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Are lawyers ready to give up BlackBerrys?

|Written By Kenneth Jackson

The mere mention of a lawyer using anything but a BlackBerry smartphone would have raised a few eyebrows several years ago. Some may have even laughed at the idea.

After struggling with the BlackBerry PlayBook, criminal defence lawyer David Rose has since become an avid iPad user. Photo: Laura Pedersen

But that’s not the case anymore.

Times have changed and more lawyers are trading their trusted BlackBerrys produced by Research in Motion Ltd. for an Apple iPhone, iPad tablet or other mobile operating device.

For Toronto criminal lawyer David Rose, the issue comes down to what makes his job easier. “I find the iPad is far more powerful as a platform to access documents and the Internet,” says Rose of Neuberger Rose LLP. “The BlackBerry is an inferior platform for searching the web, word processing, and looking at documents.”

Rose still owns a BlackBerry Torch phone. But he only uses it for phone calls. That wasn’t always the case. Rose had always been a BlackBerry guy.

“I got [RIM’s] PlayBook a year ago within its first week of coming out. I was so thrilled to have a tablet,” says Rose, who notes things then began to sour. “I soldiered through with the PlayBook. I had two of them before I finally gave up on them.”

He then switched to an iPad. “I haven’t looked back. It’s an unbelievably powerful device. Frankly, I haven’t had any problems with the iPad and I used to have tons of problems with the PlayBook. I really, really wanted to believe in the PlayBook.”

RIM came out with the PlayBook a year after Apple released the successful iPad tablet, a device that has since turned Rose into an Apple guy.

Rose is far from alone in making the switch. According to The American Lawyer’s 2011 technology survey, 96 per cent of responding Am Law 200 firms said they have attorneys using iPhones.

But not everyone is ready to give up on the BlackBerry yet. The reasons often include its security features.

“I’m staying with BlackBerry and there are several reasons why,” says Andrew Feldstein of Feldstein Family Law Group in Markham, Ont. Feldstein refers, for example, to the BlackBerry enterprise server that gives customers significant control over their device.

“Your IT people can have access to all the contacts, all the e-mails on your BlackBerry. All the type of central, important things to someone if they lost their BlackBerry can easily be recreated. Even their BlackBerry Messenger contact list can be recreated,” says Feldstein.

“In other words, you can wipe out the old one, have a new one, and have all of your important information restored, which I understand the Apple can’t do as well.”

Those features are also vital from a central management perspective, says Feldstein, who has been a BlackBerry user since the days of the side dial.

“When my IT person looks at our BlackBerry exchange server and someone is complaining they are having a problem, their e-mails aren’t going through or their BBMs aren’t going through, he can see the last time that BlackBerry was communicating with the office exchange server and know exactly when it stopped working, which can be very important in terms of getting it to work again in a much faster way.”

But that’s not the only security measure that keeps Feldstein with BlackBerry.

“Everything with BlackBerry is encrypted when you’re sending it from a BlackBerry and that’s not the case with Apple, which makes it significantly easier to intercept,” he says.

Toronto lawyer Esther Daniel is considering a move from the BlackBerry to an iPhone but finds herself having a hard time deciding. While she has found her BlackBerry to be unreliable at times, she says she’s staying with the company’s device for now.

“It’s a Canadian company,” she says.

“It has a superior security system compared to Apple, which is probably a major reason, I suspect, that they attract a bulk of their customers. I also like a keyboard that I can feel with my fingers.”

And if that is not enough reason, her phone carrier “has me hostage with my contract."

  • Noel C
    The criminal lawyer, and more sadly, the reporter, don't mention the vastly improved new Playbook operating system launched in February 2012. The Playbook is a solid tablet for searching the web, word processing, viewing documents and managing contacts/email. Read the reviews online and judge for yourself.
  • Gil Krieger
    I don't subscribe to the fact that BB is outdated in legal firms. I just acquired a BB Playbook 2.0, which is a great device and has the right size - it even fit in my coat inside pocket, kind of kevlar thing... Believe it or not, some of my colleagues owner of iPad keep joking on me and call me the has-been of the 3rd floor (where my office is). One thing is sure though : Playbook are for those who do, and IPad are for those who try to follow.
  • David Swayze
    I am devoted to Blackberry and bought a 64gb Playbook on April 19, 2011 (release date). I have used it constantly ever since. I have tried every OS update (even the ones that had problems) and could not be happier with it. It is indispensable to my practice and I have convinced at least 6 other lawyers of its benefits who also love it. With OS 2.0 it syncs effortlessly with my office Exchange Server using Activesync and pulls over my calendar and contacts. Bridged to my phone I never worry about whether I have access to wi-fi. The power of the device is unbelievable and for all of Apple's glitz and glamour, the PB is a tool with a bright future. Plus, unlike the iPad, it fits in my pocket. I also could not give up the physical keyboard on my BB Torch. I use my devices for data, email and BBM. I hardly use my phone for calls and I could not imagine trying to peck out email responses on an iPhone keypad. That being said, RIM needs to succeed with BB OS 10 in the fall or it's in trouble.
  • Barbara Buddington
    What the family lawyer says about the IPhone is entirely untrue. With the iCloud or an exchange server (which most firms run on) you have all your contacts and emails (and calendar entries) stored on the web. When my partner finally got his IP, it took about 30 seconds to get all of these things uploaded. His BB had problem after problem, losing contacts, emails not sending, etc, and it took several days before Rogers could get it set up properly. IP CAN send and receive encrypted email as well. BB users are like people defending VHS tapes when DVDs first came out.
  • Alex
    proof that lawyers aren't nearly as intelligent as the general public thinks them to be
  • Sam Winona
    To be realistic, and despite my complete satisfaction in using the Blackberry Bold, the Playbook has been a disaster for me in the way it handles importing folders and contacts from conventional IMAP mail servers. Six hours of web searching and 30 minutes on the phone with Blackberry service settled that the Playbook is limited to POP mail and importing contacts is done exclusively through Blackberry Bridge which disappears when turned off. The iPad took 10 seconds to handle these aspects flawlessly. What is of concern is that this all sounds like over-stressed engineers trying to play a desperate catchuup game of the kind that finished the HP tablet and nearly cratered its reputation with it. Very sad.
  • Arlington Lexington
    "The mere mention of a lawyer using anything but a BlackBerry smartphone would have raised a few eyebrows several years ago."

    I understand you may be exagerrating for effect but, my god, that sounds stodgy. I hope Esther Daniel is eventually able to decide on what device to use. I mean, she probably cannot sleep through the night. Did anyone even think about that?
  • Z
    I have had a BB for a couple of years now and I have never had any problems. I also bought the Playbook and I am very, very happy with it. I find it even better for websites that require Flash. It is also easier to carry given its smaller size. Lastly, the new upgrade has made this product amazing and I would recommend it to everyone.
  • Jerry Olynuk
    I find it interesting that when someone is looking for publicity, the case for or against something has to be exaggerated. I am a longtime BB user and had a PB from day one. I have had "zero" problems. I'll reiterate "zero", not an ounce, a pound or even a tonne. The PB was and still is an incredibly powerful and secure extension of your BB device and the BES. The ironic aspect of the PB, and I agree with this criticism, is that it lacked social and media content. I don't know if RIM can make that jump, but I never hear Apple users drawing such definitive lines around Android, a similar open architecture. Curious, eh?
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