Attorneys frequently ask me which iPad they should get and what they should purchase once they get their first iPad. These often-asked questions led me, back in June of 2011, to create this post to provide the answer that I would often provide in an e-mail. I updated that post in March of 2012. I've recently had several more attorneys ask for my advice on getting a first iPad, and I see that my last post is now a year old and somewhat out-of-date. Thus, here is the early 2013 version of my advice for lawyers who are thinking of getting a first iPad.
So, you are are ready to get an iPad? You're going to love it! Here is my advice.
The first thing you need to decide is whether to get a full-sized iPad or an iPad mini. As I noted in my November 26, 2012 review of the iPad mini, this is a tough choice, and there is no one right answer for every attorney. I find that the full-sized iPad is much better when reading and revising (or drafting) documents such pleadings, briefs and contracts because of the larger, higher-quality screen. For the same reason, it is also better for watching movies and looking at photographs, to the extent that you plan to do that with your iPad. The iPad mini is wonderful because it is small and light and so much easier to carry around and to hold in your hand for a longer period of time. If you will be mainly reading emails and looking at web pages, the iPad mini screen will be more than big enough, and you'll appreciate the size and weight. And for the budget conscious, the iPad mini is cheaper. I own both, and while that is not something I recommend for anyone but the truly geeky, I can tell you that I love to use both of them every single day for different tasks, so you'll be happy with either one.
Next you need to decide which version of the model. I used to always recommend that new iPad owners purchase the entry-level 16 GB version, either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + 3G/4G. I still think that is the best model for many attorneys, but you won't be disappointed if you spend an extra $100 for the 32 GB version just to have a little more space for very large documents and for syncing folders containing lots of large documents.
Should you consider the 64 GB or 128 GB versions? Only if you plan to carry around a large number of photos and videos (especially videos). I have two young children, and my wife and I take lots of pictures of their adventures. I sync the last 12 months of pictures to my iPad, plus some older photo albums that are special to me, and that takes almost 10 GB of space. You may take fewer pictures than I do, but they can easily fill up much of a 16 GB iPad.
And video can take up even more space. If you rent or purchase a movie or a TV show from iTunes to watch on your iPad, a typical two hour movie in HD takes 3 to 4 GB of space; a half-hour HD TV show takes about 3/4 of a GB. When you are done watching a movie or an episode of a TV show, you can remove it from your iPad (don't worry, if you want to watch it again you can re-download it for free in the future), but keeping a few on your iPad to be prepared for that next long flight is going to take up some space. I also like to keep home movies of my kids on my iPad, and if you do the same, that takes up space as well.
Remember, though, that many apps let you stream movies and shows to your iPad. You can stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, HBO, Showtime and the major networks. Because you need Wi-Fi to do so, this won't do you much good on the plane, but this is a way to watch lots of videos on your iPad either at home or in a hotel room without taking up lots of space storing them on a 16 GB version.
So my bottom line is that if you don't think you'll be storing photos or videos on your iPad (and frankly, most attorneys I know don't do so), then 16 GB is fine, and get 32 GB if you want to have extra space just in case. If you plan to carry around a ton of photos and videos, you might want the 64 GB version — which is what I use for my full-sized iPad. (My iPad mini is the 16 GB version.) It is hard for me to imagine any attorney needing the 128 GB version, but I suppose anything is possible.
You'll also have to decide whether to spend an extra $129 plus a monthly service fee for a model that supports 3G and 4G LTE on AT&T or Verizon. I mostly use my iPad at home or at work where I have Wi-Fi, so I bought the cheaper Wi-Fi only model Having said that, I do pay AT&T an extra $20 a month to enable the hotspot feature on my iPhone so that on those occasions when I want Internet access but Wi-Fi is not available, I can share the 4G connection on my iPhone 5 with my iPad. If it were not for that tethering to my phone, I'd probably want the 3G/4G version of the iPad. I hear many attorneys tell me that they cannot imagine using an iPad that was Wi-Fi only, so keep that in mind. You just need to predict how much you'll want to use your iPad for tasks like e-mail and web browsing that require the Internet when you will be away from Wi-Fi, and then consider the extra costs.
Now you have selected the iPad that is right for you. What else do you want to buy?
For the full-sized iPad, I recommend the Apple Smart Cover to protect the iPad's screen. It costs either $39 or $59. The more expensive model is leather, which I have and I really like, but both models are fine, and it mostly comes down to what color you want. If you want the black one that I have (and which looks and feels great), you'll need to get the more expensive model. There is also a Smart Cover for the iPad mini, and I own one, but frankly I'm not a big fan of it. It has a different design and doesn't work nearly as well as the version for the full-sized iPad. Instead, I'm currently using the DODOcase HARDcover with my iPad mini, which I like because it feels like a high-quality book. But there are other good products out there to protect an iPad mini screen.
If you want to use your iPad to type longer documents, such as typing notes in a meeting, I encourage you to buy a Bluetooth keyboard. My favorite is the one that Apple makes which costs $69. You can travel with just your iPad and this small and light keyboard and leave your computer at your office. I like the Apple keyboard because it is full-sized; indeed, this is the exact same keyboard that Apple includes with its desktop computer, the iMac. I also recommend the Origami Workstation for iPad, a $30 case for the keyboard that protects it when you are traveling and also turns into a fantastic stand to hold the keyboard and iPad when you are typing. If your don't have large fingers and you want a keyboard that is more compact that doubles as a case for your iPad, you might want to consider something like the the Kensington KeyFolio or the ZAGGfolio.
