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There are plenty frustrating things about legal writing, like annoying in-text citations, needless jargon, and inflexible word limits. But sometimes just writing is the difficult part. That's because our emails, word processors, and smart phones don't make it easy to use the special characters we need, like section symbols and paragraph signs.
Now there's a keyboard just for lawyers that will end some of that frustration -- and give your mouse and alt key a rest.The LegalBoard was introduced to the world yesterday and promises to let you add a §, a ¶, and much more with just a single keystroke.
Solving a Minor but Common Frustration
The LegalBoard is the brainchild of the attorney Brian Potts, who was tired of manually inserting special symbols in his legal writing. "I was furiously writing a brief when I went to insert a section symbol," he says. "As was my custom, I had to stop what I was doing, use the mouse, go to insert a symbol, find the section symbol and hit insert."
"This process stopped my train of thought, took up my precious time, and more than anything else, was incredibly annoying."
Hence, the thought: why not just add the section symbol to the keyboard itself, making it readily available in the same way that the pound sign and ampersand are? While we're at it, why not throw in the copyright sign and paragraph symbol? (Side note: if you want to be terribly pretentious, you can refer to ¶ by its technical name, the pilcrow, or in Latin, as alinea.)
So Potts did. The LegalBoard has keys devoted to legal writing's most common special characters, as well as keys that will allow you to change spacing, insert phrases like id., add a footnote, and more.
We first heard about the LegalBoard earlier this week, when it was covered by Robert Ambrogi in his LawSites blog. And just in time. The product debuted yesterday, and is now available for lawyers everywhere. At $75 a pop, it's not too expensive for a keyboard. And if you value your keystrokes, it could be a good investment.
But, You Don't Need a Keyboard for That
Of course, there are other solutions to this problem as well. As many lawyers know, you can create your own shortcuts for commonly used symbols in Word. I use alt + 6 for section signs, alt + 7 for paragraph ones. But these are a bit clunky to type and they don't transfer to other programs. When I'm writing an email, for example, my alt + 6 won't do anything.
If you want shortcuts that are available everywhere, you might need something more. Software like ActiveWords lets you create key-activated shortcuts so that every time you tap a specific key combination a section symbol pops up, or a new email, or a draft filing, or a letterhead, etc.
But, if you don't want to program your own shortcuts or wear out your alt key, a keyboard with the signs and symbols you need right on it -- well, it sounds like a pretty good idea.