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iPads in the Law Office: The ALA's Take

I was pleased to be interviewed for a recent article for Legal Management, the publication of the Association of Legal Administrators.  In iPractice or iReject, I and a bunch of other iPad experts talk about the use of iPads in the workplace.  It's a good read - check it out.


Better File Management with Dropbox

Thanks to Josh Barrett over at Tablet Legal for pointing out a new feature in a recent update to one of my favorite and most-used apps, Dropbox.  Now you can send a file from any app to Dropbox just by pressing the "Open In..."  button.  Dropbox will automatically open, and you'll be given the option of to which folder you want to save the file.

As Josh says, this solves part of the iPad's email problem; you can now save email attachments to Dropbox from the iPad, where previously you could only do it from your computer.  Now, if only the iPad would allow us to attach files from our Dropbox, we'd be all set, right?


App Review: The Deponent

I'm always excited when a new law-related iPad app comes out - although there are dozens of great productivity apps for lawyers to use, I think the law-specific apps really make the iPad a great tool for a law practice.   

I really want to like today's app, called The Deponent ($9.99, app store), because it's designed to help lawyers do something they do a lot:  take depositions.   Although there's a lot to like about this app, there are still a few bugs that need to be ironed out before it's truly ready for use at depositions.

When you first open The Deponent, you see a couple of options:  Create a Depo Outline, Open a Saved Outline, Exhibits and Settings.  When you go to create a deposition outline, you'll notice that there are a couple hundred questions already created for you.  These questions are grouped into almost 20 different categories, including Admonitions, Basis of Opinion, Education, Exhibits, Experience, Health Problems, Preliminary Questions, Property Damages, Qualifications, and many more.  You can also add your own categories, which is really helpful.  Simply scroll down the list of pre-populated questions and check the ones you want to use - they automatically appear in the pane to the right.  Save your list so you can come back to it later.  

Obviously, not every question that could be asked is included here - but you also have the ability to add your own questions to the list. This can be extremely helpful - but also extremely time-consuming if you have a lot of case-specific questions you want to add.  Instead of typing out a linear outline on your computer, you have to press New for every new question, select a Category and type in your question. So if you're used to typing your depo outlines on the computer, this could take a bit longer - but if you intend to use those questions in subsequent depositions, it will be a real-time save in the end.

The Deponent also allows you to store Exhibits to show the witness during the deposition, and it's here that I have some issues.  Each question allows you to link it to a particular document.   Loading documents into The Deponent is not simple, or particularly secure at this point.  The Deponent will store photos that you load onto your iPad via iTunes.  If you want to load other types of files, you'll need a Dropbox account.  Once your account is linked, you will have to use the Public Folder of your Dropbox to share files with The Deponent.  There are a couple of problems with this.

First, as Ted Brooks explained in his review of The Deponent, Prepare for Depositions with the iPad Deponent App, the Dropbox Public Folder is not secure, and is probably the last place in Dropbox you'd want to store client documents.  Until the problem is fixed, Ted recommends (and I agree) transferring the documents to your iPad, then deleting the copy in your Public Folder.

The second problem may have something to do with me - but I cannot get documents stored in my Dropbox Public Folder to show up in The Deponent.  I loaded a few test documents, and The Deponent tells me there are No Files Found.  This is probably my fault; I've probably overlooked a setting in Dropbox or somewhere else that I'm not seeing.  But herein lies the problem; The Deponent doesn't offer me any help on how to fix the problem.  The app itself doesn't even tell me I have to use the Public Folder of Dropbox - I had to learn that from Ted's review.  What The Deponent needs most is a good Help section, or a link back to a FAQ on the app developer's website.

I love the concept of The Deponent, and I think it will ultimately be a great tool for trial lawyers to use at depositions.  But like most apps, it's not perfect on the first release - but I have no doubt it will be improved with future releases.  In the meantime, can someone tell me why I can't see my Dropbox files?

Update:  Well, I just wasn't looking in the right place.  The link to The Deponent's help site is located within the iTunes store, and it answered all of my questions.  Best of all, the most recent update for the app fixed the Dropbox issue (Thanks, Ted Brooks!) by adding a "Deponent" folder within my Dropbox.  Now the documents appear there with no problems.  By this change alone, the app is already significantly better!


Reading Google Reader Posts on the iPad

I'm a huge fan of Google Reader - I subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds, which I read every do to keep up with current events, legal and other technology, and other topics of interest.  I described how I use Google Reader as part of my research workflow a couple of weeks ago, so I won't go through it here.  Instead, I want to talk about using Google Reader on the iPad.

When I use my desktop, I typically have Google Reader open - it's easy to move from post to post, saving posts to certain tags or folders, and searching for information I previously saved.  But on the iPad, Google Reader is not such a great experience.  It just doesn't look as good or work as well as it does on the desktop.  Fortunately, there are a few great apps that will sync with your Google Reader account and make reading RSS feeds a true joy.  Here are two of my favorites.

Until this past weekend, I thought that Reeder ($4.99, app store) was hands down the best RSS reader app for the iPad.  I've found something else that I'm using now (for reasons I'll discuss below), but I still think Reeder is tops. Just log in with your Google Reader account, and all of your posts are automatically downloaded.  You can scroll through the individual posts in a column on the left, or page through each post one at a time.  You can read each feed separately, or in chronological order, to get that "river of news" feeling. Where Reeder really shines, though, is in its sharing abilities.  With just a tap you can Share your post with others, and with just a swipe of the finger you can automatically save the post to your Instapaper account.  You can also forward the post to a ton of places:  Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Pinboard, Zootool, ReadItLater, or just to an email you can send to anyone.

The one thing that Reeder couldn't do that I really wanted was the ability to tag posts.  I use tags a lot in Google Reader, and the Reeder app simply didn't have that feature.  That's why I was so glad to see another app, Mr. Reader ($2.99, app store), get a huge update in the app store this past week. Mr. Reader does most everything that Reeder does - and to boot, it looks like the familiar Google Reader interface.  Best of all, I can tag away to my heart's content.  I actually think I'm reading faster in Mr. Reader - I seem to make my way through hundreds of posts much more quickly than in Reeder or Google Reader itself.

If you use Google Reader and you're an iPad user, you owe it to yourself to check out these apps - they are both great, so you won't go wrong with either one.


iPad Search Tip: Customizing Spotlight Search

Apple's Spotlight search is a terrific way to find things on your iPad, especially if you have a lot of stuff loaded on it.  But maybe you have too much loaded on it, or perhaps you don't find the need to search everything on your device, like your Notes or Events.  Fortunately, it's easy to customize the areas that Spotlight illuminates when you search for data on the iPad.  Here's how to do it:

  • Tap Settings, and then General.
  • Tap Spotlight Search.  
  • You'll see a list of all of the items that Spotlight searches.  Simply tap the items you don't want to search to de-select them.  That's it!