By: Michael H. Payne
In 2008, Richard Susskind, the noted author of books predicting upcoming changes in the legal profession, wrote the “End of Lawyers: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services.” It was a fascinating warning about the need for lawyers to adapt to emerging technologies that are affecting the delivery of legal services. In an earlier unrelated book written in 2005, titled “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted the eventual merger of humans and machines into a super-intelligent computer-based species. While the theories of these technological prophets are controversial, there is no doubt that some aspects of their predictions are already being realized. The practice of law is changing because of technology that is advancing geometrically, and it is indeed foreseeable that computer power will one day exceed the processing power of the human mind. Although I do not know whether all of the grand predictions of Susskind and Kurzweil will come true, I am certain that lawyers who fail to embrace new technologies run the risk of obsolescence and, even, malpractice.
On June 7, 2011, I wrote an article titled “From Legal Pad to iPad: Using Tablet Computing to Increase a Lawyer’s Efficiency,” that was published in The Legal Intelligencer. As an early adopter of the iPad that had been introduced by Apple in 2010, I recognized that an electronic tablet could enhance my ability to practice law. Although Apple originally marketed the iPad as an alternative to “netbooks,” which were scaled-down Windows laptops, the original 9.7 inch iPad that I wrote about has since developed into the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil support. Even though I saw the original iPad as a game changer for lawyers, that early device pales in comparison to the updated iPad Pro.
While most attorneys are familiar enough with the iPad to know what it is, many do not know how it can be effectively used in the practice of law. This article has nothing to do with the running debate about whether the Windows (Microsoft) or iOS (Apple) platform is better: the answer is that each has advantages and disadvantages. As a starting point, after experimenting with all of the major competitors, it is my conclusion that the iPad Pro is the best replacement for paper. I will concede that other tablet devices, and particularly the Microsoft Surface Pro, may be appropriate choices, as well.
The point of this article and the reason that I am focusing on the iPad is that electronic tablets should not be compared to or seen as replacements for laptop computers. Although the recently released 2018 iPad Pro models are being advertised as replacements for laptops, the limitations of the iOS operating system make it difficult for an iPad to replace all of the capabilities of a full-fledged laptop. I have noticed that the first thing that many attorneys do when they purchase an iPad is to also purchase a keyboard cover. The reason is that they want to use the iPad to replace their laptop computer. While a keyboard embedded in a cover is fine for typing a short email message or entering a search term, it does not match the feel and utility of a conventional laptop keyboard. As an alternative, believing that the Microsoft Surface Pro provides the best of both worlds, some are of the opinion that the Surface Pro is a better replacement for a laptop than an iPad. It may be, but a so-called 2-in-1 laptop, like the Surface Pro, in my opinion, is not a better substitute for paper than the iPad.
To me, the iPad does one thing and does it very well. A tablet is best used for content management and not for content creation. It is a replacement for a yellow legal pad, a manila folder, an accordion file, a three-ring binder, a trial bag, a banker box, and a file cabinet. All of those things, collectively, can be replaced by an iPad Pro at a fraction of the cost and weight. The iPad does not replace my desktop or laptop computer: it replaces the paper in my briefcase and the mountains of paper I used to cart around to meetings and trials. It enables me to organize and carry around my personal work product, things that I do not need or necessarily plan to share, without paper. The days of losing and misfiling papers, and lugging around heavy documents are gone. The iPad Pro enables me to have all of my notes and case files with me at all times.
My private work product is not intended to be shared or be the subject of collaboration, any more than the notes on scraps of paper on my desk are of much use to anyone but me. Lawyers must come to realize that mountains of notes and documents in paper form are inefficient. They are destined to go the way of papyrus and parchment. The Information Age and Electronically Stored Information have resulted in the need to process and review thousands of pages, measured in gigabytes, of electronic information. Efficiency mandates a convenient way to store, organize and review that information. Leaving paper notes laying around, or placing paper copies of documents in file folders and three-ring binders invite disorganization and the loss of valuable time better devoted to thinking about the case. In my opinion, an attorney should never print a paper copy of an electronic document, and all natively produced paper documents should be scanned and converted to an electronic format. That is the only way to comply with the duty of technology competence that is mandated by the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
I use an iPad Pro to take handwritten notes, with the Apple Pencil, to mark up PDF and MS Word documents, and to organize client folders and electronic trial notebooks. Some will say that they prefer typing their notes, and I will concede that it is a matter of personal preference. Nevertheless, I believe that typing notes in a client’s presence is often distracting and does not convey the same impression that the attorney is paying attention as does writing notes on an electronic tablet. It is also difficult to insert diagrams and marginal notes when typing.
The great advantage of taking electronic notes is that, unlike paper notes, they are immediately stored in the cloud and cannot be lost. My tried and proven system relies on two main Apps— Goodnotes and Readdle Documents. Both are available from the App Store and are inexpensive. I use Goodnotes to take handwritten notes that are stored in electronic notebooks for each client matter and to mark up documents that require editing or highlighting for later use. Microsoft OneNote is also a recommended application. Although it is somewhat more complex, it excels at cross-platform compatibility and the ability to import virtually any type of electronic content. Although it is a matter of personal preference, I find that the annotation tools in Goodnotes provide everything that I need for markup purposes. My overall content manager, however, is Readdle Documents.
Lawyers, myself included, like to place documents into file folders that are organized by client, matter, issue, witness and any other method of organization that the attorney prefers. In Readdle Documents, the attorney can easily import documents from the firm’s file management system, ftp sites, email attachments or cloud services. It enables the attorney to carry all of the information he needs about a current case, or about all of his cases, with him at all times. As others have said, the iPad does not get any heavier when you add information. If an unexpected question arises while at home or traveling, the information is on the iPad and is easily accessible. Gone are the days when an attorney must make the excuse that “I left my notes or files at the office.” Since I store all my notes and documents on my active cases on the iPad itself, I do not even need to rely on an Internet connection for access and productive work can be performed anywhere. Clients are suitably impressed when they reach you out of the office, and the document you need is literally at your fingertips.
There are some attorneys who prefer to take notes on legal pads, to hold paper and books in their hands, and to spread papers on a table so that they can supposedly better visualize the relationships among related documents. These are the old ways of doing things and they can all be done better and more efficiently on an iPad Pro. Documents can be compared side by side, multiple documents can be opened and assigned to tabs, documents and notes can be emailed and stored in the firm’s file management system, and many trees can be saved. Above all, the lawyer can spend more time analyzing the case and creating arguments and less time trying to find documents that have been misplaced. The emergence of tablet computing means that the end of paper in the practice of law is not only near, it is happening before our eyes.
On Nov. 7, Apple released two updated versions of the iPad Pro. There is one model with an 11-inch display and another with a 12.9-inch display. Previously, there were 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models, but the dimensions of the 12.9-inch model have been reduced by 25 percent, making the size differences significantly smaller. I believe that most attorneys will be pleased with the less expensive 11-inch model but, once again, it is a matter of personal preference. The storage capacities range from 64GB to 1TB, but 256TB will provide plenty of space for most people. One thing is certain, any attorney who spends the minimal amount of time needed to become familiar with the user-friendly iPad Pro will never go back to the world of paper.
Reprinted with permission from the November 29, 2018 edition of “The Legal Intelligencer” © 2018 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.almreprints.com.