Another kick-butt iPad app for lawyers: TranscriptPad

Disclosure: Lit Software, LLC, the maker of TranscriptPad, provided me with a free copy of the app to review. No promises were made regarding the content of the review, but I want to be up front about this fact (plus it keeps the FTC content).

Readers of this blog (and anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be my captive audience) know that I’m a huge fan of TrialPad, the iPad app for displaying exhibits during a trial or hearing. That single app (priced at $89.99) beats the heck out of just about everything on the Windows or Mac platforms—even if you don’t take price into consideration.

Lit Software, LLC has released its second iPad app, TranscriptPad. Lawyers who take, review or use depositions need to look at this application very carefully (and question their own sanity if they take a pass on it). In a nutshell,TranscriptPad is a tool for reviewing, annotating, and digesting deposition (or hearing/trial) transcripts. It is priced at $49.99. After working with it for a little while, I believe it’s worth every penny.

Some particulars: you bring your transcript into the app via email or Dropbox. So long as you have a copy of your transcript in .txt (or what is also known as ASCII (ass-key) format), you’re set. TranscriptPad organizes transcripts by file folders—just like TrialPad and contemporary computer operating systems. You create a new folder for a case, put the transcript (and any PDF file exhibits) in that folder, and you’re good to go.

When you open up the transcript, the first thing you’ll notice is that you have perfect alignment of page and line numbers. You can scroll through the transcript page by page or by using the slider on the right to jump to a specific page. (There is also a “reader” function that will automatically scroll the text for you, but I’m not sure I’ll use that feature. It’s a matter of personal preference.)

Lawyers who work with transcripts often do two things early on: we identify testimony that relates to factual issues in the case, and we make notes on particular points of testimony. Both of these tasks are covered by TranscriptPad. I can select some text and “flag” it, which brings up a box where I can type a note to myself (such as “See if this statement agrees with document X” or “Contradicts witness’s affidavit”). When a part of the transcript is flagged, a red line appears along the right margin along with a flag icon. You can think of this as your sticky note hanging out of the transcript binder (without looking like your toddler stuck a bunch of papers in between pages).

The second task, identifying issues, works similarly. I tap on the first line of the relevant portion (along the left edge) and then tap on the last line of that portion. This brings up a dialog box where I can assign an issue, such as “liability,” and a color to go with it. I can assign an unlimited number of issues, although there are presently only six colors that can be used (and re-used as needed).

Once this is done, you can see how TranscriptPad really shines. The app has a feature that allows you to compile a report showing all portions of the testimony that address a specific issue. Want to see a quick snapshot of every place the witness admitted fault? TranscriptPad has it for you. Not only does it tell you where those items of testimony occurred, but the report quotes the questions and answers for you. These reports can be emailed, which is great: I can then copy and paste relevant portions of deposition testimony right into my summary judgment brief. If I’m working on an appeal where testimony is crucial to my issue, I can copy and paste the trial testimony right into my appellate brief.

What I really like about TranscriptPad is its ability to create deposition digests like this so easily. It used to be necessary for lawyers to read the deposition transcript and then either write down page and line numbers or dictate an outline. Now, all it takes is a few taps and my organized report is ready for me.

TranscriptPad kicks butt. Jeff Richardson over at iPhone J.D. has a more comprehensive review of the app, and I commend you to it. Jeff identifies some missing features he’d like to see, but I really have no complaints about this application. The ability to produce the reports alone is worth the price of admission to me. It’s a real time saver (and means I usually will need to review a transcript only once). I think Jeff’s points about being able to export the annotated transcript in some fashion so others can review it (without borrowing my iPad) are well taken. Still, I rarely have to share transcripts with other lawyers in my firm, so it’s not a big omission for me.

I know nothing about the team at Lit Software, LLC, that produces these apps. I have no idea if it includes one or more experienced trial lawyers. All I know is that this developer has a keen sense of how lawyers work and how to create an app that makes my life easier. I can’t wait to see what these busy folks come up with next.

Another excellent app for attorneys: Noteshelf

Not too long ago I wrote a review and raved about UPAD as a note taking tool. While I still think UPAD is an excellent app for lawyers (and non-lawyers for that matter), I have another app for your consideration.

Noteshelf may just be the holy grail of note taking apps for the iPad. The handwriting that appears on the “page” is excellent—just as good as UPAD. But what sets Noteshelf apart is its ability to organize notes into notebooks. The notebooks, in turn, can be organized on a virtual shelf. They can also be grouped together to provide another layer of organization. This feature is simple to use and feels as natural as the old file folders to which we techies are trying to bid good riddance.

Another very nice feature of Noteshelf is its simple yet effective wrist protection. While all note taking apps (those that mimic handwriting, anyway) have some form of wrist protection to avoid stray marks, Noteshelf’s is unobtrusive and yet easy to spot. You know right where it is at all times.

Noteshelf also offers the zoom mode that has made Notetaker HD so popular among many users. Noteshelf lacks Notetaker HD’s complexity, however. Although Noteshelf comes with an on-board manual (which you really should read), it is intuitive and easy to use—despite its powerful features.

For pen and ink geeks, Noteshelf comes with 17 different ink colors; there are enough different shades of most ink colors to satisfy anyone’s creative side. Ink is not the only feature with a multitude of options. Notehself boasts a number of different paper styles and notebook covers, with more available for purchase via the app.

Noteshelf does quite a bit more than I’ve described here, and it is worth your time to explore the publisher’s web site for the app. At $4.99 (USD), this app is a steal, and it’s become my go-to app for all my note taking needs.