Tablet UseLegal professionals once carried heavy loads of printed documents. Now iPads and other tablets allow them to consolidate statutes, briefs, and exhibits in one place.  Loads are lighter, efficiency is maximized, and trees are saved. However, reservations still exist.

Drawbacks to Tablets

New technology is always subject to resistance and criticism. There are also potential ethical issues due to the confidential nature of the information being stored and accessed electronically. By using wireless internet to access client documents in public court rooms there is a risk of computer hackers accessing confidential information.

You’ve probably had a moment when you relied on technology to work and it didn’t. Technological blips happen and when they do, they can cause unnecessary time delays or even permanent document loss.

Using an iPad also creates cross-platform issues for document review and editing. Currently, MS Word is not available for iPad. As a result, documents generally need to be converted to the iPad’s document app, Pages. Apple’s Support Forum provides a solution to this cross-platform issue. If this does not satisfy your cross-platform needs, invest in a Surface, which comes pre-loaded with MS Office.

Traditionalists are Converting to Tablets

Despite these problems previously identified, the benefits associated with iPads have been recognized by many. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia, aged 77 and currently the longest serving Justice of the Supreme Court, has been spotted using an iPad to read and annotate briefs.  His technological adoption has even influenced other justices to follow suit.

“I saw that Justice Scalia said that he had them on an iPad and I thought, huh, maybe I should do it on an iPad. But mine are on a Kindle, and I also of course sometimes truck them around just in hard copy. So I do both. But it is, it’s endless reading. … That’s a big part of the job, and if a Kindle or an iPad can make it easier, that’s terrific.” – Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

Not only does use of a tablet or iPad significantly decrease the amount of physical materials that need to be hauled from the office to courtroom, but most tablet devices also contain the capability to download a myriad of useful apps for legal professionals. Westlaw, Lexis, Jurypad and Trial pad are all available for the iPad.

Looking to the Future

Technology is rapidly evolving, and tablets are no exception. New devices, features or apps are introduced each week. It’s only a matter of time before their use in the legal profession is the rule, rather than the exception. What’s your opinion on tablets? Please comment to let us know.