The following Guest Post is from Ware Cornell:
The introduction on November 24th of the Public Beta of a Mac Platform for the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen should inspire many Mac-using lawyers to look at this smartpen closely.
My own experience, even with being forced to use an old Tablet which ran Windows XP to retrieve my notes and related audio content, suggests that this tool plays an important part in my practice.
My History with the “Pulsepen”
My brother ordered two of these pens when they were first available from the manufacturer in May 2008. His thinking apparently was that he would have a backup should he ever lose one. Quickly realizing that he might have over-ordered, he offered one to me to try.
There were a lot of reasons I was not enthusiastic about his offer. The first was that unlike my brother, I actually do lose pens from time to time, even expensive ones. So if I lost this thing I would owe my brother money. Second, I am a Mac enthusiast and the desktop software for a Mac platform was not going to be available until the end of 2008. Finally, the necessity of the product escaped me.
But being a toy lover I put aside my objections and accepted his loan. A few weeks later I was calling customer support on a desktop issue (I installed it on my only Windows computer, a Toshiba tablet). The problem was a software glitch, since in reality the pen was still in beta. The customer service rep solving the problem asked if it was registered in my name. I assured her it was. I then told her that my brother had bought the pen but that he was never getting it back. I could hear my statement relayed around the support department where it was greeted with shouts and laughter. They knew. I was a convert. I had drunk the Kool-Aid and was forever theirs.
How I Use It In My Practice
Okay so what do I use it for? I take it to hearings and depositions (I am a lawyer, remember?). These are public events under Florida law and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. This is important since the pen doesn’t just record the strokes of the pen, it records everything being said. And it records it very well. Here is the cool part, touch a word in your notes and you will hear whatever was happening at that time.
My favorite demonstration to date is to touch a word from a contested trial where I got to ask a witness if he had ever told people that he spoke to the dead and that they spoke back to him. The guy nearly came across the table at me, a point also recorded. Now an aside to lawyers, law students and pro se litigants-do not ever ask someone this question unless you have an email from the witness attesting to his ability to commune with the formerly alive.
The recording capacity of this pen is astonishing. The manufacturer suggests that the 2GB pen will hold 200 hours of audio. I have no reason to doubt it, since my constant use has barely tapped its capacity. When the pen is uploaded to the desktop software images of the notes and the audio are loaded into the computer.
Special paper is required to copy notes as pdfs. However an event may be recorded and then notes taken while it is playing so if you are out of paper you can still take advantage of the pen. Fortunately also, the supplies are reasonably priced and available online. However the notebook supplied with the pen is most generous.
There are lots of other features in the pen. It is possible to draw a keyboard and play notes (musical notes) on it. My daughter, a music ed major, particularly enjoys this. There is even a cute animation demo built in whose 3-D sound as heard through the earbuds is astonishing and mildly amusing.
So who could use this pen other than trial lawyers? Students seem to be a logical group. Perhaps physicians and nurses could use it. Did the patient really say he had a condition or did he say something else? Livescribe needs to produce industry specific paper for just such uses, or to allow outside vendors to create it.
Limitations of the Public Beta
For now the Mac Beta will not allow users to upload material to the Livescribe “community website” or manage the content of the pen. Apparently the next Beta will include these features sometime in early 2009.
Overall Impressions of the Beta
If anything the Mac Platform operates more smoothly than the Windows version. Audio quality seems better overall in Mac, but that could be a function of the poor audio on my old tablet. The Mac beta allows for burning audio as AAC material and the exporting of notes in PDF directly from the Desktop rather than having to upload them to Livescribe’s website then downloading as a PDF.
G. Ware Cornell Jr. is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer in Weston, Florida where he primarily practices employment law with the firm of Cornell & Associates P.A. He is a graduate of Emory University, the University of Georgia School of Law, and served as the first senior law clerk for United States District Judge William M. Hoeveler in the Southern District of Florida upon his investiture in 1977. Mr. Cornell was recently selected as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, a trial lawyers’ honorary society.