Imagine a world where a new client walks into your office. The receptionist welcomes him and hands over an iPad and tells your guest to press “Start”. There’s a short, automated video introducing your firm, its practice areas, and its partners. Afterward, a new client form appears, ready to fill out. Once your new client is done, your receptionist has an already digital copy of important information pertaining to this person’s case and business. And, the client can keep the iPad and browse your home page while he waits for the name partner to see him.
Streamlined, efficient, modern. The iPad is changing the way lawyers operate.
Patrick A. Wright, founding partner at The Wright Firm LLP in Lewisville and Dallas, is board certified in family law and is an active member of the ABA Law Practice Editorial Board. In an American Bar Association article, Wright said about his first use of the iPad in a court case:
“When I bought my first iPad, I decided that the best way to experiment and see if it was as versatile as it seemed to be was to use it in a high-profile case. The Cooke County case was an experiment. I intended to see if the court would allow me to play a few videos on the iPad through the VLC app while questioning a witness. With the iPad, I could quickly pause the video, replay an exact point and further emphasize what I wanted without the awkward television on a cart and a temperamental DVD player. I could control everything from the palm of my hand—if the court would allow it. The experiment worked. The court did allow me to use my iPad, and the videos and the iPad supplied the dramatic moment in a long custody trial that I ultimately won.”
Today, traditional PCs barely overtake sales of tablets. However, by 2015, predictions by Gartner Inc. believe that worldwide shipments of tablets will outnumber that of desk-based and notebook computers.
On the whole, worldwide combined shipments of devices, which include PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones, are projected to reach 2.4 billion units by the end of 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from 2013, Gartner Inc. reported this week.
It’s not surprising that lawyers are making better use of slimmer, more portable technology.
Tablets are not just great to present courtroom exhibits, they also organize client files, allow regular contact with colleagues, courts, and clients, and facilitate the immediate access to records, codes and criminal procedures, or Fastcase when out of the office.
Tablets are also capable of running programs like PowerPoint of Apple’s Keynote app, even Excel spreadsheets.
If you’re worried about typing on the tablet’s touchscreen, most tablets now allow Bluetooth connection to wireless keyboards.
Finally, the iPad is low-profile and ultraportable, which means when you take notes during a meeting or courtroom appearance, you don’t have that distracted look on your face behind a giant laptop screen. It gives (at least) the illusion of concentration, with a 10 to 20-hour battery life.
In fact, iPads or other tablets are becoming such common place in the practice of law, clients are starting to expect it. Technology is a reflection of your firm’s willingness to get creative, be flexible, and innovative—key to surviving this cutthroat industry.
With the traditional PC market on the decline, it’s clear law firms need to get with the times by going mobile. Instead of using a laptop, consider using an iPad—going paperless is both practical and productive.
Update your firm home page to accommodate mobile devices. Create an internal app for employees and clients, and a public app to attract new business. Make sure your IT department is up-to-date on all social media.
The iPad may not have the old-school cache of a yellow legal pad, but where it remains deficient in tradition, it will likely exceed in expectations and outcomes for efficiency.
Of course, there are always liability issues when it comes to data-sharing and digital devices. Attend C4CM’s training course, “Smartphones and the Law: Avoiding Legal Liabilities in the Workplace” to ensure your policies and practices are air-tight.