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How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?"

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?

Lawyers’ reactions to the iPad are mixed, to say the least.

A few, like myself, are gung ho and can’t wait to get their hands on one.

Another minority appears absolutely convinced the iPad is destined to fail from the very start, having little to no utility for the legal profession.

The rest either could care less or are reserving judgment until the dust settles.
In other words, the vast majority of lawyers are not yet sold on the idea of the iPad. Many of those same attorneys, however, have expressed frustration at having to carry around large stacks of documents while commuting or traveling, and have indicated the iPad would hold far more appeal if they could annotate and edit documents on it.

For that group of lawyers, the ability to reduce the amount of paperwork and quickly and easily edit and annotate documents, as if writing on an electronic document, would be a deal breaker.

Those lawyers do not envision creating documents on the iPad, but rather marking up a pleading or contract, making notations in the margins to a draft appellate brief, or commenting on an internal memorandum. Such tasks, currently, are not accomplished easily while on the road, since neither lap- tops nor smart phones are well suited to those types of document annotations.

The iPad — with a larger screen and unique touch screen functionality — has the potential to change all of that but the real question is, will it?

Not surprisingly, I think it will.

There already are a number of iPhone apps that permit the annotation or revision of a variety of documents. Some are quite popular, others are not — in large part because of the difficulty inherent in working with documents on a screen of such small proportions. The iPad’s larger screen will breathe new life into those applications, and other new apps will be developed to allow documents to be annotated and revised on the fly.

Let’s take a look at a few of the iPhone apps already available that permit annotation and revision of documents. Documents to Go Premium allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and Power- Point files. RightSignature allows Word or PDF documents to be signed using the iPhone app. Those files also can be uploaded to RightSignature’s Web site for distribution.

Aji allows PDs to be signed and marked up, and enables text notes, strike-through text and highlight text. Documents also can be annotated in free form; however, users can’t distribute the documents using the iPhone interface. Instead, the annotated document must be processed using Aji’s Web site on a computer, then sent.

One app goes a step further — Zosh. Zosh allows users to sign, annotate and distribute documents in a variety of formats, including .doc, .pdf, .xls, .ppt, .jpg, .png, .tif and .bmp — all from the iPhone. The app enables users to insert
free-form annotations such as a signature and text boxes. The ability to highlight text is in the works, according to Zosh CEO Joshua Kerr.

Some companies that developed the apps I’ve mentioned already have announced that iPad-compatible apps are in the works. I have no doubt other new apps will be introduced, tailor-made for the iPad. Such functionality will make the iPad a must-have for lawyers and other business users.

While I think the iPad will be used primarily as a device for media consumption, undoubtedly there is room for certain types of business use that will make it a mainstay for business travelers and commuters.


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Two thoughts:

1. Battery life will be key. This thing *better* go a day or more without needing a charge, or I think its utility is limited.

2. Apple's got a good track record of releasing a huge new product line, and then releasing the second generation 6-12 months later, which in this case I can't help but notice would put second-generation iPad on the shelves in time for Christmas. That's my main reason for taking a wait-and-see approach.


I probably fall into the category of those who don't see it as a game changer, but maybe I should get an iPhone first? For me the laptop was a huge game changer. The reason is that you could take your data with you and were no longer chained to an office. You can actually do work while on the road or outside the office. I don't see the iPhone as really significant for lawyers. I haven't done a comprehensive survey, but I don't know a ton of lawyers who use it, and most who do, use the social aspects of it. No one is really using it in their law practice. But I haven't necessarily done a comprehensive survey so take that with a grain of salt.

I can see people being able to use the iPad since it's bigger, but I don't understand why you just wouldn't use a laptop at that point? I'm having trouble seeing the advantages of an iPad over a laptop?

Nicole Black

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mike and Venkat.

Mike--I was going to wait as well, but in the end I caved. Hopefully I won't regret it!

Venkat--First, I think the iPad will be a game changer in general, not necessarily for lawyers. Lawyers take forever to adapt to new technologies. If the iPad is a game changer, as I believe it will be, you'll see lawyers begin to use it on a larger scale in perhaps 2-3 years.

Second, I respectfully disagree with you re: use of iPhones in law practices. I know many lawyers who use iPhones for their law practice--most are solos. That being said, iPhone are definitely not the smart phone being used by the majority of lawyers.

Third, I don't think the iPad will replace laptops. That has never been my assertion. (See my prior article on this blog re: iPads.) iPads and other touch screen tablets will create a new niche--one that did not before exist--mainly for media consumption and web browsing.

That being said, the premise of this article was that lawyers who decide to buy the iPad will find it to be of limited applicability in their law practice when it comes to reviewing docs--generally pdfs of opposing counsels docs--on their iPad during a commute, for example.

Tablets won't be used for document creation--at least I don't foresee that. They're not workhorses. Laptops and desktops will still be used for most work functions. But iPad will have some functionality in the workplace--especially when lawyers travel or commute.


I'm skeptical about using an iPhone or any phone in the nuts and bolts of a law practice. You can check email (and Twitter) (maybe get calendar reminders/contacts) but lawyers who are reading/writing pleadings or checking rules or cases on their phones are overdoing it. Or they need to organize their time better. B/c that ain't a good use of their time or their attention.

I still don't see the fundamental difference b/w an iPad and a laptop?

I'll probably get one and I'm sure I may use it for work, but I don't think it will disrupt the typical workflow > most work on the computer/checking emails or Twitter on the phone.

Robert Blankenship

I am planning to wait.Sort of. I am thinking that my 7 year old son will need one and that perhaps he will be kind enough to "lend" it to me Monday - Friday from 8 - 5, and then he can have it at night and on the weekends. Then on 2nd or 3rd generation when they release a new one with a build in camera, microphone, and larger hard drive (and hopefully get this Flash and Multi-tasking mess worked out) I can purchase one for me. I would also prefer a little bit larger screen. Say 8 1/2 X 11.

I don't think the iPad is perfect but I do believe it is a REALLY nice first step.

Robert Kezelis

Jeez, louise. Just think depositions! The idea of taking a dep with an iPad has me salivating at the mouth, especially if I can view my docs (PDF) and switch to some word processing program, or note taking program. My only regret is that I love Open Office, or its cooler brother NeoOffice for Mac. I haven't seen anything that would let me see or work those docs up on the iPad. So, I am going file through file, resaving every doc in .doc format just because.

Brad S

I am a solo. I have already stopped carrying my briefcase home every evening because my assistant scans mail and docs for me every day and I have been reviewing everything with Goodreader. I used Notes for a deposition on the third day that I owned my iPad. I am checking emails and list serve comments while watching the Bs and the iPad doesn't burn my legs like my MacBook pro does. Frankly, since I got this device, I have not brought my laptop home from the office ONCE! The iPad is quite useful and helps me produce. BTW, I use Fastcase and Loislaw. Both work superbly on iPad.

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