Taking notes by hand (w/ pen & paper): A must for lawyers

Posted on 08-13-2014 by
Tags: change , career advancement , Upgrading Your Skills , people , writing

One of the most common objections to going paperless is from people who say they don’t want to read documents on a screen. That turns out to be a valid concern, but probably not because paper is inherently superior to screens.

According to a recent article via the Lawyerist, Scientific American took a look at the studies comparing paper to screens and e-readers and concluded that “[w]hen it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage.”

Interestingly, the reason boils down to attitude. We don’t take screens as seriously, so we scan rather than read deeply. Plus, computers are basically distraction machines, which means our reading is often interrupted by other activities. According to Scientific American, “people reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts—they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once.”

Specifically, people who read on paper are more likely to engage in metacognitive learning regulation. That’s what psychologists call the process of reading, re-reading, and interpreting information in a document. So when you need to understand something thoroughly (like a contract or a summary judgment memorandum), paper is the way to go. When you are reading quickly, it doesn’t really matter whether you read on paper or on a screen.

Your age may matter, too. The attitude that makes people take screens less seriously could very well be the result of experience. Today’s young people start using screens so early that they might grow up with a different attitude about reading on screen.


Susan Ticker
Susan Ticker
Posted on : 14 Aug 2014 11:26 AM

The science is so interesting.  Although I am completely digital for almost everything I do (work and personal) if I am reading or writing something "important" I always revert back to paper and pen.  

David Guzik
David Guzik
Posted on : 14 Oct 2014 5:13 PM

I agree, I always take notes in Paper/Pen

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