This iPad Class For Lawyers Hopes To Settle Tiffs Over BYOD [Interview]


CC-licensed, via David Ortez on Flickr.
CC-licensed, via David Ortez on Flickr.

Carol Gerber wants to help reconcile lawyers who bring in their own iPads to work with the IT department.

Gerber is an former bankruptcy attorney who has been imparting tech training to lawyers for a decade. On the front lines of the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) movement, she’s created an iPad class approved by the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board.

Carol Gerber.

The idea is timely: the American Bar Association noted in its 2011 tech survey that 89 percent of lawyers who use tablets have iPads. Her 50-minute course called “Practicing Law with an iPad” is tailorable to particular firms’ policies and software, a move she hopes will smooth over the struggle between device-toting legal eagles and support staff.

There are a number of continuing ed courses about the iPad for lawyers, but most emphasize apps or how to make eye-catching courtroom presentations.

Her approach is more down-to-earth: “iPads are extraordinarily popular and easy to use, but they present some practical problems to those accustomed to working on desktop or notebook computers,” she notes in the April 3 webinar description for the Practising Law Institute titled “iPads and the Practice of Law: Finding a Productive Common Ground.”

Gerber talked to Cult of Mac about apps lawyers really need, security issues and why taking an iPad to court might be more work than it’s worth.

CoM: What’s the best thing about the iPad for a lawyer?

CG: It’s great for getting through the huge amount of reading material lawyers inevitably have – often they don’t need to write or comment a lot, but a large part of what they do is sucking in information.

If you can do that with a lightweight tablet instead of laptop or a stack of boxes, great. Lawyers are also under enormous time pressure, so if you can save time because the iPad has such long battery life that you don’t need to wait to boot it up during your daily train commute or plane trips, it adds up.

CoM: What are some apps you recommend?

CG: There are ton of apps that address tiny little parts of a lawyer’s work, but one every lawyer should have is GoodReader. It solves a lot of problems that attorneys have they when can’t see all their documents at once, by allowing you to create a file structure for different types of documents (Word, PDFs for example) organized in the same place.

FastCase, which provides free legal research, is also key. Other good ones are Documents to Go, the only word processor app that will display track changes, and Cloudon, an online version of Microsoft Word, though it requires an Internet connection, so security may be a concern.

CoM: You address the security issue in your class – what do lawyers need to know?

CG: Part of it is awareness. Lawyers need a secure way to get information to and from the iPad; everyone loves Dropbox, but it may not meet their law firm’s requirements for security. Firms have the obligation to take reasonable precautions to keep data safe and that means reading these contracts with cloud providers, because Dropbox or whoever it is holds the keys…

It was the same when lawyers started using email, there are some things that are OK sent that way and others are not. They need to know when to do things differently.

CoM: The class aims to set “reasonable expectations” about the iPad, do people tend to expect too much or too little?

CG: They expect to do too much with it, thinking that it will be a laptop replacement. If you’re editing documents, you won’t be happy on iPad, even with an external keyboard.

The word processing apps that exist today destroy Microsoft Word document formatting — things like auto numbering, table of contents, headers, footers. Even if you can type out a few paragraphs, you’re trashing the document and your staff will hate you for it. It’ll work in in a pinch, but wouldn’t be a laptop replacement.

CoM: There’s been a lot written about how great the iPad is in court, would you agree?

CG: It depends. The idea of using this beautiful, elegant device instead of a clunky setup with wires, cables etc. is appealing, but it might mean lawyers may have to do the presentations themselves instead of depending on staffers.

Typically, when lawyers work on cases that are big enough case to warrant courtroom tech, there’s someone whose job it is to run that. If you have a $20,000 case – as opposed to a $2 million case – they might do it themselves. But they’d have to find time to rehearse, because you don’t want to mess around when the jury is watching.

Also, some courtrooms have rules that ban devices with cameras. It’s a matter of figuring out ahead of time how these details are going to work out.

CoM: Does the iPad make lawyers more available to clients?

CG: Well, for years, lawyers have had “crackberries,” and I would think they’d carry that or a smartphone as often as an iPad so it’ll probably be about the same…

CoM: A lot has happened since Blackberries were standard…

CG: True. Law firms used to say, “Here’ s your Blackberry, it’s secure and it will work on our system.” They aren’t able to do that anymore. The smart firms are getting ahead of things and deciding what’s going to happen now that everyone is bringing in their iPads and iPhones. What’s the policy? What apps should people use?

There’s a lot to work through and that’s where I come in.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.