TALP 8 | Digital Technology


In this brave new world, we often push our leveraging of digital technology to the limits. The latest developments in hardware and software allow lawyers and judges to work more efficiently, providing quick access to documents and hyper-functional workflow tools. Jeff Richardson, a New Orleans appellate attorney and the creator of the iPhone J.D. website, talks to Todd Smith and Jody Sanders about the software tools that lawyers can use on their iPads or iPhones and how an iPad can streamline appellate practice from initial preparation to oral argument. Listen in to get Jeff’s take on the newest iPad Pro and to learn about the apps he uses in his practice.

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Getting Your iPhone and iPad J.D. | Jeff Richardson

We have a special guest, Jeff Richardson from New Orleans, Louisiana. Welcome to the show, Jeff.

Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

Jeff is our first non-Texan to appear on the show, but he is a kindred spirit for those of us that are appellate practitioners. Jeff is a partner at Adams and Reese in New Orleans.

We’re based in New Orleans, but we’ve got offices all around the Gulf South portion of the country and through Tennessee, South Carolina, a big part of the country.

That’s certainly a firm I’m familiar with. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in your fair city, as a number of our people would because the Fifth Circuit sits there in New Orleans.

It’s almost catty-corner from our office.

Are you walking distance to the courthouse?

I’m in a building that used to be called One Shell Square. There’s a park and one more block between the US Fifth Circuit and me, which is nice.

I know from our advance visit getting ready for the show, you told me that you were recently certified as an appellate practice specialist by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization.

You can use your iPad or iPhone to be more productive in your law practice. Click To Tweet

Do you all know if you all have a similar program in Texas for appellate specialization?

We do.

Have you all gone through the program yet in Texas?

I’ve been board certified for about 14 years now.

We didn’t have it until recently here in Louisiana, just a few years ago, but it’s a great system. I’m sure it’s similar to Texas. If you focus a lot on appeals, it’s a way to show clients that this is something you have a lot of specialty in and it’s been a good process. I was certified maybe two years ago.

We have it here and I think California does, and I believe Florida does. Those are the only states that I’m familiar with, but people familiar with our show will certainly appreciate what level of skill and commitment it takes to become a board-certified specialist, whether it’s in Texas or in Louisiana.

I think in Louisiana, you have to have been doing appellate work as at least a quarter of your practice for five years. You have to have been involved as lead counsel or almost lead counsel for like 25 appeals and you have to have done five oral arguments. You have to do some recommendations from other people. It’s one of those sorts of things then, of course, you have to take a written test.

Outside of Louisiana, Jeff is known for a website, I guess you might call it a blog, but it’s much more than just a single purpose website. It’s known as iPhone JD. I’ve been a follower of the site for quite some time. I’ve learned a lot from you, Jeff, about iPhones. The site’s not limited to the iPhones, is it?

It’s Apple mobile technology. I don’t really talk about computers, but when I started the site in 2008, I was talking about the iPhone, which was new at the time. It had just come out a year before. But now, iPhone, iPads, Apple Watch, those are the big ones that I talk about. It’s how an attorney can use those devices to be more productive in the practice of law. If you’re interested in gaming, I’m not going to be helping you out there.  But if you’re looking to get work done with your devices, that’s what I do. Although most of the readers are lawyers, I will often hear from non-lawyers that say, “I’m a doctor,” or, “I’m a business person and I use similar tools and appreciate your reviews of the latest ways to work with PDF files or take handwritten notes or any of those sorts of things.” Because to some degree, anyone trying to get work done is going to use their device in a similar manner.

TALP 8 | Digital Technology

Digital Technology: There is so much you can do for your practice with your iPad—from annotating and reviewing documents to accessing public documents and making notes.


I will say that whenever there’s a new product coming out, I know that you’re going to be reviewing it because I think you may be the one person that I know in this world that literally purchases every single device that Apple puts out as they come out.

I love shiny new gadgets. Since I have a website, I can always tell my wife, “I’m not just buying this new iPhone for me. It’s so that I can write about it.” It gives me a good excuse.

