Lawyer Jason Kay walks us through the power of the popular tablet and gives us glimpses into the kinds of apps those in the legal practice will find handy.

The iPad is the single best gadget you could purchase to improve your productivity and effectiveness as a lawyer. This is from a litigation point of view. This aim of this article is to give you a summary of what can be done as well as to provide some guideposts should you take the plunge and join the digital revolution.

Great for productivity. Really. | Source:

First question: Which iPad should I get? Get the latest one with the Retina display. Your eyes will love you for it. The price difference between it and the iPad2 is negligible.

Next, the case / cover: You should get a good case that can double as a stand. I use the Targus Versavu which allows the iPad to stand in both landscape and portrait mode. This versatility is useful. A stylus, that also contains a pen, should be added also because you’ll still need to write on hardcopy documents, and the stylus is absolutely necessary when you’re highlighting or underlining texts – this is especially true if you have large fingers.

An important consideration is whether you should get the wi-fi only version, or the one with the cellular network support. Go with the latter unless you have wi-fi everywhere you go.

Why? Because lawyers get ideas at all times and at all places. Having that light-bulb moment is only as good as the action you can take after that. Certain things require instant action to achieve the maximum effect. An important thing to note here, therefore, is that you should subscribe to a cellular plan which only throttles your speed when you hit your data quota – not one that cuts you off entirely. Ask around before committing to a plan. I cannot overemphasize how crucial this is.

Get productive already, man! | Source:

Now that you have your swanky new iPad, do you jailbreak it? On this, I fall on the ‘leave it as it is’ side of the fence. You’re a lawyer, not a tech geek with too much time on your hands. So quit with the experimentation and proceed from the premise that your iPad is a tool for you to be more productive and, hopefully, richer. Not something you want to fiddle around with. Warranty will be voided if you jailbreak it. So my advice: Don’t.

At this point you should create a Google account. This will allow you access to the wealth of fantastic and free services Google offers like email, calendar, word processing, cloud-based storage, RSS reader and maps – to name but a few. I recommend Google because it’s stable and it has worked very well for me the past 7 years. Bonus: Google integrates very well with the iPad’s pre-installed apps.

Your final preliminary task will be to create an Apple ID and register your credit card so that you can buy apps from the App Store. If you don’t want to use your regular credit card, get a prepaid one and load it with RM300. That should be enough to purchase all the apps that I’ll be recommending.

Free apps that you should immediately download are:-

  • Dropbox (cloud-based storage)
  • Evernote (cloud-based note-taking)
  • Skitch (to annotate pictures)
  • Skype (audio and video conferencing)
  • AppShopper (for alerts on price reduction for apps that you might want to buy)

Free apps that you should seriously consider downloading are:-

  • Facebook (social networking)
  • Twitter (social networking – but I use it mainly to keep in touch with breaking news)
  • Flipboard (news aggregator)
  • Zite (news aggregator)
  • TED (for inspirational and informative talks)
  • TimeCapture (for time billing)
  • Wikipanion (this makes Wikipedia very readable)
  • TripAdvisor (to book hotels and to find out where to eat when you’re out of town)
  • Fit It (to reduce the resolution and size of photos taken with the iPad camera)
  • iBooks (to read e-books)

Paid apps that you should buy are:-

  • Pages (for word processing)
  • Instapaper (to read and organize articles from the web)
  • PDF Expert (to read, annotate and sign PDFs – going totally paperless is almost possible with this app)
  • CamScanner+ (to take photographs of documents and convert them to PDF)
  • ProCamera (to take photos with date and time stamps – it’s a good overall photo app)
  • Notability (to take notes if you like taking notes freehand with your finger or stylus – otherwise, get the wireless Bluetooth Apple keyboard for RM229)
  • Bento (only if you are very proficient with databases and want to ‘tinker’ – this is a powerful tool)
  • WolframAlpha (just trust me on this one)
  • Sleep Gadget (for logging your sleep)
  • Total Recall (mind mapping tool)
  • 360 (to take panorama pictures)
  • Money for iPad (to keep track of your money)

How you can use and should use the apps listed above (along with the pre-installed ones like Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Maps, Safari, Mail and YouTube) really depend on your creativity. The key is to first decide what you want to achieve, and then see if you can do it with the existing apps you have. If you cannot, or if you’re stuck, you should head over to the App Store, or do some searches on the web or the Apple forums. Chances are, someone has encountered the same problem and may have already found a solution / shortcut for you. Or maybe there’s an app that does exactly what you desire. The learning curve is not steep, but neither is it easy.

You’ll need about 3-5 weeks of constant ‘messing around’ before you see some positive results in your practice. And it helps if you do not, under any circumstances, download any games – Angry Birds deserves a special mention. Playing games on the iPad will rob you blind of what little time you have. This is the siren song. Listen to it not.

The genius of the iPad is in its design. The touch function is vastly superior to the way we’ve been interacting with computers – keyboard and mouse. This tactile element is the very reason why the iPad works so well for litigators. Our minds work both methodically and in a free-ranging manner, depending on the problem we’re trying to solve. The iPad assists us by nurturing both styles, in a way normal computers simply cannot.

