A look at a new keyboard designed just for lawyers
By John G. Browing
How many times have you thought that some of the hardware and software we use on a daily basis as lawyers might be more user-friendly if an actual lawyer had helped design them? I know I have, particularly when it comes to the preparation of appellate briefs and lengthy motions. How much easier would that process be if you didn’t have to, say, insert a symbol for “section” or type out the entire word “appellant” every time, instead of just hitting one key. Well, then, I have good news for you, because the LegalBoard is here.
LegalBoard, a keyboard designed just for lawyers, is the brainchild of Brian Potts, a partner at Perkins Coie in Madison, Wisconsin. Frustrated with having to halt his train of thought to insert frequently used symbols, Potts worked with engineers to develop a keyboard equipped with keys for the functions lawyers frequently use, using the F1 through F12 function keys as well as the number pad. And lest you worry about the ease of switching back for normal correspondence or even having others use the keyboard, it easily shifts from “lawyer mode” to “standard mode” so the number pad and function keys can be used in their normal fashion. When you want to return to lawyer mode, you simply hit the “L” button at the upper left of the number pad.
In lawyer mode, the F1 through F12 keys correspond to commonly used words and abbreviations. For example, F2 is “e.g.,” F4 is “F.3d,” F6 is “F.Supp.,” F9 is “plaintiff,” F10 corresponds to “defendant,” F11 equals “appellant,” etc. The number keys insert words or symbols: pressing “0” gets you “court,” hitting the “ENT” key gives you “court of appeals,” the number 7 key equals “§,” and so forth. Meanwhile, other number keys perform specific tasks, such as adding a footnote, turning track changes on or off, changing the line spacing, and formatting text as italics, underlined, or bold. Yes, I confess to getting excited over being able to add a footnote by pressing a single key (don’t judge).
Essentially, the LegalBoard is designed as a timesaver, and for lawyers, time is money. Physically, the keyboard itself is impressive—sturdy, easy to use, and not at all stiff or clunky on the keystrokes. And while my own use was focused on Word or Windows, most of the LegalBoard’s functions also work in other Microsoft Office products such as Outlook and PowerPoint. While not specifically designed for other operating systems like Mac or Linux, some functions— but not all—do work with a Mac. The LegalBoard isn’t perfect. Statespecific brief writers won’t see an “S.W.3d” or “Tex.App.” function key, for example. And others in this legal market are trying to approach the same problem LegalBoard does with a software solution instead of a hardware one. Citepad, for example, also lets you insert commonly used symbols and citation words with a single click, and it, too, was developed by an attorney (Las Vegas-based lawyer Emily Montgomery). Unfortunately, at the moment Citepad only works on Macs and Windows.
But all in all, for lawyers who do a lot of brief writing, like appellate specialists, the LegalBoard is a nifty timesaver.
The LegalBoard retails for $65. For more information, go to legalkey boards.com. TBJ
JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and is the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at SMU Dedman School of Law.