“I need a legal pad.” You know what it is, but do you know what it means?

Generally, legal pads come in various shapes and sizes and the width of the lines can be narrow or wide. They can have a gummed, spiral or tear-off top.

Traditionally, it’s yellow paper with blue horizontal lines and a red vertical line on the left side creating a margin.  You can buy them in the length of a legal brief (8 ½” x 14”), but the length of the paper has nothing to do with why we call it a legal pad.

The only thing that makes a pad of writing paper qualify as a legal pad is that it must have a vertical line on the left side creating a 1 ¼” margin. It can be any color, any length or size and the lines can be any width. It’s that specific margin that makes it a legal pad.

Still, why is it called a legal pad? Back in 1900, a judge in Holyoke, Massachusetts asked his assistant to find or create a writing pad with a margin on the left side of 1 ¼”.

I guess we could be calling it a judge pad, but we wound up calling it a legal pad.