The 7 “P”s and the iPad

A discussion broke out on twitter yesterday after a twit about a conference that was too mind-numbingly stupid for even the most ardent of Apple lovers.  Under the heading of Learn New Technology or Lose Clients came this ripe offering:

A new seminar titled, “The iPad Lawyer: Real Secrets for Your iPad Success” shows lawyers how to effectively use the iPad in a legal environment.

From this, we talked about how the iPad was a great tool to watch Hulu, or even classic movies like the Godfather, while waiting for your case to be called.  There was no discussion of Angry Birds, but I feel confident that the same would hold true for playing the game while sitting on a hard, courtroom bench.  Aside from that, we had nothing.  It hardly seemed worthy of a seminar.

Sam Glover, honcho at  The Lawyerist and lover of things shiny, took issue.  While admitting that the iPad fell shy of vital equipment, Sam noted that ” it’s pretty useful for taking client files instead of lugging a laptop.”  It apparently didn’t occur to Sam that there was another alternative to iPads and laptop lugging.

I suggested that Sam might consider bringing actual files with him to court, just in case a judge asked for a document, or maybe if his adversary raised an argument that he could destroy with a document in his possession, pulled with a flourish from his file and handed up with verve.

Sam demurred:

I’m usually in federal court, which is paperless anyway. It’s easy enough to email a doc or display it on the ELMO.

In state court, I’ve been able to email docs I didn’t anticipate. Most judges have computers on the bench.

But he did recognize that his experience may not be universal.

My exp is limited to my cases, anyway. It’s never been a problem for me, but others may have run into problems.

This introduction led me to think of the 7 “P”s:  Proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.

When things go as anticipated, we all look like geniuses. We have what we need, things go according to plan and we walk away feeling as though we’ve handled the situation perfectly.  That’s easy.  Aren’t we wonderful?

But what we, as lawyers, must be capable of doing is handling the unanticipated, the surprise, the sand-bagging, with the same finesse and skill as that which we expected.  This is what distinguishes a skilled lawyer from a hack.  The hack can manage the routine.  A great lawyer can handle anything.

A while back, Mark Herrmann, in one of his Above the Law columns, made the point that old lawyers turn curmudgeonly because they’ve experienced all the things that can go wrong with a case, whereas new lawyers assume everything will go just fine because they have yet to experience the joy of having unanticipated disaster strike.  Old lawyers begin to think about potential problems before hand because it’s preferable to blowing something.  We know this because we’ve experienced it or seen it happen. It’s not pretty.

Sam’s reliance on his iPad in lieu of an actual file with actual papers isn’t at all novel, and for many newer lawyers, and even older ones who can’t find a healthy young lawyer to carry his briefcase for him, it explains their lack of upper body strength.  After all, files can be heavy and occasionally awkward.  They usually require a briefcase within which to carry them, and many newer lawyers have never come to feel devotion to a briefcase.  Like the wristwatch, these may become accoutrements of the dinosaur.

And Sam may never need to hand a document to a judge.  It may have something to do with his practice area, which I believe is consumer rights (an oxymoron, obviously), or just pure kismet that no unanticipated issue ever arises.  He may be able to get through his entire career without ever risking the possibility of a paper cut.  I truly hope he never suffers one, as they’re terribly painful.

But if the day arises that a judge unexpectedly asks him to hand up a document at a critical moment, his client’s fortune depending on it, with argument and controversy whirling around him and the immediacy of his ability to produce being the difference between success and failure, I wouldn’t want to be standing their empty handed, except for an iPad.

The 7 “P”s are worthy of your consideration, and could spell the difference between success and failure.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

17 thoughts on “The 7 “P”s and the iPad

  1. Jennifer C.

    I’m a public defender, so I’ve never used a briefcase. Instead, I have a favorite handcart. Sometimes the the real lawyers with iPads help me carry it up the stairs. (I’ve been thinking about getting a second job so that I could have a iPad.)

  2. Victor Medina

    I am among the aforementioned ardent Apple apologists. I find the topic of that presentation annoying and insulting.

    On the issue of preparation, I must be a real idiot. I carry the iPad with electronic versions of all of my case materials (research, papers, exhibits, etc) AND I carry the paper versions. I figure, you never know if the papers in my hand will spontaneously combust – so the iPad is a backup for the paper.

    Instead of the paper/iPad debate, I’m far more concerned that my argument sucks. If it does, there’s no amount of multi-touch gestures that can turn it into chicken salad.

    Oh, and I’m one of the youngins.

  3. SHG

    No need for a second job. When one of those iPad lawyers is helping you out, just grab the iPad and let go of the cart so it falls back on her, then run like hell.  You can’t go back to your job or court again, but at least you’ll have an iPad. Really, it’s just a matter of priorities.

  4. SHG

    This is one of the reasons I like you so much, Victor.  This and the fact that you answer my emails when my daughter’s Applebook goes on the fritz and I’ve got no clue what to do.

    And a word to the wise: If you happen to be in court and some PD named Jennifer asks you to help her carry her cart up the starirs, put your iThing in your pocket and run.  Run like the wind.  Just do it.

  5. Rob R.

    Thanks for the laugh after long day in court. Come to think of it I think I did see a PD laughing maniacally while running toward the parking lot while carrying an iPad….

  6. AH

    “‘I’m usually in federal court, which is paperless anyway.”

    Sure you are Sam. I’ve handed papers up to judges in federal court. The only difference is, in state court you throw it right on his desk; In federal court, you hand it to the bailiff or clerk who hands it up to his eminence.

    There was a post on Above the Law where Jay Shepard suggested that an I-Pad is perfect for depositions because you can virtually pull a document, show it to the witness on the I-Pad and impeach him. I asked in the comments if he would have his I-Pad marked by the court reporter as an exhibit, taken into evidence by the court reporter and then used as an exhibit to cross examine with at trial.

    These young lawyers remind me of Steve Carol in The 40 Year Old Virgin, who was bragging about past sexual encounters and described a woman’s breasts as feeling “like a bag of sand” and thus proving his inexperience to all of his friends.

  7. SHG

    Jay Shep always had such curious uses for the iPad. I suggested a different use for it, but he never responded to me either.

  8. Sam Glover

    The usual response if you try to hand a federal judge something at a hearing is “since you didn’t submit that with your materials, counsel, I’m not going to consider it now.”

    In civil matters, anyway. It could well be different in criminal matters.

    In any case, if you don’t want to take an iPad to court, don’t. Nobody says you have to. But you can if you want to, and you can deal with the problems that may come up. Especially if you are prepared, which is whole the point, anyway.

  9. Sam Glover

    Scott is right that the lack of upper body strength is a problem. The best way to remedy this is to stop playing Angry Birds every 45 minutes to bench press your document scanner.

  10. AH

    Hi Sam:
    My federal experience is all civil: patent and trademark infringement litigation. I wasn’t talking about formally entering things into evidence that weren’t previously e-filed. I mean, you are referring to some document that was filed, the judge doesn’t have it in front of him, so you hand him a copy.

    That said, the Lawerist is a great blog with lots of great advice, especially about IT. I have followed Lawyerist’s advice about setting up email; cloud computing, high speed scanners, and many other things. Keep up the good work.

  11. SHG

    Not that you had much at risk, but to the extent you had any credibility here, you just shot yourself in the foot.

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