Legal Size Paper: The legal world is serious business and, as such, there are plenty of rules surrounding what is and what is not considered valid, especially when it comes to legal documents. Though you may have heard a story about two people signing a legal contract on a napkin, it’ll almost certainly be fake news — if it took place in the United States, anyway.
There’s been a shift to digital documents in recent years, but paper still rules supreme for the really important stuff. In the United States, legal documents are printed on legal size paper, which has specific dimensions. In this post, we’ll run through everything you need to know about legal size paper, including the size, why it’s used, and its applications.
Legal Size Paper Dimensions
The key to legal size paper is its dimensions, which are larger than standard letter size. Legal paper measures 8.5 x 14 inches (216 x 356 mm), compared to the 8.5 x 11 inches (216 x 279 mm) you’ll find with standard letter paper.
As you’ll have guessed, the difference is all in the length. They’re the same width, but legal size paper comes with a decent amount of extra length, which gives it a practicality boost for legal documents (easier to format, increased readability). The downside is that the increased length often means legal size paper isn’t suitable for some storage cabinets.
Legal Size Paper In Europe and Elsewhere
It’s important to note that the above dimensions only apply to the United States and Canada. Take a trip to Europe — or indeed, most other parts of the world — and you’ll find legal documents of another size. They use paper with a dimension of 8.5 x 11 inches (216 x 279 mm); or, in other words, the same size as the United States’ standard letter paper. Keep this in mind if you’re doing business in a country that uses the international system for paper sizes!
Why is Legal Sized Paper The Size That It Is?
Legal sized paper both makes sense and doesn’t make sense. On one hand, the extra space is valuable, allowing creators greater freedom over formatting and font size. Plus, it means you can cut down on the number of pages, or you can leave some space for notes if it’s just a draft. On the other hand, the sizer is larger than other paper sizes and can be difficult to manage.
There are theories as to why US legal size paper has these dimensions, but nothing concrete. All we can say for certain is that back in 1921, the Bureau of Standards decided to standardize paper sizes in the United States and this is what they came up with.
They didn’t offer an explanation for their decision, so we’ll likely never know why it’s that size. All we know is that if you’re creating a legal document, filling out a government form, putting together real estate documents, or creating a professional report, it’ll probably be best to use legal size paper.