Supplementing Attorney Notes with Synched Audio Recordings (PC and iPad)

There are a number of PC programs and iPad applications that can be used to audio record voices and sounds while an attorney takes notes—synching the recording to the notes for easy reference.  This is an extremely useful tool when conducting witness interviews, attending meetings and when conducting or defending depositions. 

For example, suppose you are deposing the expert for an opposing party.   The expert gives long detailed answers during the course of the deposition.  If you have recorded the deposition with a program or app that synchs the recording with your notes, you simply highlight or click your note entry on the particular part of the testimony in which you have interest, and that section of the deposition recording is played back for your review.  You can then determine whether you are satisfied with the testimony or whether further examination is required.

Those that follow this blog know that I am a big fan of MS OneNote for the PC.  See   The Paperless Lawyer, http://hytechlawyer.com/?p=95   OneNote has many useful case management attributes.  One of them is an audio recording feature that permits creating a recording that is correlated with the typewritten notes being taken.  Access this functionality by clicking on the microphone on the tool bar.  Video recording is also supported.

On the iPad, there are a number of applications that provide this same functionality (audio only).  One of my favorites is Notability, which does a good job recording sounds as you type and then synching these sounds to your notes for easy reference.  Another Application I have used is AudioNote.  AudioNote is unique because it records and synchs with handwritten notes, or typed notes, or both.  As you play back the audio, your notes (handwritten and/or typed) are highlighted.  If you want to hear the part of the recording that correlates with a particular section in you notes, just tap on the words and voila, the App advances or reverses to that section of the recording.

In preparation for a recent deposition, I preloaded my examination outline (cut and paste) into AudioNote on the iPad.  I took notes for the deposition by hand and typing, while simultaneously also using the recording function of the App (after informing those present of my use of a recording device—see below).  In my preloaded outline, I had a checklist for each of my “objectives” for the deposition. As that objective was addressed by witness testimony, I simply checked it off the list. On a break toward the end of the deposition, I then reviewed the key testimony by tapping my objective checkmarks on the outline.  The App then played the correlated testimony.  I found the quick review of testimony to be very useful.

Obviously, there are many situations in which a recorded backup synched to your notes could be useful.  However, one word of caution, a number of jurisdictions require that everyone present be informed that that they are being recorded.  In my home jurisdiction of South Carolina, the general rule is that an attorney may not surreptitiously record anybody, i.e., that everyone be informed. See e.g.

 http://www.scbar.org/MemberResources/EthicsAdvisoryOpinions/OpinionView/ArticleId/764/Ethics-Advisory-Opinion-08-13.aspx

As a practical matter because my practice takes me all over the country, when recording, I advise everyone in the room.  I have not had any objections so far to the recording of deposition testimony. This is probably because the proceeding is being recorded anyway by the Court Reporter (often with an audio recorder backup) and deponents expect to be recorded.  In the case of investigations and meetings, you will need to assess whether the advantages of recording outweigh the potential disadvantage of chilling discussion or candid responses.

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.

How to Convert Video for use in iMovie on iPad2

Recently we reviewed iMovie on the iPad2 for use by lawyers.  While it may appear on first blush that only video taken using the iPad2 camera is recognized by iMovie, this is not the case.

The trick is to convert what ever video format your are using to mp4 (h264 codec; 1280 x 720)).  Reportedly this can be done by using a free video converter “Aleesoft Free ipad Video Converter.” However, I was unable to get this to work.

I was successful using Replay Media Catcher 4 (“RMC4″), a program I have used for over a year.  My practice often involves litigating advertising claims. I use RMC4 to capture streaming video of offending commercials.  One side feature feature of RMC4 is that it will convert almost any format video file to almost any video format you need. This PC based program is $39. See http://www.applian.com/download-videos/  A 30 day free trial is offered.

Using RMC4,  I have converted content from a Sony HD video camera , a Blackberry Bold Smart phone, random YouTube videos, and video from a deposition (unknown format),  all to MP4 format that when sychronized through iTunes, to photos, was recognized by iMovie. 

Using RMC4 you simply choose to convert to iPad (MP4 H264;30fps; 1280x 720;AAC). You then use the browse function to select the video file you desire to convert.  After selecting the video, click on convert.

Once the file is converted, sync your iPad with iTunes.  Select your iPad as the device in the left side tool bar.  Choose Photos in the top menu bar. Then set your iPad default to copy all photos (including videos– need to check “include videos box”)  Once that is done, hit the sync button at the right bottom corner of the screen.   After the sync, your video should appear both in iMovie and your camera roll.  From here, it is ready to edit and publish.

If there are easier ways to do this, we would love to hear about them.