No booting required for the one on the left | Source:

Imagine waking up to a half-formed strategy for a case conceived in a dream. Do you walk to your desktop, boot it up and do your research? You might. Do you reach for your laptop, boot it up, and do your research? Probably, since there might be no walking involved. But if you have an iPad by your bed, or under the pillow, ‘might’ and ‘probably change to ‘most likely’ because there’s no boot up time, no walking, and it’s like holding a magical piece of glass. That simple research could be the key / catalyst that solves the issue for you. I’ve gotten up a case in about 1-2 hours on the iPad that I know would’ve taken me about 2-4 times longer if I had done it on my desktop or laptop. And I’ve fallen asleep while researching / drafting more times than I can remember. All this translates to more work done in small pockets of time that I ‘steal’ for myself during the day. Long bus rides are no longer for naps and listening to podcasts. They now include doing actual work.

Let me end by giving you an example of how I use the iPad on a normal day:-

During my morning shower, I usually get most of my ideas. And it’s very easy to immediately jot them in the Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Total Recall, or Evernote (sometimes after a quick search on the web with Safari or Wikipanion) app. This is after the shower, of course.

While having breakfast, or commuting, I catch up with what’s happening socially on Facebook, and read the news via Flipboard, Zite, or Twitter, or all of them.

Let’s say on this hypothetical day, I’m going to mention a case on behalf of an out-station lawyer. I’d have received all instructions via email and PDF attachments. I view these with Mail and annotate them with PDF Expert. During the mention, I can take down notes with Notability, or fire up Pages, link the keyboard, and type out the notes. These notes I can later incorporate into my report (which I have the option of exporting as a PDF to be signed with PDF Expert); and email to the instructing counsel. Any hardcopy of documents that needs to be sent can first be photographed and converted to PDF using CamScanner+. The scanned copy will take minutes to reach that out-station lawyer. The hard copy, at most, takes a day.

Getting up a case is quite simple now with most law reports available online. Safari, PDF Expert, Instapaper and Dropbox will be your best friends in no time. Drafting of pleadings and submissions is possible with Pages. But if you want more control of the layout, all your work can be exported in MSWord format for final formatting on your desktop / laptop.

Should you need to have a quick face-to-face chat, Skype (works with wi-fi and cellular connections) or FaceTime (only works with a wi-fi connection) saves your time tremendously – no commute, waiting or traffic jams. Just make sure you dress appropriately, have a decent background / backdrop, and frame yourself well.

I’ve yet to conduct a trial solely with the iPad, so I cannot comment on this. (Of course it would be folly to so do if one doesn’t also have the physical file on the bar table, or at least in the car boot, just in case.)

Replacing your physical diary with the Calendar app on the iPad is a no-brainer. Synchronization with Google Calendar is excellent, and you have 2 free iCloud calendars. Creating and rescheduling appointments are so simple and intuitive, you’ll never want to work with a desk diary again.

A note about the price of apps: Depending on the maker of the app, prices can either fluctuate greatly, slightly, or not at all. This is where AppShopper comes in. It allows you to follow certain apps that pique your interest, but not enough that you would buy it immediately at its current price. All you have to do is make a note of it, and when the price drops, AppShopper will notify you.

I’m aware that there are many other good apps that I haven’t mentioned in this article. But I can only recommend what I’ve actually used. I do not recommend willy-nilly. I have received no gratification, neither in cash or in kind, from any of the product developers / makers that I’ve recommended in this article. They’re good products – plain and simple. And, if for some strange reason you wish to thank me, please consider donating to a charity that has a good administration expense ratio – Yes, this is the whole ‘pay it forward’ thing.

If you do plan to get the iPad, I wish you much fun with your new gadget. Remember, it’s not a toy. It’s not a glorified game machine. And it’s not only a media consumption device. It’s a money-making machine that’s both sexy and magical.

Good luck with your practice, with or without the iPad.

Explore these apps by clicking on them:

1. 360
2. AppShopper
3. Bento
4. Camscanner+
5. Dropbox
6. Evernote
7. Facebook
8. Flipboard
9. Fit It
10. Google
11. iBooks
12. Instapaper
13. Money for iPad
14. Notability
15. Pages
16. PDF Expert
17. ProCamera
18. Skitch
19. Skype
20. Sleep Gadget
21. TED
22. TimeCapture
23. Total Recall
24. TripAdvisor
25. Twitter
26. Wikipanion
27. Wolfram Alpha
28. Zite

Jason Kay is from Melaka.

6 replies on “Firing Up Your Legal Practice with the iPad”

  1. Addendum to article – 06 December 2012

    Essential apps

    Waze (Free GPS guide with real-time traffic statistics. Very good. I cannot say this app is “Fantastic” because of some problems with the audio directions – “left” & “right” sometimes get confused).

    Tweetbot (Twitter reader. It displays source articles in links embedded in tweets so much faster than the normal Twitter app. If you tweet, or research via tweets, a lot, this app is a must-have)

    MagicalPad (to create BEAUTIFUL workflow charts, mind maps and general notes – quite a steep learning curve)

    Timeli (to see all your on-going projects in a timeline)

    Notable apps

    Pocket Wavepad HD (to record audio in various formats. A good standby if you don’t have a dedicated mp3 recorder)

    Zello (walkie-talkie over IP. Less data consumption than FaceTime/Skype, easier than typing out the chats)

    File Manager Pro (Document Reader & File Browser) (if you need to email 2 or more files, not photos, from your iPad, you need this)


    After iOS 6, Personal Hotspot works for me. Pairing my laptop to the iPad me the almost perfect office on-the-go – have the chargers nearby, just in case.

    Guide to using Evernote better. Look at the “ambassador guides”.

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