Many attorneys who read iPhone J.D. write to tell me how they are using their iPhone in their practice. I love to read these stories, and with your permission, I'd love to share your stories with others. I find that when I hear what others are doing, it usually gives me more ideas for making the most of my iPhone in my practice.
I received a note the other day from Oxford, Mississippi attorney Tom Freeland. Tom's law firm Freeland & Freeland (and its predecessors) has been in the same location for over 100 years, but having one foot in history doesn't stop Tom from having another foot in high technology. He runs the great NMissCommentor blog which discusses everything from Mississippi and federal Fifth Circuit law to technology to food and drink. (One recent post on the Ramos Gin Fizz spawned a vigorous debate in the comments over how to best make that drink and whether to use soda water. Like Tom, I'd trust the New Orleans restaurant recipes over anything on Wikipedia!) Tom is also on Twitter as @NMissC.
Tom Freeland wrote to me the other day to share this story on successful use of his iPhone and laptop at trial. And as Tom suggests, I suspect that he could rely even more on the iPhone and less on a laptop in the future. Here is Tom's note:
I'm just at the end of a criminal trial in federal court (the jury is deliberating) that was estimated to take four to six weeks; we're at four weeks plus a day now. [Jeff notes: Tom's trial is now over; Tom represented a defendant in a Medicare and Medicaid fraud trial, and while some defendants were convicted, Tom's client was found not guilty.]
At the pretrial conference, I pointed out to the judge that many of the lawyers were from small firms in other towns (and states) and asked if we could bring smart phones and computers with wireless access into the courtroom to stay in touch with our offices, something that is not allowed under the local court rules. (The rules were amended last year to prohibit wireless "broadcasting" from courtrooms to assure, among other things, that liveblogging would not happen from the courtrooms. While this was apparently because of the experience in the Northern District in the Scruggs cases, as one of the bloggers who actually blogged those hearings, I am unaware of any blogger who was "live"— it was explicitly against the court rules.)
The court allowed it, and has been extremely tolerant of the lawyers use of these devices as long as they do not make a sound. (Any ringers going off result in a $100 fine, something that two lawyers have experienced. I have a very careful check-the-phone process precourt, and have just had the sound off on my computer all through the trial.)
The devices have been heavily used and very handy, such as being able to text my office with research projects or in search of documents. (I've a full set on my laptop and if they get me a bates or exhibit number, we're in business.) A couple of times, wireless access to cases to respond to factually distinguish a case has been critical. I've had intermittent access to wireless, and so have relied mostly on Westlaw on my laptop, although your comment about FastCase today on your blog has made me wish I'd thought of it on occasion when a new case was cited in chambers. I would be a little self conscious about staring at my phone in that context, although with as many as a dozen lawyers in chambers at once that might not be that attention-drawing.
I've used my iPhone in trial for the exact same purposes — keeping in touch with folks at the office so that they can bring us what we need in court, and looking up cases on Fastcase. I've also used Fastcase on an iPhone when in chambers during a jury charge conference, and to avoid being disrespectful it is helpful to have one of your partners on the front-line talking with the judge while you are in the background pulling up and reading a case, but then once you are done you can talk about the case and distinguish it as appropriate. I feel bad for attorneys in courts that prohibit the use of an iPhone and similar devices during trial because they are incredibly useful.
If you have a story about the successful use of an iPhone in your law practice, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd love to share the story here.