How David Bests Goliath in 2011

In the story of David and Goliath, the underdog beats a bigger, more experienced and better-armed opponent with five smooth stones. David is nimble, and his tactics are unconventional. And though it’s tempting to call him an outlier, according to political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft [1], smaller and nimbler forces win all the time using unconventional and unexpected strategies.

The iPad provides a growing arsenal to the Davids of the legal profession. Its portability, ease of use and innovative apps help solo practitioners and small to mid-sized firms beat larger and more powerful opponents all the time.

It’s rare to walk into a courthouse these days without seeing an attorney scrolling through email or doing some quick research on his iPad.  Many professionals have been drawn to the iPad’s convenience for document sharing, email monitoring and more.  For lawyers whose practices span several counties or states, the iPad’s portability is a tremendous advantage. Now apps are available which takethe iPad beyond convenience to deliver tangible benefits.  Here, a few examples.

1. Improve effectiveness in court, and cut costs
If it seems like jurors are less focused on your case than they used to be, it’s not your imagination.  Technology (first the Internet, now smartphones and tweets) has changed the way messages are delivered and absorbed.  Your spellbinding oral argument about the breach of contract that damaged your client’s widget distribution empire just doesn’t deliver the volume of stimulation our brains have come to expect.Presenting evidence electronically has become virtually essential.
And if you thought it was only available for the big budget matters, the news is excellent: the power of technology is now at the fingertips of any attorney, for any matter, using TrialPad for iPadfor just $89.99.

TrialPad lets you organize documents in case folders and annotate, highlight and redact them for presentation to judge or jury.  You can annotate the same document in different ways for different witnesses and save them as “HotDocs” for easy access.  And if you need to redact or highlight something on the fly, it’s not projected to the courtroom till you’re ready.   If you’ve ever wrestled presentation boards into a courthouse during a rainstorm, faced the exclusion of an important exhibit because one small section was inadmissible, or hauled towers of boxes to court in case you needed an additional document, this App is a game-changer.

2. Access files from anywhere, and improve efficiency
Dropbox is a must-have.  It gives you instant access to your documents from your iPad, or pretty much any other device.  Put case files, transcripts or exhibits in your little piece of the cloud and they’re at your fingertips. Files and transmission are encrypted.  2GB are free, and subscriptions up to 100GB are available for just $19.99 a month, with a discount for annual subscriptions.  You can even create shared folders, so your associates, clients and experts can add documents or see your annotations.

3. Get legal research on the fly, cost effectively.
Legal research apps abound, from familiar providers like Westlaw and Lexis Nexis to newer players focused on mobile access and powerful search tools.  Your needs will drive your choices here, but check out Fastcase. The iPad app is free, and includes many of the benefits of their highly regarded web-based application, including cases and statutes from all 50 states and the federal government, and excellent search functions.  Fastcase was voted #1 in Customer Satisfaction by Law Technology News.

4. Streamline practice management and client development
If you think practice management is just about keeping track of time and billing for existing clients, you’re missing the boat.  The lean nimble law firm recognizes that tactics used in other industries can make the difference in business development. My Real Practice gets it: this app gives mobile access to contacts, matters, tasks, and billing tools.  You get templates to create a website, and tools to monitor incoming prospective client leads.  The basics are free and premium membership starts at $29 setup plus $19 per month.

Advances in technology have always helped innovative small to mid-sized firms leapfrog larger firms that can be weighed down by bureaucracy and politics.  The iPad is the best example yet, helping agile players improve productivity, cut costs, and deliver better results for clients.

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.