My Office In My Briefcase: Using The iPad In Trial Practice

by Ken Laska, Segal & Laska, LLC

I. Introduction

When I opened my law office in 1971, it consisted of three rooms, one of which was my library/conference room.  I populated my library with a complete set of the Connecticut Reports, Circuit Court Reports, Connecticut Supplements, Connecticut General Statutes and of course the Connecticut Practice Book.  The other room was used as a filing room/reception room/secretarial room.  The closet in that room contained my stationary, pens, pencils, carbon paper, and a stack of yellow pads.  I had three telephones for each room as well as two lines coming in and going out.  The total cost of this came to something in excess of $3000.  Shortly after starting my practice, however, I learned a word that was never mentioned in law school: "overhead."  I found I had to continually pay for the updates in my library, replace the stationary, the pens and pencils that I either used or mislaid, as well as FICA, and withholding taxes for my secretary.  This was expensive and time-consuming.

Today, for less than $1000 I carry all of what I had in my office in 1971 in my briefcase in a rectangular device that weighs less than a 1 ½ lb, and is only 9" x 6" x 3/8’.  This little device not only replaces the contents of my entire office in 1971, but it goes even further:  it gives me access to all of the Federal Cases for the Second Circuit Court, the United States Code Annotated, Proof of Facts, AmJur 2nd, Practice and Pleading, the Connecticut Practice Series (all 10 volumes).  ALR 1st through 4th as well as the Connecticut Regulations.  It also carries my case files, some of which contain over 1000 pages of documents and photographs.  All of this I carry in my briefcase on my iPad.

II. Why Use the iPad Instead of a PC?

You might wonder why you should use an iPad instead of a PC laptop.  I think the best answers to this question relate to a combination of three factors:  Murphy's Law, advantages of processing speed, and the need for us to observe human behavior as part of our job.  Murphy's Law provides that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong."  In my experience, this is true with many laptops.  How many times has your computer crashed or done something unusual in your office?  Since trial attorneys are not computer technicians, a PC malfunction in court during trial could be catastrophic.  Unlike laptops, iPads are remarkably reliable, leaving the chances of an iPad crash minimal.

Processing speed is another advantage of iPads.  You can start your computer and wait two or three minutes before it turns on and boots up.  The iPad is ready to go moment you type in your password.   The speed of iPads especially with the newest iPad model is nothing short of incredible.  Processing speed on laptops simply cannot compare.  Finally, battery life on iPads is tremendous.  The battery on the iPad will last for 10 hours before requiring recharge.  Laptop batteries often last only 2 hours. 

Finally, any good attorney who appears in the courtroom frequently is a student of human behavior.  You watch witnesses as they testify to assess not only what they say, but how they say it.  You observe the reaction of the judge and the jury as a witness testifies or explains an exhibit.  If you are like most attorneys your ability to use a laptop keyboard is very basic.  Even if, however, you can use a keyboard competently, you still have the problem of concentrating on what is being imported into the computer rather than what is important during the trial, namely the interaction between the witness and the rest of the courtroom participants.  Because of its clear screen and touch screen, using an iPad allows you to concentrate more easily on what is important, your observations of the behavior of witnesses and other events in court.

III. Purchase

There are many tablets on the market today, but this article is written specifically for the iPad because this is the device I am most familiar with.  Apple’s iPad has over 200,000 applications, more than any other tablet, and is the best-selling tablet on the market.  Since it is so easy to use, in my personal opinion, it stands head and shoulders above other tablets in practical uses for the trial lawyer.  If you are in court you do not want to be fumbling around trying to get your tablet to work properly.  Whether searching for key documents or putting on a presentation in court, you want everything to work seamlessly so that you do not look like a fool to the judge, jury, opposing counsel, or, worse yet, your client. 

When purchasing the iPad there are multiple factors to consider, including amount of memory and whether to have cellular connection to the internet.  I recommend you get the most memory you can afford, but certainly not less than 32GB.  I also think having access to the internet through cellular service is critical if you plan to use the iPad in court, since Connecticut state courts do not offer wi-fi.  Thus you will need to purchase an iPad with 4g capabilities, unless of course you have a mobile hot spot.

