iPad Lawyer Tools: New Handwriting to Text Application for iPad Shows Promise

I have been waiting for an iPad handwriting to type conversion application that could reliably convert my chicken scratch into typed text suitable for sharing.  My patience has been rewarded– sort of.

7Notes Premium HD ($ 8.99 App Store) does a pretty good job of converting handwriting to type. In fact, I drafted this entire blog entry in handwriting using 7Notes.  I did have to do some keyboard clean-up, but that is to be expected given the inconsistencies of handwriting styles.  I print, so I cannot comment on the App’s accuracy with cursive, but for print it does a nice Job.

 

As you write, the small bar suggests would it thinks you are writing.  If the app has it right, then you simply tap on the text and it is entered into the main document area. There are intuitive correction controls for erasing mistakes.  You also have the option of writing without text conversion or alternatively typing.

Be aware that 7Notes Premium takes a while to master.  It appears to have some sort of learning capability that allows it to improve performance as you use it. This application shows a great deal of promise.  If the developers keep working at it they will have a world-class application. For now, I would give it three stars out of five, but it is by far the best handwriting to type conversion program I have seen for the iPad.

 

Effective Use of Skype in ADR Presentations– The Virtual Expert

This week I had another opportunity to use Skype in a quasi judicial forum.   One of my partners and I represented a major corporation in an appearance before the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) of the Better Business Bureau.   The NAD is a voluntary dispute adjudication forum where national advertisers can voluntarily take disputes alleging unfair or deceptive advertising by competitors.  The process allows a rapid adjudication of claims without much of the expense, delay and monetary exposure that is typically incurred in a traditional federal court Lanham Act lawsuit.

The way the process works is that the advertising challenger pays a fee and files a detailed claim with the NAD. If the NAD accepts the claim for adjudication, then the advertiser is provided an opportunity to participate in the informal NAD process.   If the advertiser agrees to do so, then they file a response to the complaint of the challenger. The challenger is then allowed a reply in a letter format.  Finally, the advertiser, who has the initial burden of persuasion, gets a final reply. The final step of the process is that the NAD case managers will meet individually with each of the parties separately to discuss their respective positions and to pose any questions they may have.  Two weeks later the NAD provides a detailed advisory opinion.

In our particular case, there was an important expert who could provide valuable evidence on the testing process for our clients superiority claim.  However, he is a professor at a major university and had to be in town the first day of class—which just so happened to fall on the same day that our NAD presentation was scheduled.  Fortunately, the professor could be available for several hours to participate in NAD meeting process, if we could arrange to have him appear electronically.

We contacted NAD and arranged to have a high-quality wired Internet access cable available in the meeting room. We then used Skype with a standard sized Dell PC laptop in full screen mode. The laptop was placed on the table in front of a chair at the conference table just as if the witness was sitting in the room. We used two high-quality Bose computer speakers to ensure that our witness was heard by the case managers. We also used a separate USB camera (MS Lifecam 3000 w/ built in microphone) which we directed at the iPad Keynote presentation on the separate monitor.  This setup made it possible for our expert to keep up with what was going on in the presentation.  Because of the way the laptop was positioned, it was almost like the expert was there in person. It was amazing how natural the discourse was between our expert and the other participants. The meeting lasted about two hours and the expert participated throughout.  Skype performed flawlessly.

This is the second time I have used Skype in a professional setting with great results.  The key to success is testing the hookup before the presentation to work out ay bugs.

Now Skype has introduced a paid version allowing for ten person video conference calls.  I will look for an opportunity to put this new functionality to use and will report back to you as to whether it is practical for professional use.

BASIC INFORMATION– WIFI RANGE EXTENDERS

While it may be an exaggeration to state that an iPad without WIFI is nothing more than a stylish paperweight, it is true that the utility of the device is drastically reduced without wireless access to the net.  The same is true for WIFI dependent laptops, other tablets and smart phones.  While I use a mobile hotspot (Virgin Mobile MIFI Card) or my Verizon iPhone Hot Spot for access on my WIFI only iPad, I have found that in many locations, the WIFI signals are inadequate to support video and sometimes even audio.  In other words, I often need a more robust WIFI signal that my mobile wifi hotspots can provide.

