Lately, I have been having more and more conversations with colleagues about the ways in which attorneys can use the iPad in the daily practice of law. When I have these talks, I receive varying responses to my suggestion that the iPad is a legal tool that can be used for both litigation and transactional attorneys. Some cringe at the very thought of it and contend it will never stick, some shake their heads suspiciously at me as though I have made something up, and others are genuinely engaged and ask good questions about practical challenges to using the iPad and what are the good applications that they should download. For those who are hesitant, I often point out the obvious changes in the technology that we as attorneys have experienced over the past 10 years or so and where we are headed. Whether we want to admit it or not, the chase is going paperless.

Over the past 10 years or so, we have generally evolved from pen-and-paper-toting barristers to desktop computer folk who accepted the use of email to savvy laptop-carrying professionals who work wirelessly. Now, with tablet devices like the iPad that have an ever-expanding list of applications that provide more versatility than computers and laptops, there are signs of a new breed of attorney emerging, a breed that wields the iPad in effective ways. Admittedly, if one looks at smartphones as an example, this evolution has been happening for some time and tablets are just the next step. That is, somewhere in the past 10 years, someone handed us a BlackBerry or smartphone that provided us constant connection to email. Our cellphones became “smart” and granted us immediate access to our email and calendars, i.e., useful tools in the practice of law. So a lot has already changed in the past 10 years and, like the evolution to smartphones, the iPad is now ready to carry us forward in the paperless chase.

As attorneys, our minds sometimes race with thoughts of what we forgot to bring with us to court or a deposition. And then there is the inevitable need that arises to look up something you never anticipated you would need during a deposition, mediation or court appearance. Some of us chalk this up to the fact that we simply cannot carry everything we needed with us across town, on the train or through security at the airport without throwing out our backs or pulling a muscle while in transit. If you travel frequently or commute often to court with files, you may have asked yourself, “Is there an easier way?” With the emergence of more useful applications for the iPad that can used by attorneys or are tailored to our needs, we are no longer restricted by the physical world of redwelds or trial bags when we work outside our offices. The limits of what we can have access to at our fingertips outside of the office is no longer limited based on whether we can manage to jam our laptops and everything else into that nice leather bag that we received as a birthday gift.

In my practice, I tend to live and breathe discovery. When I used to get ready to head off to a deposition or court appearance to argue a motion, I often posed questions to myself like: How much of the file can I fit in my bag? What can I carry? What will I need? What can I sacrifice? In the past few years, I no longer have to ask these questions. Instead, I ask myself one question: “Has the file been loaded onto my GoodReader app on my iPad yet?” That heavy travel bag digging into my shoulder has been traded in for a lighter bag carrying an electronic version of my entire file on my iPad in GoodReader and other iPad applications. I have even exchanged my legal pad and pen for iPad applications like NoteShelf and Penultimate, which allow me to type and/or handwrite notes with a stylus that can later be saved and emailed when completed. This electronic version of the file is not only easy to carry, but can be organized, searchable and capable of being annotated through applications like GoodReader, Remarks, iAnnotate and a variety of others, whenever I am traveling on a train, waiting in the airport, or just sitting at a coffee shop. Moreover, with the emergence of applications like TrialPad and TrialDirector, the iPad is becoming a cost-effective and interesting alternative for trial practice and presentations at mediations and conferences.

As with any change, there are questions to consider before diving in headfirst. The rise of the iPad as a tool for attorneys brings with it questions that touch upon client confidentiality, privacy and security. These are all valid inquiries you should explore with your firm’s IT staff and technology vendors but are not entirely novel. Our profession faced similar inquiries at the dawn of our ability to remotely access our email on a BlackBerry or smartphone and when we gained remote access to our workplace databases from home. We found a way to overcome the hurdles with those devices and systems, so these inquiries as they relate to tablet devices can and will be answered.

Whether we realize it or not, tablet devices have already changed how we interact with each other and how we manage media and information. Now, with advances in iPad applications that can serve the legal profession, the iPad has become a useful tool for attorneys willing to experiment. If you are interested, there is a wealth of information available out there — CLEs, books and blogs addressing the use of the iPad in the practice of law. If you simply Google this topic or search the Internet for “top apps for attorneys,” “iPad and attorneys” or “best legal apps,” you will easily find a plethora of articles and blogs listing CLEs, applications and techniques for you to consider. And if you type in “law” or “legal” in the App Store on your iPad, you will find more than enough applications to tempt you, from applications with court rules to applications to assist you with jury voir dire. I encourage you to explore and experiment, and you might just find something you never knew was missing in your practice.

Joseph F. Rich is a member of Cozen O’Connor, where his practice involves representing national and international property and casualty insurers as well as companies, commercial clients and insureds in substantial property damage and recovery matters. Rich has also taught CLEs on the use of the iPad and other handheld devices in discovery and trial, with an emphasis on useful applications for discovery and using the iPad to present exhibits at trial.