TYLA Officers


Rebekah Steely Brooker, President


Dustin M. Howell, Chair


Sam Houston, Vice President


Baili B. Rhodes, Secretary


John W. Shaw, Treasurer


C. Barrett Thomas, President-elect


Priscilla D. Camacho, Chair-elect


Kristy Blanchard, Immediate Past President

TYLA Directors


Amanda A. Abraham, District 1


Sharesa Y. Alexander, Minority At-Large Director


Raymond J. Baeza, District 14

    Aaron J. Burke, District 5, Place 1

Aaron T. Capps, District 5, Place 2


D. Lance Currie, District 5, Place 3


Laura W. Docker, District 10, Place 1

    Andrew Dornburg, District 21
    John W. Ellis, District 8, Place 2
    Zeke Fortenberry, District 4

Bill Gardner, District 5, Place 4


Morgan L. Gaskin, District 6, Place 5

    Nick Guinn, District 18, Place 1

Adam C. Harden, District 6, Place 6


Amber L. James, District 17


Curtis W. Lucas, District 9

    Rudolph K. Metayer, District 8, Palce 1

Laura Pratt, District 3

    Sally Pretorius, District 8, Place 2

Baili B. Rhodes, District 2


Alex B. Roberts, District 6, Place 3

    Eduardo Romero, District 19
    Michelle P. Scheffler, District 6, Place 2

John W. Shaw, District 10, Place 2

    Nicole Soussan, District 6, Place 4
    L. Brook Stuntebeck, District 11

C. Barrett Thomas, District 15

    Judge Amanda N. Torres, Minority At-Large Director

Shannon Steel White, District 12

    Brandy Wingate Voss, District 13
    Veronica S. Wolfe, District 18, Place 2

Baylor Wortham, District 7

    Alex Yarbrough, District 16


Justice Paul W. Green, Supreme Court Liaison


Jenny Smith, Access To Justice Liaison


Brandon Crisp, ABA YLD District 25 Representative


Travis Patterson, ABA/YLD District 26 Representative


Assistant Dean Jill Nikirk, Law School Liaison


Belashia Wallace, Law Student Liaison


TYLA Office

Tracy Brown, Director of Administration
Bree Trevino, Project Coordinator

Michelle Palacios, Office Manager
General Questions: tyla@texasbar.com

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
(800) 204-2222 ext. 1529
FAX: (512) 427-4117

Street Address

1414 Colorado, 4th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 427-1529


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.





























































Article of Interest

Article of Interest

Legal Writing for Tablet Readers
By:  Robert Dubose, Alexander, Dubose & Townsend L.L.P.

Why reading technology matters

          Over the past two decades, technology has profoundly changed the way most of us read. Once we read entirely on paper. Now we read more on screens.

          As researchers have discovered, screen reading has changed our reading habits too. In response, web designers and electronic publishers have changed the look of electronic documents.

          For instance, most documents created for the Internet look different than books, magazines, or newspapers. Texts are shorter. Paragraphs are shorter. Headings are frequent. Structure is more visible.

          In the last year, we have seen the emergence of a new reading tool that may bring additional changes in the way our audience reads – the tablet computer.  Led by the iPad, the tablet has become a widely used reading technology. In 2011, tablet sales reached about 60 million units; of those, about 38 million were iPads. Tablet sales are forecasted to outpace PC sales within three years. Because of their small size and portability, tablets make it easier to read news, books, and legal briefs when out of the office.

          Should lawyers rethink legal writing? Most law schools teach a writing style geared to paper readers – long text, long paragraphs, and complex, lengthy development of arguments. Yet, as countless web pages illustrate, screen readers prefer something different – a highly structured text that is easy to read rapidly.

I.        How is our audience reading?

          I have been asking this question to judges and lawyers across the county for a few years. The answers vary, and they have been changing rapidly.