IV. Accessories

IPad accessories you absolutely need include a cover for your iPad as well as two different styluses.  I recommend a black hardcover, which is inconspicuous in court and offers maximum protection from jostling in your briefcase. Remember the iPad screen is glass; therefore you need to protect it from cracking.  As for the need for styluses, the iPad was designed to be used by your fingers.  The only problem the finger is that our hands touch everything.  There are times when I am using my iPad while I am eating breakfast or lunch, leaving streaks on the screen.  Therefore you should consider buying at least one stylus, and I recommend you get two, one to do the work of your finger and the other to use like a ballpoint pen.

Styluses can be purchased from Amazon, Apple stores or other companies on the Internet.  The two most popular of the type that act as substitutes for your finger are the Boxwave or the Bamboo styluses, and either is satisfactory.  The Jot Pro stylus, in contrast, is designed specifically for a person who wishes to have the feel of a pencil or pen.  This type of stylus also allows you to make precise lines or drawings on the screen, which is helpful when you want to underline a specific passage on a document or markup a photograph. You should avoid buying cheap styluses, which are flimsy and uncomfortable to use.  

V. iPad Guides

This article is only intended as an introduction to the value of iPads in our trial practices.  You should consider buying a few manuals that provide helpful instruction and ideas for using the iPad in your practice.  Manuals can be uploaded as e-books onto your iPad, so you will always have them available to you when questions come up.  There are two manuals I consider must buys: iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, Second Edition an  iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers, both by Tom Mighell.  Both are easy reads and provide plenty of practical guidance.  These are not written for sophisticated computer users, but they offer important information and pointers that will help you fully take advantage of your iPad use. After a few months using the iPad, you may be ready for a more technical guide with more complete information.  If so, I highly recommend, iPad at Work by David Sparks & Merlin Mann, which offers a wealth of information and suggestions for the more advanced user.

VI. Effective Uses of iPads: The Importance of Creating PDF Documents

The way I use my iPad, I convert every file that I create on my office computer into PDF format so I can easily read them on my iPad.  I like to use “OCR” format, which makes PDF files that are searchable. If your PDF’s are OCR, you can quickly locate key search terms and easily search for personal identifying information to have it redacted automatically.  For instance, if you have a lengthy medical report that is an OCR PDF, you can easily search and locate all the pages for typewritten information such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, or insurance information.  

I strongly recommend Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to load on your office computer, which is a worthwhile investment for trial lawyers.  In addition to converting files to PDF format and has many other attributes that you will find extremely helpful in your practice, including a function that date stamps your documents.  Additionally it does have the ability to automatically convert your pleadings to a PDF/A format, which is now required by the federal court and which will probably be required by the state court shortly.

VII. Key iPad Applications for the Trial Lawyer

The heart and soul of your iPad will be the applications (“Apps”)  that you install on it.  There are more than 200,000 Apps that can be found online in the Apple App store.  Some are free and others  will cost you up to $20.  Most important for our purposes, there are some great Apps for trial lawyers, and I will highlight some of my favorites here.


DropBox is a cloud-based application which you must use the transfer files to and from your iPad and computer.  The initial installation cost to you is nothing, and you get the first 2 GB of space free.  If you take the instruction course on how to use the DropBox you get another 500 MB of space free.  Then if you send out invitations to your friends to join the DropBox and they join, you will then get another 500 MB of space free for each friend that joins.  Presently I have 16 GB of free space, which is more than I could ever hope to use. 

Using DropBox is extremely easy.  After you set up an account with the DropBox, you simply load the software for DropBox on your office computer, then do the same on your laptop, iPad and iPhone.  DropBox can be used either to store material or as a transfer station between your computer and iPad, which alleviates concerns about emailing very large attachments that might be rejected by a server is emailed back and forth between computers.  DropBox is also fast.  When I needed to supply a defendant extensive materials in a case last year, I uploaded to DropBox a directory containing 2 videos, 1 audio, 400 photographs, and over 600 pages of documents, all of which made up 26 MB of memory.  It took me 6 minutes to upload this to DropBox and it took the defense attorney 6 minutes to download it from my DropBox once I invited him to do so. 

PDF Expert,  iAnnotate and GoodReader

Once you have file documents in PDF format and freely transfer PDF’s between your office computer and iPad, the iPad becomes incredibly useful.  I do not use my iPad to change files, but instead rely on my iPad for exactly what I would use the paper file for.  The iPad makes reading PDF documents extremely simple.  Moreover, you can write on the PDF documents using your finger or stylus, make comments, and annotate them much easier than if you had the file in its original format.  You do, however, need a one of several special Apps in order to read PDF’s on the iPad.  The three most popular Apps for reading pdf documents are iAnnotate, PDF Expert, and GoodReader, and all are reported to work well. 

