iPad for lawyers: Practice law; tips and tricks; more

Tom Mighell

Tom Mighell

Nearly 25 million iPads were sold in 2011, adding to the millions already in use since Apple introduced the tablet device two years ago. Lawyers are embracing the new technology, particularly in the workplace.  About 15 percent of respondents of the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey indicate such use, with the percentage expected to grow this year.

To help show lawyers how to take their iPad from the living room to the courtroom, technologist Tom Mighell, author of iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, provides guidance.

Many people view the iPad as a device for leisure and entertainment. In what ways can the iPad be used as a tool to enhance productivity and practice law?

I, too, originally thought the iPad was primarily a device for reading books, watching movies or playing games.  But developers continue to provide innovative ways to use the iPad, and so there are many ways a lawyer can be productive using the tablet.  

A major productivity benefit of the iPad is the ability to take notes, create or revise documents, and work with PDF files right on the device.  Lawyers spend most of their time working with documents, and the iPad provides a number of great ways that lawyers can work with the documents in their practice.  

The iPad also offers the best law-related apps, particularly for litigators. And, of course, the iPad serves as the ultimate briefcase, with the ability to carry all of your legal reference material—rule books, case law, statutes.  You can put it all on a tablet, instead of having to lug those books and papers with you all over the place. 

What are some of the add-on accessories needed to make the iPad a useful tool at work?

The first thing you will need is a keyboard; the iPad's virtual keyboard is nice, but not really designed for heavy-duty typing.  I recommend the Apple Wireless Keyboard ($69); it is a separate device, but it is light and easy to carry.  Your other option would be to use a keyboard that comes in an iPad case—my current favorite is the ZAGGFolio.

You may also want to purchase a stylus, especially if you plan to take handwritten notes on the iPad.  There are literally dozens of styluses on the market right now, but my current favorite is the Adonit JotPro ($29.95); it comes the closest to working like a real ballpoint pen.

Finally, if you plan on using your iPad at trial or in hearings, mediations or other meetings, you'll need something to connect your tablet to a projector or television. Apple's VGA connector ($29.95) will connect an iPad to any projector, and the Apple Digital AV Adapter ($29.95) can be used with a high-definition television.  If you purchase the Apple TV ($99) and connect it to a high-def television, you can present wirelessly from your iPad, without any connection to the tablet.

Could you share some of the essential productivity apps that lawyers should have on their iPad?

Lawyers should use at least one note-taking app.  My favorite is Noteshelf (currently $5.99), but I know a lot of lawyers who like using Notability (currently 99 cents), because it will also capture audio while you are taking notes.  If you prefer a basic text editor, then my preferred apps are PlainText (free with ads) and Elements (currently $4.99).

Lawyers should also have at least one app for creating or editing documents.  If you are a Mac lawyer, then download and use Pages ($9.99), Numbers ($9.99) and Keynote ($9.99).  If you use Microsoft Office, you have a couple of choices; my current favorite is QuickOffice Pro HD (currently $19.99) for working with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.  However, you aren't actually working in a Microsoft Office environment.  If you need to work in the original applications, I recommend you try CloudOn (currently free)—it connects you to a computer running the original Microsoft Office apps.

You'll also need a place to keep those documents, and there is no better app for that than GoodReader (currently $4.99).  GoodReader will allow you to store your documents and create a folder structure for them on your iPad.  It's also a great app for reading any kind of document—image files, PDFs, really any type of file—and you can also annotate PDF documents from the app.

For the best PDF-annotation experience, however, I recommend PDF Expert (currently $9.99); its annotation tools are more powerful, and you can also fill out PDF forms and sign PDF documents right on your iPad.

There is a growing number of legal-specific apps. Could you separate the wheat from the chaff by sharing a few useful apps to get?