     • Business clients. If you send a business client a document – an email, a contract, a litigation report, or a draft brief – they are much more likely to read it on some sort of screen. More offices today use electronic document management rather than paper. Paper is too expensive for an efficient office – not so much because of printing costs, but because of the costs of managing paper files. A few business clients may print long documents, such as drafts, for study or editing. But reading hard copies in an office is becoming rare.

     • Courts. Three years ago, most judges I asked were reading legal documents exclusively on paper. Most courts were still managing their files, and court filings with paper. Yet, over the last several years, most Texas courts have switched to e-filing and electronic file management. In courts that have made the switch, judges are far more likely to access and read documents on a screen rather than paper. A few judges resolutely prefer paper over screens, even though their courts manage files electronically. But, their number shrinks every year. And small group of judges alternate between reading on paper and screens; they are more likely to read on paper when they need to study a complex issue in depth.

          The tablet fits a unique reading niche – portable reading. Tablets are easier than books or computers to use for reading when traveling, at the breakfast table, or in the bedroom. For instance, early studies are showing that tablet use is lower during office hours and significantly higher in the evening. In an office, a tablet often is not as easy to use as PC because the PC has a larger screen and because it is easier on a PC to view multiple programs at one time using windows.

          My discussions with judges and lawyers indicate that in the office they are much more likely to read an electronic document on a PC rather than a tablet. But outside the office, judges and lawyers who have tablets are more likely to use them for reading.

II.       Reading environment and habits for three reading technologies.

          Whether a document is read on paper or a screen, the words are the same. Why would the reading technology change the reading experience? The answer lies in each technology’s reading environment.

          1 - Paper reading — studying text

          Try a thought experiment. Visualize a person studying.

          You probably pictured a student, professor, or maybe even a judge, deep in thought, pouring over a paper or a book. This is because paper is the reading technology we associate with studying.

          There is good reason for this. A paper reader is typically immersed in a single text, slowly absorbing its meaning. Paper readers tend to do one task at a time. They tend to read more slowly, more carefully.

          Among judges, lawyers, and clients whose files are managed electronically, some report that they still prefer to read a paper copy of documents that are long or complex. They report that they can concentrate and study on the paper document instead of reading in a computer environment.

          2 - PC reading—rapid information gathering and multitasking

          PC reading is something different. The PC creates a different environment because so much more information is available and easier to access. In a paper environment, the amount of information is finite. In a paper-based office, we could read the papers in front of us, the books on the shelf, and perhaps the books in the library.

          In contrast, information on a PC is limitless. The Internet gives us access to more information than we could read in many lifetimes. Also limitless are the opportunities for communication, entertainment, and distraction. Most of us read much more than we did 20 years ago simply because there is much more to read.

          For instance, in the pre-Internet law office, written communication was by letter. Even with a fax machine, I sent far fewer text communications each day by letter than I do today by e-mail. E-mail makes communication faster and easier. So we compose more text than we did in the age of paper. And we must read that much more text too.

          The PC also gives us quicker access to information. Search engines such as Google allow us to type a few words and find the information we need within seconds. We do not have to think as much to find the information we need.

          By the late 1990s web designers had learned that the Internet’s information explosion had changed the very mechanics of reading. Paper readers had generally read left-to-right, line-by-line. Yet when web designers tracked the eye movements of screen readers, they found something different:

         • screen readers are more likely to skim text, focusing only on a few portions of the page;
         • most screen readers spend time looking up and down the left side of the page looking for signs of structure, such as the beginning of headings or paragraphs;
         • most screen readers focus on particular lines of text, such as headings, and the first sentences of paragraphs;

         For legal writers there are two lessons from this research:

         1) Screen readers do not read everything. Especially with long texts, web designers find that screen readers do not read; they skim.

        2) Screen readers look for structure. Screen readers spend much of their reading time looking down the left side of the page for signs of structure such as paragraph breaks, the beginning of headings, bullet points, and lists. Understanding the structure helps the screen reader process the information more quickly.

          In a PC environment, skimming is a necessary adaptation because of the increased amount of information. The PC has created a culture of rapid information gatherers. Screen readers do not have the time, or patience, to read word-for-word. They need to read rapidly to be able to read everything that they want to read.