NoteTaker HD

NoteTaker HD is just one of several good note taking Apps available for the iPad.  I love this App, which permits me to turn my iPad into a yellow pad, so I can scribble notes using a stylus, or, if necessary, the tip of my finger.  This function is useful for client interviews, telephone calls, depositions and trial notes.  It also works seamlessly with the camera on my iPad, so if I am at the scene of an accident I can take a photograph of the scene, imbed into the note and then make comments next to the image or mark it up.  During a deposition I can do the same with any exhibit that is introduced.  And when opposing counsel has a large exhibit, I can take a photo of that, put it into my notes and write whatever notes I want on it.  After taking these notes, I can send it to myself as a PDF document. 

Westlaw, Lexis-Nexis and FastCase

On my iPad I have access to a library that would physically take up a set of shelves 30 feet long and 8 feet tall.  You can get Apps for Westlaw, FastCase, or Lexis-Nexis, all of which are easy and intuitive to use on the iPad.  Most readers are familiar with Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, but FastCase is an App worth considering for those on a tight budget.  FastCase is a free application that you can load onto your iPad, iPhone, Android or any other smart phone or tablet.  It gives you access to all state and federal cases from all 50 states, as well as all the statutes in all 50 states and the United States Code.  It is not as sophisticated  and easy to use as Westlaw or Lexis, but for the price it cannot be beat. 


This is an excellent jury selection App that has just come out in the past couple months.  It keeps track of the individuals you voir dire, and offers a form containing basic information that should ask each juror for to help ascertain whether they can be fair.  The App also keeps track of each juror selected as well as all challenges exercised for cause, peremptory challenges and information about the jurors selected.


This is the most expensive App I have purchased, but may be one of the best trial presentation Apps on the market.  TrialPad allows you to upload exhibits to your iPad, then connect to a projector and show the exhibits on either a screen or TV.  This can be done wirelessly if you also have the Apple TV, which allows you to project wirelessly from your iPad to a TV) and Apple Airport express hardware (which allows you to create your own Wi-Fi network).  TrialPad allows you to walk about the courtroom holding the iPad in your hand while simultaneously showing to the jury the images on your iPad.  The App would also allow you to ask a trial witness to point to key parts of an image on your iPad using a finger or stylus mark while this is being projected on a screen or TV in the courtroom.

TransrciptPad and Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript

I am familiar with these two helpful Apps that are useful for depositions, although a search of the Apple App store reveals 36 others that I am not familiar with.  Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript and TranscriptPad are both good Apps for integrating and reviewing transcripts on your iPad.  A program called TextMap, sold by Lexis-Nexis, does not have a specific application to go on to the iPad, but does allow you to convert depositions into PDF formats on your office computer, which are searchable and have a word indexes.  Once this is done, you can upload the converted transcripts onto your iPad to review in a PDF format.

Documents to Go Professional

This is an App that allows you to work within documents created in Word, Excel and PowerPoint presentations.

Wolfram Lawyer Assist

This App has life expectancy values, time value of money, conversion rates, and many things that you would normally find in a lawyer's desk book.


This App is good for mediations, pretrials or other situations where you are negotiating a settlement.  You simply input in the offers and counter offers as they are made.  The App keeps track of the negotiation process and uses an algorithm to show the direction parties are going and what the possible settlement could be.


If you place this App on your smart phone, iPad, laptop and desktop, then any notes you enter will be accessible from any one of your machines.   You also can create notebooks for specific matters or clients and can search your entire EverNote notebook to find information that you have entered at any time.


This is a free App that works in conjunction with EverNote, and allows you to take photographs and save them on to your iPhone or iPad.  You then can go into the photographs and mark them up to highlight important aspects.  The summer when we had construction work done on our house I had to show the contractor some issues that I had with the work he was doing.  I was able to photograph the areas of concern, mark them up, make comments and e-mail the marked photographs to the contractor.

Wolfram Alpha

This application is a book of facts that is not law specific, but can be useful in trial practice.  The App contains information regarding zoology, labor statistics, astronomy, anything that you may have an interest in.


This is one of the many available calculator Apps, and is based on the Hewlett-Packard HP 12 C calculator.


This App calculates dates for you, making it easy to calculate court deadlines.

