Debuting Tomorrow: A Keyboard Designed Just for Lawyers

image3

[Update: See my hands-on review of the LegalBoard and a video unboxing.]

Brian Potts had me at the section symbol.

The lawyer and founder of Pro-Boards LLC was explaining why he has developed the LegalBoard, a computer keyboard designed specifically for lawyers, which he will formally introduce tomorrow at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

I was furiously writing a brief when I went to insert a section symbol. 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.

What lawyer can’t relate to Potts’ annoyance?

Some of the more technologically astute among you might be thinking, “He could just create a shortcut in Word for the section symbol and his problem would be solved.”

Actually, he couldn’t. At the time, Potts — who is now a partner at Perkins Coie — was a partner at Foley & Lardner. Foley’s computers were networked, and every time he powered down, any shortcuts disappeared.

(Another option is a tool such as ActiveWords, which I reviewed here. I don’t know whether Potts’ network would have allowed that to be installed.)

As he pondered the problem, his first thought was to ask the firm’s technology staff if they could put some sort of section symbol button on his computer screen.

Then it dawned on me that having the section symbol as a key on the keyboard would be even easier.  In fact, having lots of things that lawyers use every day on the keyboard would make my life a lot easier.

Potts went to work with engineers to come up with a keyboard that had keys for the functions lawyers frequently use. After testing prototypes, the LegalBoard was born.

image1

What does it do? I haven’t tried one yet, but Potts describes these features:

  • Insert a footnote or comment with a key stroke, type whatever you want in the footnote or comment, then toggle back to your place in the main body of the document without taking your hands off of the keyboard.
  • Turn track changes on and off.
  • Use the find function.
  • Add a bullet.
  • Add a section symbol, a paragraph symbol or a copyright symbol.
  • Turn italics, underline and bold on or off with a single keystroke.
  • Change the line spacing or add words and phrases that lawyers use all of the time (like court of appeals, plaintiff, appellant, etc.) with a single keystroke.

These functions all work in Word and some also work when typing emails in Microsoft Outlook.

The functions are all available via the F1 through F12 keys and on the number pad.  The keyboard can toggle between legal mode and standard mode, so the number pad and function keys can function normally whenever the user wants.

The LegalBoard will go on sale tomorrow for $65 at legalkeyboards.com. (It may already be on sale today — the website appears to be up and functioning.) Potts says it will pay for itself in weeks in the time it will save a lawyer.

Having now designed a keyboard for lawyers, Potts says his company will go on to create keyboards for other professionals, including doctors, engineers and journalists.

For decades, companies have been working hard to streamline software to make the process of office computing easier.  Yet most of us are still working with an office keyboard designed in the last century.  The keyboard design hasn’t really changed significantly since the typewriter.  Pro-Boards, LLC is looking to change that.

The keyboard is being manufactured by DS International. Here are more images.

 

Posted in:
Updated:
  • Edward Wiest

    Query from something of a keyboard nerd with memory of the feel of a manual typewriter (or at least a springy mechanical keyboard): who supplies the keys for this device?

    • Bob Ambrogi

      Ed – The keyboard is manufactured by DS International. The link to the company’s site is in the post above. I hope to be getting a unit and reviewing it soon.

    • If you are wondering about the switches, there are none. For $65, all you get is a membrane. But I have a review unit and it’s not bad. My daily driver is a a WASD keyboard with Cherry MX Browns, and it’s obviously a pretty noticeable difference. But I don’t think using the LegalBoard would bother me.

      • Royal Pain

        Sorry, I’m not techie…..What do you mean by “membrane” vs. “mechanical”? Thanks!

        • Vinícius Cordeiro

          “Membrane” or “rubber dome” keyboards typically have four elements inside it: two plastic sheets with conductive lines, making a matrix, a intermediary plastic sheet with holes at the exact keys location between these two to prevent unwanted contact, and finally a rubberized (typically silicone rubber) layer that have domes that are are depressed when you type a key, forcing the two layers with conductive lines to get in touch with each other. That closes the circuit for the keyboard controller, that sends a signal to your computer.

          “Mechanical” keyboards uses a physical switch for each and every key.

          • Royal Pain

            Thanks! If it’s just a plastic matt, then I’m not interested. The photo shows what appears to be a traditional keyboard with individual keys which can be depressed. The photo is what caused the confusion……thanks for clearing it up.

            • Bob Ambrogi

              This is a traditional keyboard with individual keys. Mechanical and membrane keyboards look the same and have the same sorts of keys. The difference is in the mechanism under the keys, which you can’t see by just looking at the keyboard. I tried the LawyerBoard and it is very comfortable to type on.

              • Royal Pain

                That’s good to know, thanks. I’m going to order one.

            • Vinícius Cordeiro

              Nope, I’m not talking about rubber matt keyboards, I’m talking about the ones you buy for $15, $20 at any electronics store. This pic shows the rubber dome under the keycap: https://forum.lowyat.net/uploads/attach-90/post-131390-1300705338.jpg

              • Royal Pain

                Thanks for the clarification. Very helpful!

