Game Changer

iPad in CourtroomWhen I was an associate, I assisted on briefing for a motion to dismiss a federal complaint.  I researched the case law, drafted the briefing, and prepped the partners for the hearing.   The partners invited me to attend the hearing with them.  I wasn’t arguing the motion but they told me it would be a good learning experience for me.  I was going straight from my apartment to court so the night before in my office, I printed out every single piece of paper I had related to the case.  I wanted to show everyone how super-prepared I was.  In the end, I had approximately seven binders worth of documents to take home with me.  A bit much, I agreed, but I figured it would make me look competent.   I went home, ready to face the next day.

It wasn’t until the next morning as I was about to head out the door that I realized something – I had left all seven binders back in my office.  Panicked is an understatement.  I didn’t have enough time to go back to the office.  I had no idea what I would do.  Suddenly, my eyes fell upon a solution – my iPad.  Game changer!  In less than ten minutes, I had managed to pull all of the filings in the case and the case law and save them on my iPad.  I was confident.  Not only did I have all my documents, I was savvy.  Tech savvy.  I ran out the door and headed to the federal courthouse.

The argument went great (we won).  I sat at a table in front of the presiding judge with the senior partners.  They had their binders and their note pads and their print-outs.  Not me.  All I had was my iPad.  No one asked me for citations or case law during the arguments but I still wanted to look interested and involved in the hearing.  So, I pulled up the briefs on my iPad to read during the arguments.  I slid my fingers up and down the touchscreen.  I swiped swiftly through the case law.  All the while, I focused on the screen in front of me and the arguments around me.  Once, one of the senior partners looked over at me slightly puzzled.  Yes, I wanted to say.  This is the future.

The hearing ended.  We went back to the office.  We got to our floor and that senior partner said he wanted to have a word with me.  He walked me back to my office, stood in front of my door, gave me a serious look and said: “Michelle, thank you for coming to the hearing today.  However, I wanted to tell you that it’s really bad manners to play games in an oral argument, especially right in front of the judge.”

I had never been so embarrassed in my professional life.  I stammered out an explanation as to why I was using the iPad.  He still looked grave but said it was fine.  However for the rest of that week I wondered, “Did the judge think I was playing games?  The other partners?  The client?!”

Now, I had believed that in 2012, everyone would understand that a tablet computer can be used in a courtroom.  I was wrong.  An iPad is a great business tool.  However, the fact remains, many people still see it as a toy.

But this post is called “Game Changer” for a reason.  And here’s why.  Microsoft just unveiled its new tablet competitor to Apple’s iPad, the Microsoft Surface.  Read review of the Surface v. iPad .  Pundits are saying that this could revolutionize tablet computing for business in the same way the iPad completely transformed personal computing.

See, we don’t know how much the Microsoft Surface will cost.  Nor do we know what apps it will have.  And we have no idea how well the new Windows operating system will work.  But here’s the thing – Microsoft is now officially in the tablet market.  The flag bearer for personal computing has joined the “post-PC” revolution.  Microsoft’s belated entry means one thing: tablet computing is here to stay.  That’s why the Surface is a game-changer.  Lawyers who have resisted the technological advances of the past five years should get in now, ensuring they remain on the cutting edge of the 21st century.  And who knows?  Maybe the next time a junior associate walks into a courthouse with a touchpad under her arm, the partners will think she’s doing more than finishing Level 3-14 of Angry Birds.

Actually, speaking of which . . .

Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

Former Diversity & Education Director at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

Former Diversity & Education Director at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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