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December 13, 2010

Supreme Court Justices are now doing reading on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new video from a portion of a C-SPAN interview with new Justice Elena Kagan. The video is titled "Justice Kagan on Using a Kindle to Read Briefs," and in the segment Justice Kagan reports on how she uses the Kindle to read all the SCOTUS briefs, and also discusses that Justice Scalia has his briefs on an iPad. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)

In a series of posts about technology and legal education over at the blog Law School Innovation (where I am cross-posting this post), I have suggested that the advancement of new reading technologies will at some point transform legal education. I articulated the point this way in this post after first seeing the iPad in action earlier this year:

[A] casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records.  Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media.  But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors.  The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.

When traveling to speak at various conferences, I have noticed more and more lawyers with iPads and other e-readers. I expect that buzz about the Justices reading briefs on e-readers might add even more juice to the on-going digital revolution in the collection and distribution of legal materials. And if law schools do not get with the program soon, I fear we will be doing even worse than usual in training the next generation of lawyers.

Though this post fits better at my Law School Innovation blog, I have cross-posted it here because I am eager to hear from practitioners about their use of technology (and whether there are any particular technologies that a criminal law professor ought to make the focus of more student instruction). In addition, I have to assume that it is only a matter of time before we have a federal sentencing guidelines app.

December 13, 2010 at 03:20 PM | Permalink


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Only bought a Kindle a couple of weeks ago, after a few years now of waiting for an eBook reader worthy of the name. I have absolutely no doubt of its impact on the world of publishing and the future reading habits of millions of students and others. Whether the iPad is sufficiently sophisticated to merge the eBook experience with other computing functions I cannot judge, but I am very happy to own a good laptop, a mobile phone and a Kindle, which together form a complimentary, formidable and practical armory of technology for my everyday needs.

Posted by: peter | Dec 14, 2010 4:21:51 AM

In relation to e-filing and the courts' use of electronic briefs I have always been concerned about whether a brief appearing on a computer screen or other electronic format may be as easily digested as a hard copy brief. I believe, with a hard copy, it is easier for the reader to move quickly from page to page to find text that the reader may wish to reference in relation to a distant page. I also believe is is easier to handwritten notes or otherwise highlight text with a hard copy.
On the other hand, it does seem like the courts should have these documents in electronic format if they wish to view them that way. I believe they print them out if they want a hard copy to read. Also, keeping the official record in electronic format is probably a great deal less expensive than warehousing hard copies.

Posted by: Tim Holloway | Dec 14, 2010 10:06:26 AM

I think with items such as the iPad, we will see real advances in law friendly tech devices. Highlighting features and note taking features are pretty standard now for both docs and pdfs. Hyperlinks to other docs in court filings (such as to a page in a depo, or an exhibit) would be far superior to flipping through a thick submission or, worse, a box of file. Making every case cite a hyperlink would be pretty cool, too.

I can also see text books with hyperlinks to caselaw, annotated Codes or law review articles. I would have loved that in law school. Of course, I would have loved a laptop in law school.

Posted by: Ala JD | Dec 14, 2010 12:26:44 PM

The red cheeks on a corpse in a funeral home open casket is not a sign of good health, just of superficial makeup. As long as the Justices believe in core supernatural doctrines of Scholasticism, the law will be moribund and atavistic.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 15, 2010 4:33:38 AM

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