When I give legal technology presentations or am using wireless devices in court proceedings, my preference is to have hardwired internet connection (coupled with my own router) to ensure “snap and pop” in my wireless presentations.   When that is not possible, I test the WIFI signal at the venue before the event.  If the signal is weak, I often use a WIFI range extender to ensure that the signal is adequate for the presentation at hand.  These extender devices are inexpensive and easy to set up.  I use a NETGEAR extender (WN20000RPT) that currently retails for approximately $70.00.  It was easy to set up and has extended the range of my router by approximately 50%.

The extender is placed approximately ½ of the distance between the router and the receiving device.  Keep in mind that the extender will only “extend” the quality of signal that it receives. Thus, it is typically necessary to arrange with the clerk of court or venue manager (or domestic partner in the case of home use) to install the extender at the appropriate half-way point between the router and the area you expect to use the wireless device.  These devices are generally equipped with security features that make them as secure as your main router.

We hope this information has proven useful.  If you have a helpful technology hint to share with the legal world, please email your proposed post to Bill@hytechlawyer,com for consideration for posting.

Making Presentations to Groups of iPad Users

A colleague recently indicated that she wanted to make a marketing presentation to a group of bank executives who were all equipped with iPads supplied by their employer. The concept was to use a traditional PowerPoint presentation, but instead of having a large screen displaying the presentation, broadcasting the presentation to each individual executive’s iPad as they sat around a large conference room table. The question was how to do it.

My suggestion was to use the GoToMeeting (GTM) conference service.  GTM offers a free iPad application available at the Apple App Store.  The actual GTM service costs about $40.00 per month, but you can try it free for 30 days to see how well it works for you. The basic service plan allows for 16 users to access the program with both audio and video.  For audio, GTM provides for a call in number, as well as a VOIP capability.   For video, GTM allows the presenter to selectively broadcast whatever is being displayed on their computer screen  (PC or Mac– not iPad), e.g., a PowerPoint presentation.

I find that the GTM iPad App works well for basic PowerPoint and screen shots. However, the video clip and host webcam features that work well for PC attendees, do not display on the iPad.    I suppose that this may have to do with the iPad’s lack of flash capability.   It should also be noted that the GTM iPad app does not have all the functionality that is available to PC attendees of a GTM presentation.   For example, control of the presentation can be transferred from the host to a PC user to make a second presentation and then transferred back to the host, but this control transfer function is not yet available for the iPad.  Also, while an iPad user can view a GMT presentation, they cannot host one. Hopefully, GTM will continue to refine the iPad application to allow it to function more like a PC using the service.

I am a big fan of video-teleconferencing.  The cost savings available from using a service like GTM can be considerable, even if you can replace just one meeting per month that would involve travel for even one person. The monthly fee gives you unlimited meetings, which can be either scheduled in advance or set up on the spur of the moment.

In summary, for presentations to groups of 16 or fewer iPad users, GoToMeeting is a good method for sharing real time what is on your PC or Mac screen, in particular PowerPoint or Keynote presentations.

The Use of Skype for Presentation of Live Witness Hearing Testimony

As most tech savvy persons are aware, Skype provides an internet communications service allowing both video teleconferencing and telephone services via the Internet. http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/welcomeback/  The video teleconference service is generally free.  You can also use the service for VOIP calls for a nominal charge.

I first learned of Skype a couple of years ago when my family and I were invited to a traditional Italian first communion reception.  I was amazed as the Grandmother in Italy was present at the reception via Skype on a laptop with a built-in camera.  Using a WIFI setup, our hosts walked Grandmother around the reception.  It was almost like she was there.  Since then, my own children have used Skype to keep in touch with their grandparents who live in another state.   I have also used Skype to allow one of my partners to make an impromptu “live” pitch for a practice specialty that came up as a need during a marketing meeting with a client.

