Attorneys throughout the government constantly rely on large legal reference books. As a USTP trial attorney, my office alone has the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure, the Local Rules of our courts, a Bankruptcy Evidence manual, and other similar texts. Many of these books are purchased by subscriptions which cost hundreds of dollars per attorney, per year. This cost undoubtedly increases in agencies with more heavily regulated or complex responsibilities.
A slate computer with these resources, as well as access to PACER, Westlaw, and Lexis, would be invaluable to my daily practice, and would quickly save the government money.
First, the digital subscriptions would be cheaper than paper books that have to be printed and shipped.
Second, the abiilty to download PDF pleadings and documents from PACER, Westlaw, and Lexis would save a considerable money on paper and ink, as well as time and space for storage, shredding, etc. Adobe Acrobat permits highlighting, notetaking, etc., just like printed paper. Current slate computers, such as the iPad and upcoming Android OS versions are the size of a full sheet of paper, and operate in full color.
Finally, the ability to manipulate the documents directly from PACER means fewer repeat downloads. It is common for attorneys and staff to retrieve the same pleading from PACER multiple times, to prepare for hearings, for example. Often, the same document is downloaded (which has a cost per page), printed out (which has its own set of costs), then thrown away after a hearing. After a few weeks, the cycle is repeated in preparation for a new hearing. Having the documents saved on a slate computer would preclude the need for this, as it would be readily accessible to the attorney, complete with all of the notes from a prior reading of the document. This is certainly the case in bankruptcy cases, but likely applies to other litigation and administrative proceedings as well.
The government could easily obtain these off-the-shelf devices in bulk at a significant discount. I would reccommend begininning with a pilot group of tech-comfortable attorneys, and making the ultimate decision optional. Inevitably, there are many who would not make use of the device, and it would be a waste to simply force it on them. On the other hand, those who use it would ultimately represent a significant savings to the government.