Enhance Training Materials With Font Choices

Accurate, and engaging content is the key to computer slide shows. However, appearance counts, and counts big. Font choice is one subtle but important appearance factor. It’s worth taking some time to understand the basics of font choices for slide shows, and how they compare to other tools ethics trainers use to help their audiences, including printed handouts, transparencies, slide shows and online presentations.

The first step in being able to intelligently select fonts for use in training materials is to understand the key distinctions between categories of fonts: serif vs. sans serif, and print vs. screen, and system vs. professional:

Serif vs. Sans Serif

Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, have small ornamentation at the ends of letter strokes, called “serifs,” or “hinting.” Sans serif fonts, like Arial, lack such ornamentation. Decorative fonts (including script) are a third category that will rarely be useful for lawyers. I have prepared a font chart illustrating the three basic types, serif, sans serif and decorative.

Trick Question: Which style is more legible, serif or sans serif?

Short Answer: It depends on the medium. In general, serif fonts are better for printed matter, like books or newspapers. Sans serif fonts are better for computer displays.

Rationale: Serif fonts are easier to read in big blocks of text. The serifs help readers recognize the shape of a word, rather than decoding each letter individually. Nearly all books are printed in serif fonts, for this reason.

The problem with serif fonts is that they are harder to read at low resolutions, like on computer monitors. For example, laser printer resolution starts at 300 d.p.i., and can go up to 1200 d.p.i. Times Roman, a serif font, works well at these resolutions. By contrast, computer monitors (and projectors) have much lower resolution. The resolutions are so low that the serifs do not show up. Therefore, sans serif fonts are generally your best choice for computer use, though a sans serif screen font (discussed in the next section) may be OK in some situations.

Sans serif fonts are also easier to recognize as single words. This is why serif fonts are used for traffic signs. Professional typographers tend to use sans serif fonts for headings, and serif fonts for text body.

Print Fonts vs. Screen Fonts

Recent decades have seen a new development: Fonts designed specifically for computer display, sometimes called “screen fonts” or “web fonts.”  Verdana (sans serif) and Georgia (serif) are examples. They look better on a computer display. Many screen fonts (including Verdana and Georgia) don’t look as good when printed on paper. 

System Fonts vs. Professional Grade Fonts

Compters come with a selection of built-in “system fonts,” including the ubiquitous Times New Roman and Arial. Some of these are better choices than others. The most commonly used choices provide the comfort of familiarity, but they are often inferior to less common system fonts, or professional grade fonts available as an upgrade. Broadening your horizons is a way of subtly or not-so-subtly improving the quality of your instructional materials.

The Typography for Lawyers book and website both have good practical advice on font selection, including “naming names” of hackneyed fonts and better choices. At the website, look under the “Font Samples” menu choice. The book has much more detailed information.

Summary 

The following simple rules will make your slide shows look more professional:

  1. Use serif fonts for large blocks of text.
  2. Use sans serif fonts for headings.
  3. Use a screen font (either serif or sans serif) for computer slide shows or websites.
  4. Rather than fall into the Times New Roman/Arial rut of using only the most common system fonts, follow the guidance of experienced professionals when making your font selections.

Want more information about fonts?  The Typography for Lawyers website and related book are the best resources I’ve found on this topic.

Is it really surprising that legal research companies are exaggerating the quality of their Artificial Intelligence apps?

The more significant finding a the new Stanford University study is that both “Westlaw and Lexis offer high quality responses.” As you might expect, the estimable Bob Ambrogi is all over this (here and here).

The eagerness of some lawyers to use accuracy issues as an excuse to reject any use of AI is folly. It’s similar to the many lawyers who were similarly reluctant to use the Internet for legal research back in the 1990s. A few adhered to the Luddit view well into the 21st century!

The answer is simple: Implement appropriate quality control measures. Double-check key citations or arguments. While AI accuracy leaves something to be desired at this point, it’s advanced well enough that lawyers who use AI as well as conventional legal research tools will have the advantage.

Version 1.0.0

This is exactly what I said about using the Internet a quarter century ago. The advice applies just as well today about AI.

Footnote: Want a copy of The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers today? One vendor will sell it to you for $551.96, plus the obligatory $3.99 shipping charge.

