How to Get the Most out of Your iPad: For Legal Professionals

By Dr. Gavin W. Manes and Mr. Joe Mulenex

It is the latest thing, the coolest, most stylish gadget, and it is here to stay. The iPad, in its all-familiar Apple design, is now an integral part of many people’s daily lives. But can it help you at work in the legal profession? Can an iPad really be a useful business device?

By now, the number of apps has reached many millions and it can be hard to tell which ones are useful and which ones use up precious memory on the device. As the commercials say, there is an app for everything—but it is important to ask whether that application will save time and increase productivity in your legal practice.

Why the iPad?

First and foremost, iPads are easy to use. There is a now-famous video on YouTube with a 13-month-old child who learns how to interact with an iPad in a matter of minutes.

Second, it is everywhere; there are about 65 million iPads worldwide and that number will double by the end of the year. Interestingly, there are almost six times that many Android tablets in distribution, but the largest markets for those are Asia and Europe.

Third, there are almost half a million applications for the iPad ranging in price from free up to about $100. These have made for some very creative uses for the device (pulse oximeter, flashlight, level, etc).

Fourth, the iPad is easy to connect both to the Internet and to other devices such as televisions, computers, and projectors. This, coupled with some of the aforementioned apps, makes it potentially very useful in court. Since iPads are so ubiquitous, almost every newly-manufactured electronic device now has some type of iPad connectivity.

Security and Privacy

Legal professionals have very specific obligations when it comes to confidentiality of client data and the security of office information. Due to some of the security issues (discussed below), it is best to treat your iPad as if it were a briefcase full of paper documents with client information. Although the convenience of the device is one of its greatest assets, it can also be a drawback since loss of the device can expose client information.

Data security is an issue with the iPad because of encryption issues. Although there is an encryption key on each device to allow it to work, it is not strong enough to prevent someone from removing data. In fact, there is a YouTube video that describes the process and software available that allow someone to retrieve the data and bypass the password. There are security features on the device that, unfortunately, are not used by most owners. Therefore, client data could be accessible to anyone with merely the swipe of a finger.

Fortunately, most thieves are more interested in the device itself, not the data on the device. Often, stolen iPads are wiped and sold in fairly short order. However, there may be situations where a thief could target the data if the case is high profile–you would not want a reporter or opposing counsel to have easy access to your data.

There are limited ways to move data to and from the iPad. iTunes is the most popular method but does not address the issue of security. The file structure of the iPad prevents users from being able to move data around. Each application has its own file storage system that is typically not accessible by other applications.

Some have combated the security issues by using wireless cloud storage such as DropBox, Google Docs, or a WebDAV-enabled. WebDAV-enabled servers allow a user to get information in a secure way from a Windows server to an iPad with a layer of secure encryption.

This can be a viable solution but cloud storage has its own set of issues with privacy and security. DropBox and Google Docs user agreements may not allow a user to definitively delete data. With cloud providers, there is also no guarantee that the data resides within the borders of the U.S. Many cloud providers have server farms overseas, making jurisdictional issues a concern. In fact, using cloud storage may create risks to client confidentiality (ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 Working Group on the Implications of New Technology). This paper specifically stated that cloud devices “may create risks to your client’s confidentiality.”

Several state bar associations have specifically stated that using cloud storage is not unethical but there are confidentiality risks. Carrying confidential work product on a mobile device means that you need to take some steps to protect your information–being aware of the sensitivity of what you are carrying and making it more difficult to access in case of loss or theft. The convenience of the iPad (portability, apps, etc.) should always be balanced with the security and privacy of the information within.


Hardware changes are one of the biggest compatibility issues among iPads. Apple changes the operating system fairly frequently and many apps do not have backwards compatibility. Software is frequently abandoned in favor of the newer versions since engineers are working to make their apps compatible with the newest devices–this translates to significant obsolescence. This may mean having to buy new apps every time you purchase a new iPad. Even more important, the information you already have within those apps may not migrate to the newer version.