One thing that we wanted to do was have you on the show to talk specifically about how you use your iPad. I know you’ve written some blog posts about this and some articles over the years and going back a couple of years. That was one of the ways that you and I connected, was that I wrote a similar blog post I think I actually stole from you. I’ve got an interest in this area myself because I am a self-professed Apple fanboy. I don’t own every single device that comes out when it does. My Apple Watch is at least one generation old. Although I do have a current version of the iPad and a few other things. My take on the iPad specifically, one reason why I’m interested in it is that it seems like where it’s trying to go is toward a desktop replacement or a laptop replacement device. You talk about mobility and the usefulness of Apple technology and their devices in mobile practice, but the iPad tends to be the one that is the game-changer. Is that your assessment?

I got the first generation iPad when it came out in 2010. It started being something that, this is an interesting device, but over time it has become such an incredibly central part of my law practice. I use it for so much of what we do, dealing with documents and every one of my documents is right there. Also, writing things and there are great writing tools on it and it’s fantastic. I still use a computer. I use a PC at my office. I use a Mac at home. I use lots of different devices, and when I’m sitting down to write the appellate brief, I’ll often start on my computer, but the iPad is right there next to me. It’s a second screen. It’s got all the briefs. It’s got the record on appeal. It’s got everything there. When it comes time to revise my brief, I will often just sit down there with my iPad and an external keyboard and do it. It is a very important part of my law practice, certainly including my appellate law practice because it’s just such a fantastic tool. There’s so much you can do.

Jeff, I know the Fifth Circuit and Texas both have fully electronic records. Does the state of Louisiana have electronic records as well?

Most of the courts do. It varies from circuit to circuit. I wish we were unifying in Louisiana like some other states are. When I’m working on an appeal, we can start there because we all do appellate stuff. The first thing I do is get a copy of the record. Sometimes I’ve been involved in the case at the trial court level. I love it when I have been, but sometimes I’ll get brought in just for the appeal. The first thing you do is get a copy of the record. As you all know, because we’re all in the Fifth Circuit, it’s easy to download the record. The Fifth Circuit has all the different parts of the record, the different volumes, and I’ll normally download those PDF files. PDF Expert is the app that I’m mostly using, but there are a lot of PDF apps that you can use on the iPad.

I’ll have a folder that has all parts of the record in there. That’s what I’ll do to review the record, to highlight things, to annotate things. Within the app, you can create bookmarks. Usually, the table of contents will come across and for each record number that will already come across because the Fifth Circuit does a nice job with the way that the district courts put the records together. I will create my own bookmarks so that I can easily look through the bookmarks feature, this is the contract or this is the affidavit that’s important or the witness testimony. My first start is getting everything into the iPad and going through the record that way to start the process.

That sounds similar to the workflow that I use. I’m also a PDF Expert user. It is a great annotation tool. I use it on my MacBook and also on my iPad. There used to be a feature in that software where you could wirelessly transfer information back and forth. When they went through the last iteration of it, they killed that but I keep thinking they were going to try and incorporate the Apple Sidecar feature somehow. That hasn’t ever come to fruition. It’s a little more clunky than it used to be, but I don’t know about you. I sync things back and forth over Dropbox. I keep a folder with my working files synced on my iPad.

For most of my appellate work, that’s what I do. Every once in a while, I’ll have something under seal and I don’t use Dropbox and stuff like that, but most of the stuff is public anyway. What I’ll do is I’ll often download the record on my PC at work, put it in the Dropbox folder, and then I will have PDF Expert on my iPad, just sync with that folder. That way, as I go through and annotate the record on my iPad, all my annotations are still there so if I wanted to look at them on my computer, whether my PC or Mac, I could also do that as well but I don’t do that very much. Usually, once the record is on my iPad, that’s where I’m working with it from then on.

The iPad is a game-changer in Apple’s bid towards the development of a desktop or laptop replacement device. Click To Tweet

My eyes are getting older. It’s sometimes better for me to look at things that I’ve annotated on the bigger screen. The other thing I like to do with that incidentally is being able to display two pages at a time on my big screen. It’s like the old appellate records. Although the true old paper appellate records, you couldn’t do that either because they were all bound at the top, two-hole punched. That sounds similar to my workflow and how I use them, too.

