Join the Debate– Is the iPad a Practical Tool for Lawyers?

In his blog “Spam Notes,”  Venkat Balasubramani has penned a well written debate provoking piece entitled “What is the ‘iPad for lawyers” Crowd Smoking.”  See  http://spamnotes.com/2011/04/10/what-is-the-ipad-for-lawyers-crowd-smoking.aspx?ref=rss

The author focuses on the fact that every lawyer need seems to require the purchase of a specialized App or piece of equipment such as a separate key board.  While this is generally true, the Apps generally range in price from free to less than $10, with the majority probably averaging $3.  With a $100 App budget and a little prior research, a lawyer can put together a potent set of Apps that facilitate work in that lawyer’s preferred style.  Compare this cost to that of  a suite of PC or Mac software, and you are likely find a suite of Apps to be a bargain.

While I agree that the iPad cannot completely replace a laptop (I frequently travel with a laptop and two iPads- for the reason see my blog article  Depo Prep with the iPad), it can come quite close in many situations.   I am a road warrior with most of my cases being located out of my home jurisdictions of SC and NC.   The multi-jurisdictional practice of law, which has been the norm for me for many years,  is becoming more and more common.  The iPad is a compliment to this practice.  The 25 minutes I can use the iPad while the plane is boarding is valuable time.  Because of its size, the iPad is also much easier to use on a crowded commuter jet in flight.  In the real world, my laptop generally stays packed up until I get to the hotel.

The iPad is also clearly superior to a laptop for:

  • Reading documents;
  • Making and sharing  hand annotations and edits to pdf files;
  • Taking, storing and sharing handwritten notes;
  • Paper free depo prep (see my blog article);
  • Marketing presentations;
  • Travel logistics (reservations, directions);
  • Websurfing (ok– flash is an issue, but less and less so);
  • Battery life;
  • Truly mobile computing.

Right now, we are at the tipping point where using the iPad for real lawyer work may be practical only for those on the cutting edge that are willing to invest substantial time and effort into molding the iPad into the tool they need.  However, that’s the way it is with revolutionary technology- early adopters pave the way for mass use.  I predict that iPad and similar tablet devices will soon become as routine and ubiquitous as lawyer tools, as the smart phone and the laptop are today.  Remember when lawyers first adopted Blackberrys (just a few short years ago).

If you enjoy being a part of adopting new technology to transform work, this is a wonderful time to be practicing law.

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