Following my last post about being ‘scooter lawyer’ a friend emailed me to ask about the reference to the Tablet PC. He wrote: “I wonder about what advantages it has for a litigator. I also wonder about what program you use to keep track of your scanned documents to be able to find them by bates number and to be able to annotate them.”
Here’s the story. The Tablet PC was lent to me by my girlfriend. After using it for a few weeks I came to these conclusions:
(1) a Tablet has a completely different social dynamic than a traditional laptop because people don’t perceive it as a computer; unless you stand behind someone using a Tablet you easily assume that they are just writing on a pad of paper;
(2) the Tablet is more comfortable to use; but if you type reasonably well you will still prefer to use a keyboard;
(3) the Tablet is more natural to use at a lectern or in a conference, as long as principle #2 isn’t a factor;
(4) even though it’s a niche product I would absolutely use a Tablet in certain situations, except for one thing:
(5) Tablet PCs run Windows which means they don’t wake up quickly, or reliably.
Just as I was starting to use the Tablet a lot I found that it would sometimes get slow or become unresponsive; this happened once or twice at semi-critical times. I dutifully rebooted, and didn’t suffer too much. But the thought lingered: I could never rely on the Tablet during a hearing or trial, or any situation where I was in front of a judge. It’s one thing to reboot during a deposition, but it would be completely unacceptable to tell a judge to “hang on, your honor, while I reboot my computer.”
So, I’ve stopped using the Tablet completely. I have several lawyer friends who have tried the Tablet, and one or two are still using it. Perhaps they haven’t had the problems that I have had, so I know it’s possible the Tablet could be a useful tool for a litigator. But not for me.
If I use a computer in court or in a deposition I need to know that it will work. Always. That’s another reason why I prefer Apple computers. Mac laptops sleep when you close the lid and wake up instantly when you open the lid. You can do this over and over again, for months, and never have to reboot. Very few, if any, people have this experience with Windows computers.
As for the question about how I find documents quickly during a deposition, here’s the scoop. I use Adobe Acrobat. A lot. Every day, in fact. I know it inside and out and I feel as comfortable with Acrobat as I do with Microsoft Word. I know to use the bookmark features without thinking about it. And I know how to insert comments quickly.
Also, when I bates-stamp documents I renumber the pages to correspond to the bates-numbers and so I can find documents by typing the bates number into the page number query field. Also, I OCR the documents so I can search by text if I need to. The ‘scooter article’ touches on this point briefly. But the fact is I am constantly reminded of how inefficient paper is. Whenever I watch lawyers fumble with paper I have to remind myself not to feel sorry for them. This is the way that they choose to live their lives. If they think it’s better then so be it.
I know lawyers don’t like change (who does?). So when they shuffle around with stacks of paper, wearily looking for information, I remind myself not to judge them—quietly offering thanks for the invisible advantage it gives me. It’s one that I’ll continue to enjoy for a long time.