Lawyers Can Use The iPad to Enhance Client Meetings

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)


  1. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    If playing with a phone during dinner is rude, how is it any better during a meeting with a potential client? It doesn’t matter what you are looking up; tapping on a phone is a social signal that makes everyone nearby feel ignored. A laptop is no better; they both tell the potential client he or she is unimportant.

    During meetings with clients or potential clients, I try to focus on listening to the potential client, even it would be useful to have a computer with me. I don’t even bring my phone. If I want to look something up online, I invite the client into my office where they can see my screen and feel included while I look up the information. (Or I ask Randall, who usually has his phone out.)

    I agree that the iPad would be very useful for client meetings, but that is because it is easy to share with the person across the table, and because it does not (yet) carry the same social meaning as tapping on a phone.

  2. Avatar michael says:

    I think it really depends on implementation. I think having a notepad would be a better input for clients, because they can see that you are focused on them and only distracted when they have said something important and you need to write it down. Also, they can see what you’re writing.

    However, I think a client would be fine if there was an ipad off to the side, and the lawyer said, “well, let’s pull up that file.” Then the lawyer could pull up a file easily with the client and review a document. However, if the lawyer is playing with the iPad and the client is not clear why, then there can be some issues. The iPad should be for both the lawyer and client, not a gizmo for the lawyer to play with.

    Personally, Sam, I’d rather you pull out an iPad while we’re sitting at a conference table, then have to get up and go to your office and sit around your computer.

  3. Avatar Strious says:

    As someone else said, I am not sure I would even think of looking/typing on my iPhone during a client session. It is a signal that I am not paying attention and something I try to stay away from during meetings.

    I try to get everything done prep wise before the meeting and if something needs to be done during, I make it a point to get someone else to get the information OR tell the client what I am doing.

  4. Avatar Sam Glover says:

    @michael: I agree that the iPad is better than having to walk down the hall. But I would rather have the client looking at the screen with me than tap away at a phone or laptop that they can’t see. (“Sitting around the screen” in my office is probably not like what you are thinking.)

    The iPad (or any tablet computer, for that matter) is more-easily shared with a client sitting across the table, which is one of the reasons why it would be superior to an iPhone or laptop.

    That said, the limitations of the iPad vs. a Windows 7 tablet make it a lot less attractive for business use. Especially the requirement that you plug it into iTunes. How many businesses have an iTunes account?

    We will probably get a tablet of some sort for the conference room, but I am not sure it will be an iPad.

  5. Avatar William says:

    I couldn’t agree more Sam. Sorry to say Randall, but there is nothing more distracting than brandishing your tech device in front of client, especially when all you really is doing is taking notes. How often are you sharing web pages with your clients?? Moreover, the modern law firm hardly has enough person to person contact with clients to validate an iPad on bettering the client experience grounds.

    I personally hate reading the same document with someone else. Besides the client will have their own preferences for reading their divorce petition. Don’t confuse your own techie bias (one that I share) with what will actually make the client feel better. For example, I cannot stand to read along with someone else on the same document, a client, a coworker or otherwise. The old wasteful model was to print out copies for everyone twice (one for the meeting and one to take home). Now, you send an email or share etc. with the client and they bring the version they prefer with them to your meeting. The iPad doesn’t really make any of this easier. If, however, it make you and your office feel and be more efficient, then more power to you.

  6. Avatar Sam Glover says:

    William, it sounds like you may not need a computer in your conference room, but Randall is right that we do. And not for browsing divorce decrees (we would just print a copy of something like that). We need to check the status of potential clients’ cases, check to see if a debt collector is licensed or where it is incorporated, check a forum state’s statute of limitations, and more.

  7. Avatar michael says:

    I would like to see serious windows 7 tablets. I know that there are some out there, but I’d like to see one that lots of folks are getting behind.

    As for syncing w/ iTunes, I imagine a firm would do whatever it would do for iphones. That being said, I don’t know many things you’d have to manually sync with. Randall mentioned Dropbox, which would be a wireless sync. Even docs2go, quickoffice, etc… would be a wireless sync.

  8. Avatar Sam Glover says:

    So what is it that companies do about iTunes/Apple accounts? At a minimum, you need an Apple account to do anything useful with an iPhone or iPad. Who owns that account?

  9. Avatar Chris_ says:

    Also worth considering: whether the pants are work-appropriate.

  10. Avatar Randall R. says:

    I think a number of you have confused “looking up relevant information to a client’s case” with “screwing around on a PDA.”

    If I use my iPhone, it is to double check a pleading, check filing status, see where a debt collector is located (or if they exist), etc. Without looking that up, I am talking in hypotheticals, which is not helpful, productive, or very efficient. If it is something I need the client to see, I will take them back into my office.

    I completely agree that itis a distraction if you are dinking around, checking email, and updating Facebook during client meetings. That is flat out terrible.

    If you will excuse me, I need to go buy some jeans with a bigger pocket for my iPad.

  11. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    I should probably point out that I know how Randall uses his iPhone during client meetings, and I don’t mind, although one of the main reasons I am considering a tablet is so that he (and I) can continue to have an internet-connected device without (potentially) alienating people by tapping on a phone.

  12. Avatar William says:

    My apologies for sounding brash. More modestly stated, I find that most of the time spent in a law office is not with a client. As you said Sam, different practices certainlly require more face time with the client than others. For me, using tech to better the client experience is probably best placed in accessibility to the attorneys or SaaS type collaborative services. As for the tech being a savior for my own work life, the more the merrier, but I buy it for my own advantages.

    Always love reading your posts Randall.

  13. Avatar Randall R. says:

    William – I certainly admire your approach, and I think that technology can certainly be a barrier between lawyers and their clients. If we do end up using an iPad, I will be very forthcoming about whether it changes the lawyer/client interaction.

  14. I use a Motion Computing J3500 7 tablet PC running Windows 7 64 bit and OneNote. Since I’m writing with a pen clients who are not as comfortable with techology don’t feel threatened or that I’m not listening to them. They don’t seem to treat it any different from a legal pad though a few have asked me to show them how it works at some point. In most cases I’ll simply hand them the tablet & pen to let them try it. A couple of clients have even bought tablet pcs as result.

    Unlike the iPad we have the same secruity settings on it as the other computers in the office. The ones we use are slates and somewhat larger than the iPad but it has a full OS in it and we aren’t limited to apps. Plus I prefer to use a pen for taking notes along with the convience of using touch.

  15. Avatar Byron Balcom says:

    The shortsighted article on the use of iPads seems to me very limiting. In 26 years of being a lawyer I can say the ipad has changed in the most effective way the level of service to my clients. I use my ipad to make presentations. I use my ipad for accessing my google email and google docs. I use my ipad to do FaceTime with clients. I use my ipad to Skype with my office, partners, and clients. Finally I use my ipad to sign legal documents through docusign ink . It is by far the most effective tool for lawyers in years.

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