Tag Archives: Apps

Land of Linkin’ – Apps for Illinois Lawyers

Debra Pickett is President of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

Vicki Steiner, at UCLA’s Law Library, assembled a fantastic guide to Mobile Apps for Legal Research and News.

She includes a pretty comprehensive set of national resources, from the ABA Journal’s free app to the $54.99 iPhone, iPad and Android-friendly versions of Black’s Law Dictionary, which are well worth checking out.  (Android users will also want to explore DroidLaw, a free reference that has evolved significantly since Steiner listed it.  And downloaders on all platforms all well-advised to steer clear of LawBox, which Steiner describes as a free app, but which has recently dramatically changed its interface and moved all of its most useful, state-specific content behind a pay wall.)

For Illinois attorneys, there are a number of locally-based apps to use and explore, too.  Consider:

Illinois Statutes ($5.99) – iPhone listing of all 67 Chapters of Illinois Law, including the Illinois Vehicle Code, the Illinois Criminal Code and the Code of Civil Procedures.  Updates when the law changes.

Illinois Compiled Statutes ($29.99) – Same basic content as above, but with superfast searching and offline access (for those no Wifi, no 3G courthouses) and a more user-friendly set-up.

Illinois Pro Bono (FREE) – Created by Illinois Legal Aid, this easy-access directory lists volunteer and training opportunities across the state, organized by area of interest.  (Incidentally, the group has also created a Legal Aid app for non-lawyers.  It’s an easy-to-understand field guide for those dealing with divorce, child custody matters, small claims, evictions and foreclosures.)

Finally, for lobbyists, or, really, anyone interested in “how the sausage is made,” legally speaking, Cohen Research Group’s Illinois+ ($4.99, for iPhone) and IllinoisPro ($29.99 for Blackberry) are must-have tools.  These interactive lists of contact, staff and biographical information on Illinois legislators connect you quickly to the folks making decisions in Springfield.  Incidentally, their well-known guide to Capitol Hill is called Congress in Your Pocket.  I’m assuming they didn’t want to call this one “Illinois In Your Pocket” because the listings for state senators and representatives do not include PayPal links to make contributions to their campaigns.  Perhaps that’s coming in an update.

Have fun downloading and exploring this stuff and let me know what you think.  While I can’t promise you’ll love these new tools, I can assure you that it will be a more valuable use of your smartphone than, say, tweeting insults about opposing counsel.

Crisis of communications

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

The other day, I asked one of my clients how he felt about social media. He replied: “There are so many applications and programs out there, it gives me a never-ending headache. I don’t know what these things are, but everyone tells me that I should be using them.”

Understandable. The way we communicate is changing at a breakneck pace – seemingly in the “real time” of new applications. Everyday we learn about new tools, new programs, new recommended applications … and somehow we have to know what each one is, how to use it, which is best and where the value of each one lies. And as soon as we determine the nuts and bolts of a new tool and realize the value, along comes a new and improved version, and we’re back to square one.

I call this the crisis of communications. A communications overload can make people feel, well, overloaded, and often causes a complete shutdown. With so many different applications and programs to start and join conversations, send and receive news, and react and interact with firms and individuals, it sometimes seems easier to just keep quiet.

Consider the following to avoid shutting down and experiencing your own personal crisis of communications.

1. Quantity

You’re in a quantity crisis if you want to use every social media platform available to communicate with the rest of the world. The problem is that using too many will cause your message to get diluted or completely lost. Do you have the time and resources to manage each application? Sure, you’ve joined the current discussion on Twitter, but you haven’t updated your blog since January. You’ve started a new Facebook fan page, but the “News” section of your website is out-of-date or completely bare. Choose a manageable number of avenues to communicate your message and give these your all. Streamline your process between them, like integrating Twitter updates with your LinkedIn profile, or uploading YouTube videos to share on a Facebook page.

2. Quality

You’re in a quality crisis if you either find yourself taking a complete absence from the communications world or you start sending mundane updates about your favorite breakfast cereal or the color of your dog’s new collar. Yes, the news is now delivered in “real” time, but the news itself must still be real. Delivering quality information that matters to your target audience is still essential, regardless of the applications or programs you are using. What you can do is adjust the message to the medium – for example, tighten it up for Twitter, and make it interactive for a Facebook page.

3. Questions

Have you said to yourself, “I don’t understand any of this, so I’m going to stick with what’s always worked and not change my ways”? Unfortunately, sending updates by “snail mail” isn’t the way to deliver breaking news, even if it has worked in the past. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask questions. Social networks make it easy to ask and answer inquiries – some without even needing to participate. Forums and community message boards are a great way to test the waters and get the answers you need before diving in. Know that you don’t have to be the expert in every application and new program to be a success in the Communications 2.0. Align yourself with people and professionals who understand your message, know your desired end result, and have the resources to help you. And if all else fails, you can always tweet “HELPPP!!!!”