I understand from our previous discussions, you’ve gone beyond document annotation and review though. You actually use your iPad frequently when you’re in advocacy situations.

After I’ve gone through the record and written my brief and stuff, once I’m getting ready for oral argument, the app that I love to use the most is called GoodNotes. I use GoodNotes throughout my law practice to take notes. It creates a virtual page that you can write on using your Apple pencil stylus. I have pages that look like a legal pad, with a yellow background with lines on it just because that’s what I’m used to working on. You can certainly write on whatever you want. I’ll take notes to myself when I’m getting ready for the appeal. When it’s time to draft my oral argument, I will start a blank page and I will handwrite.

I don’t write every word of the argument and even outlining makes it sound more structured than what it is. This is the topic I’m going to do. As I start writing it out, I like doing it in handwriting as opposed to typing on a computer. I may have one thing on the right side, I’ll have a circle. I’ll have a box off to the side, then I’ll start writing something and I’ll realize I want to put even more on that. I’ll cut it and then make a new page and paste it there and then make it even more.

Often what I’ll do, a lot of my appellate arguments turn upon the law, legal decisions. Using Westlaw right there on my iPad, I’ll take the part of the decision that I’ve highlighted. I’ll take a screenshot of that part of the decision. I crop it in and then paste that into my notebook. I can say, “As the US Fifth Circuit said in the Smith v. Jones case.” I’ll have the actual Smith versus Jones with the words that I’m going to use highlighted right there on the page. It saves me the trouble of having to pull out the document. When I prepare for appellate arguments, it will start a few pages. By the time I’m done, I may have 10, 15 pages. I may have a special page if I’m asked about this subject, “Here are my answers to that subject.” I like it when you’re doing it on the iPad. You can use different colors.

With the GoodNotes app, I can go into a mode where I’m doing shapes. If I want to put a square around something, it can be perfectly straight lines for the type A personality that I have. The notes will look nice and neat. They get well sophisticated by the time that I’m done with it. When I’m ready for oral argument, I have all my notes right there in GoodNotes. At that point, I’ve done oral argument two different ways, multiple times. I always have my iPad at the podium with me. Sometimes I actually just use GoodNotes on my iPad. There’s a button you can tap at the top, which puts you in a view-only mode so that you don’t have to worry about changing the notes.

I get into that view-only mode and you can swipe on the iPad to go back and forth between notes. I’ve done that before and that works great. Every court that I’ve ever been in front of allows you to take an iPad up to the podium, even the US Fifth Circuit. For example, they don’t want you to have computers in the courtroom, but if you’re an advocate, you can use a computer or an iPad. What I’ll always do is take those notes and print them out. You can just export two PDF files and I can print them out on a color printer in my office. I have the paper version of them. I have the electronic version, and part of that’s just to have a backup. What if your iPhone dies or something crazy happens?

Mid-February of 2020 was the last oral argument I had and I printed them out. I prefer to use the paper there. Sometimes I like having the paper in my hand because that way, I have my iPad at the podium. If somebody asks a question about a case, I’ve got every important case on there. If I need to jump to the Smith case to see, it’s right there. In that way, I can have the notes in one place and the records, I’m able to often look at something in the record in another place. I’ve done it both ways. Regardless of what I use at the podium, using the iPad to create those notes makes them much more useful to me because they’re colorful, big, and they’ve got cases in there, something from the record. I copy and paste that part of the record and stick it right there on the page. For me, it works great.

I’m glad to hear about this because I’m a conceptual and visual person. I write my notes in the same way. I think the idea of doing them tablet-style makes a lot of sense. I’m going to have to look into that because I just love having it laid out that way instead of with the limitations of whatever word processing program you’re using.

When you say graphical, that’s important for me. Because I’ve worked on the notes, I can picture the page in my head. When a judge is asking a question, I know it’s on page three because I can picture it. It’s like it was in this box on the side was where I wrote that and that helps me get it. Sometimes you don’t need your notes at all. Sometimes it’s just in your head, but I can pull it out as I’m talking just to make sure I cite the right case name for a visual person like myself, maybe you too, Jody, which works well.

