by David P. Shouvlin, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
[Ed. note -- this post explains how one litigator embraced new technology with his iPad. The post offers some advice on apps that make his life easier.]
Several years ago I was involved in a multi-party, multi-district case in which over $100 million was at risk. Because of the nature of the litigation, the court had imposed a severe limit on the numbers of depositions the parties could take and radically compressed the length of the discovery period. Consequently, and because of the size of the prize, each deposition was attended by a chorus line of attorneys, who did nothing but open their laptops and dance away. None were over the age of 30, but frankly I can’t be sure because not one introduced himself or herself. In fact, they hardly uttered a word throughout the days of depositions, even to themselves. Come to think of it, I am not entirely sure they all spoke English — it is possible some could have been foreign agents; our case did have a foreign aspect to it. Anyway, suffice it to say there wasn’t a lot of banter before or after the depositions, so I have no idea to this day who these folks represented or why they were present.
But I do know this: once the depositions began they went into action. Serious action. They started to pound their laptops with a ferocity that I had rarely ever seen, as if they were practicing Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. But instead of the melodic strains of music, we heard only the staccato sounds of busy fingers. To be sure, we didn’t have a clue what they were typing; they could have been writing short stories, or executing day trades. Who knows. The only people in the room not banging away on computers were the witness(es) and the examining and defending lawyers, all of whom were, by a large margin, the oldest people in the rooms.
Computers in themselves are nothing new to depositions. Many of us have employed computers at depositions to review the testimony in real-time in the event counsel or the witness objected to flawed or probing questions, depending on what side of the table you were sitting. But never before had I been present when so many lawyers were working so diligently on their computers while testimony was being taken. Didn’t they know they could get transcripts of the testimony almost as soon as the depositions were completed? Assuming they did, it then caused me to wonder if they were uncharitably criticizing my inartful questions, or maybe they were reporting with some satisfaction on the various witnesses’ unerring ability to disclaim virtually any knowledge of relevant events. In any case, since then I have come to understand that computers are simply an essential fixture at depositions anymore — and at nearly every other occasion when litigators convene.
What that meant for me was that it was time to embrace technology, at least to some extent. Those of us who did not grow up with an electronic device attached as an appendage have little time or patience to learn to type as quickly as we think, hear, or write. Besides, it has taken us years to develop our idiosyncratic note-taking practices that allow us to remember at least time and place, and maybe a few salutary details of events or testimony. Who would want to chuck such skills? There are, however, electronic aids that can actually enhance our well established talents for note taking, memory, and critical inquiry.
One stands out: the iPad. It rocks. It is, sadly enough, becoming my best friend (I have the version that doesn’t talk back to you). And I promise that if you start using one, it will become as near and dear to you as any living thing.