        • Bob Ambrogi

          Purists consider mechanical keyboards to be superior. They’re also more expensive. In a mechanical keyboard, the keys depress actual switches. This provides more precise action, a better feel, and a more audible click. In membrane keyboards, you’re basically just tapping against a circuit board. Your current keyboard is probably membrane.

          • Royal Pain

            I like the tactical feel of individual keys. I also think they’re less prone to mistakes than the plastic matt-type keyboard. The photo shows what appears to be a traditional keyboard with individual keys. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Andrew S

    Or you can press Alt + 21 (numbers keypad) for section symbol; Alt + 20 for paragraph symbol. See full list below http://data.whicdn.com/images/161957585/original.png

  • bradpearce

    Is the keyboard, with the extra functionality, Mac compatible (even though I use Word for Mac, I have to ask)?

    • Not really, no.

    • Anthony Wong

      No. Keyboard mapping is different. Besides section sign is easy = option + 6

  • Stephanie Pillar

    I’d buy this right now – if there was an ergonomic version!

  • Asher Weinberg

    is the remapping of the keys hard coded into the keyboard, or is the programming contained on a server (log in required ie some gaming keyboards) or is it a program on the computer?

  • xenoaroe

    No sale unless it has mechanical switches.

    • Jesse Contreras

      Agreed. I’d be interested if it had mechanical switches. Membrane is a non-starter.

    • Hajila

      Working in a legal office, silence is always the first priority. HP’s wireless silent keyboard is the best I’ve found.

      • Kyle Lyles

        I like to drown out lawyers whenever possible.

  • Garn

    Using ALT+ascii numbers to insert characters has long since been a simple solution to such problems.

    • “Simple.”

      • UVaGrad

        If an attorney can’t manage to remember that the perfectly simple alt+0167 is §, I wonder about his or her ability to remember things that are actually important to his or her case.

        • Its not like that’s the only thing the keyboard does, braniac. Besides, 1 keystroke is simpler than five.

          • Kyle Lyles

            If only Lawyers would use one word instead of five. Oops!

          • Anthony Wong

            Alt+21 would do it too.

  • Pingback: Articles Worth Reading | The Barrister()

  • tomwest

    Given the high salaries of these lawyers, the IT department should take the time to (1) come up with a set of autocorrects in MS Word for these symbols (2) ensure they are present on everybody’s computer. It’s not hard.

    • Hajila

      It’s not hard. I’m one of those high priced lawyers and I don’t even have a desk. They have ten of us crammed in a conference room sharing 3 monitors for our standard issue work laptops, and my situation is not unique. The resources are not what they should be.

  • Pingback: A Quick Post on Keyboard Shortcuts | Ziff Blog()

  • Brett

    Any idea if it’s possible to change one of the keys to a local citation (e.g. S.E.2d) vs say the CFR (which I wouldn’t use often)?

    • Hajila

      Yes. You can create a macro within word or excel that will do that when hitting any key or combination of keys. I can’t do that at my job because IT has certain macro functions disabled. As long as you aren’t locked out, it’s rather easy to do.

  • Pingback: What's in it for Lawyers at CES 2017 - Legal Productivity()

  • Pingback: Looking for a section symbol key? New keyboard is designed for lawyers -RocketNews()

  • “Some of the more technologically astute among you might be thinking, “He could just create a shortcut in Word for the section symbol and his problem would be solved.”

    Actually, he couldn’t. At the time, Potts — who is now a partner at Perkins Coie — was a partner at Foley & Lardner. Foley’s computers were networked, and every time he powered down, any shortcuts disappeared.”

    This product results from a failure of the firm’s IT department and/or support staff. A simple solution to the problem as explained above would be to create firm-wide document templates that contain common shortcuts that are available to all users (e.g., ALT+CTRL+P for the para. symbol, ATL+CTRL+S for the section symbol).

  • Pingback: Looking for a section symbol key? New keyboard is designed for lawyers | 1 NEWS NET()

  • Pingback: Tech Comptence: A Keyboard for Lawyers – Ethical Grounds()

  • HillAppealing

    All of this because he could save his shortcuts? What a waste of money. Should have had I.T. change the policy. And a membrane keyboard? That’s not a selling point. It’s a liability.

  • HillAppealing

    All of this because he couldn’t save his shortcuts? Should have just asked I.T. to change its policy. And a membrane keyboard? That’s not a selling point. It’s a liability.

  • Pingback: Hands On With the LegalBoard - The Keyboard Just for Lawyers - Robert Ambrogi's LawSites()

  • Brendan Kenny

    If you’d like to know more about LegalBoard, I wrote a review of it for Lawyerist today.

  • Pingback: Video: Unboxing and Using the LegalBoard - Robert Ambrogi's LawSites()

  • Dan Faber

    Does it work with WordPerfect?

  • Armæn Lexavüs

    Good idea, but weak execution. Should be wireless (this is a no brainer, c’mon guys its 2017). Also, many bluetooth keyboards allow you to toggle between devices – desktop, tablet, mobile phone (texting). This has potential but needs some improvements before I’m ready to buy