Start Page: Living the iPad lifestyle — Trade in legal pad, pen

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WilsonRecently, Apple announced new operating software for iPads called iPadOS. This new software enhances the iPad’s capabilities, moving it closer to a laptop replacement.

I believe this development represents an opportunity for doing “real” work on the iPad, making it an integral part of a lawyer’s workflow. This is the first in a series of articles about how you can get real work done on your iPad. This first article will discuss the concept of using an iPad versus a computer and some suggestions for why it makes sense to trade in your pen, legal pad, and paper for an iPad.

Try it. You’ll like it

If you have ever worked with a tablet, you know that there are pros and cons to the device. I can get almost everything done that I need to, but not quite. There is always a function missing that provides a barrier to using the iPad full time. iPadOS is a step closer to using a tablet as a primary computing device. More on that later.

Why iPad? The ABA Technology Survey notes that 77% of respondents listed the iPad as their particular brand of tablet. If you have one, you know why. If you don’t, there are more choices and configurations available than ever, and now is a great time to look at the options, coupled with the Apple Pencil.

Can the iPad replace the legal pad?

As we become increasingly paperless in our practices, we need great tools to access information in and out of the office. The iPad and Apple Pencil combination is about as close as it gets to the ubiquitous yellow legal pad. If you haven’t tried an Apple Pencil, find a friend who has one and see if you can get used the feel of writing on glass. Or, visit the Apple Store and try it out. The writing technology gets better and better and Apple has increased the number of devices that work with the older (and cheaper) Apple Pencil.

Classic lawyer answer: It depends

I know you are faster with a pen and paper. You don’t have to wait for an app to load, you can just go. There’s definitely a place for pen and paper. There’s a reason it has been around so long. For some things, it’s just better. But the iPad is getting better at mimicking the experience of pen and paper. As that gap closes, it is important to consider a more digital process, especially if it increases your ability to serve your clients. Having an always-with-you notebook is great and allows you to reference notes while in court, mediation, depositions, and even on vacation (you know who you are). The key portion of this functionality is the apps that make note taking possible and even fun.

Yes, there’s an app for that

If you are a Microsoft Office 365 customer, you have access to a great note taking app called Microsoft OneNote. This app works like a binder and allows you to organize material in separate notebooks, pages, tabs, etc., just like with paper. It works across multiple platforms (e.g., mobile and traditional computer) and keeps your changes synchronized through the cloud.

I like to use the Apple Pencil in OneNote to replace my legal pad. For example, I often use the app to take client meeting notes. It keeps the iPad flat on the desk or table in front of me and removes the barrier of the screen between me and the client. I can write on the screen, highlight my notes, move them around, or quickly switch back to typing if necessary. You can even format the page to look like a legal pad and change the pen color. When you are done, simply email the page to yourself as a PDF. Or, leave it in OneNote and come back to it later. OneNote can handle more than just handwritten or typewritten notes, but I don’t often use it for those purposes.

There are numerous other note-taking apps that work well with the Apple Pencil. Look at the built-in Apple Notes, Notability, GoodNotes, PDF Expert (not exactly a notes app, but a personal favorite for PDF review), and handwriting conversion app MyScript Nebo. App developers have recognized the growth opportunity the Apple Pencil creates and have created some impressive offerings.

Take a Trial Run

Start with the OneNote (if you have it already) or the Apple Notes app. Make a disciplined effort to try taking notes for a set period of time on the iPad and see if it helps improve your workflow. We’ll talk about managing PDFs on the iPad in the next article in this series, and getting used to using the iPad for note-taking will help ease the transition into annotating and marking up PDF files.•

Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Attorneys in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. He writes about legal technology at and is a frequent speaker on the subject. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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