When the Apple iPad was introduced in early 2010, many attorneys dismissed it as merely a media consumption device that would never be suitable for serious legal work. This was probably true when discussing the first-generation iPad. However, today's iPads (generations 2-4 and mini), with their added cameras and capability to mirror the contents of the device to a monitor or projector, offer creative litigators a range of practical uses for their legal practices.

Because of its compact size, intuitive operating system and long battery life, the iPad offers some real advantages over the traditional laptop in many situations. As an initial matter, the iPad is much less obtrusive at the counsel table or at a podium than a laptop. It is also great for note taking, presentations, research and document review. In a recent mediation in which I participated, three of six attorneys used iPads as their note taking tool, and two made very effective presentations using only the iPad and a projector.

I have used the iPad for presentations in meetings, mediations, arbitrations and in major court hearings. I have also used an iPad as my only reference in picking a jury for a high-stakes trial in federal court. While opposing counsel was encumbered with multiple bankers boxes of juror research that was "organized" into two large binders more than a foot in combined thickness, I had all the same data electronically organized and easily searchable on my iPad. Although a laptop could be configured to have this same capability, the compact iPad is much less cumbersome and can be carried in one hand.

Presentation capabilities

Where the iPad really shines is in its lawyer-friendly presentation capabilities. Like all lawyer work, making effective iPad presentations requires the proper applications, accessories, lots of planning and an experienced operator. Although the iPad is relatively easy to use, it is not magic. There is no substitute for practicing and refining your presentations in conditions similar to those at the actual presentation venue.

I am frequently asked for recommendations for trial presentation applications. My favorites are TrialPad, Keynote and a new application named Final Argument. TrialPad is a full-featured trial presentation application—pricier than most but well worth it. KeyNote is similar to PowerPoint, but its graphics are more impressive. Finally, Final Argument is like TrialPad, Keynote and a mind-mapping program all rolled into one. It is ideal for nonlinear presentations or where it is necessary to graphically show relationships.

Wired or wireless

Presentations with the iPad can be wired or wireless. Some tips to consider with these options.

  •  Wired presentations. For these it is necessary to purchase one of the readily available Apple adapters which plug into iPad and allow display via VGA or HDMI projector or monitor.
  • Wireless. Setting up the iPad to permit wireless (WiFi) operation allows the lawyer to move about the courtroom or hearing room unencumbered by wires protruding from the iPad. Since wires also have the unfortunate tendency to come loose at the most inopportune time, having the ability to go wireless is extremely helpful.

For wireless operation, WiFi access is required. One option uses the Apple TV device which allows the wireless "mirroring" of the iPad screen to a HDMI projector or monitor. If the monitor and/or projector are not HDMI capable, attorneys can purchase an analog converter that will allow using Apple TV via the old style VGA ports. Reflector or AirServe apps for Windows-based PCs or the Mac are another wireless option. These apps allow presenters to mirror their presentation from an iPad to a PC/Mac. The PC/Mac screen can serve as the de facto monitor, or be connected to an projector/monitor to allow the iPad projection. One word of advice: Make sure you test your setup in the courtroom or hearing room well in advance of the hearing. Relying on the WiFi at the venue is a risky proposition. The best practice is to "bring your own WiFi" by using a MiFi card or the "personal hot spot" feature available on most smart phones.


The iPad allows the litigator to prepare and display presentations quickly and efficiently. It can also store thousands of documents in an easy-to-carry package. As with any repository of confidential materials, proper security precautions must be taken. For most lawyers, the iPad will not replace the laptop, but in the appropriate situation it will be the proper tool to use.

Closing insights

For those who would like to learn more about the nitty gritty practical details of using the iPad in litigation, Tom Mighell's book, "The iPad in One Hour for Litigators" published by the ABA is a good place to start. However, just as you cannot truly learn to swing a bat by reading a book about baseball, so it is with the iPad—hands-on time is required. So make the time to play with iPad—create a mock presentation, hook the iPad up to a monitor or projector and try it. You just may find yourself adding the iPad to your own litigation tool box.