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It’s true that law practice may be more challenging than it’s ever been. And yet I marvel at the ingenuity some have brought to the profession, finding ways to automate the parts that should not require a graduate education to master.

So as we work on our October issue at Arizona Attorney Magazine, dedicated in large part to law office management, my radar is up for tools that take the arrggh out of an attorney’s day.

The smartest tools do not seek to do everything a lawyer does. Instead, they identify a single element of practice that could be improved. And that’s what a new app called “StandIn” appears to do.

How many of you have appeared in court or in chambers for another lawyer on her or his case? I recall doing that in California as a part of my solo practice. The money could be pretty good, and the work was flexible.

Plus, if you were lucky, a standard status conference might yield a few challenging questions from the judge—and who has graduated from law school and not yearned for a little of that? You had become familiar with the case file, so you could handle it, and it definitely got the blood pumping to: (1) interact with an inquiring judge while (2) not royally screwing up another lawyer’s case on what was supposed to be a 10-minute appearance.

But the cost of those great minutes as an oral advocate for your client was often an organizational headache. Getting hired for the appearance required significant back-and-forth with the attorney hiring you, especially if you didn’t yet know each other. It involved phone calls, faxing (remember that?), negotiating your fee, ensuing you knew which court to go to and what time. Plus, of course, getting photocopies of the case elements that were relevant to that day’s hearing. (And don’t get me started on finding a pay phone the day of when something went amiss. That used to be something lawyers had to do.)

Well, all of those concerns may not be eliminated for the lawyer doing appearances, but a recent essay pointed me to a solution to some of them. “StandIn” is called a replacement lawyer app, and it’s described well here by Cathy Reisenwitz. As she says, “StandIn lets lawyers who can’t make it to a court appearance find a stand-in for them. Lawyers log in and see who is available near the courthouse they need to be at. They can sort by experience, expertise, and availability.”

capterra logoLike other location-based apps you’re probably already familiar with, StandIn will also process payments and allow reviews of the hiring and hired attorney.

More about the product itself is on their website. It is based in Canada, but it’s moving into U.S. cities (and you can urge them to come to yours).

Even if you have no need of such an app, I recommend reading the essay anyway. And even though it’s not (yet) in Arizona, I commend the article to you. Why? Well, it’s well written, plus it probes these inventive people for their views of the future of the legal profession. Whether you’re doing appearances for others or writing wills or arguing zoning cases—or whatever—that future should interest you.

I also recommend following Cathy Reisenwitz and her firm Capterra (deets here). She covers many topics that might help your law practice, with just the right amount of snark to make law practice management less legally snoozeworthy. In fact, as we work on our October issue, I was pleased to see that one of our authors is a fan of an infographic that emerged from Capterra. That’s cool, as I am a fan too. You can see the graphic here.

And a final bit of pleasure for my blogging day: I was pleased to see that one of the StandIn founders came out of the Michigan State Reinvent Law initiative. I’ve written about it before, and I’m intrigued at the smart ideas that percolate up from entrepreneurial centers like this one. As I mentioned before, you really should follow their work; if you do that often enough, you’ll probably find other lawyers are following you.