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.
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.