TALP 8 | Digital Technology

Digital Technology: If you are advocating, you can print out your notes as a backup in case your iPad dies.


That’s how I do mine. Speaking of visual, this is jumping back a little bit, but now that you use your iPad in this way, do you find that it affects the way visually and maybe organizationally that you lay out your briefing? Because a lot of judges are reading on iPads too now at the appellate level, at least certainly in Texas.

What we were talking about for oral argument by that point the briefing is all done, but I do take handwritten notes the same way as I’m meeting with other attorneys or brainstorming myself how to do the brief. Most of the time, when I write briefs, I sit down in front of Microsoft Word and I just start writing. I start with the statement of facts or start to get things typed into the computer. Once things are there, then I can say, “I thought that this might be my first argument, but I want to push this further down to third.” Once it’s there, I can move stuff around but when I’m in that drafting process, for me the iPad, the most important role is being that second screen. It is right there next to my computer monitor to my left so that I’m typing. I’m using the iPad to look at the record, the trial court briefs, the legal opinions, and the exhibits. That’s the big use for me. I love having everything right there. Even if I’m, over the weekend, and I’m going to work on my brief some more, I have to worry about, “Did I bring this home from my office?” Everything’s in digital form. Everything’s on my iPad.

You mentioned PDF Expert, as we discussed. You mentioned GoodNotes. I resisted GoodNotes for a long time, but you, Jeff, converted me. I tried every other handwriting app there was to try out there and you’ve been saying for years that GoodNotes is the best one and I finally bought into what you said. I’ve been using it myself for about 6 months. I do enjoy it. Like PDF Expert, GoodNotes has a Mac app so that I can look at my handwritten notes up on my bigger screen if I choose to do that. It’s super helpful. Besides those two bits of software, is there anything else that you’re using on your app, software-wise, that you’d like to highlight for us?

For my appellate work, those are the primary tools. As I get broader into the practice of law, there are a million apps that I’m using all the time and that I encourage lawyers to use. Nowadays, you need to have a good password manager. I use 1Password, which is great because it’s completely cross-platform and it gets me logged in to all of my courts, all of the websites. I can have complicated passwords. I could talk forever about how much I love using 1Password. I think you need to use a password manager nowadays. Lots of other apps I use when I’m not doing appellate work, when I’m doing trial work and dealing with depositions, I love using an app called TrialPad.

The TranscriptPad is the one that I use for all my deposition transcripts. I forget which one of you talked about issues of appellate avoidance or something like that, managing things to the trial court level so that maybe you don’t need the appeal or you’re in better shape for appeal. I’m often brought in as I’m sure that you two are to work with the trial attorneys at the trial court level, drafting the complicated in the case dispositive briefs, for example. I’m working on those things. That’s an example. I’m working on motions for summary judgment. I’m going to load all of my transcripts from the case into TranscriptPad on my iPad.

As you’re reading a transcript, you can highlight things. Instead of highlighting everything in yellow as you might do on paper, you issue-code it. When I say that I’m highlighting in this page from lines 1 to 6, I associate it with an issue, comparative fault, prescription, which is statute and limitations in Louisiana or whatever the issue is. When I then go to write the summary judgment motion, I can say, “Print me a report of everything that I tagged on the prescription issue.” It would all be right there for me. It makes it much easier to draft the brief and to have everything. TranscriptPad works across every transcript in the case. At the trial court level, I consider that appellate work because I feel like I’m making the best argument to preserve issues and of course, you want to win at the trial court level, but if you win, the other side is going to appeal. If you have to appeal, you’ve preserved your right.

Texas, and I’m sure Louisiana is probably doing the same, has gone to completely remote hearings. Having all that stuff in there probably would make it a lot easier to do Zoom hearings and remote hearings and all that to be able to access all your documents right there in real-time. I would think that’s something that’s probably going to be useful to a lot of litigators.

We’re definitely in a brave new world now. I have not done an online appellate argument yet. One of my partners on our appellate team in our firm has one in a week or two for, I think it was the Fifth Circuit. Was the Texas Supreme Court had one online recently? And all the Texas Supreme Court justices had a picture of the Court behind them.

