The following piece will be published in the May/June issue of the Nebraska Lawyer Magazine. Patrick McNamara is the Editor of the Young Lawyers' Section Page of the Nebraska Lawyer Magazine:
Thank you to whomever invented the legal pad. While I love my Retina iPad, iPhone with super fast LTE connectivity, and 5mm thin 27” iMac, arguably none of them have had such an impact on my productivity as the lowly legal pad. I suspect there are not many readers of this magazine that would disagree with me.
Possibly the greatest attribute of the legal pad over modern technology is that you’re free to write anywhere on the page. I’ll come right out and say it - I <3 the left margin of the legal pad. I love that there’s a set space on the side of the page where you can add notes to your notes. And if I want to draw an arrow from one spot on the page to another, who’s going to stop me? Try doing that while taking notes in Microsoft Word. Each morning I write a “to do” list on a legal pad. Being able to physically cross off completed tasks throughout the day is a great feeling.
Legal pads are cheap too! A twelve pack of legal pads is cheaper than a twelve pack of cheap beer. I keep a pad in each of my clients’ files which I use anytime I meet the client in person or speak with them or opposing counsel on the phone.
One setting in particular where a legal pad excels over advanced technology is the client meeting. Taking notes on a legal pad is infinitely more personal than typing away on a laptop. The laptop creates both a physical and psychological barrier between you and the client. Without being able to see what you’re typing, the client may be less willing to divulge important details that could help in your representation. Contrast that with the legal pad, where a client may notice you writing down important details, giving him or her confidence that you are paying attention to and care about his or her issues.
The beautiful simplicity of the legal pad makes it a tool that every attorney should take advantage of. I’ll leave the question of the best color legal pad for another day (hint: it isn't yellow).