LegalBoard is the first keyboard designed by lawyers for lawyers. It allows you to add track changes, comments, and common legal terms, symbols, and citations with a single keystroke.
Do Lawyers Really Need Their Own Keyboard?
I’ve seen a lot of lawyers I really respect respond to LegalBoard’s launch like Jeena Cho did:
I do not understand. Why do I need this?
— Jeena Cho ??? (@Jeena_Cho) January 6, 2017
Jeena asks a good question.
I include myself among lawyers who think that bad typography is a problem plaguing legal writing, and that any barriers we can remove to better typography are to be welcomed.
But if my Twitter poll is any indication, nearly a quarter of lawyers (at least lawyers that pay attention to this sort of thing on Twitter) don’t even know what typography is.
Let’s focus on the three problems included in the poll, and a few others. I recently did a demo of the keyboard, and here’s what I found.
You start by plugging it in. No software installation required. You just start by pressing a button and switching to LegalBoard mode. (When LegalBoard mode is off, the keyboard number pad and F1-F12 keys function normally.)
Here is the Lawyerist party line on the biggest obstacle to better legal-writing typography:
One of Windows’ biggest typography shortcomings is working with symbols. Here, a symbol is any character you can’t automatically type into Word using one or two keys. The ones lawyers use the most are the em dash, en dash, §, ¶, and ©. Unless you use a program like AutoHotKey, the only way to enter these symbols in Word (for instance), is to use some combination of Alt + commands.
Here are Word’s default commands for these symbols:
- Em dash: Alt + Ctrl + Num –
- En dash: Ctrl + Num –
- §: Alt + 0167
- ¶: Alt + 0182
- ©: Alt + 0169
The bad news is that (as far as I can tell) the keyboard doesn’t do anything to help you use en and em dashes. Sorry.
But the good news is that using §, ¶, and © are much easier.
Goodbye to Alt + commands. You. Just. Press. One. Key.
Same with ©
You can change your spacing to single, 1.5, and double simply by hitting one of these three keys. (However, the double-spacing button won’t get you true, Matthew Butterick-approved line spacing.)
The footnote key is very handy, but it may reignite the last year’s citations-in-footnotes showdown on Twitter and elsewhere.
Italics, Underlining, and Bold
Track Changes and Comments
No need for Alt + commands for these either. They’re conveniently located right next to the footnote key.
Citations, Signals, and Party Names
Instead of writing out “U.S.” every time you cite a Supreme Court case, “C.F.R.” everytime you cite a federal regulation, and “Plaintiff” every time you need to refer to the opposing party. you can just hit a key.
LegalBoard costs $65. For a comparison, Amazon’s top-selling keyboards range from $30 to $140.
Using the LegalBoard won’t make stop lawyers from using two spaces after a period, writing in Times New Roman, or including unnecessary string citations. But it will make legal writing easier for lawyers, at a modest cost. And that’s a good thing.