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Nowadays, I think most transit systems probably have an app that tells you when the next bus or train is coming. Handy, but I found a new app – Citymapper – which is great for planning out how to get where you need to go.

Citymapper will help you find your away around cities across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Most of the time you don’t even need an address. Just type in the name of the restaurant, museum, building, etc. and the app will tell you numerous ways to get there via public transit.

And if you want to explore other travel options, Citymapper also provides walking and bike routes (including the nearest bike share location) and Uber estimates. It’s all there…in one app.

Got a favourite app? I would love to hear about it.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

I recently read about a great tool that helps you to simplify your writing. The Hemingway App highlights:

  • sentences that are difficult to read – yellow sentences are hard to read, while red are “egregious”;
  • use of the passive voice; and
  • phrases that have simpler alternatives (e.g., with respect to).

It also provides a grade level-based readability rating of your prose.

I tried out Hemingway by entering a legal summary that I had written for a non-legal audience. A sea of yellow and red! And a readability rating of “Post-Graduate”. Gasp!

After adding bullets and making some fairly minor revisions, I was able to resolve most of the issues. The new readability rating – Grade 8 – seemed pretty reasonable for a legal summary.

Hat tip to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (@CivResTribunal) for bringing this tool to my attention. They are aiming for a Grade 6 reading level – the average level in Canada – even for their tribunal decisions. This is a significant step toward improving accessibility of the law.

Check out the free online version of the Hemingway App.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

I love planning trips almost as much as going on the trip itself. So, I am always on the lookout for cool travel apps.

Ulmon CityMaps2Go is now my key tool for planning (and executing) city trips. You can use different coloured markers to map out all of the tourist attractions, restaurants and shops that you want to visit. I find the visual grouping of sites makes it easy to plan a day. Or, in the midst of a trip, to determine where to go next.

Ulmon also enables you to share your great ideas with travel companions. Once I have mapped out an upcoming trip, I send it to my spouse (who unlike me does not share my love for trip organization). She then has a quick overview of our plans for the trip and can click on any of the
markers to learn more about a particular venue.

I should also note that all of the maps can be downloaded for offline use. So, no need to incur expensive cellular charges.

I recently visited London. Here’s a quick snapshot, including our home base marked in blue.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

This is my second post in a series on my favourite smart phone apps.

Here’s one for folks who are seriously pressed for time (aren’t we all?) but who are still trying to keep up with non-fiction reading. Blinkist provides access to 15-minute summaries of books on a range of topics, including leadership, politics, marketing, parenting, nutrition, technology, psychology and so forth.

The summaries are prepared by Blinkist’s team of experts – they refer to themselves as “life librarians” – who read about 1000 books per year and distil each book into its key insights.

I tested it out on a book that I had already – “Bold” by Peter Diamandis – and I have to say, the summary did capture the key points of the book.

Blinkist includes both written and audio reviews of books. If you’re not sure where to start, Blinkist is continually highlighting top reads in each genre.

There is a fee, as this is a premium app, but you may find it’s worthwhile if you want to expand your options for continual learning.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

While smart phones are an increasingly big part of most lawyers’ practices, many lawyers only use their phones for email, text and calls. But there’s so much more you can do! This is the first post in a series on my favourite apps.

I am continually collecting receipts and Genius Scan is a great app for scanning them on the go. Using the camera on your phone, you can scan a single document or a series of documents. Then crop the scanned image or make other edits, including changing the page order. Finally, save the scanned document(s) as a PDF, and send it via email or print it.

Genius Scan’s security is probably not sufficient for scanning client documents. However, if you upgrade to Genius Scan+, there are options to encrypt PDF documents, as well as to create optical character recognition (OCR) or searchable PDFs.

In any event, if you have a use case like mine, where you need to create and edit PDFs of non-sensitive material, you may find Genius Scan to be very helpful.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

Cloud.

You’ve heard the term, perhaps wondered what it really meant and maybe even worried about it. ‘The cloud’ is just a marketing term that means the internet. So, if you see the term ‘cloud storage’, it means ‘store your documents on the internet’.

There are many benefits to using the cloud properly. If you pick the right providers, it will be easier to keep, manage and restore backups. You can also seriously expand your office – if you’re careful, you can have access to all your most important files anywhere you have an internet connection. And perhaps most helpful, some services will even handle security updates and patches for you.

Benefits aside, there are some important pitfalls to be aware of before you make any kind of cloud investment. Ultimately, transitioning to something cloud based involves getting many small details right. And, it is helpful to learn about best practices from people who have been through these types of business transitions before.

The Law Society of British Columbia developed guidelines for best practices in using the cloud back in 2012. The Prairie Law Societies adapted these guidelines into a checklist to help members use the cloud securely. The Law Society of Saskatchewan’s Cloud Computing Guide contains some important information, helpful best practices and a comprehensive checklist that will help you steer clear of the most common pitfalls.

[This tip by Greg Hluska originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]

 

A few years ago, I stopped using paper notes when giving presentations. Instead, I began using my iPad for speaking notes. It seemed easier (and less distracting) to scroll through a single page than flipping through paper notes.

While any note-taking app could serve this purpose, I noticed that the Pages app includes a Presenter Mode option. (This app is automatically included on all Apple devices. So, these instructions would also work with an iPhone.) Once in the Pages app, you can find the Presenter Mode by clicking on the ellipsis in the top-right corner. Presenter Mode turns your speaking notes into an easy-to-read teleprompter.

And, you don’t have to type your notes in the Pages app in order to use it. You can draft your notes in Microsoft Word, airdrop or email them to your iPad/iPhone and open the notes in Pages. It is all pretty simple and makes for easy reading.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

As a solo entrepreneur, I need to automate numerous tasks. Zapier – an online tool which enables you to build connections (or “zaps”) between two apps – makes the automation process super easy.

For example, if you wanted to automatically add your blog posts to your Twitter account, you would select WordPress and Twitter. Zapier then walks you through easy step-by-step instructions on how to connect the two apps. If you only want certain posts to appear in your Twitter feed, you can add a filter that only adds posts tagged with a certain category or written by a specified author.

Zapier provides access to thousands of apps, including apps for forms, email, to do lists, calendars, social media, note taking, accounting, etc. They have also recently added a new “paths” integration, which enables you to add conditional logic to your zaps.

I have found myself scanning their suggested zaps, looking to see what I can automate next.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

A few months ago, I was trying to find an article on AI that I had remembered tweeting. So, I started scrolling through my list of tweets. Even though I am not the most prolific tweeter, it was soon apparent that this was a futile approach. But searching “AI” wasn’t particularly helpful either.

Then I noticed that after you enter a search on Twitter, on the left hand-side of the results page, there are search filters and an Advanced Search option. For example, you can filter any search to focus on tweets from People you follow or Near you.

To search your own tweets (as I was doing) Advanced Search is your best bet. It includes the typical advanced search options (i.e., All of these words, This exact phrase, Any of these words, etc.) and then you can specify the accounts to search. In this case I used my Twitter handle – @lvanderbij.

And voila! There’s the article I was looking for.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

Today’s tip is to consider whether reminders or message previews on any of your devices could compromise client confidentiality.

Between calendar reminders and email/text previews that appear while you’re working–or that pop up on your phone’s lock screen even when you’re not using it–much has been written about how notifications are constantly interrupting our workflow and concentration.

But what about the potential for client communication to be unwittingly displayed when you aren’t expecting it? It’s worth thinking twice about whether any pop-up notifications could be revealing private information.

If you can’t figure out how control these settings on your device (not always an easy task!), a quick online search for your particular device or app will show you to disable previews and notifications.