iPad and Oral Advocacy

Ready To Argue. Originally uploaded by Dineen.

This week I had oral argument before Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona, and I decided to travel light. In the past when preparing for oral argument, I would, in the course of following my own advice, put together a notebook (or two!) with marked-up copies of the cases and the most important record excerpts. Not only would I use that book to prepare, but I would carry it with me like a security blanket, as a back up in case we needed to quote from a case or from something in the record.

But this time, I had my iPad. I have come to be convinced that an iPad loaded with the GoodReader App is one of the best tools for lawyers to come around in many years. Synced with Dropbox, I have in a neat little electronic package all of the research I’ve done since I’ve purchased my iPad at my fingertips. GoodReader allows me read and annotate case law like a dream — I get all of my nice neat red underlines and yellow highlights and typed notations saved on a .pdf of the case. If I want to send the case to a colleague, I can do so with or without my annotations. And because it’s all electronic, it’s easily searchable, and I can put my hands on a library of marked up cases so much more easily than when I was trying to maintain paper research files. I can search file names through GoodReader, or search the substance of the files using either my Mac’s or my Windows box’s onboard search function.

Pre-iPad, I would have schlepped the notebook or two with me to Daytona, trying to juggle all of that paper as I reviewed and prepared and even as I approached the podium — and likely not looked at the book once I was at the podium. But this week, I had with me at the podium the briefs, my one sheet of argument notes, and my iPad, with the 6 or 7 most likely items I might want to refer to open and easily tabbed between. The screen capture to the right is a recreation/approximation of how I was ready to go for argument.

Afterward, I joked to my friends: “Instead of looking like a pack mule and not ever looking at any of it, I looked sleek and techno-savvy and never looked at it.” If I am going to have a security blanket, it is so very much easier for it to be a simple, thin electronic device rather than a huge notebook. I am sure the trees are thankful, too. And kudos to the Fifth District Court of Appeal for allowing me to carry in my electronic security blanket.

Update: Per Curiam Affirmed. For Appellee, that’s a win!

6 replies
  1. D. Todd Smith
    D. Todd Smith says:

    Nice read, Dineen. I am also experimenting with using my iPad more and more at hearings and arguments. In fact, I used it in an oral argument at the 10th Circuit today!

    I’m glad I have the original iPad, and not the iPad 2, though. The marshall would not let anything with a camera past security, so my iPhone had to stay behind.

  2. Dineen
    Dineen says:

    Thanks, Todd. It’s definitely going to be tougher in Federal Court. What tools are you using for oral argument? Are you using GoodReader, or a different program?

  3. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Very interesting We JUST had a meeting about the legal uses for iPads today. I would love to share this blog posting with my fellow law firm geeks if that’s ok.

  4. Dineen
    Dineen says:

    Rachel, thanks for your comment. Feel free to share far and wide! And if I can answer any questions about how I use my GoodReader/Dropbox set up, let me know.

  5. Rocky Rinker
    Rocky Rinker says:


    A couple of months ago you recommended Good Reader to me. It is wonderful, and I thank you for the tip. Frankly, I have not come to fully rely on the iPad during hearings. Sadly, I usually take the iPad and a a notebook. I must get over that. Was it hard for you to put away the traditional hearing notebook? Obviously, you have adapted very well to the technology.

    Also, I wanted to mention an app that I have been using with my iPad 1. It is called “Type on PDF.” It allows the user to create a form and then fill in the blanks using either a typewriter style keyboard or by freehand. Often, I need to go to the court to review the actual court file. In the old days, I would take a paper form that I had created and fill it out there. With my sloppy handwriting, it was a mess. Then, I would scan that document into the system when I got back to my office. Now, I simply launch Type on PDF and fill out the electronic form that I had previously created. I can then save the form to dropbox or email it directly out of the app, and the result has the added benefit of being legible.

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