How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?Lawyers’ reactions to the iPad are mixed, to say the least.

A few, like myself, are gung ho and can’t wait to get their hands on one.

Another minority appears absolutely convinced the iPad is destined to fail from the very start, having little to no utility for the legal profession.

The rest either could care less or are reserving judgment until the dust settles.
In other words, the vast majority of lawyers are not yet sold on the idea of the iPad. Many of those same attorneys, however, have expressed frustration at having to carry around large stacks of documents while commuting or traveling, and have indicated the iPad would hold far more appeal if they could annotate and edit documents on it.

For that group of lawyers, the ability to reduce the amount of paperwork and quickly and easily edit and annotate documents, as if writing on an electronic document, would be a deal breaker.

Those lawyers do not envision creating documents on the iPad, but rather marking up a pleading or contract, making notations in the margins to a draft appellate brief, or commenting on an internal memorandum. Such tasks, currently, are not accomplished easily while on the road, since neither lap- tops nor smart phones are well suited to those types of document annotations.

The iPad — with a larger screen and unique touch screen functionality — has the potential to change all of that but the real question is, will it?

Not surprisingly, I think it will.

There already are a number of iPhone apps that permit the annotation or revision of a variety of documents. Some are quite popular, others are not — in large part because of the difficulty inherent in working with documents on a screen of such small proportions. The iPad’s larger screen will breathe new life into those applications, and other new apps will be developed to allow documents to be annotated and revised on the fly.

Let’s take a look at a few of the iPhone apps already available that permit annotation and revision of documents. Documents to Go Premium allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and Power- Point files. RightSignature allows Word or PDF documents to be signed using the iPhone app. Those files also can be uploaded to RightSignature’s Web site for distribution.

Aji allows PDs to be signed and marked up, and enables text notes, strike-through text and highlight text. Documents also can be annotated in free form; however, users can’t distribute the documents using the iPhone interface. Instead, the annotated document must be processed using Aji’s Web site on a computer, then sent.

One app goes a step further — Zosh. Zosh allows users to sign, annotate and distribute documents in a variety of formats, including .doc, .pdf, .xls, .ppt, .jpg, .png, .tif and .bmp — all from the iPhone. The app enables users to insert
free-form annotations such as a signature and text boxes. The ability to highlight text is in the works, according to Zosh CEO Joshua Kerr.

Some companies that developed the apps I’ve mentioned already have announced that iPad-compatible apps are in the works. I have no doubt other new apps will be introduced, tailor-made for the iPad. Such functionality will make the iPad a must-have for lawyers and other business users.

While I think the iPad will be used primarily as a device for media consumption, undoubtedly there is room for certain types of business use that will make it a mainstay for business travelers and commuters.


5 Responses to “How Will Lawyers Use the iPad?”

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Niki, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been using my laptop to revise, markup, annotate, and comment on documents for years. If you’re using Word, Track Changes is probably the best way to annotate or comment on documents, unless you’re using another commercially available redlining tool. All very easily accomplished on a laptop.

From what I can tell about Documents to Go, it only allows for creation and editing of documents on the iPhone (and I suppose the iPad, when it gets released). I do not think that it, or any of the apps you mention, actually allow annotating of a Word or Excel document. The real value of Track Changes is that all the edits can be accepted or rejected within the document, and these apps don’t have that functionality.

No doubt the iPad will be a good tool to create, view, and sign documents, but with the current apps available it won’t be very good at annotation or commenting.

I don’t like to use the mark up features in Word. I–like many other lawyers, I think–prefer to actually mark up a doc on paper. The comment feature of Word is clunky and I prefer not to use it unless I have to. It’s just not an interface that I find to be intuitive.

I get the sense from many lawyers that they would like to annotate a document as if it were on a piece of paper–ie. write on it in the margins.

Also, when docs from opposing counsel, etc. are scanned into a system, they appear as .pdfs, so that’s another type of document that lawyers are looking to review/comment on, I think.

I get the sense that lawyers are tired of lugging around stacks of documents and in my opinion, the iPad is going to solve that problem.

I could be wrong, but we’ll see;)

I suppose it’s a matter of preference – I find the Track Changes features in Word to be very simple to use. To me, when you mark up a paper document, you (or someone else) then has to go back and make the same edits to the original document – so, twice the work. Or it could be three, four or more times the work if multiple people are marking up the document. With Track Changes, everyone makes their changes to the same document, and they can all be merged into the same document at once.

The apps on the iPhone that you mention won’t make this any easier from a work standpoint, except from the “no more paper” aspect. Lawyers (or their assistants) will still have to take the marked-up documents and go and spend more time editing the document.

I suppose I may be thinking about this a bit differently than you – from a collaboration standpoint. Having everyone mark up a document separately is (IMHO) not the best way to collaborate on a document (if you’re not going to use an online document creation service, that is).

I plan to leave my files at home for Court and depositions. I’ll bring only those that will have to be marked. I can stand in front of a witness with my IPad and cross him without fumbling through volumes of documents.

Trialpad app is available on the App Store. It is a trial presentation program that lets you store your documents in PDF’s in a client file on the IPad. You can select the document, mark it up and then show it on a screen via a projector.

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