Friday, September 26, 2003

A Rant about Legal Pads

I hate legal pads. And I'm going to write a little rant about them.

Why do I hate them? Let me count the ways:
  • They are usually yellow. I don't like yellow. In fact, I don't like any color for paper except white.

  • There is no good way to move from one page to the next after filling the first page with writing. If you remove the first page, then it isn't part of a notebook anymore and you have to find somewhere else to put it.

    But if you flip it over the top, all sorts of unmitigated evils result. First, it is difficult to keep the flipped-over page(s) aligned and in place. It often looks sloppy. Second, as you flip over additional pages, you end up with a huge tubular shape at the top of the legal pad. This is both unsightly and unwieldy. Third, when you go back to read material that was flipped-over long before, the pages simply won't lie flat any more, having become permanently bent. This creates even greater unsightliness and unwieldiness.

    There is one way to avoid permanently bending the paper out of shape. This is by placing the legal pad flat on a table, and then gently lifting each used sheet so that it rests on the table above the legal pad, rather than pulling each used sheet around to the back in a tight curve. This results in a sort of inverted Nike "swoosh" shape, which is less unsightly. But -- here's the rub -- it is even more unwieldy than ever. The slightest movement to the legal pad may make the used sheets flip back into their original position, perhaps causing you to lose your place.

  • There is no effective way to use the backside of any sheet of paper.
A spiral-bound notebook avoids all of these evils. They are almost always plain white, which is much more suitable than yellow. When you are done with a sheet of paper, you simply turn it around to the back in a smooth motion. After you have moved to the next sheet, the entire notebook still lies just as flat as ever, with no tubular shape anywhere in sight.

When you go back to review previously-written material, the pages retain their elegant flatness, due to their never having been excruciatingly bent out of shape. And finally, you can use both sides of the sheets of paper, doubling the available writing space. Even if you normally prefer to write on one side, you still have the left-hand side available if you need to write an additional point for which there is no room on the right.

I have given the matter much thought, and I have concluded that legal pads have no redeeming value whatsoever. In every imaginable respect, they are inferior in both form and function to spiral-bound notebooks. I've often thought, is there any reason that we lawyers use legal pads, other than that we've been fooled by the name? Surely there must be some explanation less utterly nominalistic than that.

There now. Nice to have that off my chest.


Blogger kent said...

I was trying to explain why lawyers use legal pads to my friend yesterday. I came up with "so we can take notes and slide them to each other during a trial." But that's a horrible reason and I drew a blank afterwards.

Maybe we SHOULD just go with spiral notebooks. Or compositions...

1:48 PM  
Blogger Meredith said... Goes over some of the history of legal pads. My personal complaint that sent me searching on Google was that legal pads don't have a cover, and hence are more susceptible to wrinkled pages.

I'm using a set of mini-legal pads as notebooks now, because I honestly do not want to haul six heavy-duty notebooks back and forth to and from school everyday.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On debate we use them because they're practical. Spiral notebooks are too noisy, and take too long to flip from one page to the next when you're trying to take notes in a hurry.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I found this hilarious. All math people seem to use legal pads too and, as a math person, I just converted from spiral notebooks to legal pads. However, I'm considering going back for the reasons you mentioned.

5:41 AM  

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