Using the iPad for Witness Preparation

Video demo available:

Have you purchased an iPad2 and are now looking for a good use for your original iPad? Consider using it as a deposition preparation tool. I am a trial attorney and primarily litigate complex business cases. My practice is national in scope, and I am often on the road preparing witnesses for deposition, hearing, or trial testimony. This typically involves reviewing dozens if not hundreds of documents with the various witnesses. Prior to the iPad that often meant lugging around two or more bankers boxes all over the country. NO MORE.

Now, I load the documents for review on both my iPad2 and my original iPad (which is been sanitized to remove any sensitive legal documents or information in cases other than the one involving the witness).

Goodreader is my document review reader of choice. I like it because it can handle large documents and a large volume of documents. Goodreader also allows for the annotation or highlighting of PDF and documents. If your documents were produced in TIF format, they are easily converted to PDF.

The best way to load a large volume of documents into Goodreader is to use iTunes. To do this, connect your iPad to your computer. After iTunes opens, select your device. Then go to the menu at the top of the screen and select “Apps.” When the App screen loads up, go to the bottom and select Goodreader. In the box to the right, touch “add” and the use the browse feature to select the files you want to copy to the iPad from you computer.

Alternatively, if the volume of documents is not too significant, Dropbox can be used to transfer the documents. If you’re going to use this method, then I recommend creating a folder with the case or witness name on your PC, loading copies of all the review documents into that folder and then moving the entire folder folder into Dropbox. On the iPad, the folder will appear in Dropbox. Simply select the folder, and individual documents will appear. Open each of the documents individually Goodreader to move it over. This requirement to individually open each document in Dropbox and them move it to Goodreader is why I prefer the iTunes bulk transfer method.

Whichever method you use to load the documents, the end result will be a bunch of individual files in Goodreader. My practice is to create a folder for the witness or the case using Goodreader’s manage files function, and then move the documents into that folder. If you have a number of witnesses to prepare, simply make a folder for each witness.

For the actual prep session, provide the witness with their own iPad loaded with the documents. These documents might be identified by descriptive title, by Bates number or by a simple exhibit numbering or lettering system.

Ideally, during the prep session the lawyer’s iPad2 will be connected to a projection device or monitor allowing the attorney to annotate or highlight documents and discuss them with the witness. The iPad 2 has the mirror function that permits display of the documents and anything else on the device. Goodreader also displays the documents on iPad1 if you turn on the video display feature (screen icon at bottom on file management screen). Because both the lawyer and the deponent’s iPads are connected by e-mail and dropbox (assuming active internet connection), the lawyer has the option of adding additional review documents to the client’s iPad on the fly during the course of the deposition prep.

At the end of the deposition, retrieve the witnesses’ iPad— thus, avoiding the problem of loose documents floating around. It should be noted that Goodreader has the capability to password protect folders and it is my practice to use this function.

So that’s deposition preparation using the iPad. We welcome any suggestions you might have that could improve upon our suggested methodology. Please post any comments to our blog site hytechlawyer.com or you can e-mail me at Bill@hytechlawyer.com

Three Minute Video Review of iMovie and teleprompt+

Click the link for my favorable, less than three minute, video reviews of iMovie (iPad2 only– or is it?)  and teleprompt+ (iPad and iPad2):  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeNcSbmi3m0iMovie

In a nutshell, iMovie has surprising robust editing capability.  I found the following YouTube video to be straight to the point and very instructive on how to use iMovie:

 http://www.macmoviemakers.com/imovie/imovie-for-ipad-2-tutorial/

teleprompt+

teleprompt+ is an amazing teleprompter App.  Perfect to use on the podium for that big speech.  I use and show it in action in the demo.

10 Best iPad Apps for Lawyers -15 Minute Video Demo

Here is the link to our first video where we demo the apps on hytechlawyer.com’s current top ten iPad apps for lawyers list.  Please be kind– this is a first attempt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhBZHekjTzs

The top 10 are:

1.  Dropbox  (file transfer among conputers and devices)

2.  Goodreader  (media viewing and content management)

3.  iAnnotate PDF  (Best at marking up PDF files– lots of features)

4.  Penultimate (best handwriting note taking app)

5.  Pages (Best word processor– converts to Word)

6.  DocsToG0  (allows editing of .doc, .xls, .ppt documents among others)

7.  MobileNoter  (syncs with MS One Note– our favorite case organizer (see review))

8.  Keynote (Apple version of PowerPoint.  PowerPoint files can be converted)

9.   Fastcase  (Free legal research data base. State/Federal cases and statutes)

10.  Dragon Dictation (voice dictation– very cool)

We will update this list as new Apps come to our attention.

If you have a favorite App not on the list that you beleive is particularly well suited for use by lawyers, we would love to hear about it.

