Tools for Arbitration Exhibits – Stepping into the 21st Century

By B. Christopher Lee
Many of us have had to hear large volume document cases. We have walked into the hearing room on the first day and been given a bookcase full of exhibits. While the sheer thought of reviewing thousands of exhibits is daunting, handling the paper exhibits is no less problematic as parties and arbitrators spend expensive hearing time pulling volumes, opening to the correct page and taking notes on the documents. The deliberation process is no less cumbersome when referencing exhibits identified in post hearing briefs. While many arbitrators have been receiving large volumes of exhibits digitally for some time, the problem of taking notes and annotating exhibits persists. Most of us like to highlight or take notes directly on the exhibits. While it can be done with a keyboard, there is no substitute for comments made “pen in hand”. Fortunately, technology has evolved to the point where we can have the convenience of the digital documents but also the comfort of being able to make handwritten annotations.

Fortunately, two devices have come on the market which should be considered. They are the Microsoft Surface Pro and the new Apple iPad Pro.
The Surface Pro has been around longer and many arbitrators including our own Paul Lurie, swear by it. Paul likes the integration with Microsoft products for the office and the fact that the TSA does not consider it to be a laptop for travel purposes. The Surface Pro also allows loading of documents through Acrobat Pro or other document review software. The Surface Pro comes with a keyboard which can be removed and a pencil which can be used for annotating documents. One advantage of the Surface Pro noted by reviewers is that it runs on the full Windows X Operating System. This means it can virtually replace your laptop.

The other contender for annotating arbitration exhibits is the iPad Pro. For many years Apple offered the iPad which was a smaller tablet and enormously popular for its simplicity and ease of use. With the introduction of the iPad Pro, Apple has produced a device which seems ideally suited for arbitrators handling large volumes of documents. It has nearly a 13 inch screen which allows viewing of documents in full size. The Apple pencil is an extra but it has received high praise. Reviewers note that the feel is better than the Surface Pro stylus and allows the user to annotate in very small script. The IPad Pro also has a more powerful processor chip that Apple claims has enough internal horse power to take on tasks once reserved for workstations and PCs. In other words, you can use a split screen, use a keyboard (at additional cost) to take notes during a hearing and just pick up the pencil to make annotations on exhibits on the other side of the screen.

There is an ongoing fierce battle for users of both devices. The general consensus seems to be that if you want to completely replace your laptop, the Surface Pro may be the better choice even though the stylus and note taking capability is not as good. If you are looking primarily for note taking with the ability to annotate documents with ease, the iPad Pro may be the choice.

As with all Microsoft vs. Apple product decisions, familiarity and loyalty come in to play. That being said, my law firm IT consultant son-in-law recommended an iPad Pro to me over a Surface Pro primarily because of its ease of use “especially for older users.” I think that comment was directed at me, but it is no secret that many arbitrators fall into the “older user” category. Whichever way you go, these two devices offer the arbitrator the ability to eliminate large volumes of paper while retaining traditional note taking functionality.•

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