Dragon Dictation

This is a free App that allows you to dictate a message, e-mail or note, then paste your dictation into whatever App you are using.


This is a free GPS App with updated geographical information.  The GPS will give you 3 routes to your destination.  As you are traveling it will give you real time information regarding accidents, traffic, and where the police are located.

Air Display

This App helps you mirror what you have on your iPad on your laptop.


If you do a lot of traveling, you should download this application, which will allow you to make reservations with airlines, hotels and car rental agencies.  It will also give you information regarding restaurants where you were staying.

OnLive Desktop

This is a cloud-based service which costs approximately $5/month.  This App allows you to open and edit Microsoft word, excel, and access documents on your iPad. 


This application can be used to scan in a business card, saving you from having to manually type the information of a card you receive.


This App allows you to make telephone calls from your iPad using VOIP at a cost of around $10/month. Also you can set up a conference call with 20 people at no extra cost

VIII. Miscellaneous Hardware Accessories

Other accessories you should consider for your iPad include the following:

Apple Wireless Keyboard:  This uses Bluetooth technology, and allows you to type wherever you like with the keyboard in front of your iPad or on your lap. Even if you can only type with two fingers the advantage to using this keyboard is that typing with two fingers is 80% faster and 100% more legible than writing with your hand.  .

Lightning to USB Cable:  Use the Lightning to USB Cable to charge and sync your iPhone, iPad, or iPod with Lightning connector to your Mac or Windows PC.

Apple AirPort Express:  The Apple Airport express will allow you to set up a Wi-Fi connection in a courtroom so that you can wirelessly connect to the Apple TV.

Apple TV:  An Apple TV unit ($99) will allow you to wirelessly project images from your iPad onto a TV screen, making it much easier for you to walk around the courtroom with your iPad untethered from a projector.

Lightning Digital AV Adapter:  This allows you to mirror exactly what you see on your iPad or iPad mini on your wide screen TV, video projection screen, or other HDMI-compatible display.

Lightning to VGA Adapter:  This allows you to share what is on your iPad or iPad mini screen with an even larger audience by connecting it to a TV, monitor, projector, or LCD display that uses a VGA connector.

IX. Conclusion: Take Advantage of the iPad

Armed with the right Apps and the hardware you need, you will find your iPad to be an indispensable partner in your law practice.  When I used a brief case to go to court it weighed over 30 pounds because it contained the paper file, pleadings, photographs, exhibits, correspondence, research, books, evidence, Practice Book, statutes, regulations, yellow pad, writing tools, pencils, pens, and highlighters.  Now, I carry my iPad weighs less than a 1 ½ lb. 

The only limit on a trial lawyer’s use of an iPad is their imagination.  If you are a conscientious attorney with a mind that is open to technology and who tries cases, there is absolutely no reason why you should not take advantage of an iPad to improve your practice.  Taking the step to buy an iPad is like taking the step into a pool of water.  Plunging into the water releases us and allows us to float freely and effortlessly. The iPad frees us from the entanglements of books and papers allowing us to float freely in the sea of our imaginations.



Friday, May 17, 2013
9:00 am - 4:00 pm (includes breakfast & lunch)
Grassy Hill Country Club, Orange

Experienced practitioners will give practical instruction and advice, as well as hands on demonstrations, on the IPad.  Learn the most commonly used apps in the pre-trial discovery phase, the most advanced apps in jury selection, and those apps best suited for trial. 

Tad Thomas, EsquireThe Thomas Firm, PLLC, Louisville, KY
Tad Thomas has published several articles and presented to many TLA's around the country on the use of technology in the practice of law, including recent AAJ Conferences. 

Kenneth J. Laska, EsquireSegal & Laska, LLC, Plainville
Ken Laska, a CTLA member rarely seen without his IPad in and out of court, will help facilitate this hands-on and instructional seminar. I was being cute by adding this…..think it may have some impact, but obviously will rely on you for this!!!


THE SET-UP: Everything you need to know to get started

  • Setting Up E-mail
  • Document Review and Retrieval
  • Calendar and Address Book Synching


  • Client Meetings
  • Jury Selection
  • Discovery
  • Hearings
  • Depositions

APPS AT TRIAL: Compliance with the Rules of Civil Procedure & Evidence

  • Exhibits: Photos, Videos, Documents
  • Witness Testimony
  • Deposition Review
  • Signing Documents