I am a diehard BlackBerry fan. I’ve had a BlackBerry since the early days, when they looked like little black pagers. Before the phones. The first time I saw one, I still remember where I was and what I was doing. Raquel Rodriguez, former Chair of the YLD, and I were in Washington, DC, at an ABA meeting.
We were sitting in the hotel lounge, and she said, “They are on their way.”
I said, “Who?”
She named some lawyers from her firm.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because they just sent me an email.”
And I said, “What?” Email was still pretty new, and she was nowhere near a computer.
Rocky pulled a little pager-looking thing out of her purse and called it a BlackBerry. Her firm had provided them to everyone. Despite the fact that they were pretty expensive, I knew I had to get one. If you could arrange a social event with a few keystrokes when you are not in front of a computer or a laptop, what else could you do? I was one of the first lawyers in my courtrooms to have one. Everyone would walk by and say, “What is that?” Eventually, they got in the game and here we are—everyone has a BlackBerry, an iPhone, or another brand of smartphone. Instant communication is a way of life.
I never even thought about getting an iPad2 because of my long-standing loyalty to BlackBerry. In fact, I have restrained myself from going over to the Mac side because I have been told PC is the way to go for lawyers. Truth is I am afraid that if I go Mac I will never go back: that instead of being more simple, tech life will get more complicated. Anyway, I just knew RIM was going to come out with something that would surpass everything else. Last summer, I went to the RIM website to see when they would release a tablet. I stumbled upon some information and saw the first ad for the Playbook. It looked so sleek and amazing I could not wait for it to arrive. So I waited.
From August 2010 to April 19, 2011, I watched news of the Playbook online. I saw every article and video release from the company and from tech shows available. I got into it in a way I never have before on a product. (Not including women’s clothing, shoes, or cosmetic items.) I knew exactly why I needed it and how I could use it to operate my small practice more efficiently. After all, as a solo practitioner, we have to think of creative ways to maximize our ability to work and be productive.
During that whole waiting period a parade of lawyers came to my office for mediations with their iPads. They were all on Cloud 9. I saw how they zipped around websites, reviewed court documents, and looked things up from this little tablet they carried in their briefcases. And I just knew that the Playbook was going to put them all to shame. After all, in my opinion BlackBerry email push has been unparalleled. I can tap out emails with lightning speed; can navigate and sync with ease. I envisioned doing all of that with the new Playbook. And lots more. So when the time came to preorder a Playbook with a $50 deposit at Best Buy, I signed up! They had me. Hook. Line. And sinker.
The night before April 19, 2011, the day the Playbook was released, was like the night before Christmas. I would finally be able to do the things I wanted to do on the fly without a cumbersome laptop. I would be able to work on my manuscripts while waiting in court. I could post my blog directly from the Playbook. That day, I couldn’t get out of the office until right at 5:00 p.m. I was worried that they might have sold out. The day really did drag! But sure enough, the time came, and I headed over to Best Buy.
When I walked in I ran into a board certified family lawyer friend of mine, Lindsey Short. He shared my excitement. We both drank the same Kool Aid. With giddy smiles and our wallets extended, we got our Playbooks up and running, and our Mi-Fis—oops, never mind none of the literature online had mentioned I would need a Mi-Fi with a monthly plan in order to make the Playbook really work and that the BlackBerry Bridge with my BlackBerry would not be fast enough on its own, but who cares? I was about to get what I wanted, so I pushed down an uneasy discomfort and plowed ahead.
I wish I could say the next part of the story is the honeymoon phase, but it isn’t. There was actually no honeymoon phase. From the start it was one thing after the other, and I spent more time that first week in Best Buy than I did in the office. I apologize if this sounds a bit like my first quick marriage, but there are some startling similarities. None of my hopes and dreams came true. Some may say I had unrealistic expectations. Or that I gave up too soon. But the fact of the matter is that the Playbook was released before it was ready and was not, per the UCC, fit for the particular purpose for which it was intended. The BlackBerry Bridge did not work. The Mi-Fi 4G did not work. Nothing would sync. I could not open attachments. I could not send photos from the camera in an email. There are not enough apps that work. No one could figure it out. From April 19 to May 4, I tried a combination of dealing with Best Buy and using the RIM support line. The one feature I was able to see in action is the multitasking aspect, but it really did not offer me any benefit because I could not attach or download documents or send or receive email.
I was disappointed. I called Lindsey Short, and he had already taken his back. He encountered a different set of problems in his larger office. His tech support guy could not get it to work either and said that all of his systems had to be “overridden”; in other words, his office servers had to be disconnected, a breach of security had to take place, and then the system had to be reconnected behind it. That sounds pretty confusing to me. I am sure the super techies will understand what that means, but to us lawyers who have important things to do—we don’t care: we just need it to work.
Another observation I will make that turned out to be big for me was the size. Before it came out, I was excited that the Playbook was smaller and lighter than the iPad2. I took it to a couple of CLE events, and I noticed that I felt uncomfortable pulling it out of my purse. It is small like a Game Boy and does not look like a functional business tool. I would venture to guess if you did an experiment at a CLE event with one person using an iPad2 and one person using a Playbook, people would think the person with the iPad2 was getting serious work done while the Playbook person was just playing games. (Appearances can be deceiving, I know!) Maybe that is why they named it Playbook!
I was told by RIM that they were aware of the problems and they were working on it. I tried to wait, but it was just too much time, too much money, and too much to fiddle around with for me. Luckily, on May 4, Best Buy did give me a full refund even though they tried to pull the fourteen-day deal on me. They had seen me up there all the time and knew I was trying to get it to work. So I turned it in and went straight over to the Apple Store to buy my iPad2.
What Lindsey and I, and all other busy lawyers, needed was a dependable, secure unit that will give us many of the features of our desktop and laptops with the lightness and ease of the tablet. Neither of us found it in the Playbook. I spoke with Lindsey as I wrote this article and a few months down the road—he is still checking tablets out. He has not gone over to what some may consider the “dark side” with an iPad2. Coincidentally, when I rang him, he was at the annual Advanced Family Law Conference in Texas and had just heard a presentation that touted the iPad2 as the best all around tablet for lawyers. I believe it.
The Playbook does not have apps like FastCase, Objection, LawStack, LawBox, Zillow, Good Reader, and Exhibit A, all of which are wonderful tools for a lawyer to use in his or her daily practice. I was unable to use Dropbox or Logmein on the Playbook.
To be fair, RIM told me they put out patches that have improved the Playbook, and they report that the initial problems are over. Too late—I am already down the road and happy with my iPad2. For RIM’s sake, let’s hope it is true and that the Playbook will be a big seller for them. I am still a BlackBerry fan. I will just be a bit more cautious next time like I will be in my next marriage when it happens!
Neither the ABA nor ABA Divisions endorse non-ABA products or services, and the product reviews in GPSolo eReport should not be so construed.