TrialPad is one of the most powerful and sophisticated apps that a lawyer can use on an iOS device. The app gives you the ability to present evidence to a jury, judge, or other audience, something that otherwise requires expensive software on a computer. And thanks to clever software design and the easy-to-use interface of an iPad, anyone can learn how to use the app.
The TrialPad app was first released in 2010 — the same year that the iPad itself debuted — and has seen numerous major updates over the years. As TrialPad has been updated, Apple has introduced faster and more powerful iPads, which makes all apps, especially sophisticated apps like TrialPad, work better. Apple's current flagship iPads are the 9.7" and 12.9" iPad Pros. TrialPad version 4.5, introduced last week, adds full support for these devices including the larger screen of the 12.9" iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.
I was given a free copy of this $129.99 app for review purposes, but this is an app that I would definitely spend my own money on. Frankly, the cost is cheap compared to the other expenses that lawyers have preparing for a trial or mediation, not to mention compared to legal software for the PC that is harder to use. Over the years, I have heard from many lawyers who have described how they used TrialPad to successfully present evidence in trials, and lawyers have even told me that they purchased an iPad specifically so that they can use TrialPad — about the best proof there can be that this is a seriously useful tool.
The main screen of the app is the Cases Screen. It works the same as the main screen in the TranscriptPad app (my review) and it is where you create folders for each of your cases or projects. You can assign different colors to different folders to help you to organize them and pick out a folder more easily.
From the Cases Screen, you can easily import exhibits and other documents from Dropbox, Box, Citrix ShareFile, a Transporter or a WebDAV device. I was able to quickly transfer a large number of files using Dropbox, Citrix ShareFile and my Transporter. You can also transfer files from a computer by using iTunes and connecting your iPad to the computer with a USB cable.
In addition to importing individual files or a set of files, you can also import a .zip file (under 1 GB), which lets you create folders and subfolders on your computer, and then maintain those folders when you import into TrialPad.
Once you select one of your case folders on the Cases Screen, you are presented with the Case Screen with all of the content associated with a specific case. On the left side of the screen you will see a list of the folders and documents inside of that case. You can create new folders and move documents into folders.
On the right side of the screen, you see a preview of whatever document is selected. If you are not connected to a monitor, the document will fill the right side of the screen. If you are connected to a monitor, you will see a rectangle corresponding to your external screen, with the document inside of that screen.
You can pinch to zoom a document, so that only part of it is on the output screen.
The above pictures show you what you see on your iPad when you are using TrialPad. But your audience just sees the output, such as on an external monitor or the projected image. The three buttons next to "Output" at the bottom of the iPad screen control what the audience sees. With Blank selected, the audience just sees a black screen. With Freeze selected, the audience sees what is currently in your preview area at the time that you press the Freeze button. You can then use the TrialPad app to go find some other exhibit, which the audience will not see until you press Freeze again.
If you press the Present button, then the audience will see essentially the same thing that you are seeing in the Preview window. I say "essentially" because while you are in the process of zooming in on a part of the document on your iPad, the output screen doesn't zoom until you release your fingers from the iPad screen. This is a nice feature because it means that you can zoom in and search for the exact part you want to display, and then when you are finished and you remove your fingers from the screen, the audience just sees a zoom right to that specific area.
The Blank button can be useful if there is an objection to something that you are showing to a jury. Tap Blank and the output screen immediately goes black, so that you can then discuss the objection with the judge. If the objection is overruled, tap Freeze or Present to put the document back on the screen.
You can use a slider on the right side of the preview screen to move between pages of a document, either by dragging the slider, or by tapping the arrows at the top and bottom to advance one page at a time. You can also swipe on the document itself to advance forward or backward.
If you want to see more of the document on your iPad screen, you can expand the preview window by tapping the two arrow at the top of the screen.
By default, TrialPad displays one page of a document at a time, but if you tap the button near the bottom right you can change to a Split Screen mode where two pages are shown at once. They can be two pages from the same document, or two pages from different documents.
One of the most powerful features of TrialPad is the ability to use annotation tools, and you can see some of the tools at work in the above images. You can highlight part of a document. (And the app highlights the correct way, keeping the underlying text a dark black — unlike some inferior apps that highlight by applying an opaque yellow box that makes the underlying text harder to read.) You can use a Pen tool to write on the document (which works incredibly well with the Apple Pencil) or draw straight lines. You can use the Redact tool to apply a white or black box over portions of a document. You can use the Laser tool to access a virtual laser pointer, making it easy to emphasize part of a document while you are discussing it with the jury or other audience.
