Everywhere you look these days, people are using tablet computers. In planes, trains and cabs, on exercise bikes at the gym, and even at home in beds, recliners and likely even bathrooms, people can’t seem to get enough of the simplicity and accessibility that their tablets afford. The availability of email, Internet, photo sharing, video messaging, and apps and games galore make tablets the ultimate digital Swiss Army knife. But when looked at in the context of use in corporate legal departments, the question remains whether tablets can evolve from portable entertainment device to useful professional tool. So far, the jury is still out.
Because the tablet marketplace is still relatively new, and with mobile operating systems still being optimized as the underlying technology rapidly continues to improve, it’s still a bit early to predict what the role of the tablet will eventually be for in-house legal professionals. On the law firm side, however, among the many tablet options available, the iPad is already becoming de rigueur. An informal September poll at Chicago-based law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein indicated that 43 percent of its attorneys already own and use iPads in their practice.
Aside from the obvious form factor difference of a tablet being far lighter and more portable than a laptop, there are a number of ways in which a tablet could benefit legal professionals. Email appears to be the No. 1 area where attorneys are finding tablets most useful, with word processing and document review following closely behind. With larger screens and enhanced application functionality than most smartphones, it’s much easier for lawyers to perform those relatively basic but important tasks.
As with any portable device, concerns over data security are paramount, especially for lawyers who routinely carry confidential documents afield. However,the security risks for tablets are really no different from those laptops or smartphones present.