Optimize iOS for the Law Firm

By Ivan Hemmans, ABA TECHSHOW Board 2015

Imagine a spectrum with security on one end and convenience on the other. An iPhone – or iPad – would sit on the convenience edge of such a spectrum, without question. Out of the box, the device walks its new user through a fairly simple setup process that promotes establishing an iCloud account and setting an “unlock” code. Neither the code nor iCloud account are required, but following the path of least resistance leads most people to a pretty good place. Lawyers who handle confidential or privileged information and use an iPhone or iPad as a routine part of their practices will want to make a few setting changes to optimize iOS and ensure that it safeguards their valuable data. 

Establish a Complex Device Passcode

A device passcode prevents unauthorized people from gaining access to data stored on an iPhone or iPad. As mentioned earlier, iOS doesn’t require establishing one during device setup, but chances you already have. A complex code, one that contains both letters and numbers, is much harder to guess than a simple numeric one.

To set a device passcode, touch Settings > Touch ID & Passcode or Settings > Passcode. In older versions of iOS, the passcode setting is available under Settings > General.

For devices without Touch ID or Touch ID devices where fingerprints haven’t been stored, it is possible to “Require Passcode” after a short idle-time delay. By default, passcodes are required immediately. Introducing a short delay can make using a passcode less of a hassle.

Disable Siri on the Lock Screen

Siri is a powerful digital assistant that has access to any contacts, calendar appointments, text messages, and email syncing to an iPhone or iPad. By default, Siri is available on the lock screen, which means that anyone can ask basic questions and access limited information without needing to know an unlock code. Here are a few questions Siri will answer on a locked device:

  • Where do I live?
  • Who is my spouse?
  • What’s my home address?
  • Reply to my text message
  • Where is my next appointment?
  • What’s on my calendar for tomorrow?
  • Who is [insert name of client here]?
  • Which of my contacts work at Sony?

To disable Siri on the lock screen, touch Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Siri or Settings > Passcode > Siri. In older versions of iOS, the passcode setting is available under Settings > General.

Similarly, lawyers may choose to disable Today view, Notifications, and Reply with Message on the lock screen.

Disable Text Message Previews on the Lock Screen

By default, the Messages app shows the full text of any text messages or iMessages on the lock screen. Lawyers may, depending on the sensitivity of the matters on which they work, choose to customize notifications for the Messages app

On the Home screen, touch Settings > Notifications > Messages > Show Previews. With “Show Previews” disabled next message notifications will still appear on the lock screen, but in lieu of the full message text, each notification will simply read “Text Message”. One must unlock the device to read any messages.

Customize Notification Settings for Important Apps

One of the great things about iOS is that it allows for customizing how apps alert you of events that happen on a device. In the previous section we customized a notification setting for Messages to limit information displayed on the lock screen. What follows is a simple overview of how notifications work and how you might use them. It is not meant to be the ultimate guide, for that visit imore.com and read How to use Notification Center for iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide.

Virtually every app installed on an iPhone or iPad has notification settings. In most cases, these options are available under Settings > Notifications. By default, notifications are sorted manually, which means that the order in which they are listed controls the order in which they are displayed when multiple notifications stack up. There are two groups of notifications: Include and Do Not Include. Alerts are either included in the Notification Center or they aren’t. The Notification Center appears in a menu that can be pulled down from the top of an iPhone or iPad screen. Touch and hold the time at the top of the screen, then drag downward. The Notification Center appears. Dismiss Notification Center by dragging it back up.

Let’s look at an item that isn’t included in the Notification Center by default, Mail. If you haven’t already done so, touch Settings > Notifications. Scroll down to Mail in the list, it should be in the Do Not Include section. If you have multiple mail accounts, you can establish separate notifications for each. Touch an account, then select the desired options: Show in Notification Center, Notification Sound, Badge App Icon, Show on Lock Screen. You can select an Alert Style: None, Banner, or Alerts. None, as the name implies, doesn’t waste time alerting you to new messages. Banners will display a small banner at the top of the screen for a few seconds. When a banner appears, you can tap it to open the app that’s alerting you, or you can drag it downward to see available actions. Alerts are designed to interrupt whatever you’re doing until you interact with them. Banners are the most common type of alert, which you might decide is worth enabling for your most important email accounts.

But Wait, There’s More

These are but a few of the settings available for customizing an iPhone and iPad. For example, you could spend a few moments ensuring that the default mail, calendar, contacts, notes, and reminders accounts are set the way you want. Or, you could spend time arranging apps into folders on screens according to the kinds of apps you keep or kind of work you do. There are many virtual knobs and levers available to tweak in an effort to make your i-device sing. With the settings mentioned above, your iPhone or iPad can slide closer to the security end of the spectrum.


Reprinted with Permission. 2014© by the American Bar Association.  All rights reserved.  This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association