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Lawyerist has already provided two distinct views on whether the iPad will be useful to law firms. Sam has doubts, but I think it will be a great tool for lawyers. As the release date nears, I thought it was worth revisiting.
Every lawyer has their own personal style for client meetings. I am willing to admit that using an iPad during a meeting could be a distraction. But if you think using an iPad during a meeting is pointless, you are dead wrong.
I use my iPhone all the time during client meetings. I lookup public court records, view their client file through Dropbox, and can quickly lookup other information on the internet. I think sticking a laptop on the table is a distraction, and barrier between a lawyer and client.
I think an iPhone or PDA is different. It is not nearly as physically imposing and does not create a physical barrier. Along those lines, an iPad or other tablet device, is much better suited for client meetings then a laptop. I am assuming you can take handwritten notes, thereby replacing your legal pad. If you need to show a client something, you can simply flip it around quickly. Sure, you can swivel a laptop, but it is just awkward.A tablet device just feels and looks more natural, as opposed to a laptop.
I am constantly comparing lawyers meeting with clients to doctors meeting with patients (although, as my wife likes to remind me, lawyers are not nearly as valuable because we do not save lives). Doctors typically carry a clipboard to take notes and look at client files. Think of an iPad as your clipboard, and as a way to help you accurately diagnose a potential client’s situation.
(photo: Tom Raferty)