Jeff, another major reason why I thought it would be a great idea to have you on is knowing how you are with new hardware when it comes out. I had paid attention to the fact that there was a new iPad Pro coming out. Also, they’re pairing it with a new keyboard. The current versions of these devices are something that I’m using. My antenna goes up when Apple puts out anything new, particularly iPad or iPhone. You’re the same way. I wanted to invite you to give us a preview of what we can expect from this new hardware and including the keyboard because it looks cool. I’ll throw out there that it’s incorporating a trackpad into it so you won’t have to touch the screen when it’s mounted to the keyboard to move the cursor around, which I thought was a nice addition. What are some of your favorite things? What’s this hardware going to do that’s going to be great for lawyers like us?

You don’t have to worry about bringing bulky case files anymore when everything is on your iPad. Click To Tweet

When people talk to me about what iPad they should use in their law practice, there’s a whole range of iPads. There’s the cheapest called the iPad, which you can get for a few hundred dollars all the way up to the iPad Pro, which is what I use. Even within the Pro, there are two different sizes. Let me begin by saying that all of them are great. The newer ones are faster and better, but if you’re going to use the iPad a lot, I love the iPad Pro line because the iPad Pro has smaller bezels. More of your screen is devoted to seeing things on the screen. It’s not unlike the transition between when the pre-iPhone X and then the iPhone X, where they took away the button at the bottom.

Once they took away that button, they had more screen space so you can see more things on our screen at one time. When you’re going to be using your iPad a lot in your law practice, having more on your screen is better. That’s also why I prefer the larger 12.9-inch size because it makes the documents easier. Maybe this is just with my eyes, it’s easier to have things a little bit bigger. When I look at documents or exhibits, they’re essentially full-sized and maybe even bigger than full-size when you have your iPad turned in the landscape orientation because it’s a little bit wider than an 8.5×11 sheet of paper would be.

Many times, when I’m working with records too, I get these oil and gas appeals where you have these leases that go back to the 1950s and that’s a fourth-generation copy. It’s hard to read. You want to be able to zoom in and make things bigger and see it, which makes such a difference. Any iPad is great, but the Pro in the name for a reason. It makes a difference. Apple is on its fourth generation of the iPad Pro of the newest one that you mentioned, Todd. The 2020 version of the iPad Pro is a fantastic iPad. It’s similar to the 2018 version, which is what I’m talking to you on right now. The changes frankly don’t make a difference for attorneys, things like 3D and stuff, things like more graphics that people will be interested in.

If you can get a good deal on a 2018 iPad Pro, that’s fantastic too. Any of those iPads are great because they have those big screens, they use USB-C, which gives you access to have all sorts of accessories that you can have plugged into it and stuff, which I find incredibly useful. One of the newest things, as you alluded to, is Apple has suddenly got really serious with keyboard and external mouse and trackpad support. Apple updated the operating system on the iPad. Although in the past you could use a mouse with an iPad. The support has gotten 1,000 times better. It’s as good as a computer.

In some ways, it’s even better than a computer. As you hover over different parts of your screen, the shape of the cursor changes to indicate what it is that you’re going to be tapping on. When I’m sitting down with my iPad, I have an external Bluetooth keyboard and an external mouse, it’s great. It really can be a substitute for a computer. People have always been using iPads to substitute for computers to a certain degree, but in 2020, it’s gotten much better. The product you referred to, the Magic Keyboard, which has been announced, looks fantastic. Apple does such a great job designing things that look incredible. It’s got the keyboard and a trackpad built-in, but whether you use a trackpad or a mouse, you can get serious work done with your iPad.

If I heard you correctly, the specs might not be much better on this iPad as to cost someone like me to update their 2018 model. Because most of what I do is the same as you. I’m reviewing documents, I’m typing, I’m marking things up, I’m annotating, and I’m writing in GoodNotes or something else by hand. That doesn’t require anything 3D or highly graphic. What piqued my interest is this keyboard. I have been trying for quite some time to make an iPad my laptop replacement. I’m due for a new laptop. I’m thinking that if I can get that keyboard and use my iPad, I might be able to do away with the laptop and put a supercharged Mac Mini on my desk that would give me years of service and be more powerful than the MacBook I’ve been carrying around.

