Why are legal pads canary yellow?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There are a few short answers.  They don’t have to be canary yellow, they don’t have to be legal size, they do have to 1.25 inch side margin, and no one knows for sure.  The best researched article on the subject is Old Yeller, The Illustrious History of the Yellow Legal Pad, Suzanne Snider, Legal Affairs, May/June 2005.  This has the best answers to the question.

I am transitioning away from canary legal pads because they don’t scan right.  The yellow comes out blurred for some reason, and if I ever have to convert my scanned notes into printed notes, it doesn’t make sense to use that much yellow ink.

Jay Foonberg, in his seminal How to Start & Build A Law Practice, 5th Edition, relates “Carry a yellow legal pad with you whenever you go to a public place.  When you have a yellow pad with you, you are loudly, but nonintrusively, proclaiming to every one who can see the pad that you are a lawyer.  Everyone knows that lawyers use yellow pads and very few people who are not lawyers use yellow pads.” Id. at pg. 142.

Anecdotally, and with all due respect to the amazing Jay Foonberg, I have not found that to be the case.  The only time that people ask me if I am a lawyer is when I am in the courthouse hall and they have a question.  Though I sometimes have a yellow legal pad, I am being asked because I am wearing a suit and tie and I am standing in front of a closed courtroom looking at the day’s calendar.  Those contacts are not new business, but people needing assistance with the calendar.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Michael Reiter is a partner with Cole Huber LLP
2855 E. Guasti Road, Suite 402
Ontario, CA 91761