A Cornucopia of Legal Resources for Palm Users
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Once upon a mid-day dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious question of forgotten law --
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly I started tapping,
On my Palm I started tapping, tapping on that grayish screen.
"'Tis the answer," I muttered, "there upon my trusted Palm--
With Palm I need nothing more."
APOLOGIES TO Poe, but nevermore need the mobile lawyer be away from essential reference texts or office applications, thanks to the Palm handheld computer and the host of Palm applications and information that can be downloaded from the Web.
If you think Palms are just about calendars and contacts, take a tour of what's on the Web. You'll find everything from the U.S. Constitution in Palm-readable format, to time and billing programs.
The place for Palm-connected lawyers to start is PalmLaw, www.palmlaw.com, which describes itself as a resource for Palm users "with law-related needs and interests." If you are ravenous about your Palm, think of this site as a sort of support group.
One of the first facts you'll pick up here is that you are not alone. According to the FAQ, a third of lawyers last year used some sort of PDA -- personal digital assistant -- of whom more than 80 percent used Palms.
Operated by Joseph Kornowski, associate executive director and general counsel of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, PalmLaw hosts a library of law-related documents and texts, all available to be downloaded in Palm format.
These range from the Constitution and the federal rules of evidence and civil procedure, to primers on copyright law, to weekly lawyer jokes.
For the wireless among you -- Palm VII owners who can connect to the Internet --PalmLaw has created customized interfaces that allow you to use your Palm to search the U.S. Code, locate a lawyer through Martindale Hubbell, find an expert, or pinpoint a court in Los Angeles county.
The Web's most extensive library of law-related documents for the Palm is the Memoware PDA Document Repository, where almost everything offered is free. Documents include practical tools, such as the Federal Criminal History Calculator and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Lookup; various state and federal laws and regulations; selected court rules; historical documents, including landmark decisions from the Supreme Court; and items of current interest, including the U.S. v. Microsoft findings of fact.
All documents are labeled with date, format, creator and file size to guide you in selecting.
A more limited selection of legal texts is offered from Peanut Press, a company dedicated to publishing high-quality fiction and nonfiction in formats that can be downloaded to and read on a Palm or other handheld device.
Its entire law collection consists only of the constitutions of the U.S., California, Florida and Texas; and the federal, California and Texas rules of evidence. But while you are there, you can download a good mystery or the latest tome on business success. These texts are not free, but not expensive either. The Constitution costs $3; the Federal Rules of Evidence is $14.
Installing A Reader
In order to see any of these documents on your Palm, you first must install a reader.
The most popular of these are:
* AportisDoc, which lets you read, search through and annotate electronic text and books of any size. You can buy it for $30.
* iSilo, a document reader that allows you to convert HTML, text and .doc documents for viewing on a Palm. You can download it for free.
* TealDoc!, a document reader with features such as embedded images, changeable fonts, forward and backward searching, and automatic scrolling. It costs $16.95.
Books from Peanut Press require its own Peanut Reader, with free versions available for the Palm operating systems as well as Windows CE.
For transferring your own documents, try Documents To Go. This $39.95 synchronization utility allows you to view your desktop word processing and spreadsheet files, such as Word and Excel, on your Palm, while retaining the document's original formatting.
Every time you synchronize your Palm with your desktop computer, it will synchronize the linked files to the most recent version. A free add-on, Attachments To Go, allows you to view e-mail attachments on the Palm. Find it at Dataviz.
With so much of the information lawyers want being on the Web, an essential tool for the Palm is AvantGo.
This free service allows you to download virtually any Web content you choose to your Palm (or Windows CE device), whether or not you have a modem.
On your way to hearing, for example, you could go to a court's Web site and download its local rules, then store a map and driving directions from MapQuest.
In addition, AvantGo offers specific information channels designed exclusively for it.
No modem is necessary. Select the sites you want, and when you sync your Palm with your computer, the Web pages are downloaded or updated, available for browsing while offline. If you fill out a Web form while offline, it will be sent out next time you sync.
Of course, if your Palm has a modem, you can connect directly to the Internet and use AvantGo to browse any Web site.
One example of an AvantGo channel is IPO Express 2 Go. It lets you use your Palm to keep up with the latest news on the IPO market, including the latest filings and pricing. Palm VII wireless users can access IPO Express directly, while other Palm users can install it as an AvantGo channel, which will be updated whenever they synchronize their Palm.
Beyond documents, another key application for lawyers is using the Palm to keep track of time and billing. Several companies provide applications that allow integration and synchronization of time and billing information between the Palm and popular desktop programs.
* Time Matters offers a Palm link with features that allow you to view the schedules of multiple members of your staff and to link your cases and matters to all your Palm calendar, contacts and to-do records. All records are reconciled every time you sync your Palm with your computer.
* TimeReporter 2000 is an application that lets you track time, expenses and mileage on both your Palm and your PC. It tracks meetings, phone calls, and other events, letting you run a timer or enter time directly. You can assign time to clients, projects, activities or users.
* TimeReporter also offers utilities allowing Palm integration of two other popular time-and-billing programs, Carpe Diem and Timeslips.
* AbacusLaw includes Palm synchronization as a standard feature. Use it to transfer your calendar, contact and case information to your Palm and be prepared when away from the office.
For keeping up generally with the latest applications, utilities, games or whatever for your Palm, a comprehensive site is PalmGear HQ, www.palmgear.com. Besides downloads, the site offers news updates, tips and more for Palm users.
Robert J. Ambrogi is director of the American Lawyer Media News Service and contributing editor to Law Technology News.