7 tools for your mobile tech kit
January 2019 - Brian D. Cook
Credit: UNDEFINED UNDEFINED / Getty Images
With the proliferation of mobile devices, global cellular networks, and Wi-Fi around every corner, the practice of law is increasingly mobile. Clients, courts, opposing counsel, and others all expect faster and more frequent responses. We can—and do—end up working just about anywhere we are.
We often are too busy to stop and take a wholesale look at how we can make technological changes so that our practices become more efficient and productive. Here are several essential pieces of mobile technology to have when you’re traveling for work or working remotely.
1 iPad and Apple TV
I know—everyone already has an iPad. But you would be amazed at the number of lawyers I know who do nothing with their iPads except look at social media or get news updates. The iPad is an incredibly useful tool for the mobile lawyer. It allows you to store, access, and manipulate all of the files in your office; share files with others on the go; and—coupled with Apple TV—wirelessly present your case in almost any setting.1 I recommend the iPad with built-in cellular internet, as well as the Apple Pencil—which is superior to other styluses in terms of responsiveness and variety of pen strokes available—and a portable keyboard. I prefer the less bulky stand-alone keyboards, but options are available that fit into the iPad’s case.
2 Portable Tabletop Projector and Screen
So much of our work as lawyers involves making presentations to others—from trials to mediation to settlement conferences. If you are not meeting in your own office, don’t rely on whatever outdated (or even nonexistent) equipment another location might have. Bring a portable tabletop projector and screen that can be toted around in a shoulder bag and set up in a few minutes. These small projectors will not be quite as bright as or have the zoom capabilities of their more robust, ceiling-mounted cousins, but you are not presenting to a room of 200. I find that 2,600 lumens (light output), 1280 x 800 WXGA (resolution), and 4,000 hours of lamp life (bulb lifespan) are more than adequate. Some projectors feature Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections to your iPad, but an HDMI cord and iPad lightning to HDMI converter will provide foolproof connectivity. Your Apple TV can be worked into this setup too for the wireless network mentioned above. If you plan to present video, make sure the projector has built-in speakers. For the screen, a 50-inch diagonal viewing area is plenty. The best models roll up into their own carrying case. I use Epson products for both. The screen costs around $100, and the ultralight projectors start at around $600. Don’t forget your extension cord (at least 25 feet) and a power strip.
3 iTrial or TrialPad Presentation Apps
iTrial and TrialPad are great apps to run your presentation and are available on Apple’s App Store for about $100. These very similar apps allow you to load a variety of file types (PDF, Word, Excel, JPG, video, and audio). Both apps link to popular cloud-based file storage services so that you can quickly import files on the go. They can run so-called “slide decks” (such as PowerPoint or Keynote), but I like their ability to easily call up files from the interface on the fly more than a prepackaged slide deck. Both can be used in a wired or wireless setup with your AppleTV or tabletop screen and projector. There are more expensive products, but these are the simplest, most flexible ways to present from your iPad.
4 Essential Apps
iAnnotate. This app will let you create and annotate PDF files. You can search, highlight, add notes, color-code by issue, and more.
Genius Scan and Genius Sign. One’s a portable scanner that uses your iPad’s built-in camera, and the other’s a way to sign documents on your iPad. I use Genius Sign frequently when signing up new clients outside of the office.
Complete Anatomy and Essential Anatomy. Quite possibly the coolest apps I have ever seen, these both give you a detailed, digital, 3-D model of the entire human body. They allow you to show various body systems (vasculature, musculature), isolate specific body parts, annotate, and zoom and rotate from any view.
5 Recording Video
If your local court rules allow deposition by video, why not use your own notary to swear in your witness and then use your iPhone or iPad with a small, detachable stand to record the depo? The video and sound quality are excellent, and it’s free.
6 Cloud-based File Storage
Having access to your files is essential outside the office. There are many services out there—Dropbox, Box, Google Drive—but here are some things to consider as you choose one. How much data can you store at a reasonable cost? If you work with only PDF, Word, and Excel files, then 100-200 GB might work. If you want to access audio, photo, or even video files (think video depositions), then you may need 1 TB or more of storage.
How secure are your files? SSL encryption (secure link between web server and browser), two-step authentication, and mobile passcodes are good indicators of a secure service. How easy is it to share files with others in or outside of your office? Some services allow you to send files or folders directly or links to those files and folders, which, for example, means that you can serve discovery responses or send a demand letter with hundreds or even thousands of pages of attachments. Will it work with whatever storage and hardware you have back in your physical office? You may have a desktop or central file server that will need to sync with the storage service as well as the iPad.
Leave the yellow legal pad at home, and try one of the great notetaking apps. My favorites are Noteshelf 2 and Nebo. Some people prefer an all-inclusive notetaking app such as Evernote, but these two are the perfect replacement for that legal pad. Both work great with the Apple Pencil, and neither requires you to have an account (unless you want to sync with your cloud storage). These apps have a variety of writing instruments (ballpoint pen, fountain pen, highlighter) and ink colors. You can export notes in multiple formats, such as PDF or Word documents. While Noteshelf 2 offers a few more options, Nebo can convert handwriting to text. It works well and includes diagrams and math equations.
Brian D. Cook is a partner at Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger in Louisville, Ky. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not constitute an endorsement of any product or service by Trial or AAJ.
- See Brian D. Cook, Unleash Your Wireless Potential, Trial 52 (May 2016) for more details on setting up this kind of rig.