iPad Insight, a leading blog covering all things iPad, recently commented on the rise of the iPad as a tool for legal profession. It is a good read, but I found that the focus was on applications specifically developed for the legal profession. While attorneys leveraging the iPad platform as a means to practice better law and better manage the practice is becoming more common and many applications already in common use by law firms offer iPad apps as a portal to office-based case files and administrative systems, they often require changes in information technology policies or infrastructure to work properly — changes that many law firms are not yet prepared to make.
However, the greatest appeal of the iPad for many of the attorneys I have spoken with is the opportunity to substitute the iPad as a unified communications device, a convenient means for light document editing and a means to organize, search and access voluminous documents without the need to cart around boxes and boxes of files. With a little creativity, attorneys have found ways to do this effectively with non industry-specific applications and without the need for their firms to support the platform officially.
Unfortunately for many attorneys, the cost of the iPad and any associated accessories and data plans will be their own to bear as few firms seem ready to reimburse for these expenses. However, with the iPad appealing as a legal tool to even older, less technology-enthusiastic partners, reimbursement policies for iPads seem likely to change as time goes on.
A potential driver for more formal adoption and support of the platform by firms relates to compliance and security matters. Where the firm does not support use of the iPad by its attorneys, it often becomes necessary for the attorneys to forward e-mails and post documents via means that may not protect firm, client and matter data sufficiently. From a security perspective, this increases the potential for loss or misappropriation of that sensitive data. From a compliance perspective, this complicates being responsive to eDiscovery requests and could put the reputation and the assets of the firm at risk.
The bottom line? iPads likely are too appealing and a powerful a platform for the legal profession for firms *not* to move towards adopting and supporting them. However, individual attorneys and firms alike should approach doing so as a strategic initiative rather than simply adding an incremental technology.