The iPad and the Future of the Legal Profession. . . Or not.

The iPad and the Future of the Legal Profession. . . Or not.

I'd like to put something out there on the table.

I'm a tech nerd and an Apple fan.

I've been a fan of Apple computers since my dad bought an Apple ][+ when I was about 9 years old. Since then, I've owned many Macintosh computers and other Apple products, although I have occasionally strayed to the Dark Side and used Microsoft Windows. I currently run my law practice on Macs, with a Mac mini in my office, and an iMac at home, and a Macbook laptop for when I am traveling, and thus neither at the office or at home. I have an iPhone, an AppleTV, and have owned multiple iPods. While I do run Microsoft Windows in virtualization on my Mac for certain proprietary programs, I avoid it as much as possible.

I admit that I am an unabashed Apple Fanboy and am fully ensconced in Apple's reality distortion field.

To me, my Macs and my iPhone are not just "toys" but are an integral part of my practice of law. I use Apple's Mobile Me to keep my calendar and contacts instantly and wirelessly synced between all of my computers and my iPhone. If I make a change to a calendar or contact on one computer or on my iPhone, it instantly updates that contact or calendar item on all of my computers. While I could use Mobile Me for email, I use Google Apps for your Domain . With Google Apps, I still have my email domain of @davidshulmanlaw.com, but am able to use the Gmail interface in categorizing and storing client and other business emails.

Although I do keep files of certain original paper estate planning documents, for everything else, I run a paperless office. Every single document coming in or going out gets scanned with my Fujitsu Scansnap S1500, labeled, categorized, and put in the proper (computer) folder. Furthermore, I use a service called Dropbox. This is another syncing service, but I use it to sync all of my files and documents between all of my computers. It doesn't matter where I am or what computer I am using including my iPhone, but I can pull up any client document, at any time, anywhere. This has been very useful in answering client questions about their documents when I am away from the office. I do not have to wait until I get back to answer their questions; nor do I have someone "pull the file" to see what's in there. All of my files are available to me all of the time.

I do have various levels of encryption and password protection, and multiple redundant backups both online and off to protect the data.

This weekend I went out and bought an iPad. I stood in line at Best Buy, waiting for it to open so I could be one of the first ones to get one. After playing with it for a while, I realize that it's really nothing more than a giant iPhone (or to be more accurate, a giant iPod touch, because it doesn't make phone calls). And that's a good thing.

While of course I can play games on it and watch movies and read books, which I have already done, and will continue to do, I see, with the right applications, the iPad becoming an integral part of my practice. It's not a full computer or a laptop, and it will never replace them. All of my significant work and document creation will still be on my full desktops. But, I hope it is something that I can take to meetings instead of a notepad, and to have any notes taken on it synced to the proper client file. I think I'll be able to pull up documents, wills, trusts, contracts, deeds, and make changes when I am not able to do so at my computer. In meetings and court hearings in which a document is being discussed, I'll be able to pull it up and annotate it, without having to schlep the whole file to court.

But will it change the world and the practice of law?

Recently, Miami criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum wrote a post titled, "The Technology Curmudgeon Gives his Technology Secrets", in which he gently pokes fun at those of us who excitedly rushed out to buy the iPad as soon as it was released. He challenged us to show him how the iPad will significantly change how he practices law. He states that "there are several folks out there that want to convince you that technology is what makes you a better lawyer. It doesn't. It never will. It may make your life easier, but it will never make you a better lawyer. Sorry."

You know what?

I agree with him 100%.

I don't use and love technology to make me a better lawyer. I use it to make my life easier, and to simplify my daily non-lawyerly tasks. The more time I have everything around me "just working" and the less time and money I have to spend searching for a file or storing thousands and thousands of pages of documents (estate planning and administration can be a very document intensive practice), then the more time I have to dedicate to doing "real work." I use the extra time to serve my clients, market and expand my practice, and to become better educated on the latest developments in the law.

So is the iPad for everyone? Is it the future of the legal practice? Will it fundamentally change the way that everyone practices law?

Of course not.

But will it make my life easier? Yes, which is the whole point of technology, no?