AS SEEN IN LAW JOURNAL NEWSLETTERS - PAUL J. UNGER, ESQ. SHOWS HOW LEGAL PROFESSIONALS CAN MAXIMIZE THEIR IPAD
The Pew Research Center finds that 22 percent of U.S. adults polled own a tablet, while another 3 percent regularly use someone else's. Pew attributes the popularity to cheaper tablets released in late 2011. About 68 percent of tablet owners acquired their tablet within the last year, 32 percent in 2012 alone. Furthermore, according to Apple, cumulative world-wide sales reached 84 million as of September 21, 2012.
For legal professionals, the only real choice remains Apple's iPad. The wide selection of legal-specific apps for the iPad cannot be matched by competing Android tablets. Whether intended or not, Apple is winning that market. However, with success comes responsibility, and when it comes to lawyers, accountability, security & saving time is extremely important when serving clients. Here are five 'best-practice' recommendations and tips to make the most effective and safest use of iPads for lawyers.
Although there are other ways to access documents on your iPad, Dropbbox has become the standard and clearly is the easiest to use. However, just because it is easy doesn't mean that it is the best. Just like sending unencrypted email (which most attorneys and legal professionals do 100 times a day), there are security concerns and risks. While Dropbox provides some limited security, it is indeed vulnerable like any other system.
So, if vulnerable, what can you do? Have a policy in place within your firm that client confidential information is never allowed to be stored in Dropbox, and if it is, then it must be encrypted. You can accomplish this in many ways. For example, if storing a PDF, simply use Adobe Acrobat's native security to encrypt the file with a password (and use a strong password!). You can also use TrueCrypt to apply security to multiple files and folders. If using an app like TrialPad to display documents in a hearing or trial, just use Dropbox as a conduit to get the exhibits loaded on the iPad, and then remove the documents from Dropbox. TrialPad stores those documents locally on the iPad once loaded. Finally, monitor Dropbox's security page (see screenshot below) to see who has recently accessed your account.
There are alternatives to Dropbox that provide encryption. SugarSync or SpiderOak (www.spideroak.com) are two very good solutions. Unfortunately, not too many apps are as tightly integrated with these solutions as they are with Dropbox.
Remote Tracking, Locking and Data Wiping.
iPhones and iPads are portable devices that can easily be lost or stolen. As such, we must take steps to protect them. It is not enough to simply lock the device (Settings > General > Auto-Lock). Apple's iCloud provides a valuable and critical function that is particularly important to attorneys who have confidential information on their mobile device. It is called FindMyiPhone, but it works with all your Apple solutions (iPad, iPhone, etc.). Legal professionals must take the time to set this up so they can use it in the event of device theft or loss. Once the device is registered, you can (1) track (play sound or send message), (2) lock, or (3) erase all data from any web browser.
Using a strong password and not re-using the same password over and over again is very important, especially if you are carrying around portable devices and storing information in the cloud. In this regard, I recommend a few things. First, lock your Apple device using more than the "Simple Passcode". Under Settings > General > Simple Passcode, if you turn Simple Passcode off, you can designate a passcode with more than just 4 characters. Second, turn on "Erase Data" after 10 failed passcode attempts under Settings > General > Passcode Lock. Finally, consider an encrypted password management program like RoboForm ($29.95), or LastPass (free) to store and manage all your usernames, passwords, reward point programs, etc. All have iPhone or iPad apps that will allow you to manage and access the passwords from your desktop, laptop or iDevice. Just don't lose or forget the master password to get into these programs or you will be in real trouble.
Smart Paperless Time-Savers.
Here are two tips for saving paper and saving time. First, instead of collecting paper from clients or receipts while on the go, consider using your iPad or iPhone as a portable scanner. Apps like Snap2PDF ($2.99) allow you to use your device's camera to create single-page, multi-page, black & white or color PDFs that are text-searchable. You can either email them to yourself or "save as" into a cloud service. There are other great apps that will create a PDF, but I haven't found too many that create text-searchable PDFs. Save yourself the step of having to OCR the PDF when you get back to the office by using an app that can do it in one step.
Another paperless tip is using a note-taking app instead of real paper. Apps like Notability, Noteshelf or Penultimate are excellent tools that will allow you to take hand-written or typed notes and maintain notebooks to keep things organized (and synced to Dropbox, SugarSync, etc.). I like Notability because it allows me to also record audio in meeting or interviews so I can review it later in case my notes were not the best.
Perhaps my favorite part of using note-taking app is the fact that I do not have to scan paper when I get back to the office. Instead, I can either save it back to a cloud service (like Dropbox), or even better just email it to myself or my assistant.
In closing, there are hundreds of ways that legal professionals can use the iPad to assist with the practice of law. For now, based on consumer popularity and law firm user adoption, the iPad is probably the best choice. There are amazing tools and apps. I've just mentioned a handful of them. It is easy to become dazzled and lose sight of safety and common sense. Always think about reducing steps, saving time, and most importantly client confidentiality. New apps and tools appear on a weekly basis. Ask lots of questions and always challenge the security of those apps first.
As mentioned, this article originally appeared in Volume 29, Number 8 of the Law Journal Newsletters' LEGAL TECH Newsletter.