Why My iPad Will Never Replace my yPads

iPad Leo yPad

I bought my iPad early last May. Look to the right of this sentence. See me? That’s the first day I got it. I was really excited. You see, it was my first shiny new toy in my law practice, and I had grand visions that the device would change the way my law practice worked.

Determined to be a less-paper office, I envisioned that the iPad would render my legal pads obsolete. Armed with my legal knowledge and my tablet, I was sure that my command of law and technology would not only impress my clients, but judges, juries, and opposing counsel — and all the while I could give myself greenie points for doing my part to save trees. I could do away with legal pads in my practice altogether, now that I had a tablet, a stylus, and some great apps.

15 months later,  I’ve disabused myself of those notions. No, I’m not getting rid of my yPads* anytime soon. Here are a few reasons why.

I am Clutzy and yPads Don’t Break When You Drop Them

The first day that I had my iPad in court, I dropped it.

While waiting for my client’s case to be called, I sitting in the hallway just outside the courtroom, reviewing some notes I’d taken in Notability.  Lost in reviewing the file, I was caught off guard when another attorney called my name to get my attention. Reflexively, I stood up to shake his hand, forgetting about the iPad on my lap.

In what seemed  slow motion, I watched out the corner of my eye as the shiny new gadget tumbled out of my lap, end over end, and bounced off the cold, unforgiving tile floor with a sickening “crack” before coming to rest, face down.

I was certain that I had just broken my brand new $500 toy. It was my own “A Christmas Story” moment.

“Oh, that sucks, man.”  The fellow attorney offered his half-hearted condolences before entering the courtroom, leaving me alone to mourn my iPad. I held my breath as I picked it up and assessed the damage. I let out a sigh of relief when I realized the tablet was relatively unscathed—nothing but a dinged corner in the aluminum body of the device. I got lucky. I collected myself, then went into the courtroom.

None of this would have been a problem if I’d taken notes on a yPad and put them in the physical folder I had with me that day. I could drop a yPad all day, and I am pretty sure all that’d happen is that the pages might get a bit wrinkled. And even if I accidentally dropped one into an incinerator and it was lost forever, it’d cost $1.50 to replace.

Prisons Aren’t Keen on Letting You Bring an iPad With You to Visit Inmates

A fair amount of my practice is devoted to criminal defense. This means that my clients don’t always have the liberty to visit me in my office—often I have to go see them. So at least once a week, usually Sunday mornings, I make the trek to our local prisons to visit my clients, inform them of developments, and discuss their cases. But as you can imagine (or maybe you’ve personally experienced) prisons have rules for what visitors may bring with them into visits. One of these rules is “no electronic devices”. Naturally, this puts the kibosh on using the iPad for prison interviews and notes of visits with clients.

No such ban applies to yPads and pens.

yPads Don’t Run Out of Batteries

I am a habitual charger. Every night, when I go to bed, I put my iPad and my phone on the nightstand next to me and plug them in, ensuring they’re fully charged for the next day. Though as any user of electronic devices knows, it takes a lot of juice to power the tiny computers we carry around today. Some days, I’m able to kill the battery on my phone before noon.

So say you’re in court and you manage to kill the battery on your phone because you were playing too much Candy Crush while waiting for your case to be called. Or maybe you forgot to lock the screen after reading today’s legal news, and that big bright screen on your tablet sucked your power reserve away. That spare charger you always have in your briefcase? Well, you happened to forget that back in your office, right next to the now-cold coffee you intended to bring with you too. Quite the quandary.

With a yPad, you can’t run out of battery—you just run out of pages, or of ink. To date, I’ve yet to accidentally run out of yellow pad pages or of pens while in court (I always keep about half a dozen pens in my bag, plus another 2-3 in my suit coat).

Worst case scenario, you can always sheepishly ask to borrow a pen from the court staff and grab a sheet or two of paper from an attorney who’s better prepared than you. Which brings me to another point.

You Can Share yPads

If you’re a lawyer doing trial work, you know that listening to witnesses’ testimony is imperative to doing the job right. Most of the time, while you’re at counsel table, your client is sitting right next to you. And many times, while you’re trying to listen to what the witness is saying, your client has some particular thoughts on what that witness is saying that they’d like to share with you. Occasionally, your client wants to tell you those thoughts RIGHT NOW [whisper] WHILE [whisper] YOU’RE TRYING [whisper whisper] TO UNDERSTAND  [whisper whisper whisper] THE WITNESS.

I’ve tried, and I still can’t process two conversations at once.

To try to prevent this problem I give all my clients a short pep talk before we get to counsel table, that goes something like this: “When we get up to the table, and the DA calls their witness, what they are saying is very important. I need to be able to hear everything that person says. If you talk to me, I can’t hear what the witness is saying. So I am going to give you a piece of yellow paper and a pen. You write down anything you find fishy about their testimony or any questions you have for me on that paper.”

I’ve not yet found a way to share my iPad with my client so we can both take notes at once.

It’s also nice to be able to give a lawyer who’s forgotten their iPad charger an extra sheet of paper or two.

iPads Aren’t Ideal for Jury Selection

I tried using my iPad during jury selection once, but found the entire process unwieldy — I’m just going to stick to the yPad for that, too.

Canary Paper Tells People You’re a Lawyer

Everyone these days has an iPad. Only lawyers use canary pads. Enough said.

Leo, You Smug Bastard, How Do You Use Your iPad?

  • My iPad still comes with me to court every day. With my wireless hotspot, I use it for on-the-fly legal research, to check and respond to emails, and catch up on my blawgs.
  • My iPad calendar is my back up. I carry a paper organizer with me everywhere I go.
  • I’ve taken most of my legal library and digitized it. So instead of carrying around the bound volumes of the Crimes Code, Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Sentencing Guidelines, I have them all available as searchable .PDFs. I’ve helped out some fellow attorneys from time to time by being able to pull up the right rule at the right time.
  • I have constant access to my electronic files.

I’m not anti-technology, far from it. But my yellow legal pads aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

*As I’ve noted before, my apologies to Scott Greenfield for shamelessly stealing his term.


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