Buying an iPad for a Lawyer — Some Advice

So you are finally taking the plunge and aspire to integrate the iPad into your legal practice, or perhaps you are considering buying your favorite lawyer an iPad for the holidays.  In either case, you might be wondering– which model?  The three basic choices available at the time of publication were the iPad Mini (“Mini”), iPad2  and the iPad 4th Generation (“iPad4”).  The Mini is a 7.9 inch smaller version of the 9.7 inch iPad2 and iPad4.  While the Mini is less expensive and more portable than the iPad4, its resolution is substantially inferior to the retina display on the iPad4.  Further, the iPad4 has a much faster processor.   However, the Mini and iPad2 are essentially the same except for their size. Use this link to compare models, configurations and pricing:  iPad Model Comparison.

One of the strong points of the iPad for legal work is the document review and markup functionality, so to me a smaller, slower unit with inferior resolution is not worth the tradeoff for a little enhanced mobility.  However, the smaller size of the mini may be difficult for some to resist—it’s so darn cute and it is cheaper.

Another consideration is just how many gigabytes of memory are needed. The base model of both the iPad2, iPad4 and the Mini come with 16 gigabytes of data storage capacity, which may not be sufficient if the device is going to be used for real legal work such as storing thousands of documents and multimedia for presentations. The legacy iPad2 is only being sold in the 16GB version ($399). During the first two years of using an iPad in my litigation practice, I found that 32 GB of data was more than sufficient for all of my needs. However, when the iPad4 came out, I upgraded to 64 GB model, because I have an inordinate number of applications and presentations on my iPad and they were beginning to push the limits of the 32 GB unit.  Bottom line, In my opinion the 32 GB model will be the most appropriate for most attorneys, but it will add an extra $100 in cost in all available configurations.  This rules out the current version of the iPad2 currently being sold, although if you can get by on 16 GB, the iPad2 is an attractive option.

The final question is Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi with cellular 4G.  Unless you are always going to be working in a Wi-Fi zone, you need to decide how your iPad is going to connect to the Internet when Wi-Fi service is not otherwise available. The reality is that the iPad, without Internet, is little more than a brick paperweight. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but the functionality of the device without Wi-Fi access is severely limited.

There are number of options available to make sure that you always have Wi-Fi service.  The first option is to buy an iPad with 4G cellular service functionality built-in.  Typically, the 4G models will be bought from one of the major mobile providers such as AT&T or Verizon for about $100 more than the same size iPad without the cellular capability. Besides the upfront costs, your wireless Wi-Fi plan will cost $20 or more month for access to two or 3 GB of data per month. This amount of data will be more than enough for most routine users, but is not sufficient to allow heavy-duty streaming of video media, etc..  Go over the limit and you pay extra.  The big advantage to this option is that you don’t have to rely upon another device for access to the Internet.  The downside is that you cannot share your WiFi connection with other devices, although I have heard rumors that this could change.

Another option is to buy the standard Wi-Fi only version of the iPad and to activate the hotspot feature of your cell phone (most late model smart phones have this option) to access Wi-Fi service.

This is the method I prefer because I always have my phone with me and it allows sharing of the phone hotspot not only with an iPad, but with any other device such as a laptop or printer that for which you need Wi-Fi access.  Again, this will increase your phone bill by $20 or $30 per month to provide access to the Wi-Fi coverage.  Another advantage to going this route is that the Wi-Fi only version is $100 less than the cellular 4G version.


The third option, which I’ve also used, is to buy a separate Wi-Fi hotspot card. This is a device about the size of a credit card and about as thick as a pencil that allows multiple devices to connect to the same Internet connection.


The main advantage of a MiFi hotspot is that you can share the hotspot connection with the number of users (typically up to 5– good for trials and hearings).  It also does not drain your phone battery, which may be significant consideration depending on the situation.  The downside is that it is yet another device you need to carry around.  These devices cost around $100 and can be bought from the major mobile carriers and at most major electronics retailers.

In the end it all comes down to your preference (and your pocketbook).   If money is not a consideration, then I recommend you go with the iPad4 32 GB 4G Wi-Fi model.  Otherwise, I recommend the iPad4 32 GB Wi-Fi only model and pair it with a smart phone with personal hotspot capability.  If you must have a Mini, then I recommend the same configurations as for the iPad4.

Any questions?

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