          Another important feature of today’s PC is the ability to multitask. Starting in the late 1980s, multitasking operating systems, such as Windows, made it possible for computers to run more than one program at once. Multitasking enables users to rapidly jump from one program to another.

          In a work environment, the impact of multitasking is significant. For instance, I work with two computer monitors. At any moment, I am likely to have open at least 10 windows, including my Outlook Inbox, a handful of emails that I need to address, Westlaw, and two or three different documents, either in MS Word or Acrobat.

          Studies suggest that this new multitasking environment is not ideal for high-level thinking. When we read in a PC environment, we tend to get distracted by emails or by information on the Internet. With each distraction, it becomes more difficult to follow the thread of a long text, or a densely structured argument.

          If our readers are reading in the same sort of environment, it becomes more challenging for us as legal writers to communicate complex legal information to them.

          3 - Tablet reading — faster information gathering, but more focus than a PC

          There have been few published studies about how tablet reading may differ from PC reading. In 2011, as more and more judges reported that they liked reading documents on iPads, I did some first-hand research. I began using an iPad for reading news, books, and legal documents. I found a different reading environment from a PC, and I noticed my reading habits changing yet again.

          I expected that reading on an iPad would resemble reading on a computer. In theory, the volume of information should be the same. Both a PC and an iPad are typically connected to the Internet, and therefore the same world of information. But I found that the iPad makes rapid information gathering easier, more fun, and even faster.

          Portability. The iPad makes screen reading portable. Studies have found that people who read books on PCs tend to read them during the day. Yet people who read books on iPads tend to read from 7 pm to 11 pm. This is because the iPad is easier to read at dinner, on a sofa, or in bed. It also makes reading much easier when traveling.

          Apps. IPad applications, or apps, make the user’s favorite information sources available more quickly. For instance, to use Westlaw on a PC, the user must go through several steps: (1) opening the internet browser, (2) opening the favorites bar, clicking the link to Westlaw, and then (3) entering a password. The Westlaw app for iPad allows the user to skip the first two steps. Although the difference only saves a few seconds, the app makes information sources seem much more accessible.

          In my experience iPad apps encourage rapid review of news summaries or other short bits of information to gather information as quickly as possible. Apps have changed my reading habits by making more sources of information more accessible. As a result I have been gathering information on an iPad much faster than on a PC.

          No windows. Compared to a PC, an iPad discourages multitasking within the device itself. It does not allow users to open separate windows running different programs. Although two programs can run at once, a user cannot “see” both programs in the same way as with windows.

          In my experience the absence of windows makes a difference. The iPad discourages multitasking, and is better for focused reading than a PC – even if the focused reading is at a rapid pace.

          Smaller screen. Tablet screens are smaller than PC screens. For many texts, such as internet pages, not as much content fits on a single iPad screen. The iPad does make it easy for users to adjust text size and orient text horizontally or vertically. This makes it possible, using an iPad app such as iAnnotate to view an entire page on a single screen. But the reader must orient the iPad vertically and size the text fairly small.

         When I read a document on an iPad, I typically size the text so that less than half of an ordinary paper page is visible on the screen at one time. This makes it harder to see where a particular sentence or argument fits within the larger body of text. As a result visible structure is very important for tablet readers.

          III.  Advice for writing to tablet readers

          The tablet environment encourages focused, rapid information gathering. Tablet users read quickly, often for short durations. Like PC screen readers, they need visible structure in order to give the overall context of the particular argument they are reading.

          These are a few tips for making legal documents easier to read for tablet users. Although these tips are focused on the needs of tablet users, they will not detract from the reading experience for PC or paper readers.

          1. Visible structure.

          Eye-tracking research shows that screen readers need structure to process information rapidly. One curious feature of the reading pattern is that readers appear to spend as much time looking up and down the page as they do reading lines of text across the page from left to right. This demonstrates that screen readers spend much of their reading time looking for signs of structure.