You can do that. The brand-new Magic Keyboard that Apple has coming, it will work with the 2018 version of the iPad Pro or the new one. The major difference between the 2020 and the 2018 version is the new one uses something called LIDAR so that when the camera is looking at your room, it’s shooting lasers on all the objects in the room. It can see where things are. We’re going to have a future in a few years where our mobile devices are much more sophisticated in augmented reality and virtual reality. I think Apple put LIDAR on the iPad because it’s probably going to be coming to the iPhone. There’s going to be a world where all the devices have LIDAR. You can hold up your phone or your iPad or whatever to the world around you and it understands that. That’s all fascinating stuff. It looks like a lot of movies we’ve been watching for years. I don’t think any of it has anything to do with the parts of the law. Maybe one day we’ll all be using LIDAR for scanning the crime scene.

For attorneys, it doesn’t make a difference for the 2018 or the 2020 but that new keyboard’s great. For me personally, I don’t use a keyboard with my iPad often. When I use it, it’s essential, but maybe it’s 10% to 20% of the time that I use my iPad. I don’t want to have a case for my iPad that has a keyboard in it because that just makes it unnecessarily heavy. If you’re the sort of person that uses a keyboard more often, and I know many of them, then that new one looks interesting. Apple hasn’t yet said how heavy it makes the overall device, so that’ll be interesting to see. For me, I have in my briefcase an external Bluetooth keyboard and an external mouse that I pull out when I’m ready to use it, but then I put them away 80% of the time when I’m just using my iPad with my Apple Pencil stuck to the top of it.

You’ve given a lot of great tips but we’d like to leave our readers with war stories or tips, anything that you’d like to share. You’ve given us a million of them. If you’d like to make it a million and one, we’ll give you an opening right here to put that in at the end.

TALP 8 | Digital Technology

Digital Technology: Having all your stuff on your iPad makes it easier to access all your documents in real time during remote hearings.


I have one specifically in mind, which is this, we all know in a courtroom that you need to turn off your devices. Many times, the courtroom will have a sign saying that. Here’s my war story that’s a two-part tale. I was arguing an appeal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had my iPad there with me and my iPhone was in my pocket. I had it on silent, but it was still on. I was about to get up to argue and my phone rings. It was on silent, so it just vibrated. Nobody knew about it but me. I’m literally walking to the podium and my phone is ringing. It was distracting me. I’m like, “This is horrible.” It was a junk mail telemarketer call and I get those calls frequently.

Fast forward to this year, I had two appellate arguments, one in January, one in February of 2020. One of the two of them, my iPhone was completely turned off. My iPad was on, but I don’t use an iPad that has cellular built-in. I thought everything was fine. I’m getting to go up to the podium and my Apple Watch starts to vibrate. Someone’s calling me and I’m like, “What the heck is this?” Again it was a telemarketer. When that happens, there’s a button on the side of the Apple Watch, if you tap it the first time it stops. If you tap it a second time, it will send the call to voicemail. I thought I was being good for turning off my phone, completely forgetting that my watch is a phone. Now I know for the future that either to put the phone into do not disturb mode, which I could’ve done with a simple tap and I did not think about it, or turn their watch off completely as they go up to the podium. Learn from my mistakes and don’t get distracted.

Jeff, thank you for taking the time to join us and visit with us. I know that our readers will get a lot out of what you talked about. I know I have.

Thank you for inviting me. I love that you all have a show like this, I’m jealous. It’s great. I wish we had a resource like this specific to Louisiana, but I’m sure you’ve got people even outside of Texas who are interested in a lot of what you’ll have to say. I love appellate law. There’s always something new to talk about in terms of tricks and techniques, so kudos to both of you.

That’s what we’re counting on. Hopefully, we can maintain a show for a good long time. One of the barriers to getting this started was, what are people going to want to listen to us to talk about every week or every other week for some extended period. We’ve had a lot of success in coming up with guests and we’re grateful for you for being on the show.


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