Apple’s sleek tablet has found its way into countless attorneys’ homes. Perhaps it began as a gift and now sits on the coffee table as an email portal or a fun way to read the newspaper. Or, maybe it has fallen into the hands of the children as a means for playing Angry Birds. While attorneys use laptops and iPhones for work-related tasks, the iPad often remains underutilized at the office. But the iPad has numerous useful applications for the courtroom that set it apart from a computer or a smartphone.
The iPad is a perfect tool for displaying case information during trial. With new apps, easy touch-screen navigation, connectivity, and portability, the iPad can act as a remote control and quick editing device for your presentation. I’ll describe some apps and connectivity options for turning your iPad into a powerful litigation tool.
In order to use iPad apps for displaying slides and case documents, it’s essential to understand how to transfer files from your computer to the device. The iPad doesn’t function like a thumb drive—you can’t plug it in and drag-and-drop files. The simplest way to load files is to use an online storage site, like Dropbox.com. You can open an account and upload up to 1GB of files from you computer, then log in on the iPad and download them. Apple’s iCloud is a similar online storage site that you can use to sync files to the iPad. Once you are comfortable with these methods of transferring files, you can start using presentation apps.
New apps make it possible to display and control a slide-based presentation using the iPad. Since the iPad isn’t bulky and has an intuitive touchscreen, it’s a perfect device for strolling around the courtroom while changing to the next slide that the jury sees projected on a screen. Whether you use PowerPoint or Keynote to assemble your presentation, there are apps that integrate the iPad with both programs.
PowerPoint is the most popular slide presentation program. Despite PowerPoint’s wide use, it has some flaws to keep in mind; for example, its graphic creation is limited, and PowerPoint does not embed video well, so you often must keep track of video files in a separate folder.
If you use PowerPoint, the SlideShark app allows you to display a your presentations on your iPad. The app does not support hyperlinks on slides, embedded videos, animated GIFs, audio, or fancy slide transitions, and so it limits many of PowerPoint’s features. But it does display simple slides and does a fade transition between them. To use the app, you open a free account with them online and upload your PowerPoint file to their server. It is then converted into a playable format that you can access within the iPad app.
Keynote is Apple’s version of PowerPoint, and it integrates seamlessly with the iPad. It’s easy to add media—just drag and drop photos and videos and format them within the program. Keynote embeds videos into the presentation and accepts any file format that QuickTime supports, including high-quality MP4 videos. Keynote has a range of drawing tools and tasteful background templates.
Once your presentation is complete, there are two iPad apps you can use to play the presentation.
Keynote Remote transforms your iPad into a simple remote control device. The presentation is stored and played through your Mac laptop, which is connected to the projector. Keynote Remote shows you the slide that is currently projected, plus the next slide in line, so that you can calibrate your images and discourse. To set up Keynote Remote, first make sure both the iPad and laptop are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. On the laptop, open your presentation in Keynote and choose “Preferences > Remote.” On the iPad, start the Keynote Remote app, and you will see an option to “Link” to the laptop. Then, you are free to walk around the courtroom and wirelessly control the slideshow from the iPad’s touchscreen.
If you want to eliminate the laptop completely, the Keynote App allows you to create a presentation on the iPad, and then project it directly. I find it a bit difficult to create a presentation from scratch using this app, so I recommend loading a Keynote file that you made on the computer, then using the Keynote App for last-minute pre-trial edits. Either of these Keynote apps can transform the way you interact with your courtroom presentation.
These apps allow you to store of your exhibit documents on your iPad and display them to the jury as needed. Like Keynote Remote, these apps use a “Presenter View” that lets you see on your iPad what is currently being projected and what exhibit will follow. Over the last year, exhibit presentation iPad apps have improved their functionality, and can certainly handle a small trial.
Exhibit A ($9.99) is lowest on the price spectrum. You can load case documents of up to 3MB onto the iPad via Wi-Fi, email, FTP, or iTunes, then create folders to organize them. A preview mode allows you to see the exhibit before displaying it to the jury. I would recommend this app for a smaller trial or mediation, because it has trouble handling large files.
TrialPad ($89.99) is a more comprehensive program. It can display a range of file types, including MP4 videos. You can import an entire case folder through Dropbox.com, which speeds up the file transfer process. TrialPad allows you to highlight text and create document call-outs, so you can visually emphasize your point.
Another option is TrialTouch ($69 per month), which allows you to upload files to their online server and access them on the iPad. This replaces Dropbox and provides a secure place for case-sensitive information. The presentation software handles the same file types as TrialPad and is easy to learn and use.
The final piece of the puzzle is connecting the iPad to a courtroom projector. The simplest way is by hardwire. AV Adapters ($39.99 from Apple) are available from Apple in various formats that you can attach to any projector. Plug the cable into the projector, attach the adapter to the other end, and connect the adapter to the iPad. Any content displayed on the iPad will show up on the projector’s screen. The “presentation mode” in some of the apps I discussed can sense the external connection and will only display the current slide on the projector. The disadvantage to hardwiring is that the cable physically tethers you to the laptop, limiting your strolling ability.
Connecting wirelessly is a bit more complex. The newest version of the iPad features AirPlay, which wirelessly links the iPad to an AppleTV device ($99.99). The palm-sized AppleTV box hooks up to the projector with an HDMI cable, and then uses a Wi-Fi network to connect to your iPad. By using an Apple Airport Express ($99.99) or other WiFi hotspot, you can create your own Wifi network, and connect to Apple TV and project Wirelessly. You must activate Air Play on the iPad to share your screen with the projectors.
I recommend giving some of these apps and connectivity tips a try. See what works for you. Practice using the presentation apps and learn their functionality. Set up the projection display by yourself before you go to mediation or trial. Turn the equipment on and off, run through your presentation several times. Get comfortable with the technology. You just might find that the shiny tablet on your coffee table is your newest courtroom asset.
Morgan Smith is the owner of Cogent Legal, a litigation graphics and trial strategy firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A longtime trial attorney, Morgan excelled at complex litigation, class actions, personal injury and products liability before founding Cogent Legal. His blog is a member of the ASTC’s Red Well blog aggregator.