sync

When syncing with iPad for the first time, the latest update to Bento tells you that “Your Bento Address Book library did not sync with your iPad. To sync this data with your iPad, you must migrate your Bento Address Book library to a new Bento Contacts library. This new Bento Contacts library will not be linked to your Mac OS X Address Book. This cannot be undone.”

An ominous sounding warning and one which drove me from ‘migrating’ my Bento address book on my Mac. Bento is a handy address book editor… it can be used to edit a good deal of Address Book (now “Contacts” under Mountain Lion) in short order. Bento can slice and dice Contacts in a powerful manner with sorts, fields filter etc. Losing this ability in order to sync Contacts with iPad is inexplicable but may have something to do with the impending sandboxing. Here’s the trick to reject this migration, maintain an ability to edit Contacts in Mac Bento, and have everything sync to your iPad.

  • First of all, don’t migrate. It cannot be undone to my knowledge.
  • Second of all, reject the offer to migrate and hit the “Don’t show this again” checkbox.
  • Third, on your iPad, add a new library, choose Contacts, and choose “Sync Address Book contacts.”

The net effect of this approach forces Bento iPad to pull your contacts info from your iOS Contacts database. But, Bento for Mac still syncs directly with Contacts on the Mac. So, any changes made to the Contacts on the Mac go up to iCloud, down to your iOS device and across to Bento. It’s unclear if this will continue to work down the road and YMMV. It’s deplorable that Filemaker and Apple cannot reconcile this issue in a less convoluted manner. Bento 4.1.x on the Mac actually has less functionality as a result of an ‘update.’

Rulebook Updated – 1Ls and Citation Geeks Rejoice

Just in time for back-to-school, The Bluebook is now available on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch as an in-app purchase through rulebook. The Bluebook is a uniform system of legal citation force fed to first year law students and relied upon by citation junkies everywhere. Serious legal writers and experienced lawyers also use The Bluebook to maintain their credibility with the recent law grads who clerk at the courts since these new grads firmly believe that anyone who fails to cite in compliance with The Bluebook knows nothing about the law. The in-app purchase is the same price as a hard copy, but just try searching hard copy for the proper format for Commercial Recordings so that you can correctly cite Don Henley, The Boys of Summer, on Building the Perfect Beast (Geffen Records 1984).

Essential Mac Apps

The best part about Macs is the ease of upgrading to new hardware. In the old Windows days, an upgrade to new hardware meant hours lost reinstalling applications, hunting down serial number and praying to the software licensing gods that there wouldn’t be some crazy limitation preventing you from installing software you already purchased on your shiny new computer. With a Mac, the ability to easily transfer an entire user environment (apps, data, settings) from the old hardware is dead simple.

But, recently, I came into possession of an iMac. Not having worked from a desktop in a very long time, I decided to do a clean install of OS X and then track which apps I was forced to install first.

The First Apps Installed On A Clean Mac

Notably, you can get quite a bit of work down without installing anything. OS X’s built in Mail, Calendar, Preview (reads PDFs) and Address Book get you up to speed fairly quickly, and for free. But, it also didn’t take long to start needing other stuff to get the job done quickly, and more comfortably. So, from first installed to last, here’s the list of essential Mac OS X apps used in my daily routine.

June 29, 2012: Update – I was just over at MILO and read New Jersey estate planning lawyer Victor Medina’s response listing his essential Mac apps. He included Dropbox and Alfred (or LaunchBar). I actually use both of those and, in fact, installed those early on but they so seamlessly integrate into my workflow that I forgot to include them on the list altogether.

1. BusyCal – Sync with just about anything and list view.
2. Moom – Getting windows set just right on the screen.
3. 1Password – Surprised this didn’t come in first, really. Tracks all your important passwords AND credit cards, driver’s licenses etc.
4. TextExpander – Too many joys to explain, from audience specific signature lines in emails to shortcuts for legal citations.
5. OmniFocus – When you get tired of spinning your wheels and going ten different directions at once, put some direction to your energy (just don’t put it all into micromanaging your ToDo list, a.k.a. know when to stop organizing what you need to do and start doing stuff.)
6. Pages – Because, eventually, you’ll need to write something with substance and formatted in an eye pleasing manner.
7. DEVONthink Pro Office – Heavy lifting, digging deep case and issue analysis.
8. Skitch – Screenshots, but importantly, screenshot filenames which tell you where the screenshot came from, including the page number of the PDF you were looking at when you took the screenshot.
9. Circus Ponies NoteBook – Collecting and building notes, depo outlines, thoughts, themes and exhibits, so that it can all get thrown together into a Trial Notebook.
10. Default Folder X – OS X’s continuing shortcoming? Finder. Fix it with this nice little utility that makes the finder truly useful, including the ability to add OpenMeta tags to files as you save them.
11. DEVONtechnologies Free Word Service – Ever need to delete bunch of line endings or change an ALL CAPS line to small caps? Go get this free utility to quickly and effortlessly manipulate text.
12. DEVONsphere – $4.99 on the app store. Get it and play with it. It can be a bit of processor hog, so set it on a weekly index schedule, preferably on a day you are not working.
13. OmniOutliner Pro – The old standby outliner. It is a great way to organize depo outlines and the standout columns feature allows you to sort by date, or do spreadsheet style calculations.
14. Parallels/WinXP (TextMap, WordPerfect) – Bleh. Occasionally you just get sucked back in… think of it as going into the storage room in the basement to pull some old file out of archives and then relish your return to the sunlit corner office of Mac OS X.

Do you have a ‘must install’ app not listed above? Tell us about it in the comments, including the ‘why.’

MacSparky – Paperless

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I didn’t want to write this. No, really, I didn’t want to write this. You see, other lawyers read this blog. Other lawyers are my competition. ‘Paperless’ by David Sparks makes it far too easy for other lawyers, a.k.a. my competition, to adopt a paperless system. Also, I’m quite jealous. David Sparks has written a book that I wish I could have written. Available, for now, in iBooks format only.

But, here’s the thing. The book is just so amazingly straightforward, awesome, and educational that I can’t help but pass it on. If you ever wondered how you could possibly go paperless, start here, look no further. David Sparks has written not only something that is beautiful to look at and read, but also entertaining and informative in a way that allows even the most entrenched Luddite to move forward with technology in their life. So, if you have an iPad and can spare the five bucks (come on you can spare five bucks) go pick up this book.