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!