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Will The iPad Replace the Legal Pad

With the launch of Apple's iPad, many people wonder what the device will be best suited for and how one can apply it in their practice.  Attorney and Tech Writer Dennis Kennedy discusses the practicality and pitfalls of the iPad and the legal profession.

Announcer: Welcome to GAL radio, brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer blog, changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation, and creativity.  Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up for the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen.

Damien Allen: Good afternoon and welcome to GAL radio my name is Damien Allen and joining you today on the phone is Dennis Kennedy. Dennis is a St. Louis based computer lawyer and legal technology writer. His website is is the home of his blog. He is also a monthly writer for the ABA journal. Good afternoon Dennis, , welcome to the program.

Dennis Kennedy: Oh it’s great to be here Damien.
Damien Allen: It’s a pleasure to have you today sir. Recently you had written an article in the ABA journal about the iPad and questioning will this someday replace the ubiquitous ‘yellow pad’. I understand that most of these articles are written before it was released. It has been released now. Your opinions? Are we going to lose the legal pad? How is the iPad shaping up?
Dennis Kennedy: You know in a way the article of course was facetious because you, it seems like the lawyers have been attached to legal pads for so long that you know that even a revolutionary movement away from the legal pad is going to take years but the release of the iPad and the sort of frenzy of publicity around it really made me start to think about that because as I mentioned in the article I used a tabloid pc for many years and I’m always intrigued by the form factor and how it makes sense and as a lawyer you always felt, especially when you used up the last page on your legal pad, except for the lawyers who like to write on the cardboard, that you are always going “oh I’d love have an electronic version of the legal pad that never ran out of paper and that I can do searchable and all these sorts of things, and so that pad or tablet format has always seemed to make so much sense for lawyers. Now whether the iPad itself is the device that helps us make the leap, I’m not sure. I sort of thought the other tablet pcs were pretty close to being able to do that but they just weren’t picked up by lawyers so much. So I guess I’m skeptical that there will be a big change. But I think the iPad probably does push us further down that line of evolution than we have ever been before.
Damien Allen: It’s been out for a couple of weeks now. What is the opinion that people are giving about it?
Dennis Kennedy: You know, let me just say that when I wrote the article I didn’t have one, I hadn’t had one in my hand, I don’t own one yet, so that means I’m eminently qualified to tell you what other people are telling me and what I’ve read. Although I don’t have the personalized experience with it because I always like to wait a little bit on Apple hardware, it’s kind of my personal thing. So, what I noticed was the people who bought it the first day were just almost giddy with what they saw as the possibility and how much they liked it. What I noticed is that you don’t hear so much about it anymore. It is certainly without the same level of enthusiasm as the first day, but the people that have them seem to really like them and what I can tell that they are doing is that they are exploring the available apps. Which is I think the key to the iPad, is it is a platform for the apps that will work on it, and so what I’m hearing from people I think is generally positive. But I think they’re, really first adopters here, and I think they are really exploring what’s available in the world of apps and so it is interest the things that people are finding and how they are using it at this point. But it seems pretty early on, so I guess it’s not deliriously happy at this point but I would say still it seems very positive the reaction you hear from the users among lawyers.
Damien Allen: As an attorney and a tablet man yourself, what does the iPad bring to the table in its uses and what is it lacking?
Dennis Kennedy: Well what it brings is what I think what the tablet pcs brought, and if you go back there are two things that people always pointed out, especially lawyers who did mediation. They said if you are taking notes on a regular laptop, so you are flipping up a screen and you are typing, that tends to be off putting to people, especially when you are having a normal conversation, a one-on-one conversation or small group conversation, that it is distracting and the screen itself on a laptop sort of psychologically puts up a barrier. So the tablet, being flat on the table, is more of a writing motion, more like a legal pad it is something people are used to and is not as off putting. The second piece and sort of the corollary of that is that it sort of disappears because it seems like you are just taking notes so that was a tablet pc where you had a stylus or it looks like you were using a pen. The iPad had, I think there are some keyboard options, potentially some stylus options, but it is not as geared to the handwriting thing at this point. I think that what will be interesting about the iPad is that most people see it as a content consumption device, so it is going to be great for watching video, doing all those sorts of things, but less so for a content creation device. It is not really geared that way and that is sort of where the world of apps will either open things up or not. So I think the potential benefit then of the iPad becomes; if I need to get on the internet and show somebody something, if I need to show a video, if I can do certain things where I’m actually, where it is that screen that brings me content. I think it has some great value. So say you’re a lawyer and you are doing something where you need to show some charts or you know something like that or even a video that you’ve done. You can actually pick up the iPad and show it to a client who is sitting with you and I think it could work really well. So I think people are experimenting with some of the things the iPad can do and that way I think, just the way it is designed as a consumption tool, and as a consumer tool of information, and people are questioning what you can do in creating content. I think that will give us a little bit of hesitation of how it works for lawyers. So I think that lawyers really have to explore because I’m not sure that actually inputting a lot of information or writing things where you are doing a lot of input is going to work that well at this point. But you can use it for a lot of other things, just some limitations there.
Damien Allen: Are there some major limitations glaringly apparent in either the reviews of other attorneys you know who have used this particular device or just in general design of the alpha model of this piece of material? Is there something missing that really should be there or you think should be there?