Last week, I represented a client in an arbitration hearing in which a number of witnesses were outside the jurisdiction and unable to travel.  Early in the case, I had negotiated an agreement with opposing counsel and the arbitrator that witness testimony for the hearing could be presented by video teleconference. At the hearing, we used Skype to present two key witnesses who were located thousands of miles away from the venue. The equipment setup included a PC Laptop and a separate HD USB Camera (Microsoft Lifecam 3000), a high quality computer projector, and a desktop speakerphone (to ensure good sound communications).  We used a hardwired high speed internet connection.

The separate camera was used to allow the camera to be focused on the person doing the questioning without physically moving the computer.  The arbitrator, who had some eyesight issues, had the laptop computer screen placed directly in from of him. Everyone else viewed the projected image of the witness on a screen in the room.  If you try this setup make sure that you turn off the Skype sound from the computer to avoid feedback.  If you want to try and use the Skype audio as well, you will need a couple of amplified computer speakers, as the volume from the PC speakers alone is inadequate.  This does not ensure the witness can hear everything in the room, although the lifecam we used does have a built-in microphone and would probably work fine.  Because this setup was experimental, I elected to use a speakerphone for the sound, both to ensure that everyone could hear, and also as a back-up in the event that we had any technical issues with Skype.

In preparation for the hearing each internet witness loaded Skype on their computer.  This setup was tested from the hearing room. The parties agreed in advance upon the exhibits to be used with each witness and these were sent to the witness in advance of the hearing. A copy of the deposition of the one witness who had been previously deposed was also provided (to allow an impeachment reference).

A robust internet connection is definitely desirable.   Remember that you need a good internet connection on both ends for Skype to work satisfactorily.  The set-up worked almost flawlessly at the hearing, with the exception that there was a buzz on phone line for one witness.  This was rectified by the witness going off speakerphone and using the phone receiver.

Lesson learned– remember to turn off your online notifications.  During one of the witnesses’ testimony, a small notification appeared in the corner of the screen indicating my son was on line. In this case, it was hardly noticed.   Fortunately, my son did not attempt to Skype me during the hearing.

In this particular application, I used a laptop PC.  However, this same setup should work with a Skype equipped iPad2 with an LCD or HDPT adapter.  The main difference would be that, to my knowledge, there is no ability to use a remote camera with the iPad2.  Thus, you would need to move the iPad in front of each questioner– cumbersome, but probably workable.  My goal was to make the technology as invisible as possible, so I went with the laptop.

The Arbitrator, Court Reporter and opposing counsel all remarked that, while they had been skeptical, they were pleasantly surprised how well the setup worked.  Everyone agreed the video/phone combination was preferable to phone alone.

I would be glad to answer any questions you might have regarding the use of Skype in formal hearings.  I would also encourage the sharing of any law technology solutions you think might be of interest to our readers.

iPad for Lawyers is Most Useful as Media Consumption Device

Michael Payne has written an informative article that succinctly answers the question I am most frequently asked by those considering an iPad or other tablet device– “I have a laptop– how will an iPad improve my practice?”

http://www.law.com/jsp/nylj/nylawyer/PubArticleNYL.jsp?id=1202498747191&rss=nylawyer&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1

Review of DocScanner App for iPad2/iPhone as Lawyer Tool

I have been using the DocScanner App for iPad for several weeks now.  The App allows you to photograph business cards, receipts, and documents and forward them as photographs, PDF copies, or to convert them to text via OCR.   Today, during a meeting that I was hosting via GoToMeeting with five attendees, another attendee in the room with me started discussing a document that he had brought to the meeting.  Within less than 30 seconds, I was able to scan the document and display it to those in the room and those online.   Image quality after scanning  for OCR text conversion is equivalent to a black-and-white copy on a medium grade copier.

In summary, DocScanner is a good choice for scanning on the fly.

More DropBox Security Issues- Lawyers Beware

We have previous cautioned lawyers regarding the dangers of the use of DropBox for the storage of confidential information. http://hytechlawyer.com/?p=345#comment-198′

Now DropBox has reported another security glitch in which in password used would allow access to any file. http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20072755-281/dropbox-confirms-security-glitch-no-password-required/

We reiterate our recommendation of SpiderOak as a more secure alternative to DropBox for lawyers.