Palm Beach attorney Christopher Hopkins shows his iPhone application that provides lawyers with cyber access to rules of professional conduct and guidelines.
Technology is changing the practice of law like every other profession. So Palm Beach attorney Christopher Hopkins reached into cyberspace and came up with a new way to give lawyers instant access to information on professional codes of ethics.
His iPhone application — downloadable free at iTunes — lets judges, attorneys, paralegals and law students punch up state and local rules of professional conduct whether they’re in court or having lunch at the corner deli.
The application features Southern District guidelines and local bar rules for Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Duval counties. And since Hopkins updates it regularly, he’d like to eventually add local bar rules from other parts of the state.
“You used to see a lot of lawyers using BlackBerries at the courthouse, but now it’s moved more toward iPhones,” Hopkins says. “You can get e-mails and read documents very easily.
“And with the popularity of iPhone apps, having access to rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, those types of things, right on your phone — as opposed to walking around with a book — makes a lot of sense. The first thing that came to mind was doing something that had the rules of professional conduct.”
For Hopkins, an attorney at Butzel Long on Worth Avenue, it was a matter of pulling together the information from a lot different sources into one searchable package. He started working on it last summer, and came out with the initial version in October. He’s updated it since then.
“Putting all of this together was partly like a hobby. But I think it was also a good thing for the legal community, which is why I give it away for free.”
The BlackBerry — a Research in Motion product — still holds a lead over the iPhone in market share, according to a March 5 article on Forbes.com. “However,” the magazine says, “RIM’s market share lead over Apple has been shrinking and we estimate that Apple will be able to overtake RIM market share by early 2011.”
As a result, iPhone applications are being generated as fast as cotton candy at a county fair. There are now about 140,000 of them and the list is growing. They’re being created as both personal and professional reference sources.
The timing is right because attorneys are becoming increasingly tech savvy. All Palm Beach County courtrooms have Wi-Fi, for example, and some judges accept filings by e-mail, says Walter Jones, a Palm Beach Gardens attorney and chair of the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s technology committee.
But most lawyers still prefer to do research on a laptop or desktop in their office, Jones says. “The problem is, it’s hard to read 10 pages of text on an [iPhone] screen, ” he says. “If I had to do it in a pinch, I would.”
That’s one reason the iPad has greater potential for business use, according to Gregg Weiss, founder of iPadApplicationQuotes.com, a Wellington-based company that matches iPhone application developers with companies interested in specific kinds of products. Weiss predicts the new iPad will revolutionize information technology in areas such as medicine and education because of its larger size and faster processing speed.
“It’s really going to replace the clipboard for your doctor,” Weiss says. “They’ll be walking around with an iPad instead.” (iPhone applications can be viewed on an iPad.)
To create his application, Hopkins had to apply to Apple to become an iPhone app developer. There’s a $99 fee. Then he had to submit the application for Apple for approval. If it passes muster it’s made available on iTunes.
There are about 70,000 lawyers in Florida. Hopkins doesn’t have a handle on how many have downloaded his application, since it’s free.
“I got a nice e-mail from someone I didn’t even know,” says Hopkins, who specializes in medical malpractice cases, defending doctors. “He said nice job, and he was sending something around on Twitter with a reference to go to the Website to download. So, it’s getting some attention.”
By John Nelander