A trial lawyer and self-professed gadgetoholic reviews the latest lawyer accessory
I will admit it. I’ve been skeptical of claims that the iPad is a useful accessory, rather than a toy, for lawyers. But I have noticed that more and more of our clients at Legal Media Matters, technophiles and technophobes alike, are sending me notes from Apple’s new tablet and toting it to meetings, to depositions and to court — and recently a trial judge told me that he was considering purchasing an iPad for use on the bench. With so many attorneys turning to the iPad, I decided that it was time for a Legal Media Matters review of Apple’s new tablet. I’m sure many lawyers are asking themselves: “Should I buy an iPad? And why?”
In this guest post, Spencer Farris, a St. Louis personal injury lawyer, humor columnist with the Levison Group and Legal Media Matters client, reviews the pros and cons of the iPad for lawyers.
Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
My name is Spencer, and I’m a gadgetoholic.
My disease started simply enough — a GPS watch here, a digital voice recorder there — but then spun out of control, with jail-broken Apple devices, modified OnStar units, and so on.
Because of this affliction, I avoided the iPad when it was first introduced. I left the room when others discussed their iPads. As fate would have it, though, I wound up in an Apple store to have my iPhone serviced and laid hands on an iPad. You can guess the rest.
Sausage fingers prefer iPads with a Bluetooth keyboard
After I learned a trick that let me use my iPhone data plan for the iPad, I found a 3G 64-gig version and bought it. Because the virtual keyboard doesn’t work well for me unless I look down, I also bought a roll-up Bluetooth external keyboard. Aside from a fashionable iPad cover case, extended iPad batteries from New Trent are my only other modification.
My iPad is now a pretty good stand-in for my laptop in depositions and court hearings. I just returned from a seminar and was able to take notes on the Bluetooth keyboard just like I did on my laptop but without the bulk. I am looking forward to trying a case with the iPad as my document presenter.
I can create documents and PowerPoint presentations on my desktop environment and transfer them to the iPad with ease. This is important because even the Bluetooth keyboard is a bit tight for my sausagelike fingers. Creating outlines and pulling in case citations works better on my multiscreen desktop anyway. The iPad is great for edits and simple documents, but I wouldn’t write appellate briefs on it.
iPad: The happy medium between desktop usability and smartphone portability
The sheer portability of this device makes it a natural for entertainment. I buy magazines from Zinio and carry my subscriptions with me wherever I go. I like reading electronic versions better because I can cut and paste without any paper waste. The zoom on the iPad lets me read and delay the inevitable purchase of magnifying glasses a little longer. Netflix can now put movies on my iPad as well.
I began carrying my contacts and calendar on my smartphone long ago. The iPad is a happy medium between desktop usability and smartphone portability. Keeping desktop, iPad and smartphone coordinated requires a cloud-based subscription or an exchange server. The cloud works adequately for a solo practitioner like me. Updates on one device now appear (usually) on the others so that data remains reliably synchronized.
Is there an iPad app for that?
The iPad is not without its flaws. Hardware is nothing without software. Apple calls these little bits of wonder its apps, short for “applications.” When the Apple commercials say, “There‘s an app for that,” they aren’t necessarily talking about the iPad. Software development is lagging, and some iPad apps are nothing more than iPhone programs magnified to fit the larger iPad screen. Graphics quality suffers in these instances.
Some of the cool iOS features available to the iPhone, such as multitasking and folders for apps, haven’t made it to the iPad yet either. My technically simple friends don’t seem to notice these problems when they review iPads. We gadget geeks expect penalties like this for early adoption of technology.
The principal of the St. Louis-based S.E. Farris Law Firm, Spencer Farris represents injured personal injury victims and their families in a wide variety of product liability, auto accident, medical malpractice and premises liability cases.