Don’t Ditch Your Laptop for an iPad

If you are a frequent Lawyerist reader, you know that I am the resident Mac fanboy.

I use my iPhone in conjunction with my law practice almost daily, along with a number of Macs. I do have an iPad, and I definitely think it is useful. But it is not ready to replace my laptop.

The iPad is great for lots of things, but not everything

The iPad has some outstanding uses, but for the most part, it is used to consume data, rather than input data. If you need to show a client something during a client meeting or take notes during a settlement conference (Sam just did it), the iPad is great.

The next time I argue a motion in court, I will leave my laptop at home and rely on my iPad if I need to lookup part of the case file (one of many reasons to go paperless). The bottom is that if you need to look at data, or input small amounts of data, the iPad is great.

If you need a computer, use a computer

Typing on the iPad is ok, but not great. I do not have the keyboard attachment, but I will probably get one. Even with the keyboard, I would not be caught dead trying to write a brief on my iPad. You could do it if necessary, but the inability to view multiple windows at once is a productivity killer. Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible, just tedious.

If you are working out of the office or traveling, bring along your laptop. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to write a letter to the judge, or worse yet, a brief, you will want your laptop. Sure, you could go to Kinkos, but can you imagine writing a brief inside a Kinkos? I’ll take my chances with my laptop in my hotel room.

The iPad can be a great tool for lawyers, but it’s not quite ready to replace laptops.



  1. Randall –

    Great post. I have been contemplating same. As you say, it really comes down to uses. However, I’ve found that with the addition of a bluetooth keyboard and several apps, ipad gets pretty darn close to laptop replacement, at least for my uses.

    • Avatar Randall R. says:

      Hey Gyi—I’m glad to hear the keyboard has been working for you. Like I said, I’m eager to try it. What kind of experience have you had drafting things with the keyboard?

      • Keyboard has been working great. Like other things “i” it comes down to apps. Out of the box, it’s as you say, primarily good for consumption. However, the apps make the difference. Admittedly, I’m still early in my use, and I still come across activities that just don’t translate well on ipad. However, I’ve been very surprised by just how much I can actually “get done” with it. And all this from a device that many said no one would have any use for…

  2. Avatar Hunter McMahon says:

    Great comments! I personally have not taken my laptop off my desk for over six months because of the iPad. I use LogMeIn when I can’t perform a task native on the iPad.

  3. Randall: I concur with you. I believe Sam wrote a post awhile back saying that he had used his ipad almost exclusively for a month and found he could get by without his laptop, just using the ipad. Correct me if I’m wrong. However, I agree with you. For awhile, my wife and I shared a laptop and an ipad. We eventually got another laptop because I found I was constantly asking to swap the laptop and the ipad with her. It was better to just have two laptops and the ipad for travel, reading, and consuming information, but not for generating content. I spend a lot of time, particularly in the evenings, writing blog posts so I found the ipad didn’t work for those uses.

  4. Avatar Ted Brooks says:

    I absolutely agree that an iPad is not a laptop replacement – at least most of the time. Where it really shines is when you don’t want to lug the laptop around, or on a flight, train, or other place where you have limited space to work with. The fact that the iPad lays flat is a real plus.

    As for using an external keyboard, it’s just another chunk of battery-operated hardware to carry around, and can take up more space than a laptop, depending on which one you have.

    One thing I found that is currently being developed is a thin film keypad cover for the iPad, called the iKeyboard. There is a KickStarter project for this (only 5 days remaining). I’ve signed up for this one – looks like it could be a real plus for touch-typing (which is a big concern for anyone who does a lot of typing), without adding an external keyboard. Here’s the link:

  5. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    While I agree with everything, I do find the iPad is much better for generating content than I expected. I draft most of my blog posts on it (using Nebulous Notes), and first drafts of most other documents, like our LAB Reports (using Pages).

    I can type 60-70 wpm on the iPad keyboard, which is plenty fast for just about anything. Pages could use some better formatting options and a more functional layout for options like italics and headings, but it works great. Nebulous Notes is awesome because it adds useful keys to the keyboard, like HTML tags, which I use all the time.

    Here’s my post about why the iPad is awesome and Randall is wrong, and here’s my post in the LAB about my favorite apps.

  6. Is there a big difference between the new version IPad and the original? I see about a $100-150 difference in price between the two. Wonder if that’s worth it.
    Versus, the price of a decent laptop is not much more than the IPad2. Maybe I’m “old school” but it seem so much more worth it to have the laptop. I have a home desktop, office desktop, Iphone, laptop. Maybe it depends on the type of law you do too. I am keeping pretty efficient with what I already have.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      Don’t make the mistake of comparing an iPad to a laptop. They aren’t the same thing at all. A laptop does not have more features than an iPad; it has different features.

      If you already have a desktop at home and the office, an iPad would probably be a better option for carrying around when you are away from the computer, for all the reasons I mentioned in my article on why the iPad is super awesome. My laptop might as well be a desktop, now that I have an iPad, since all it does is sit on my desk at home.

      As for old vs. new, the only compelling reason to get the iPad 2 is if you want to do video conferencing via Skype or Facetime. Otherwise, the cameras on the iPad 2 suck and, since they are the only real difference, aren’t worth the upgrade.

  7. Avatar Catherine Earnshawlaw-Hobbs says:

    I use the noteshelf app to hand write notes on client files that used to be written on sticky notes. The app let’s me create a separate “notebook” for each file and each note book is easy to search through the pages via a drop down preview bar. I can rearrange the notebooks in whatever order I want by just dragging and dropping. (I got the stylus on It wasn’t expensive, but it’s been a while so I don’t remember the price.)

  8. Avatar Wade Coye says:

    As technology continues to develop, it only makes sense that our businesses will have to develop with it. In most cases, it will even be ideal to progress with the gadget and gizmos that will make our lives easier. Our firm has begun using iPads and other technology specifically for disability claims, but this has not yet expanded into all our areas of practice. The reasons are many and complex, but the bottom line is that the iPad is not the most efficient way for our office to conduct all our business. I’m glad to see that the general consensus is that while iPads (and all types of tablet computers) are a terrific tool, they have not yet developed to the point where they are capable of replacing the more tried-and-true features and convenience that a laptop has to offer. However, I’m excited about the concept of the “netvertible” and the promises they offer.

  9. Avatar Ted Brooks says:

    I have several reviews on iPad Apps for Lawyers which may be of interest, including iKeyboard for iPad: No More Hunt & Peck Typing and iPad Apps for Lawyers: TrialPad 2.0 Reviewed

    There are more apps coming out every day, and some good updates to those already on the market. I still don’t consider the iPad a laptop replacement for normal daily use, but it works great in the right circumstances.

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