Enterprise Adoption of iPad: What about Lawyers

28 Oct Enterprise Adoption of iPad: What about Lawyers

The Unofficial Apple Weblog writes today about a Forrester report (subscription required) authored by Ted Schadler about the impact of the iPad in the enterprise market. While not discussing lawyers or law firms specifically, I considered how Schadler’s findings might apply to law firms.

  • iPads Are Replacing Laptops. This is fairly unsurprising. Most computer users have a limited list of computing needs, many of which are handled more than adequately by the iPad. When coupled with the added benefits of the iPad (instant on, light weight, long battery, lower cost compared to many laptops, etc.), the replacement phenomenon isn’t surprising. I haven’t seen more than anecdotal evidence of laptop replacement among the lawyer set which is surprising considering the typical short list of lawyer computing needs: reading, writing, email, calendar, contacts, internet. All of these are handled well by the iPad. However, lawyers often deal with lots of files. File management on the iPad is much different than on a PC and does require some extra effort.
  • iPads Are Replacing Paper. Again, no real surprise here. The iPad is great way to replace all kinds of materials that would otherwise be printed. In the legal field, I don’t see this attitude among lawyers in large numbers. I know many of my colleagues feel they can only edit or review a document in its printed form. Also, my quick survey reveals few legal treatises available in eReader editions (though ample law school and bar exam study materials are available for the iPad). Perhaps the willingness to abandon paper is an attitude that will grow with the next generation of legal professionals (assuming they can get law jobs).
  • iPads Are Creating New Efficiencies. The example in the Forrester report is of the ability of sales personnel to use the device to customize a customer’s order on the showroom floor. There are certainly some legal specific apps and some apps published by law firms, though I don’t see these as yielding huge efficiencies for lawyers (though nice tools, to be sure). Two areas where I do think the iPad offers lawyers huge opportunities for efficiencies is in document review/annotation, particularly of PDF files, and access to legal information (cases, statutes, treatises). As to PDF document review, Both GoodReader (iTunes link) and iAnnotate (iTunes link) offer very good PDF review and annotation tools though they aren’t specifically designed for high volume document review. The iPad offers a way for lawyers to easily bring what otherwise would fill boxes of documents and review those easily. Similarly, with an iPad a lawyer can have volumes worth of books easily accessible at the touch of a button – whether stored locally (though as noted above, this hasn’t appeared yet) or accessible via the Internet. I haven’t yet seen the first story of extensive and comprehensive document review being conducted on iPads, though I am sure the time is coming.

Schadler notes that the absence of a native Microsoft Office suite of apps may slow adoption in enterprise. As applied to lawyers, I think this is unquestionably the case. I know that the posts on this blog about Microsoft Word compatibility issues get far and away the most hits, comments and emails.

Word compatibility was a top question I received in a recent presentation to a group of lawyers and CPAs. This surprised me at least as to this particular group of lawyers as I know that all of them use their assistants to finalize and format everything in Word. In actuality, all they really need is a way to get text down on paper (screen) and their assistants handle the rest. Even with this reality, a native Word app is seen as a must by these users (I realize that lawyers that practice without assistants may not be similarly situated).

Any barriers that you see to further penetration of the iPad in the legal market? What type of app or resource could make the iPad as ubiquitous as the yellow pad?

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