REVIEW OF BLACKTRACK TIMEKEEPING APPLICATION FOR BLACKBERRY SMARTPHONES

I have been testing BlackTrack for several months now.  BlackTrack is a time tracker application for use with BlackBerry® smartphones. It provides on demand, daily, weekly and/or monthly reports of your phone/email/SMS activity with optional notes entries, all of which are helpful for billing time and completing timesheets.

From your Blackberry, you can customize all settings and functions. BlackTrack provides complete, pop-up free tracking as soon as it is installed, with the option to customize all settings.  BlackTrack works invisibly in the background.  It sends you a time report via e-mail on an interval that you select that gives date/time and minutes for each call.  It also reports the time spent typing or reading a particular email or SMS message on the Blackberry.  If you are on a Blackberry enterprise server, BlackTrack also captures basic caption information from every email you send or receive on the exchange system from your desktop (although it only provides length of time information for email and sms messages read or drafted on the Blackberry).

As for security, the provider states that BlackTrack’s activity data is stored only in the BlackBerry’s internal memory and can only be accessed by users who have permissions to view the BlackBerry or the registered email account.  The BlackTrack data is not sent to any server other than the users own e-mail system. Below is an example screenshot of a sample BlackTrack report:

 The cost of the application is $4.99 at the BlackBerry App store.  There is also a Blacktrack Lite version available for free that has most (but not all) of the functionality of the paid version, but which you have to keep registering on a monthly basis. See http://www.blacktrackapp.com/ for more information.  I highly recommend this application if you are a heavy Blackberry/cell phone user and find yourself losing track of billable time during the course of the month.

VOICE TYPE DICTATION FINALLY COMES OF AGE

In one episode of the original Star Trek television series (Assignment: Earth), the Enterprise and its crew were thrown back in time to Earth in 1968.  A young Teri Garr played a secretary that during the course of the episode was astounded by numerous examples of future technology that were being used by an alien from the future.  One of these advanced technologies that greatly intrigued me when I first saw the episode in the 1970′s was a typewriter that typed what was spoken to it.  In this article, I will refer to the automated typing of speech as “voice type dictation.”

In the late nineties, I experimented with IBM’s ViaVoice software (ViaVoice was sold to ScanSoft now called Nuance in 2003) which promised accurate voice type dictation, but which I found to be woefully inaccurate.  I also tried early versions of Nuance’s Dragon Dictation, but found the program to be error prone and more trouble to use than just typing conventionally.  However, as time passed voice type dictation software has gotten much better and computing power has greatly increased, in turn increasing accuracy and allowing for more complex processing. 

A few years ago, I purchased a PC with the much maligned Microsoft Vista operating system.  It came with an installed voice recognition package that was surprisingly good.  This prompted me to try the Dragon Dictation product current at that time, Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 (DNS 10), becasue it was reputed to be even better.  After some fairly extensive training (reading selected passages to the computer), I found that DNS was quite accurate, once I replaced the cheap mini-plug microphone headset included with the program with a higher quality USB wired headset.  I have since upgraded to DNS 11 and a Plantronics Bluetooth USB earpiece microphone.  

DNS 11 is more user friendly and requires less training than DNS 10.   While I have not been able to achieve the claimed 99% accuracy, I have found that DNS 11 is quite good with accuracy in the 90% range. I can dictate routine letters, emails, etc. about 20% faster than I can type them.  However, diligent proofreading is mandatory.  I have also found DNS 11 to be less efficient than typing for projects where there are extensive case citations, lots of proper names, acronyms, etc., because these non-standard terms have to be taught to DNS 11 (entering the word manually and then speaking the pronunciation) software or individually spelled out.   My primary use for DNS 11 is to dictate time entries.  These tend to be repetitive and allow for the use of shorthand macros that save considerable time.

If you have a Windows based PC running Windows 7, you might want to save the $100 or more that Dragon 11 will set you back and use the speech recognition package that comes installed as part of the system.  While the Windows 7 system does not have all of the bells and whistles that come with DNS 11, I found it to be quite accurate when a high quality headset is used.

There is also a Dragon application for the iPhone and the iPad that is free and available from the Apple App store.   I have found it to be more accurate than the DNS 11 product installed on my PC hard drive, except where it comes to words such a proper names, etc., that the program needs to be taught– there is no function in the Dragon iPad/iPhone app that allows for teaching (other than the option to uplaod your contacts).   The application is most useful for dictating short passages  for memos and emails.  

[On a side note, my Plantronics USB Bluetooth microphone earpiece works well on the iPad and iPad 2.  I connect the USB receiver via the Apple USB camera connector (see discussion in last weeks Rubber keyboard article).   This earpiece microphone set up is not only good for dictation, but also for making Skype calls on iPad and iPad 2,  and for using FaceTime on iPad 2.]

