This month, we talk to Tom Mighell, a senior consultant with Contoural, Inc. where he helps companies address records management and electronic discovery needs. Mighell is also the author of iPad in One Hour for Lawyers and runs the technology blog, Inter-Alia.net.
When Socrates was being tried for corrupting the youth, he had little more than his memory and oratory ability to aid his defense. These days, modern attorneys have entire arsenals of gadgets at their disposal, particularly the dynamic Apple iPad.
Since its release a mere two years ago, the tablet device has not only changed the world of personal computing, it’s making inroads into the courtroom. The key to the iPad’s growing popularity with legal professionals is its ability to not only consume information but create it, observes Tom Mighell.
“Lawyers who get it are finding that there are ways to use the iPad where they've traditionally used other things,” says Mighell. “When I first got my iPad, I thought to myself, ‘I want this to replace my legal pad. I never want to have to use a legal pad again. I wanna keep all my notes digitally where I can save them somewhere, not just on my iPad, and I've always got access to my notes instead of having to take a legal pad when I'm done with a case or a matter and file it away in a box and never see it again.’”
Of course, the facility of the iPad goes well beyond merely taking notes and creating and editing documents. Thanks to a bevy of niche developers swarming the legal space, there is, as they say, “an app for that” when it comes to a number of needs facing the legal community.
“I think what makes the iPad really beneficial for lawyers – especially lawyers who are litigators – is that a number of apps have come out that allow lawyers to go to trial, take depositions, review depositions and present evidence at trial through their iPad,” says Mighell. When accompanied by a wifi or 3G connection, you can also conduct research on the fly without having to call back to the office or get online with a laptop.
Among Mighell’s favorite apps are those used for taking the copious amount of notes lawyers face in an average day. He’s especially fond of those that permit him to use a stylus and create handwritten notes. Topping his list is Noteshelf, which is available in Apple’s iTunes Store for $5.99.
“I like Noteshelf because it allows you to segregate your notes into ‘notebooks’ on a ‘shelf,’ which is easy for organizational purposes,” says Mighell. The app also plays well with Dropbox, the cloud based data storage service, so your data is backed up and also sharable. Mighell is also fond of Note Taker HD, available for $4.99 in the “productivity” section of the iTunes store, ditto Notability and 7 Notes Premium. “There are a couple of apps out there that allow you to take both handwritten or typewritten notes while also recording your deposition or your meeting. When you go back, the recording will actually synchronize to your notes,” explains Mighell. “All you have to do is tap in the area where your notes are, and it will play back the recording from that point where you were taking those notes, which is nice if you can't remember exactly what was being said during that time.”
The Deponent App, an app made specifically for taking depositions, allows you to create a deposition outline that can be reused for multiple depositions. “You can set up your own set of standard questions, so that when it's time to prepare for a deposition, you can just press on the questions you want to ask for that deposition and then add in any other questions you want,” says Mighell. You can also take your deposition directly from the iPad.
Moreover, you can attach an exhibit to whatever question you're asking, thanks to a handy “exhibit” button, which lets you append documents, photos and other relevant files that might be of use later. The app is $9.99 and also has a built-in Dropbox utility. Likewise, Transcript Pad by Saurian Communications, Inc., is a robust deposition review tool at an equally robust price of $49.99.
“You can set Transcript Pad up to code and to create designations for your depositions. When I was doing litigation technology support, I was creating designations all the time. The lawyer would go through the deposition and say, ‘Here's the testimony I want to have read at the trial out of this person's deposition,’” says Mighell. Presently you can only import .txt files in the app.
Billed on iTunes as the “leading trial presentation and legal file management app,” Trial Pad (also by Saurian Communications, Inc, at $89.99) boasts baked-in evidence presentation software.
“In terms of being able to present evidence from the iPad, in court or in mediation, it's the best one that's out there right now. You can show just about any kind of document—pictures, videos, deposition—and you can create call-outs of the documents so that people can see specific parts like a signature,” says Mighell.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Socrates would have prevailed at his trial had he an iPad tucked under his arm. However, he’s not been forgotten by app developers. For five bucks, you can download “Socrates (with search)” to bone up on your classics between cases!