Klarissa Jeiel: Where Law Meets Design

Should I Buy An iPad for Law School?

Thinking about buying an iPad for law school? Read this article by a law student to find out why you should!

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If you’ve just been accepted to law school (congratulations!) or you’re a new law student, you may be wondering if you should buy an iPad for law school. A lot of students in law school and in general now have iPads. Since we live in a digital world, the iPad has become the perfect companion for tackling a student’s daily life of online classes/meetings, note-taking, studying, etc. so if you don’t already own one, the big question is should you? and the answer is a big fat YES!

If you were looking for a sign to finally buy that iPad you’ve been eyeing for a while, this is it. In this blog, I will give you the top three reasons, based on my own personal experience, why I think you should (nay, why you need) to buy an iPad for law school.

Already own an iPad? Read this blog on How to Use iPad in Law School instead.

Reason #1: There’s a LOT of reading in law school

If you haven’t already heard it before, there is a LOT of reading in law school. I kid you not I went from reading 0 pages a day (okay, so that’s not entirely true because I read fiction but that’s reading for fun which doesn’t count) to reading 100+ pages per day. Some case decisions were 60-80 pages long and you had to read multiple cases in one day!

Now you might be thinking, do you really have to read ALL of the readings assigned? No. No, you don’t. Eventually, you’ll learn what’s important and what’s not and can start being selective about which readings you have to do and which ones you don’t. But at the beginning, you’ll have to read everything or at least have to read a lot to be able to develop that skill. In the beginning, you’re really still learning (how to spot issues, how to find the ratio decidendi, how to apply the law). So it’s really important to do as many readings as you can.

I personally did all of the assigned readings in the first half of my 1L year. Some of those readings were in textbooks but professors also loved to provide online copies of case excerpts and articles. I didn’t have an iPad at the time and since I preferred to highlight words and jot down notes on the margins by hand, I would print out the pages. At the end of my first semester of 1L, I had stacks and STACKS of printouts. It was terrible. Not only for my pocket (printer ink costs a lot) but also for the environment. This is the main reason why I decided to buy an iPad soon after and why I think you should too!

During the second semester, the amount of pages I printed out went down drastically as I used my iPad to do all of my readings. I got to highlight words and take handwritten notes with an Apple pencil without the need for a physical copy of the document. On top of that, using an iPad to do readings has many other perks. For example, you can copy/paste text. Look up a word in the dictionary. Undo/redo. Add digital sticky notes of all shapes and sizes. Have more control over the colour of your highlights. And, my favourite, buy electronic versions of textbooks you can digitally annotate, which are usually cheaper than their physical counterparts!

Reason #2: An iPad is lightweight and portable

With the world getting back to “normal” and most classes in law school returning to in-person, having an iPad that can replace your textbooks is a lifesaver! Your back and shoulders will thank you. No, seriously. Have you seen how big law textbooks are? They’re BIG. And they weigh like rocks. If you have an iPad and buy e-textbooks instead, it will make your daily commute so much easier. Even if you still have to purchase physical textbooks, having some textbooks in digital format can make a huge difference. I mean sure, you don’t need an iPad to buy e-textbooks. You can also use a laptop but it’s just not the same!

Plus, if you have an iPad, you can choose to bring that to law school instead of a laptop. Its lightweight and portability makes it more ideal to carry around than a laptop. Especially if you have a presentation or group work activity. I know I often preferred to use my iPad over my laptop during a negotiation, for example, because it required us to move around the room and talk to other students. My laptop was far too clunky to carry around. It was also distracting because I had to set it down in front of me which would block my view of my negotiation partner (I kept having to awkwardly lower the laptop screen to talk/listen then raise it back up to take notes). An iPad can come in handy if you find yourself in similar situations.

Reason #3: You can use an iPad to stay organized and motivated while in law school

You can take notes digitally on an iPad to keep all of them organized in one place. This also goes back to Reason #2. If you switch to digital notetaking, you can say goodbye to physical notebooks and binders! Even less stuff to carry in your backpack to law school. An iPad for taking notes digitally is great! There are many apps out there like Goodnotes that are specifically designed for it. You’ll have more control over your notes. Kind of like with digitally annotating your readings that I mentioned above, you get the ability to copy/paste text, undo/redo actions, add images and sticky notes, change pen and highlighter colours, etc. You can even make a copy of your professor’s slides and take notes directly on them.

Beyond notetaking, an iPad can be a powerful tool for studying. There are hundreds of useful apps out there like Quizlet and Forest for students. And don’t even get me started on digital planning. There is a whole community just on that. With an iPad, you can consider using a digital planner to keep on top of everything while in law school!

Related: 2023-24 Digital Law School Planner

Well, there you have it. Top three reasons why you should buy an iPad for law school. There are many more reasons, of course e.g. I’ve seen other students use their iPad as a second monitor during exams so that’s another reason but these top three pretty much cover the most useful aspects of the iPad.

Now, I do recognize that the iPad is expensive. Yes, it’s cheaper than a laptop but still pricey for many. So while I advocate pretty hard for it, you don’t really *need* it if you can’t afford it. Don’t go bankrupt just to buy an iPad for law school. Many students survive and even do well without one. That said, it does have a ton of benefits so if you do have the means, you should seriously consider getting one!

In my opinion, it’s an investment since you’ll be using it every day for at least three years of law school. And you don’t have to buy the more expensive iPad Air or iPad Pro. The base model will do. In fact, that’s what I have because I too couldn’t afford anything pricier than that. The base model can do everything you might need it to do for law school purposes so don’t feel like you need to break the bank just to get the Air or Pro versions (although if you can afford it, by all means!).

iPad or Laptop for Law School? A Word of Caution

If I’ve convinced you with this blog and you’re ready to buy an iPad, I want to give you a word of caution before I let you go ahead and do so: don’t buy an iPad as a substitute for a laptop, only as a supplement. If you don’t already have a laptop, you should prioritize getting one first for law school. There are two reasons for this:

  1. An iPad may not support the exam software that your law school uses – come exam time, you might be given the option to write your exams by hand or with a laptop using a very specific exam software (at my law school, we used Exam4). If your iPad doesn’t support that software or your law school just doesn’t allow iPads to be used for exams and you don’t have a laptop, you’ll be forced to write your exam by hand.
  2. Some websites are just not iPad friendly – websites like Westlaw and LexisNexis that law students use quite often are not easy to navigate using an iPad so having a laptop to view these websites on is much more ideal.

Okay, with that word of caution out of the way…If you already have a laptop (and it doesn’t matter what kind or how expensive) then great. Go ahead and get that iPad!

Get the Apple iPad on Amazon:

Looking for a different model? Shop other iPads at the Apple Store on Amazon

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As you can probably already tell, I’m totally biased about having an iPad for law school. I think it’s a great device to have that will make your daily life as a law student much easier. You can use it to do your readings, take digital notes, stay organized with a digital planner, buy e-textbooks and so much more! If you already have a laptop to make sure that you can take your exams electronically and browse websites that are not iPad-friendly, then you should definitely consider getting one!