Dennis Kennedy: I don’t know I mean the thing you hear most, I mean there’s a couple things you hear a lot about is people think there should be a camera in it. You know from the beginning, that’s sort of why I wait till second generation because I suspect the camera is going to be in there. Some people have concerns about not being able to see videos in there, the relationship or non-relationship with adobe and adobe flash, whether that limits some of the things you can do. I would say more of the cases, unless you figure out a way to use a separate keyboard or you want to do things in that way, then it is not going to make sense to say “oh I’m going to draft a document from scratch.” So I think that could be a big hesitation, that again gets us to the world of apps, so we would say ‘well if over time I have better ways to input information, I have speech recognition, I have those sorts of things then I am going to do things differently than maybe I do now and not be so dependent on keyboard, but the way I input data is different, and that is the big kind of epiphany for me and the tablet pc was, I realized with handwriting recognition with just drawing on the screen, with just using a keyboard, that there were a whole lot of different ways to get information into a computer and the tablet pc made me realize that just typing on a keyboard might not be the optimal way for everybody all the time. So, in a funny way it could be that the lawyers who really benefit from an iPad are the lawyers that don’t type very well, then you’d say that this can be an alternative. But I think probably at this point that how do I create content versus how do I consume content is going to be where the difficulty lies.
Damien Allen: Are there apps readily available for the iPad, right out of the gate, that will make life easier for lawyers?
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I mean one of the great things about the apps in the way the iPad was done is that, I don’t know that all but most of the iPhone apps will translate to the iPad and then we are starting to see apps that were optimized for the iPad. So you have access to all these different apps, so that’s really attractive, but we are starting to see, I saw the other day the Black’s Law Dictionary optimized for the iPad came out, you are starting to see more apps that are legal. In the article I mentioned Dan Brickland who is one of the creators of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet he’s working on, did an iPhone app called NoteTaker, which the idea was ‘can we just capture what we write with our fingers on the screen and turn that into a note taking tool’. It is pretty cool and has good utility on the iPhone or iPodTouch, but when you think about it on the bigger iPad, that becomes really interesting to me and I see from Dan on Twitter, that he’s now gotten it to the point where he’s submitted that app to Apple for approval to add to the iTunes app store and then iPad version. So we are really close to seeing some interesting things out there. But I think that people have been able to, the idea that I can take some of my favorite iPhone apps and just move directly to the iPad is great, and then the normal sorts of things that people would use, you know from your News apps, Facebook apps, Twitter apps, that sort of stuff has been available from the beginning on the iPad, some the same things you are using on an iPhone or iPadTouch, so that has been great too.
Damien Allen: Do you have any final thoughts on the future of Apple’s iPad?
Dennis Kennedy: You know I see the iPad and think it is potentially a transition device, that is going to say ‘we are moving to this mobile platform, that’s always on, access from anywhere, internet will always be available, and we are also starting to look and say how do we use computers, what are we doing and I think that’s , the iPad comes in and says this is a way to get to that mobile platform, we can get these apps on it that allow us to do certain things that we want to do. It is potentially a great way onto the internet, we can video we can do these sorts of things and if I’m travelling it makes great sense. I can even do eBooks, you know all these sorts of things. But I think it forces you to take a look at how you actually use a computer and what you are going to use it for, and I don’t think people have done that enough. So you say ‘oh I just need a laptop’ or ‘I need a desktop’ and now I think with the iPad you are starting to say ‘well my Smart Phone will do these things, my laptop will do these things, okay where does an iPad fit in there and how will I use it. If you think that through, to me that’s the same thing with all computer hardware and software. If you actually sit down and think about how you are going to use something, where you are going to use it, what you are going to do with it, you make just an immensely better decision about what to buy. As I think about an iPad, the tricky part of it is that you probably have to carry it in a brief case, because it doesn’t make sense, you are never going to have a pocket that is big enough to carry it, not even a suit pocket, and so you say well what am I going to be doing where it makes sense to use this and I can see that people who spend time away from their desks are going to have an easier time saying ‘hey this device might work really well for me’ and people who spend all the time at their desk will say ‘I don’t know that this makes any sense for me’ but I think that is a good process to go through. So I think it helps us focus on the use that we are going to put a device to and what makes sense for us and I think what’s most important, with the world of apps and the app store, it is that doorway to the internet that may really make sense for us in a lot of ways. So it is a little bit bigger than a phone, not as big as a laptop and that could be the right size and that is the big question for Apple and for everybody else about how this is going to work. Is there room for that device, that size, that additional device, that does what it does, does that fit into the technology we want to have with us all the time. Those would be my thoughts so it’s not going to take away the place of the legal pad probably at any time in the future but I suspect that we are going to see maybe more lawyers than people might think, you know in another year or two, actually using iPads. Supposedly there’s a whole new generation of competing tablet pcs coming out soon, so we actually could see a move from the paper legal pad to something that is more electronic.
Damien Allen: Thank you very much for joining us today Dennis and discussing the iPad with us.
Dennis Kennedy: Oh it is my pleasure, I’m glad to take the opportunity; I think you guys are putting together some really cool and useful podcasts that a lot of people can benefit from.
Damien Allen: And it is all about getting the word out there and learning what’s new on the horizon and what’s going to be the next trend, and we appreciate you joining us Dennis. You have been listening to GAL radio, my name is Damien Allen, everybody have a great afternoon.
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