It’s time to take a break from business as usual and address something more important than making money. Ahsan Nasar is running an insurgency campaign against a career politician in the House of Representatives, Virginia District 11.

The top issue in Ahsan’s campaign is an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. He is speaking truth to power. The killing of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children, must stop. I was pleased to meet with him yesterday. He has my complete support.

Predictably, career politicians have accused Ahsan of anti-semitism. Most of my Jewish friends see the matter differently. As a friend I have known and trusted for a quarter century explained:

Yes Bibi [as she calls “Binyamin Netanyahu”] undermined the stability of the country. He is guilty of treason as is Trump. He undermined the military just as Trump and GOP do to this day.

My friends are far from the only ones to feel this way. Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow are calling attention to Palestinian suffering and pushing for a cease-fire.

Netanyahu’s policies and lack of planning are creating a long-range existential crisis for the nation of Israel. There was a worldwide wave of sympathy for Israel in the immediate aftermath of the October 2023 Hamas attack. That has disappeared. A poll just a few weeks later showed a different trend: More people ages 18-29 sympathize with Palestinians than with Israelis in the current conflict. The age gap is striking. Two thirds of those 65 or older believe it is “very important” for the U.S. to protect Israel. Only fourteen percent of 18- to 29-year-olds agree. A more recent Pew Research poll showed the gap is widening.

This trend is ominous. In the long run Israel cannot survive without friends.

Netanyahu’s excuse that he is only trying to destroy Hamas is phony. Israel has a right to self-defense, but there are two big problems with the way it is trying to defend itself:

— The disproportionate killings of innocent Palestinians, while not meeting the technical definition of “genocide,” nevertheless are war crimes and clear violations of customary international humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch has a good explanation of the rules, written for non-lawyer audiences. Those wanting more detailed analysis can find it in Red Cross, and United Nations references, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense Law of War Manual, the authoritative U.S. government statement of its law of armed conflict interpretations. The issuance of an arrest warrant for Netanyahu is well justified.

— Netanyahu’s blunders and failure to realistically plan for the war’s aftermath will only make Israel’s enemies stronger in the long range. As respected analyst Josh Marshall (who, if it matters, is Jewish) has pointed out in his essay Tragedy and Folly:

The simple fact is that Netanyahu has waged an unimaginably destructive war with a massive loss of life and managed to accomplish much less than Israel could have if it’d had a clear strategy of what it was trying to do, or, specifically, who would rule Gaza after Hamas had been displaced.

Bottom Line: If your top priority is the long-range survival of Israel, Ahsan is your man.

When Colin Levy speaks, the wise listen. His recent LinkedIn post on keeping up with the intersection of technology and the practice of law has his usual quota of good ideas. Here are some thoughts on a few of the references:

The Legal Tech Ecosystem (Book) (My review).
Colinslevy.com (Website)
Is Levy wrong to open (and close) this list with references to his book and website? Modesty vs. Honesty? I’d be the last to argue with his list.

Tomorrow’s Lawyers (Book).
Can’t go wrong with prophet Richard Susskind.

Working Smarter with Knowledge Tools (Book)
This is one of the best legal tech books published in the past decade. Lauritsen doesn’t tell you what to think. He teaches you how to think.

On Legal AI Book)
AI for Lawyers (Book)
Not familiar with these two. They are now on my reading list.

Lawnext.com (Website)
Bob Ambrogi’s home on the web is a must-follow.

The Rest of Levy’s list:
Legal Evolution (Website)
The Artificial Lawyer (Website)
Legal Technology Hub (Website)
Legal.io (Website)

Levy’s Parting Shot: Pure Gold

Levy closes the post with this suggestion. It’s probably the single most important thing most lawyers can do to improve their productivity:

Experiment with tools you currently use, like some of the myriad of functions offered by Word and Excel (and others like PowerBI and PowerAutomate also within the Office 365 suite). Often you may be underutilizing the tools you already use.

Very pleased to see The Impact Lawyers reprint my review of Renee Knake Jefferson‘s excellent new book Law Democratized: A Blueprint for Solving the Justice Crisis.

