Does the Apple Watch Work for Lawyers?

I confess: I am an early adopter. In my house, we may have awoken in the middle of the night to be some of the first people to place orders for the new Apple Watch back in April. This type of behavior comes with significant drawbacks, not all of them financial. Sometimes, I’m simply stuck with bad, half-baked technology. With new technology, most people really want to like it. And now I’d like to be one of the only lawyers wearing the watch who advises you not to buy one.

Let me preface this by saying I sincerely enjoy the Apple Watch. I wear it frequently, use it to track my fitness, receive all sorts of notifications on it, and I love being reminded to stand up when I’ve been seated for too long. But beyond a variety of amusements, the Apple Watch does not offer any real value for lawyers. Yet.

First, let’s consider basic communication. It is impossible to respond to an email on the watch. Eventually being able to respond to email in any sort of efficient, and quiet, manner, will be an absolute must.

More surprisingly, the same is essentially true for text messages. Text messages do, however, come with a number of pre-drafted responses that you can hit quickly and let someone know you’ll have to “Talk later?” Although I pride myself on brevity, these responses are so brief as to feel mildly rude. Of course, with Siri, it is possible to dictate a response, but lawyers strive to be unobtrusive and conduct communications with a level of confidentiality. Talking to your watch in an elevator, or in the middle of a deposition, simply isn’t feasible for a lawyer.

I have the watch set to alert me when I have a calendar appointment. This is similar to sitting at your desk and having an Outlook reminder pop up 15 minutes before an appointment is to begin. I just receive it on my left wrist instead.

As for more complex tasks, like simply creating a calendar entry, that is also impossible on the watch. Although I receive twitter notifications, I am unable to draft tweets on the watch.

Lest this become simply a list of all the things I cannot do with my Apple Watch, there are many things I find very interesting and useful about my watch. Unfortunately, these interesting and useful things all happen while I am engaged in other mostly non-legal pursuits. In every day life, I use the watch to aid with fitness and health, even when I’m stuck in my office, at my desk, seated in front of a computer. Today, it reminded me to stand and I moved my entire desk up and stood for the next hour.

With the Apple Watch, you are able to choose which notifications make it to your wrist with customized priority settings. For lawyers, this may be the most useful feature currently available. Only the most important texts, emails, and calendar entries make it to the watch, thereby alerting you when something particularly critical is happening. This is a great way to receive a curated feed of your life.

Other apps are coming along as well. Uber has created an extraordinarily streamlined interface that only requires you touching the watch face once to request a car. The watch then taps you when your driver is approaching. The workout app taps me on the wrist when I am halfway done with my run, reminding me to turn around, go home and get ready for work.

The major drawback of the Apple Watch is that app developers haven’t caught up yet to the new interface and how people may be able to interact with a watch on their wrist. Native apps are only just now being developed. Inevitably, a whole new way of inputting, receiving and sending data and information is about to be unleashed.

By the same token, people, and especially lawyers, need to be ready to adapt to new ways of receiving data and information as well. Part of the difficulty is our inherent reluctance to change, and getting to know an entirely new piece of technology requires some training wheels.

Hold off for now. The early adopters are handling the speed bumps, waiting to tell you when it’s finally time to integrate the Apple Watch into your practice.

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