Right now, the best legal-specific apps are for litigators.  Two of my favorites are made by the same company: TrialPad and TranscriptPad.  TranscriptPad ($49.99) is a new app that allows you to review deposition transcripts and create designations of testimony that you can share with opposing counsel, the court or others.  TrialPad ($89.99) is the best trial presentation app for the iPad currently available—you can show documents, images, videos, and other types of exhibits to the judge or jury.  They are both a little pricey, but when compared to PC versions of these tools, they are pretty good bargains.

There are also a number of great apps to help select and track a jury—they include iJury, Jury Star and Jury Tracker.  The downside to these apps is that they require a lot of data entry.  When I went to trial, I often had only 10-15 minutes to review the list of jury panelists; this is not near enough time to get that information entered into these apps.  They work best, I think, when you have a trial in a jurisdiction that provides you with a jury list well in advance of voir dire.

Specifically, how can the iPad be used in meetings to engage attendees?  
The must-have app lawyers need for meetings is Keynote, which is Apple's version of PowerPoint.   It will import and convert PowerPoint files so you can show them during a meeting.  If you have an iPhone, make sure you also get the Keynote Remote app, which turns your iPhone into a remote control for your presentation. 

Connecting your iPad to a projector or high-definition television is just like doing the same thing with a laptop.  You can essentially show any app on your tablet—you can show documents that you have marked up in PDF Expert or GoodReader, or pictures that you have taken and edited in one of the many photo-editing apps like Photogene and Photoshop Express

Are there features that make the iPad a superior tablet over others for work-related tasks?

Right now, the best argument for purchasing an iPad over other tablets—Androids, Playbooks, Windows Tablets, etc.—is that it is currently the only tablet with full-featured apps for practicing lawyers. The other tablets don't appear to be even offering legal-specific apps—the iPad has the market cornered on them, at least for now.  

While other tablets have advantages the iPad lacks—the ability to view Flash video and websites, USB or other connecting ports, better multi-tasking—the sheer breadth of apps, legal or otherwise, makes the iPad the better tablet at this time. 

What are a few tips and tricks the iPad users may not be aware of?

If you'd like to have the iPad's virtual keyboard in a different location on the screen, just press the keyboard button in the lower right-hand corner of your keyboard.  You'll get two options: “Undock” and “Split.”  If you press Undock you basically get a keyboard in the middle of the screen.  When you press Split, however, the screen splits to opposite sides of the screen, to make it easier to type when you're holding the iPad in your hands.

My other favorite tip involves multi-touch gestures.  If you want to "multi-task" on the iPad and switch to another program that's currently running, you can just press the “Home” button twice to bring up the multi-tasking bar.  But you can also bring up this bar by simply using four fingers (or five) and swiping upward on your screen.  Further, if you take four fingers and swipe them from right to left, you can move from app to app without using the multi-tasking bar.

When working with client data, confidentiality is a big concern. What are some of your recommended security settings and practices that lawyers should mind?

A couple of basic security tips all iPad users should implement:

  • In “Settings,” make sure your “Auto-Lock” is set to anything but "Never."  You'll want your iPad to lock up in case you leave it alone, even for a few minutes.
  • Also in Settings, make sure you have the “Passcode Lock” set to “On,” and specify at least a four-digit passcode.  You can do this by leaving the “Simple Passcode” setting on—but I prefer to leave it off, and specify a longer, more complicated passcode.  You'll also want to set “Require Passcode” to a reasonable time—long enough so that you're not always being asked for your passcode, but short enough so it's secure if you happen to leave it for a few minutes.
  • In the “Passcode Lock” area of “Settings,” make sure “Erase Data” is set to “On,” so that the data on your iPad will be erased after 10 failed passcode attempts.
  • Install Find My iPhone (free)—if you ever lose your iPad, you can go online (or on an iPhone) and locate your iPad, assuming the device is turned on.  From there you can lock the iPad, or erase all data from it. 

Learn more from Tom Mighell at ABA TECHSHOW March 29-31 in Chicago. Among legal technology programs, Mighell will present “iWin: iPad for Litigators” with Paul Unger.

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