The NZ E-Discovery Blog  Facilitating proportionate and efficient e-discovery

Lawyers embracing technology – has the iPad been the catalyst for change?

December 16th, 2011

Recently I have witnessed a considerable change in the number of legal professionals using iPads or tablet devices. The iPad appears to be gaining acceptance by many who had previously been very reluctant technology users. I refer to iPads as they are arguably the most recognisable tablet device (they definitely are for the people that I deal with).

The iPad adoption for some may just be because they see their peers using the technology, whilst for others they see the obvious advantages of how they can work smarter and more efficiently through the aide of the iPad.

The accessibility of an iPad is the key for many legal professionals. I think many can see the ease and simplicity that iPad/tablet devices can bring to their practice. The devices do rather succinctly sum up the important message of what is possible with technology – ‘everything available at the touch of a button’.

Many can see the practical use for the iPad – probably more evident and obvious than some of the other technology solutions. Much of the functionality with an iPad is much simpler (and user friendly) than many computers and software.

Removing the reliance on paper

The obvious role of the iPad is where it is removing the reliance on paper. Where many may have relied upon the key documents being in paper files, the iPad is taking over this domain as the key documents are now readily available.

I have been inundated with queries recently by lawyers wanting to get their key documents onto their iPad. The usual question that I get is “I have just purchased an iPad, how can I get my documents on there and run my case” (obviously this is usually where I respond with “this is where I come in”). Often they only want a handful of documents, which they might otherwise have had to carry around in a file. These documents can be accessed in court, at client meetings or even on the way home from the office (without the need to carry bulky files). Essentially, those that can access the key information quickly and accurately will be in a stronger position than those that have to trawl through paper documents to locate the crucial evidence.

For the smaller matters, or even sole practitioners who may not require the use of more sophisticated technology, the iPad is a very efficient tool. It is not just discovery documents, but also pleadings and import correspondence that can also be available on the iPad.

Obviously, the iPad does not replace the role of the desktop computer or laptop, but it certainly can play an important role in ensuring lawyers are more productive by reducing the reliance on paper. Often the iPad is used more by senior lawyers and barristers, who solely want access to the key documents. They will not usually be involved in the document analysis or the document review. If they are then they will probably do this using more robust technology that is specifically designed for this purpose.

The rise of the iPad

The use of iPads has been topical over the past week as we have seen many interesting articles floating around about ‘paperless courts’ and equipping lawyers with iPads and tablet devices.

Firstly, last week there was the news out of the UK where the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales are looking to embrace a paperless court approach. All the Crown Prosecution Service departments are to be given “iPad-style devices” to reduce the reliance on paper. The UK development has been commented on by many, including some inevitable scepticism about the benefits of the proposed rollout. The Law Gazette, highlighted most of the concerns in an article last week.

In the same week as the story from the UK, we see a law firm like Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Australia developing their own iPad application for their lawyers to use in court. The difference here is that they are looking to integrate their iPad application, with their existing litigation support tools like Ringtail and Relativity. The Corrs lawyers will be able to tag documents and make notes on documents, so they can get more functionality from the application.

I am coming across firms in New Zealand looking to go down a similar path as Corrs. Many of these firms want to develop the technology to suit their own business requirements, which may be different from what is offered in other ‘off the shelf’ type products.

Using technology VS ‘effectively’ using technology

Like most technology, many do not use it to its full potential. There needs to be a lot more to simply just having an image of a paper document on an iPad or tablet. Many will want the additional functionality of searching and marking up their documents, as well as the ability to easily identify important documents.

Just like the planning that goes into other aspects of the case, the same effort should go into how the documents in a digital form can be used the most effectively. Just displaying a document on a tablet device is not fully utilising the benefits of technology – most lawyers I know will want to do more than this (and are looking to do so).

At the end of the day, if the iPads/tablet devices is what is getting some previously reluctant technology users across the line in embracing technology, then that must be positive. Once these ‘new believers’ realise the efficiencies that technology can bring to their role, they may look to go even further and look to embrace technology earlier in the process – at the stages where it will bring real cost savings as well more accurate results in their case preparation, notably the early identification of information and then the document review.

An iPad (or any other tablet device) will not be a suitable solution for everyone, but those that have embraced them have seen considerable efficiencies compared to their previous paper based practices.

If devices like the iPad are the catalyst for embracing technology, then their popular adoption is a positive development as we seek to show more in the legal profession the benefits that technology can bring.



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