The iPad may not be compatible with Flash or Active X, which are two types of plugins necessary to view some content on the Internet. This usually includes the animated logos or mouseover data which a large number of websites now use. This makes visiting some of those sites difficult, if not impossible. This has particular implications for the legal profession because online document review tools typically use these features.

App Categories

There are several key categories of useful apps for legal professionals. Below, we discuss several categories of apps and some that are commonly used.

Please note: although we have tested several of these applications, we are not endorsing the use of any particular product.


This includes apps that are word processing tools, spreadsheet editors, presentation editors, and more. Microsoft will be releasing a version of Office for the iPad soon; it will not have the full suite of Office capabilities but will allow document editing, formulas in Excel, etc. Another commonly used office-type program is Documents to Go, which was originally built for the iPhone. It allows a user to edit Word documents, PowerPoints, and spreadsheets.

Document Viewers

This category of apps allows users to look at documents–some with editing capabilities (such as cutting and pasting) and some without. WordPerfect is a very commonly used program within the legal community, and there is an app for the iPad available. iAnnotate and GoodReader are both PDF readers with similar functionality, including the ability to annotate with notes and, of great benefit, manage documents. In fact, these are some of the only tools that allow you to build a file library within an app. Users can also sync with a server.

Imaging/Document Scanning

This category of apps includes a range, from those with camera functionality to image editing. There is a built-in camera available only in iPads 2 and 3, which many of these apps use; for example, Doc Scan HD Pro allows the user to build a multi-page TIFF from images you have stored on the iPad. Additionally, it allows a user to edit images, including keystone adjustments and resizing, and save as a TIFF or PDF. Adobe’s Photoshop Touch gives users much more photo editing capability, including cleaning up images, color adjustment, and more.

Case Preparation

Attorneys need a variety of technologies at their fingertips to prepare for cases, such as creating case outlines or viewing transcripts. OmniOutliner is a commonly used app that allows attorneys to create an outline just as they might on a legal pad. There is cut and paste functionality for images, weblinks, videos, and audio files that can be dropped right into the outline. On paper, that might mean thousands of pages, but with the app, it is all contained within a file. The iPad version of OmniOutliner is interoperable with the Macintosh desktop version. Files from OmniOutliner can also be exported as .xml files and edited using Microsoft Word.

Trial Presentation

There are a variety of programs to run video or display images or text during trial. Keynote has a remote function that allows a user to run the presentation from their iPhone. TrialPad helps build a case using exhibits, pictures, and demonstratives. Users can build a script of what they want to show within the app. These types of apps allow attorneys to be the conductors of their own symphony during trial.


There are so many apps out there, but it pays to choose wisely. Quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb. Also, be sure to test apps before using them in trial or with a tight deadline as they may not work the way you think they should. Of course, every attorney’s practice is different; frequent in-court litigators might find TrialPad very useful, while complex cases could certainly benefit from OmniOutliner.

Although they are typically not very expensive, the amount of time you can save with a good, helpful, easy-to-navigate app can assist you in your legal practice.

| @Law |

Dr. Gavin W. Manes, president and CEO of Avansic, is a nationally recognized expert in e-discovery and digital forensics. Dr. Manes has published over 50 papers on computer security and digital forensics, and has given hundreds of presentations to attorneys, executives, students, professors, law enforcement, schools, and professional groups on topics ranging from digital forensics issues to cyber law. He has also briefed the White House, Department of the Interior, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon on computer security and forensics issues.

Mr. Joe Mulenex is a regional technical director at Avansic. He provides consulting, sales support, and project management for all of Avansic’s regional markets, particularly Louisiana and Texas. Mr. Mulenex is also responsible for implementing and managing Avansic’s online review repository services. Mr. Mulenex has given dozens of presentations for professional organizations and law firms across the region. He was responsible for onsite project management and consulting on the largest litigation in U.S. history.

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