Ms. Jefferson believes that artificial intelligence “has the potential to become the single most important tool in solving the legal justice crisis,” so on completing this review, I decided to ask ChatGPT 4.0 the question:

“What is the probability of significant improvements in access to civil legal services?”

I found ChatGPT’s summary answer mostly consistent with Jefferson’s conclusions—and hence encouraging. In any event, Ms. Jefferson has provided a public service by writing Law Democratized. It will surely increase the probability of meaningful reforms.

Here is the ChatGPT summary: 

The probability of significant improvements in access to justice for civil legal services depends on various factors, including policy changes, resource allocation, technological advancements, and societal attitudes toward legal aid. While it is difficult to assign a specific probability, several trends and initiatives may increase the likelihood of improvements:

  1. Policy Reforms: Legislative and regulatory changes aimed at expanding access to legal services, such as relaxing licensing requirements for non-traditional legal service providers, implementing funding programs for legal aid organizations, and establishing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, could lead to significant improvements.
  2. Technology: Advancements in technology, such as online legal resources, virtual legal clinics, and artificial intelligence-powered tools for document review and analysis, have the potential to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and reach underserved populations.
  3. Funding and Resources: Increased funding and resources allocated to legal aid organizations, pro bono initiatives, and civil legal assistance programs can enhance their capacity to provide services to low-income individuals and marginalized communities.
  4. Awareness and Education: Efforts to raise awareness about legal rights, options for legal assistance, and available resources can empower individuals to seek help when needed and navigate the legal system more effectively.
  5. Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration among legal aid organizations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, law firms, and community stakeholders can leverage resources, share best practices, and develop innovative solutions to address gaps in access to justice.
  6. Cultural and Systemic Changes: Addressing systemic barriers to access to justice, such as racial and socioeconomic disparities, language barriers, and biases within the legal system, can contribute to more equitable outcomes and improve access for marginalized communities.

I think the AI Law Librarians blog might grow on me. My favorite current post? Sarah Gotschall‘s article Move Over Law Professors? AI Likes to Write Law Review Articles Too! She gives an AI-generated law review article a passing grade.

Gotschall walks readers through the process of guiding an AI chatbot (“Claude“) through the process of developing an article. She provides the prompting practices she uses:

  1. Being polite and encouraging.
  2. Allowing ample time for the model to process information.
  3. Structuring inquiries in a sequential manner to enhance analysis and promote chain of thought reasoning.
  4. Supplying extensive, and sometimes seemingly excessive, background info and context.

Here’s an example of Gotschall’s approach to being polite and encouraging:

Great you’re really good at following instructions! You’re also really good at creating outlines of law review articles. Now that you understand the topic and thesis, please use the information uploaded in the article and generate a detailed outline for the law review. You can get an idea of how law review articles are written and organized by analyzing the law reviews in the files that I’ve uploaded.

Move Over Law Professors Article

Handling AI’s emotions will be a challenge for me!

H/T to Sabrina I. Pacifici for the link.

Just completing an interview with Richard Granat for LLRX.com. My favorite sentence:

[Maryland Family Lawyer] fits my business model of generating income when I sleep.

Gotta love the business model of generating income while sleeping.

A few American Bar Association articles provide background about Richard Granat’s impressive contributions to using the Internet to provide better access to high-quality and reasonably priced legal services:

Internet Obsessive

Podcast

I Want to Push the Limit

First 50 ABA Legal Rebels

There is a reason Smart Guys like Jim Calloway keep returning to the topic of password managers. Too many lawyers still don’t understand that besides improving security, they can improve productivity. Fellow members of the Smart Guys Club Tom Mighell and Catherine Reach have also weighted in on the subject.

After experimenting with Last Pass I’ve gone back to 1 Password. It gets rave reviews but any of the top programs is light years ahead of a chaotic pile of yellow sticky notes.

Few social issues are more significant than unequal access to justice. Any nation that aspires to the highest level of democracy must make the civil justice system accessible not just to the affluent, but those of modest means.

Professor Renee Knake Jefferson‘s excellent new book “Law Democratized: A Blueprint for Solving the Justice Crisis” explains exactly where we are, where we need to go, and how we can get there.

An updated version of my review is available at The Impact Lawyers. It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to be a part of the better access to justice solution.