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The Friday Five

Fundamental iPad Tips for Lawyers

By Joan Feldman

Once you unwrap your new iPad, master the most critical tap-and-swipe moves, and buy a few apps and iBooks, you’re pretty much set. It really is that easy. So easy that you may find you neglect any further exploration of iPad features in favor of, say, reading the entire Jack Reacher series. You’d be highly entertained, but you’d also miss out on all the ways to use an iPad in your law practice.

“The iPad,” says Brett Burney of Macs in Law, “allows you to view and edit documents, check email, surf the web, read books, annotate PDFs, take notes, dictate letters and much, much more.” In November, Burney led the Chicago Bar Association’s “BYOD: iPad” seminar, providing a quick three-hour tour of iPad features and nifty pointers for lawyers. So if there’s a new iPad in your hands, or perhaps an upgraded tablet on your holiday shopping list, check these Friday Five tips.

1. Get better acquainted. Burney’s basic tour included a few great ways to make your iPad your own.

  • Get “jiggly” to get organized. You don’t have to keep your apps exactly where they land on your home screen. You can move them to different screens, or create folders of similar apps. To clean up your home screen, just tap and hold any app icon until you are in “jiggly” mode, then drag that app’s icon to the right or left to place it on a different screen. To create a new folder, drag one app right on top of another—say your LinkedIn app onto your Facebook app. When you do this, iPad will automatically name the folder for you (“Social” in this example), but it is easy to rename.
  • How many apps are “open”? Just double-click the Home button, or swipe up on the home screen with four fingers, to reveal the multitasking bar, located at the bottom of the home screen. Appalled at the number of games “someone” has been playing? Go into jiggly mode to close any of those apps. (But don’t worry too much about keeping apps “open”—they automatically “pause” when inactive, and shouldn’t affect performance.) Tap Home to get out of jiggly mode and to close the multitasking bar.
  • Find your things. Tap the Home button once to reveal the “Search iPad” bar at the top of the screen. It’s there to help you speedily locate documents, emails, appointments, contacts—whatever lives in your iPad.
  • Quick, take a screen shot! Want to capture what’s on your iPad screen? Press the Home button and Sleep key simultaneously, but quickly. (Like you’re taking a picture!) Screen shots are saved to your photos gallery. Burney says this is handy for taking a snapshot of a Google map and inserting it in a Keynote slide presentation.
  • Rotating making you dizzy? You can change settings so that the iPad’s Side Switch can be used to lock rotation (so you don’t switch from landscape to portrait mode while reading on a bumpy train or, worse, during a presentation). Go to Settings, General. Scroll halfway down to find “Use Side Switch to:” and check “Lock Rotation” instead of “Mute.” (To mute now, press down on the center of the sound button or use the multitasking bar.)

2. The apps. It seems that everybody has a list of top apps these days (guilty!), and Burney has a list of 10 he believes should be on any lawyer’s iPad: GoodReader, PDF Expert, Documents To Go Premium, Evernote, Noteshelf, Atomic Browser, LogMeIn, Lawstack, Keynote for presentations and TrialPad.

  • One of the best uses for the iPad in a law practice is to read and annotate documents. GoodReader has excellent annotation tools for PDF files, including the ability to highlight text and insert text boxes, sticky notes and comments. “It means I don’t have to carry around highlighters and sticky notes,” says Burney, and annotation tools like squiggly lines and arrows let you “get your John Madden on.”
  • PDF Expert is a must for creating simple fillable forms and getting graphical signatures on a document, says Burney. Say you download a PDF form from a court website onto your iPad. You could “open in” PDF Expert, fill in the form, ask your client to sign it, then save it and send it off—all online within the app.
  • There’s no Microsoft Office app for iPad, but there are apps that approximate it, like Documents To Go Premium. It lets you view and edit Microsoft Office documents. It’s good for basic text editing only, however, not formatting.
  • Sometimes those state court and government sites require Internet Explorer—and you’re out of luck in Safari. Atomic Web Browser gives you the ability to “identify browser as …” Internet Explorer or Firefox so that you can still view those sites from your iPad.

3. Transferring files in and out of there. The iPad is great for reading and editing and annotating. But what’s the best way to get documents in and out of there? The official Apple method is via iTunes (the same way we first transferred music to iPods). Connect your iPad to your computer with the USB cable, launch iTunes, select Apps, and then select iPad to see all of your apps. Scroll down, and you should see a File Sharing section, along with a list of all the apps you own that are capable of transferring documents. Select any of those apps, GoodReader, for example, and your documents will show up on the right-hand side. Use the Add or Save to buttons to transfer documents between your PC and iPad.

Or, you could just email a document to yourself and use the “Open In” option to open email attachments in the app of your choice. Within an email message, tap and hold the attachment icon until you see the “Open In” menu. You can opt to open it in the default Quick Look viewer (fine for a quick read), in iBooks, or in an app like GoodReader. For larger documents, there are the cloud-sharing sites like Dropbox. Dropbox is popular for file storage and transferring because it works with most apps, and will automatically sync to all of your other computers (meaning you can annotate a document on your iPad and have the updated version at hand once you get back to your office or home PC).

4. Pointing fingers. The iPad screen was designed for the touch of your finger pad, not writing “implements.” But try using your finger with any note-taking app and you’ll see that writing with your finger looks just like … finger painting. To more closely mimic writing with a pen on a legal pad when using a note-taking app like Noteshelf, you need a good stylus, says Burney. A stylus is also handy for highlighting text and annotating documents. Burney likes the Wacom Bamboo Stylus because the stylus’s rubber nib is smaller than most others, and it’s well-balanced and feels most like a regular pen. Don’t opt for the cheapest stylus, he warns, because it will wear out quickly.

5. Security settings. You password-protect your iPad, right? (Yeah. Thought so.) Burney stresses that it is inevitable—you are going to lose your iPad. So think about your responsibility to your clients and set up a passcode and an auto-lock. How? Go to Settings, General, Passcode Lock and enter either a four-digit simple passcode (please don’t choose 1234 or 5678!) or a stronger alphanumeric code. While you’re in the Passcode Lock menu, turn on the option to erase data after 10 failed passcode attempts. (Yes, do it.) Next, set Auto-Lock to two to four minutes. (That menu is also under the General tab.) At four characters, of course, using a simple passcode is not the best security. But if a snoop walks past a couple of iPads and one is locked and the other is not … whose security gets breached fastest?

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Lawyer Apps, Legal Technology
Originally published December 7, 2012
Last updated December 17, 2019
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Joan Hamby Feldman Joan Feldman

Joan Feldman is Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of Attorney at Work, publishing “one really good idea every day” since 2011. She has created and steered myriad leading practice management and trade publications, including the ABA’s Law Practice magazine where she served as managing editor for a dozen years. Joan is a Fellow and served as a Trustee of the College of Law Practice Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and @JoanHFeldman.

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