If you want to use your iPad as a legal pad and take notes on it just as you would with a pen and paper, you'll need two things. First, you'll need a stylus. There are hundreds of different models and they usually cost between $8 and $25. My top recommendation for a new iPad user is the excellent Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo, which you can get for around $20 on Amazon. Second, you'll need an app that lets you draw on the screen, which I discuss below.
There are tons of great apps for the iPad and new ones come out every day. Here are the apps that I use all the time and that I think you are likely to want as well.
Pages — This is the Microsoft Office-compatible word processor app sold by Apple. If I want to sit down and write a new document on the iPad, such as when I am using my external keyboard to take notes in a meeting, this is the app that I use. The app also lets you view and create redline edits using a track changes feature.
Documents to Go — If someone emails a Microsoft Word file to you, you can read it using the built-in viewer, or you can view it in an app like Pages. But when I am not creating redline edits to a document, my favorite app for viewing Microsoft Word files is Documents to Go. This $10 app displays the document, makes it easy to zoom the text to make it easier to read (and reflows the text so you don't have to scroll back and forth on every line) and can show the footnotes. You can also use this app to edit a Word file and to view or edit an Excel file. There is also a $17 premium version of this app which adds the ability to edit PowerPoint files and use online services like Google Docs or Dropbox. My guess is that the $10 version is all that you need. If you also have an iPhone, the same app works on both the iPhone and iPad, which is nice.
GoodReader — If you are reading a document on an iPad and it is not a Microsoft Word document, chances are it is a PDF document. GoodReader is my favorite app for viewing and annotating PDF files on the iPad. Better yet, it is also my favorite way to load up my iPad with PDF files, such as all of the pleadings and exhibits in a case so that they are always at my fingertips when I need to review or refer to them later. And instead printing out a bunch of documents to fill up heavy binders to take with you on a business trip, just store the PDF files in GoodReader in a folder created for that meeting. Be warned that the app's interface can be confusing to use at first, but it is very powerful, and you can sync it with Dropbox to easily move documents between your computer and GoodReader.
Legal Research — It is often useful to pull up a case or a statute on your iPad. There are excellent iPad apps for Westlaw Next and Lexis Advance, so if you use one of those services, you'll want to get the appropriate app. I also strongly recommend that every lawyer download Fastcase; it is not as powerful as those other two apps, but it is absolutely free and it is more than adequate for pulling up a case or statute or running a simple search.
GoodNotes — If you want to use an iPad to take handwritten notes, in addition to a stylus, you need an app that makes your iPad work like a legal pad or a notebook. There are lots of great options, but GoodNotes is my favorite because it is both powerful and easy to use. After I take my notes, I email them to myself in PDF format and then store them with my file so that I can refer to them whenever I need them again.
Remote access — Every once in a while, you may need access to a "real" computer on your iPad. Maybe you need to access your office's document management system or time entry system and the system doesn't have an app that works on the iPad. I recommend the free LogMeIn app which you can use to access your computer (as long as you left it on) from your iPad. This app is also helpful if there is a file on your computer's desktop and you want to e-mail it to yourself so that you can have it on your iPad. If your office uses Citrix, the Citrix Receiver app is a free an easy way to access a virtual computer on your iPad.
Calculator — The iPad doesn't come with a calculator like the iPhone does. I like the $2 Digits app, which has big numbers and includes a virtual tape roll.
Weather — The iPad doesn't come with a weather app like the iPhone does. The Weather Channel app is a good, free app for checking the weather and viewing a radar map. But if you can afford to spend $0.99 — and yes, you can — Check the Weather is my favorite weather app on both the iPhone and iPad. It has a gorgeous, clean interface, plus it incorporates something called Dark Sky that is excellent for short-term precipitation forecasts. (In other words, it answers the question of whether you need to take an umbrella when you leave the office for lunch.)
ESPN SportsCenterXL — This free app is great for sports scores.
WordPerfect Viewer — If you ever work with attorneys or courts who send you documents created with WordPerfect, the iPad doesn't know how to view those files on its own. This $6 app lets you view those documents.
Facebook — If you use Facebook, the service has a nice, free iPad app.
TranscriptPad — If you are a litigator, there are lots of ways to review deposition transcripts on your iPad. For example, you can convert the plain text file that the court reporter sends you to a PDF and then you can annotate that PDF with an app like GoodReader. If you want a more advanced way to review transcripts, TranscriptPad is a $50 app dedicated to the task. You can highlight key passages, and you can apply issue codes so that later you can export a list of each passage relevant to each issue. Yes, this app is more expensive than most any other app that you will buy for an iPad, but it is cheap compared to what you spend on software for a computer and this app is every bit as good as software that you would buy for your PC or Mac. Reading and annotating transcripts almost becomes fun with this powerful app. (Almost.)
Speaking of fun, there are tens of thousands of games, including old favorites such as Scrabble and newer old favorites such as Angry Birds. Your kids can probably recommend lots of other great ones to you. And if you have young kids and want to share your iPad with them, my five year old loves The Monster at the End of This Book by Sesame Street and Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! by Mo Willems, published by Disney.
That will get you started, but with over 300,000 apps designed for the iPad and countless accessories, that is obviously just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to learn more about which apps and accessories to get for your new iPad (and iPhone), well that's what this website is all about. If you don't want to have to remember to come here, you can have iPhone J.D. posts delivered directly to you via e-mail for free by clicking here. To see a list of the hundreds of iPhone and iPad apps and dozens of accessories that I have already reviewed, click the Index to Prior Posts link that is at the top of every page on iPhone J.D. If you want to read a book to help you get started with your new iPad, two that I recommend are iPad at Work by California attorney David Sparks and iPad in One Hour for Lawyers by Texas attorney Tom Mighell.
Enjoy your new iPad. You are going to love it!