I remember in my first year of law school, no one brought a laptop into class, we answered law school exams using “blue books,” there was no such thing as Wi-Fi, and West and Lexis were reshaping legal research on DOS-Based machines. In my con-law class, the professor started a discussion that turned toward the people’s influence on politics and our system of justice. Being a technology enthusiast then, as I am now, I chimed in on how the “World Wide Web” was going to change the way we vote, the way we communicate with our elected officials, and the way we influence our legal systems as both lawyers and citizens. I went on to paint a futuristic picture of “electronic town hall meetings,” voting on the web, instant communication, and so on. I stopped short of predicting flying cars and personal jetpacks. Nevertheless, my professor dismissed my comments with a wave of his hand and told me I should spend more time reading law books than science fiction. No, I was not a legal technology visionary, I did not have a crystal ball showing me a future filled with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the gadgets to drive them such as iPads. Instead, I saw what I thought was clear to everyone in my class – the coming of the digital age.
Now we have entered the “Post-PC” era of tablet computing on the ubiquitous iPad® and other devices. When the iPad® was first introduced in 2010, I was intrigued about its possible use in my office and in the courtroom. To be sure, an iPad is great for reading novels, watching Netflix®, listening to iTunes®, or playing Angry Birds®. But the iPad is also a useful tool for legal professionals. For me, my iPad has become an invaluable tool in my legal practice. For example, I use my iPad to take notes, to outline motions, to review and annotate transcripts, to display slide shows, timelines, photos, and videos, to conduct research, and to select juries. For example, I recently used my iPad during oral arguments before the South Carolina Supreme Court. On my iPad, I had over 1,400 pages of trial transcripts and exhibits, appellant’s and respondent’s briefs, and all my legal authorities. All of this information was searchable, indexed, and collated for my appellate presentation. I was not the only one with an iPad in tow. All of the justices had iPad’s on which they read briefs, transcripts, and other legal documents. Further, according to the ABA’s 2012 Tech Survey, 30% of all attorneys now use an iPad for law-related tasks. If you doubt that the iPad is a very useful tool, then you should note that I did not type a single word of this article. Instead, I used “Siri” to dictate my every word.
I am often asked about what apps exist specifically for the legal profession. As of January 2013, there are approximately 300,000 apps that are native to iPad, and thousands more are added every week. Many apps wallow in obscurity from the first day of their release (“zombie” apps) because the search for apps, new or otherwise, is very difficult. However, there is help to find the apps you need in your practice. Author, lawyer, and noted legal technologist Tom Mighell has written a wonderful book entitled “iPad in One Hour for Lawyers” in which he gives advice on many apps and how to make the most out of your iPad in your practice. Also, on Tom’s blog, located at ipad4lawyers.squarespace.com, he regularly reviews new and updated apps that are germane to the practice of law.
Although I doubt my future will be filled with flying cars and personal jetpacks, I do have a few more “realistic” predictions regarding emerging technologies that will continue to shape our digital world and the way we practice law. First, the thin and light iPad I now hold in my hand will feel like a brick compared to paper-thin devices using OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) displays that you will be able to roll up like a newspaper. Using Near Field Communication (NFC), smartphones, tablets, and other devices will “communicate” with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity. Lastly, Augmented Reality (AR) will be incorporated into sunglasses, eyeglasses, and computer devices that will allow you to view physical, real-world environments augmented by computer-generated sensory information. For example, when you look at restaurant building through your sunglasses, the restaurant’s menu and daily specials will float within your field of vision. Or, while you are meeting with new client in your office, that person’s profile will appear “virtually” and display their background information and “status” (Facebook-style). But for now, I am content to use my iPad each day to make me more mobile, more connected with my office and with my clients, and generally more productive than I ever was in the digital age.
Stephan V. Futeral, Esq., Chief Architect of JuryPad