One concern I have with the Dragon Dictation App is that transmits the dictation via the Web to Nuance where it is processed and sent back to the iPad as text.  There is also the previously noted option to upload your contact information to increase name accuracy.  While this explains the application’s high accuracy level, it may present confidentiality concerns to the extent that a lawyer dictates confidential client or work product information.  The License agreement for Dragon Dictation provides luke warm comfort in this regard, indicating that the speech data will be kept confidential, but may be used and shared with third parties for product enhancement purposes only:

“3.3. NAMES AND SPEECH DATA.

(a) NAMES. As part of the Service, Nuance collects and uses the contact names that appear in your address book in order to tune, enhance and improve the speech recognition and other components of the Service, and other Nuance services and products. You may elect at any time to prohibit Nuance from collecting the contact names, via the settings in the Software, at which point, Nuance will delete all contact names that it may have otherwise collected from your address book. Unless you elect to opt out, you acknowledge, consent and agree that Nuance may collect the contact names that appear in your address book in order to tune, enhance and improve the speech recognition and other components of the Service, and other Nuance services and products. Nuance will not contact you or any of the contact names that appear in your address book for any reason, nor will Nuance share your contact names with any third party.

(b) SPEECH DATA. As part of the Service, Nuance also collects and uses Speech Data, as defined below, to tune, enhance and improve the speech recognition and other components of the Service, and other Nuance services and products. In accepting the terms and conditions of this Agreement, you acknowledge, consent and agree that Nuance may collect the Speech Data as part of the Service and that such information shall only be used by Nuance or third parties acting under the direction of Nuance, pursuant to confidentiality agreements, to tune, enhance and improve the speech recognition and other components of the Service, and other Nuance services and products. Nuance will not use the information elements in any Speech Data for any purpose except as set forth above. “Speech Data” means the audio files, associated transcriptions and log files provided by you hereunder or generated in connection with the Service.(c) Any and all information that you provide will remain confidential and may be disclosed by Nuance, if so required, to meet legal or regulatory requirements, such as under a court order or to a government institution if required or authorized by law, or in the event of a sale, merger or acquisition to another entity by Nuance.”

Dragon Dictation License Agreement (emphasis added).

The bottom-line:  keep confidentiality concerns in mind whenever you transmit data to third-parties for processing, storage, transmission, etc.   This is not a concern for the dictation programs that process the dictation on your computer.  However, mobile systems that rely upon processing via the Web must be vetted to ensure that the data is kept confidential and adequately secure to meet the lawyer’s ethical obligations.  This is particularly the case for mobile devices such as the iPad, Xoom, Tab and any other mobile device that relies heavily on “the Cloud” for computing power.

In this regard, a good voice type dictation program for the Blackberry is Vlingo, which is available from the Blackberry App Store.  I use it for dictating short non-confidential emails and web searches.  I also use it for phone number look up for my contacts.   In my experience it is accurate, so long as the dictation is fairly simple.  Like the Dragon App discussed above, your dictation is processed at a remote facility, so the same confidentiality issues apply.

In summary, accurate voice type dictation is finally a reality and can be a useful tool for lawyers, especially on mobile devices where typing may be difficualt or ackward. However, where the program relies upon third-party processing, keep confidentiality issues in mind when deciding if the use of the application is appropriate.

Hytechlawyer Selected Legal Research and News Applications for the iPad and iPad 2

One of the chief advantages of the iPad for lawyers is the ability to have extensive legal resources available to you in a compact package.  A surprising number of these resources are free or at nominal cost.  Below are a number of my favorites—all available at the Apple Apps Store:

  • Lawstack (free)–  Billed as a “legal library in your pocket” Lawstack contains a collection of the Federal Rules (Civil, Criminal, Evidence, Appellate, Bankruptcy) in an easy to access format.  Also available as embedded files that can be added to your “stack” are the Code of Federal Regulations, USC, and various state codes. 
  • Fastcase (free)— A free legal research application which provides access to cases and statutes from all 50 states and the federal government.  Works reasonably well for a quick lookup, but I have found it less useful for detailed work.
  • Openregs (free)— iPhone application that provides access to regulations published in the Federal Register, as well as the ability to track selected notices of final and proposed rule-makings and to browse regulations by agency.   While not optimized for the iPad is quite usable with its 2x feature.
  • Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary (free)—A free law dictionary iPhone Application that displays  well on the iPad and iPad 2.
  • Legal News (.99)—An application that monitors the internet for the best legal RSS news feeds and collects them for viewing on your iPad.
  • ABA Journal (free)—This application provides breaking legal news and articles from the ABA Journal, plus access to featured blogs.
  • The American Lawyer (free)—This application provides breaking legal news and articles from The American Lawyer.
  • WESTLAW  NEXT (free—but…) — Brings the resources of Westlaw to the iPad.  The application is free, but your plan Westlaw rates apply.

If you are aware of a good legal research or news application not on our list, please share it on this blog and we will consider it for inclusion in future lists.