Well, it’s that time of year again. Every August for the last several years I have devoted a “Ten Things” blog post to talking about super useful technology for in-house lawyers. Fortunately, there is always more cool tech to talk about and this year is no different. That said, if you want to go back and revisit some of the past cool tech blogs click here (2016, 2017, 2018). The ground rules are the same as always: (1) I receive no compensation for these recommendations, they’re just things I think in-house lawyers (any lawyers really) will find useful and helpful; (2) I try to focus mostly on free or low-cost technology – no breaking the bank for the most part; and (3) generally, everything I discuss should work for in-house lawyers anywhere in the world, not just the USA (if there is an exception, I’ll note it).
With that in mind, this edition of “Ten Things” discusses some of the coolest technology out there for in-house lawyers, things that will make your life a little easier and, hopefully, more productive:
1. Signal. One thing all in-house (and outside) lawyers can use is an encrypted way to text or to conduct a video/voice call. Why? Because the ethical rules require that certain client communications be kept confidential, where you are sitting when making the call and the potential for a hack, or just because of the sensitive nature of the discussion in general. Signal.org provides users with a free, encrypted text/video/calling service. It works on your desktop and on your iOS and Android device. Unfortunately, while you can conduct group text messages, Signal does not support encrypted group calls/video conferencing. If that’s what you need, try Free Conference Call (an encrypted service I use frequently and a past “Cool Tech” winner).
2. MobilePassport. Sorry, but this one is available only to US and Canadian passport holders but it’s pretty slick. It’s a free smartphone app that lets you bypass the long lines at US passport control and head to the mobile express lane, getting you and your bags through US customs in minutes. Download the app for your iOS or Android device and find more instructions here. It is fully approved by the US Border Patrol/Customs office. The free version works like this:
“Travelers will be prompted to create a profile via the app with their passport information. The profile includes the traveler’s name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship. Upon landing in the United States, travelers will complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, taking a self-photo, and answering a series of CBP inspection-related questions. Once the traveler submits their transaction through the app, the traveler will receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. Travelers then bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the United States.”
You still need to show your actual passport to the agent, but you get to use the special lane and the process goes much faster than the regular line. And it’s free!
3. Nimbus. There are times when you need a nice, clean screenshot of a website – either a section or the whole page (scroll and everything). Nimbus provides a free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc. that allows you to capture whatever you need and turn it into a .png file for PowerPoint presentations, emails, blogs, or whatever. You can resize, crop, blur-out parts, and even create videos and screencasts. It’s very easy to use and something I use several times a week.
4. Free Movies & TV. Cord-cutting is changing the world of entertainment such that it is now unrecognizable from when I was a kid. We had a handful of channels, depending on what the antenna on the rooftop could pull in. Now, I can get hundreds of channels connected to nothing but Wi-Fi. While I have all of the for-pay products like Netflix, Prime, and Hulu, I also use a lot of free services to watch movies and TV shows off the internet. I can get a wide variety of classic movies, foreign films and TV shows, and TV shows from my youth not always available on the for-pay services. Here is just a small number of the free services available:
- YouTube (free with ads)
- Vudo (free with ads)
- IMDB TV (with ads)
- SnagFilms (documentaries)
- PlutoTV (live TV and movies)
- TubiTV (movies and TV)
- Crackle (free with ads)
And, with any streaming device – like a Roku – you can find dozens of free speciality channels to satisfy whatever it is your mind is looking for in video entertainment when your home or on the road (hello Film-Noir channel).
5. AirBar. If you like touchscreens but don’t have one on your laptop, AirBar can fix that. AirBar is a bar that attaches to your PC laptop/MacBook screen with magnets, plugs into a USB port, and turns it into a touchscreen device. Once connected, you can pinch, zoom, scroll, swipe, rotate, use a stylus, or anything else you can normally do with a touchscreen. Prices start at around $60.00 USD.
6. Saent Button. If you haven’t figured it out yet, multi-tasking is a fool’s errand. The distractions and time-lost trying to return to and restart the task you were working on before the “other” task intervened adds up. And, not everyone can resist the urge to check emails or social media or other sites and apps while working (especially while on conference calls), just adding to the loss of time and focus. Saent solves that problem. Set up the Saent button and enter the amount of time you want to focus undisturbed on a task or project. Saent blocks digital distractions while you work – just tell it what programs, apps, etc. you want block and you’re now able to focus your attention 100% to the task at hand. You can schedule breaks and the button (when lighted up) can act as a do-not-disturb signal to your colleagues – especially handy if you work in an open office environment. Costs $59.00 USD and would be an excellent gift for your team members come the holidays.
