From time to time, attorneys who read iPhone J.D. write to tell me how they are using their iPhone or iPad in their practice. I love to read these stories, and with permission I like to share some of them here on iPhone J.D. After I posted earlier this week about Lit Software being a new sponsor of iPhone J.D., I heard from Christopher Abernathy, a family law attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, who told me about how much he loves to use the TrialPad app. We got to talking via email about how he uses his iPad, and I was so fascinated by his response — for example, he uses an iPad as his primary device, not a computer — that I asked if he would write something to share with all iPhone J.D. readers. He was nice enough to say yes, and the result is today's guest post. So with no further ado, take it away, Christopher:
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Life without technology..... Imagine that!
Try to imagine working today without the advantages of modern technology. It wasn’t so long ago that we relied exclusively on paper documents, paper files, paper note pads and paper calendars. Everything we did was paper-driven. And where was all this paper generated from? It was mass-produced with Dictaphones, typewriters and fax machines. Workers produced reams and reams of paper which were placed in paper storage files and stored in row after row of file cabinets. With the advent of computers, the internet and email came the promise of reducing paper to a bare minimum. However, while offices scurried to purchase computers to accomplish this goal, this technological wonder did nothing to reduce the volume of paper documents. Instead, for all practical purposes, computer technology became nothing short of a back-up system to the archaic paper producing work environment.
I suppose by now you realize I am not a great fan of relying on the use of paper in today’s workplace. And so, a few short years ago, I decided to make a concerted effort to reduce or eliminate the use of paper within my office. The results have been overwhelmingly successful. I now operate a paper-light office and voice an optimistic belief that colleagues and the courts can likewise realize the same benefits I am experiencing in my law practice.
How this was accomplished requires a bit of experience and a brief learning curve. But it entails nothing more than the use of an iPad. For me, the use of an iPad has become an indispensable game-changer. And, while my staff do have personal computers (with a Microsoft operating system), I do not maintain a computer in my office. The iPad is my operational weapon of choice.
I now have no paper files and my office staff does not retain paper documents. Instead, everything is scanned and either emailed to a client (then shredded; which is our preferred method) or mailed directly.
Each evening, in preparation for the following work day, I copy files to a “Court Files” subfolder. A client file is then created and set up in TrialPad. This allows me to create a trial folder which can be expanded and organized over time. For each court appearance, documents are placed into the appropriate client TrialPad folder, organized and annotated. By the time of trial, minimal preparation is required. At the end of each court appearance, the files in Dropbox are deleted, while files in TrialPad remain locally on my iPad.
Within Dropbox, besides a “Court Files” folder, I have an “Incoming Mail”, “Drafts” and a “To Do” folder. The “Incoming Mail” folder allows me to have instant access to my daily mail. Long gone are the days when you have to be in the office to retrieve your mail. As mail and faxes are received, they are scanned into the client file and sent to the client, with a copy being placed into my “Incoming Mail” folder. Once reviewed, it is simply deleted. This allows for an immediate response. Documents I am working on are placed in “Drafts”, revised in Word and emailed back to my staff. I use Microsoft Word to create and revise documents on my iPad because Apples Pages simply doesn’t compare. My “To Do” file speaks for itself.
I am seldom in my office. Instead, I work remotely as frequently as possible. I have taken the adage “do more, bill more and go home earlier” to heart.
I generally communicate with clients via email and/or text, and collaborate with them when creating most documents. When an email is received from a client, I cut and paste the contents into a template I have created in Word (i.e. pleading or letter) and revise it as deemed necessary. This revised document is emailed back to the client for signature or further revision. Once a document has been finalized, it is emailed to my staff, saved and filed. Having templates in Word allows me to create, revise or retrieve documents anywhere or at anytime. This ability to create letters enables me to respond immediately to incoming mail and faxes. I use RingCentral, an internet based fax service which is available as an iPad application, which allows me to see all incoming faxes and send faxes remotely.
The ability to work on anything, anytime and anywhere makes me far more efficient. I am constantly working, and all of this directly benefits my clients. It results in reduced billable hours and allows for expedited turnaround times. Again, these are key benefits to clients.
One of my favorite applications is Evernote. This is a very popular application which has many uses. However, I primarily use it as an invaluable research assistant. Thanks to Evernote, I no longer need to rely on memory. I cut and paste research information into subject folders I have created and include legal research, opposing counsel’s comments or usable information I might come across in articles. This allows me instant access to thousands of pages of research which is easily and readily retrievable. It is available to argue at a moment’s notice and can be pasted into subsequent legal arguments.
I use RealLegal E-Transcript from Thompson Reuters as an alternative to TranscriptPad. While I haven’t used TranscriptPad myself, from what I have read and heard, the applications are fairly similar. The key feature in this program is the ability to search. In E-Transcript, the query term is displayed by page and line and in the context in which it was used. I use E-Transcript because of the format in which my local court reports and stenographers send transcripts. I was unable to use TranscriptPad without a work-around.
To operate remotely, one must have a solid keyboard. I have tried most and believe ClamCase is the best. Most believe I use a MacBook Air, but I prefer ClamCase which provides me with the functionality of a laptop, even though it is an iPad. Basically, I see this as the best of both worlds.
I also use a Livescribe 3 Smartpen in conjunction with my iPad. I have found that taking notes on my iPad is difficult when I am simultaneously using the iPad to conduct research and view documents. The integration is seamless. I can instantly create reminders, and my notes are emailed to my staff and scanned into the client’s file for future reference.
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Thank you so much, Christopher, for sharing with all of us the interesting ways that you use your iPad in your law practice.
If you are willing to share your own experiences using an iPhone or iPad in your law practice with other iPhone J.D. readers, I'd love to hear from you! And in case you missed any of them, here are reports that I previously shared from other attorneys:
- William Axtell: 2/19/13
- Zane Cagle: 1/1/12
- Megan Erickson: 5/11/11
- Jeff Forbes: 3/21/13
- Tom Freeland: 7/13/10
- Will Harrelson: 8/19/14
- Cliff Maier: 12/22/08
- Lindsay Rakers: 12/18/12
- Alfred Saikali: 5/4/11
- Mike Schneider: 4/28/09
- Clark Stewart: 7/22/10
- Joe Suhre: 12/3/13
- John Walker: 7/2/13
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