Perhaps the most useful tool for when you are working with documents is the Callout tool. Select a portion of a page of a document, and have that part blow up on the screen so that your audience can more easily see it. One good way to do it is to first highlight the text so that the audience sees what you are emphasizing, and then use Callout to zoom in on that area to make the text easy to read. The effect is very professional.
The Callout function works especially well with the Apple Pencil because it is so precise. Simply tap exactly where you want one corner of the callout to occur, drag down to the opposite corner, and then let go. The end result is much more exact and professional with an Apple Pencil versus just using your finger.
At the bottom right of the screen, an Undo button lets you undo annotations one at a time, and the Clear button lets you undo all annotations and go back to the original document.
In addition to annotating on a document, you can annotate on a blank canvas, thus letting you use TrialPad as a virtual whiteboard.
Sometimes you will want to annotate a document as you are speaking, so that you can walk the audience through your annotations. But other times you will want to prepare the annotations beforehand, and then pull up the document with the annotations already there. The Key Docs feature lets you prepare annotations beforehand. Simply apply all of your annotations in the Preview Window and then tap the key at the top right of the screen. You have the option of adding just that page of a document to your list of Key Docs, or you can add the entire document to your Key Docs. Either way, all of your annotations are preserved so that you can quickly see them again later without taking the time in front of your audience to create the annotations.
Working with exhibits
TrialPad has some special tools for working with exhibits. First, the app gives you the ability to apply exhibit stickers to a document, or to a group of documents. You control what goes in the different portions of the sticker, such as the header and footer of the sticker, the color of the sticker, where the sticker is applied on the document, etc. You can even automatically generate exhibit sticker information from the file names.
You can also use TrialPad to keep track of which exhibits are admitted into evidence in a case. Just hold down on a document in the Preview Window to see the option to mark the document as Admitted.
Admitted documents have the word "Admitted" just under the document title on the left portion of the screen, and they also show up under the Admitted tab on that left portion of the screen.
In addition to presenting static documents and images, you can also present videos and audio. The app includes a simple video editing tool so that you can clip a video to just the portion that you want to show.
You can connect your iPad to a monitor or projector by using Apple's Lightning to VGA or Lightning to HDMI adapters. You can also connect an Apple TV to a monitor or projector and then create a wireless connection between your iPad and the Apple TV, allowing you to walk around a room with no cables connected to the iPad.
While TrialPad is primarily an app used to show documents to a live audience, you can also use the app to create PDF files thanks to a new feature added last week called Snapshots. After you are done annotating a document, tap the camera icon at the top right. This creates a PDF image of whatever you are seeing in the Preview Area, including annotations and callouts. You can access your Snapshots in a case in the Snapshots folder, and then you can email, print, or do whatever you want with the PDF file. For example, I can imagine including something like this in a submission paper to a mediator before a mediation so that you can use highlighting and a callout to focus the mediator's attention to a specific part of a document. You can also use the Snapshots feature to create a nice slide to use in Keynote or PowerPoint in an Opening or Closing Argument, with the document in the background and a callout of the important quote in the document on top.
Tell me more
Because TrialPad is such a sophisticated app, there are lots of features that you may not discover on your own, even though they are easy to remember once you know about them. For example, tap with two fingers on any callout to make it disappear.
Fortunately, it is easy to learn all of these tricks and tips. Just tap the Help button at the top right of the Cases Screen, and the fourth option down is User Guide. Tap it to open up a PDF file (formatted for the iPad screen dimensions) that walks you through everything that you need to know about the app. Or, the fifth option under Help launches a page in Safari where you can watch videos about all of Lit Software's apps, including an excellent 27 minute TrialPad overview narrated by Ian O'Flaherty, the creator of this app. (You can also view all of those videos without purchasing the app just by clicking here.)
TrialPad lets you present evidence or other documents to an external screen or monitor in a very professional manner. Because the app is easy to learn how to use, you can use it yourself when you are in trial or giving a presentation without having to rely on, and pay for, a trial graphics specialist to assist you. Or, if you would prefer to let someone else handle the mechanics of presenting the evidence while you talk to the judge or jury, that person can use TrialPad to handle the presentations while you speak.
While the app has special tools for working with exhibits in trial, you can use it for any kind of presentation in which you want to display documents for others, even a simple client meeting or meeting with a witness.
I've used TrialPad in the past, but I especially like this latest version on my 12.9" iPad Pro. The iPad Pro has the oomph to quickly work with documents, and the large screen makes it even easier to view and annotate documents. You can use TrialPad with smaller iPad screens, but the app really shines on the largest iPad.
However you use it, TrialPad is an essential iPad app for any lawyer who has the need to show and annotate a document on an external screen for an audience.
This article won the LitigationWorld Pick of the Week award. The editors of LitigationWorld, a free weekly email newsletter for litigators and others who work in litigation, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.