          Web designers have learned that visible structure enables rapid information gathering. For legal writers, the lesson is that visible structure is crucial for our readers to understand our primary arguments and to see quickly the structure of an argument’s logic.

          In a tablet environment, the need for structure is even greater. Tablets encourage rapid information gathering and speed reading. Yet with a smaller screen, it is easier for readers to lose their “place” – that is, to fail to see the relationship of a particular paragraph or sentence with the overall argument.

          Useful structural tools include:

          • Frequent headings. Particularly in an argument, headings are very useful to give the reader the overall logical structure. Because a tablet screen is smaller, tablet readers need frequent headings to remind them of their place in the argument.

          • Outlines. Outlines help show the overall structure of the argument.

          • Topic sentences. The F-pattern shows that screen readers are more likely to read the first sentence of paragraphs. This lesson is also true of iPad users, who tend to be rapid information gatherers. A useful topic sentence is one that persuasively summarizes the argument of the paragraph.

          • Lists/Bullets. Lists are useful to delineate separate arguments or support. Lists show structure-oriented readers how many points support an argument and where each new point begins. Bullets points are useful to delineate examples or support where the number of points is not important.

          2. Short bookmarks.

          When I ask judges who read legal documents on tablets for advice, the one suggestion they almost always give is: “use bookmarks.” A bookmark is a feature in many programs that allows a user to jump from a heading in a table of contents to the corresponding heading in the document. For instance, this image of the iAnnotate app includes a bookmark pane that outlines the legal argument:

          Tablets require an extra step in bookmarking. When Microsoft Word or Word Perfect converts an outline-structured document to Acrobat, they convert the full text of marked headings to bookmarks. This is not a problem for PC readers because an ordinary-length sentence will fit in the bookmark pane. But it is a problem for tablet readers. On the smaller screen of a tablet, only the first five or six words of a heading will appear in the bookmark pane.

          The solution is to edit bookmarks for tablet readers. Even if a heading is sentence-length, it is possible to truncate the bookmark. For instance, this entire argument heading may be bookmarked:

          The statute of limitations bars Sharpwell’s claim of minority shareholder oppression.

On a PC the entire bookmark would be available in the outline navigation pane. But on a tablet, it is too long. The solution is for the writer to truncate the bookmark to:

          Limitations – oppression.

Headings are a good idea whether a document is read on paper or on a screen. But on a tablet the extra step of editing the bookmark is required to make it readable.  Careful attention to bookmarks will make an electronic document easier to use.

          3. No footnotes / some hyperlinks.

          A number of tablet readers have reported that footnotes are very difficult to read on a tablet. Because of the smaller screen, footnotes often do not appear on the same screen as the footnoted text. It is difficult to scroll back and forth between the footnotes and the text. In the tablet era, the best advice is to avoid footnotes.

          In contrast, most tablet readers report that they prefer some hyperlinks. A hyperlink allows the reader to click on a link to view other documents, such as important exhibits, statutes, and cases. Since tablets have limited memory, it is important to limit hyperlinks to the most important documents that you want your reader to see.


          There is room for debate about whether technology’s effect on reading is beneficial or harmful to the law. On one hand, lawyers have long valued the act of studying law. That is why most American bar associations require several years of legal study before an attorney may be licensed. Technology is discouraging study and deep thinking at the same time that it encourages rapid information gathering. Because we are observing this transition as it happens, the effect of technologies on reading may appear disturbing.

          On the other hand, rapid information gathering is a necessary adaptation to this new rapid, information-rich environment. Lawyers and judges are knowledge professionals. By using electronic research, communication, and document management, lawyers and courts can gather more information in less time.

          Whether these changes are beneficial or harmful, the reality for legal writers is that the reading habits of our audience are changing. To communicate and persuade, we must be able to understand how our audience is reading and adapt to make our writing usable for all styles of reading.

          As the recent explosion of tablet computing demonstrates, reading technology is changing rapidly. For legal writers, it is important keep up with the changes. We must learn which technologies judges and clients are using. And we should find ways to make our documents more useful in these new reading environments.