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Just Two – Tablet Legal

I recently met with some lawyers to prepare an “iPad for Lawyers” presentation. I wanted to see how these lawyers were using the iPad so I could tailor my presentation to their work.

The small firm I met with had recently implemented an almost completely paperless workflow. They used iPads almost exclusively when presenting at hearings. They were readers of Tabletlegal and other legal/tech blogs, had heard my prior presentations about using the iPad and one had even attended TECHSHOW. In other words, these lawyers were not technophobes nor new to the iPad.

We talked a little bit about workflows generally before turning to discuss the apps they use to run their practice. I paged to a fresh sheet in my Moleskine expecting to take down a long list of new and old favorites. Instead, the more senior attorney answered simply:

Just two. Dropbox and PDF Expert.

The younger associate echoed the response.

Same for me. Oh, and sometimes I use Keynote.

To read the legal tech blogs (this one included), one might guess that a power user would need 10, 20 or more apps to truly incorporate the iPad into his or her practice. It’s no surprise, really, considering the headlines:

  • “Best apps…!”
  • “Top apps…!”
  • my favorite, “Must have apps…!”
  • and the jam packed “60 Apps in 60 Minutes”

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these roundups or the apps in them. Heck no. To be sure, I’ve created and delivered these compendia myself and will be so doing so again in March at the ABA TECHSHOW. A curated list from someone you trust can be a great way to weed through the hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store. But the story of the lawyer only needing two apps is more than an isolated anecdote. I’ve seen the same thing with other lawyers as well as in my own practice. While new apps are fun to explore and the stuff that drives many tech blogs, the answer for most of us can be much simpler.

With the exception of the built in apps (mainly Mail), an overwhelming majority of my iPad practice revolves around just four apps: PDF Expert, Notesy, Keynote and only just recently CloudOn. Sure, I use Reeder and Instapaper to consume news, but to make the stuff of my practice, the list is pretty short.

Does that make me any less of a “power user”? I don’t know. The way I see it, a power user doesn’t necessarily use more apps. To me, a power user is a person that gets more yield from the same amount (or less) of effort. For many people (perhaps especially lawyers), more apps can just create friction.

I think this is actually a great thing for a lawyer on the fence about whether to include the iPad or any other piece of technology into his or her practice. It doesn’t take a complicated workflow of apps, duct tape and bailing twine to make it work. Even for someone like me who has used the iPad since day 1 and downloaded hundreds of apps, the few apps I’ve settled on are all I need. When I think about my iPad workflow, I’m more interested in increasing my yield/effort ratio on the few apps I use than adding more tools to the drawer.

Spending time with apps or tuning your workflow is expensive time. You can’t bill for it and worse yet, it’s time not spent with your family, friends or whatever else you love. So if you are considering the iPad or other technology in your practice, don’t sweat the apps. You may find yourself enjoying greater productivity with just a handful.

Or maybe just two.

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