7. GreenLighting Solar Powered Charger. This is really slick – a portable phone charger with suction cups so you can stick it to any window, e.g., taxi, Uber, airplane, train, or just leave it on a table while sitting outside enjoying a coffee. The GreenLighting charger charges at about 1% per minute and comes with a multi-plug charging cable that can fit most devices. And, if the sun’s not shining, you can charge the charger via a USB cable and plugging into your laptop. Costs $22.00 USD on Amazon.
8. Encrypted USB Drive/Hard Drive. I use a lot of USB drives to store documents, take things on the road, etc. I hadn’t really thought a lot about the security of the drive – i.e., what happens if I lose it – until I came across the Pampfort military-grade encrypted USB drive. It requires a password (entered via number keys on the device itself) to even show up on your computer and the 256-bit encryption makes it extremely difficult to hack. I got the 32 GB drive for around $40.00 USD on Amazon. There are many other companies offering similar drives so it’s a matter of personal choice and preferences/cost. If you want something larger, you can also buy a portable encrypted hard drive for anywhere from $100 to $500 USD. Cost is mostly dependent on the size of the drive you need. If you do any traveling and otherwise are putting sensitive documents on a USB drive or portable hard drive, it’s time to invest in an encrypted model.
9. PageVault. Sometimes you need super clean, forensically defensible screenshots of websites, social media pages, or online video. It could be for litigation, for an internal investigation, compliance issues, or whatever. You can try to do it yourself, but you usually get copies that look off/are misaligned (unless you use the above mentioned Nimbus extension). Or, if it is a 10,000-page website, clicking on screen shots may not be the best way to spend your time. And, authenticating the copies for use in litigation can be difficult when resorting to self-help (see, e.g., FRE 902(13)). PageVault solves this problem. It’s a pay-for-service that can provide one-time captures, on-going captures, captures of pages that may no longer exist online (including intentionally deleted pages), and much more. And, it can provide the content in multiple formats. So, if you (or your outside law firm) need serious webpage capture, check out PageVault.
10. Plexus Gateway Legal OS. Every so often, I come across technology that can be a real game-changer for in-house lawyers. A few months ago, Andrew Mellet, CEO of Legal Gateway, walked me through a demo of his company’s legal operating system. It was very impressive. Basically, it’s a desktop operating system for in-house legal departments – a system that provides apps and other tools tailored expressly for the needs of in-house lawyers. The available tools on the desktop include:
- Self-service automation apps.
- Automated intake and triage of new matters.
- Intelligent matter management.
- Automated workflows and approvals.
- Document automation.
- Integrated e-signatures.
- Built-in contract lifecycle management.
- Reporting analytics.
- Document comparison.
- Contract audit tools.
- Negotiation tools.
- Triggers and notifications.
And it integrates with over 250 apps, like Salesforce, Box, SharePoint, etc. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for the legal department! You can check out this short YouTube video showing how one of their clients uses the tool. If you’re looking to change the game for your legal department or if your just curious, you can ask for a free demo via the Plexus website.
That’s it for the 2019 “Cool Tech” winners. As always, I hope you take a few minutes to check out each of them and, even better, that you find one or two that make your in-house life easier or more productive. And if you have some cool tech you’d like to share, send me a note and I’ll check it out. Thanks for reading and be careful out there!
August 15, 2019
I am pleased to announce that I have rejoined the Dallas office of Hilgers Graben PLLC as Senior Counsel. My law firm email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out if you need anything. If you’re interested in a CLE for your department on any of my blog topics, including today’s, we can set that up.
I have three published books: Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel – Practical Advice and Successful Strategies, The Evolution of Professional Football, and The Slow-Cooker Savant. Volume 2 of the “Ten Things” book is with the publisher and should be out later this year. I am also available for speaking engagements, coaching, and consulting.
“Ten Things” is not legal advice nor legal opinion and represents my views only. It is intended to provide practical tips and references to the busy in-house practitioner and other readers. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at email@example.com.
 I don’t account for any export restrictions, so it’s possible that some of the technology may not be available due to such laws.