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CALA Update: Smokeball Saves the Day With Its Recent Improvements

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


September 5, 2019

It’s been almost 10 months since we first announced our partnership with the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA), and we are excited to bring you this update from CALA Executive Director, Lam Nguyen Ho.

Smokeball Saves the Day With Its Recent Improvements

By: Lam Nguyen Ho

I was in court about a month ago for a contentious divorce for undocumented immigrant whom CALA is representing through its free legal clinic in Little Village. During a heated exchange with opposing counsel, the judge asked an unexpected question about a document from nearly a year (and numerous court appearances) ago. After initial panic when I realized I had not dragged the binder with documents that far back, I remembered that I had the Smokeball app on my phone. Fortunately, I had scanned all the documents for the case and uploaded them into Smokeball. I was able to scroll through all the documents for the case, and pull up the document I needed! Having the document helped me win the dispute!

It’s been almost 10 months since CALA (Community Activism Law Alliance) started our partnership with Smokeball. We remain deeply grateful for the technology boost that Smokeball has kindly given to our organization. It has made our work significantly easier, more efficient, and faster, saving us countless hours so that we can help more low-income, underserved clients. But, I want to focus on the recent updates over the past two months that have dramatically enhanced our work.

Smokeball App

Smokeball has had an app since we started using the software, but the app has been updated several times. However, over the past the few months, it has been dramatically overhauled: becoming a richly-featured application that offers many additional functions. Instead of an application that was only an interface for viewing limited data, the Smokeball app can do so much more. We can work directly on cases now using the app, adding notes and making edits. Furthermore, the app now gives us access to nearly all the information and features of the program. We can see and edit all of our tasks, as well as add new ones; and we can do the same for our calendar and events. Overall, we use the app more often, and for many more functions, on our tablets and phones (like the court emergency described above).

Activity & Time Tracking

One of the newest features added to Smokeball is one that we have been waiting for since we first started using Smokeball: activity and time tracking for our casework. While CALA is a nonprofit organization that does not charge our clients fees, the activity and time tracking functions are important to us for two reasons: 1) understanding how we spend our time and evaluating ways to improve our efficiency and 2) keeping the time we spend on fee-shifting cases for which attorneys’ fees are available. We had to rely on hand-written pieces of papers and poorly organized spreadsheets for these functions (or we just didn’t bother doing them). Given how useful it is for us, I’m sure it would be exponentially more useful for private attorneys for whom keeping track of hours and billing has to be done regularly.

What Else Is Coming?

We are constantly impressed by Smokeball’s frequent upgrades. We always look forward to updates to see what improvements and new features are added to the already fantastic software. They are sure to further improve our organization, our productivity, and our ability to help our clients.

As always, we are so grateful for Smokeball and its generosity. It keeps getting better and we look forward to growing our partnership with Smokeball as it helps our organization grow.  And of course, thank you for saving me in court last month!




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