Move over smartphones, 2013 is the year of the tablet computer. Lightweight, easy to use and slickly designed, tablets are now ubiquitous in business meeting rooms, lecture halls, and living rooms. And despite being slightly unwieldy, on a recent holiday I even witnessed young and old alike brandishing their iPads at waterfalls and canyons as they snapped scenic photographs.
Tablet computers – Apple’s iPad, Android devices such as the Google Nexus, and the BlackBerry Playbook – are increasingly popular in the legal profession. According to an article by the American Law Librarians, between 2011 and 2012, the number of lawyers who reported using tablets in their work doubled, rising to 33 per cent. That’s pretty impressive, given that the iPad debuted just over three years ago, on January 27, 2010. (A technology side note: check out John N. Davis’s interesting Slaw post on the history of the touch screen.) More recent numbers suggest that tablets will outpace PC sales in two years, while other studies claim that the amount of video content viewed on tablets makes them the new TV as well as the new PC.
While tablets are becoming common in the legal profession as much as anywhere, the ease of use and portability of the devices hasn’t been matched by the creation of content for Canadian lawyers.A quick search for the terms “law Canada” on Apple’s App Store reveals less than 10apps of any relevancy, including two Criminal Code of Canada apps (one nominally free, the other for $9.99), and several other presumably “popular” acts such as theCanada Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and theCanada Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Other results include an app version of LSUC’s Ontario Reports and a compendium of Canadian statutes. These few Canadian appsseem paltry when compared to the dozens and dozens of US law results, but I wonder if it also reflects an ingrained preference to reading materials in paper form?
Turning to the Android world and Google Play, the results are more mixed and less strictly curated, reflecting Google’s more open approach to their app store. Relevant apps here include the Android versions of Ontario Reports and Lawyer Locate (which does what it says on the tin).
Given the relative paucity of Canadian law-specific apps, why are tablet still popular in the legal profession? It seemslogical to conclude that the move to tablets is prompted by their convenience, portability and theirproductivity potential. Productivity apps for tablets – those that claim to make your life easier/better/faster/thinner – are a booming business. There are thousands of productivity app reviews online listing the best choices for time management, note taking, document annotation, budget planningapps and more. If you need to do something (anything!) better, there is an app for that. There are even some lawyer-focused productivity apps including TrialPad and TranscriptPad; this Slaw post reviews these and a few others.
What are some of your favourite productivity or law apps?