What is All The Hullaballoo About Banning Laptops in Law School Classrooms?

Marie S. Newman at Out Of The Jungle reports on Professor Eugene Volokh’s ban on laptops in his criminal law classroom at UCLA. Professor Volokh references the ban himself on his own blog, the Volokh Conspiracy. According to Professor Volokh, over 70% of students surveyed reported a strong positive or positive effect on concentration and over 50% reported that they enjoyed the course more after the ban. The responses regarding the positive effect on learning were less marked and many were neutral on that aspect.

Prawfsblawg’s Howard Wasserman reports increased eye contact and decreased keyboard noise following his classroom ban on laptops.

But do these benefits outweigh drawbacks? Some people type with comprehension better than they can write with comprehension. Notes become searchable (unless you are using a Pulse smartpen). Students can quickly hope on-line to flesh out a thought or visit a concept mentioned in the classroom.

I like Ms. Newman’s point that law students should have already adopted their most efficient techniques for learning, assimilating and note-taking before reaching law school. And a laptop ban may cripple many modern students who have developed a keyboard note taking style or rely on digital records for later reinforcement.

As for eye contact, I cannot imagine having better contact with writing than typing: I sit straight up when I type and can offer eye contact with a mere glance, while I famously slouch over my handwritten notes, requiring neck contortions to meet my professor’s gaze. That is, if I even really wanted to do so – eye contact might result in being called on to brief Marbury v. Madison.

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The iPhone for Lawyers Debate Rages On

Still wondering if an iPhone is the right move for you and your law practice? Seems the device is slowly making inroads into the legal community, at least in those firms, companies or agencies that don’t demand employees use a specific device. Alan Cohen writes on the subject for the American Lawyer, noting several firms that allow, if not promote, use of the iPhone, now that the phone incoroporates more business-friendly features, such as Microsoft Exchange, remote wiping and other minor changes.

I approached the article with preconceptions about its conclusions based on my own adoption of the iPhone as an adjunct to my two Blackberries and replacement for my old Palm Treo running Windows Mobile. I believe I have a firm grasp on the phone’s pros and cons. Yes there are cons. But ultimately it depends upon how you use your mobile device. If you are a heavy email user and depend upon broad functionality to cut, paste, move, organize and massage your email information, then the iPhone rates a distant second to the Blackberry. If you are a writer who drafts emails or short documents on your tiny tool, then the iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard and persistent auto-correction likely will frustrate. And unfortunately, you cannot harness all of that gigabytage into a portable hard drive for moving documents or other materials from office to home to back again.

However, if you are interested in morphing your smartphone into a little command center capable of a broader range of functionality, then it is hard to beat Apple’s mobile brainchild. Business and law related offerings from the App store are increasing and now the iPhone may prove a more capable Kindle than the Kindle itself. And it is impossible to beat Safari for the Web experience. With the Web and the Cloud moving to the forefront of business computing, the internet function will gain in importance, propelling the iPhone to the top of the heap.

So, in short, no phone has yet reached that perfect balance between business and personal, form and function. But, when you tally up your needs, the iPhone ably meets a surprising number of them. As Mr. Cohen relates a statement from one of the firms mentioned in the article, not one person who switched to an iPhone went back. And neither have I. Yet.

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