Paul, here's the issue -- it is FAR easier to fake, edit, or otherwise modify computerized notes than it is to fake or edit a handwritten set of notes in a notebook. That means if you ever get subpoenaed, they will want your original notes (if they exist), not a transcription.
Of course, if the original notes were on computer, you're going to deal with an attorney on the other side questioning whether you might have changed the notes,even if you didn't.
I take virtually all of my notes on a mini-laptop (an Acer) but I always, ALWAYS carry a notebook with me and have a tape recorder in a carrying case on my belt. For some situations like the ammunition truck that overturned today on the expressway, I have no choice and taking notes manually is the only option other than the tape recorder. There are also some situations like a courtroom where I am not allowed to carry a tape recorder or a laptop computer without going through a long and cumbersome process to get special permission from the judges, which in the case of the federal courts, will routinely be denied anyway.
Is there a specific (American) law or precedent that gives handwritten notes more weight than computerized notes? Just curious. I still think Evernote > recycling bin for paper notes is a decent alternative.
This tool doesn't get at the legal issues - but I've become a grudging fan of the Livescribe Pulse smartpen. When you use it with special paper, it automatically generates a scan that you can save to your computer, upload to a cloud storage site and - with some add-on software - transcribe into Word or any other text format.
Big pro: Searchability. The bundled desktop software allows free-text search, even of handwriting. That's the reason I was willing to risk $100 on trying the pen. I got tired of pawing through stacks of legal pads to find that conversation/note from several weeks ago. I've been very pleased with this feature, and it's why I keep using the pen in spite of some of the cons, below.
Other pros: The transcription software works OK (my handwriting is notoriously bad; YMMV). Unit also has a built-in voice recorder, and a one-click method to create bookmarks in the voice recording so you can easily check your paper notes. I confess I don't use the voice recorder much. If I were still a street reporter, especially covering politics, I'd use it a lot.
Cons: The pen is heavy and fat. Sometimes feels like I'm writing with a horse's leg. The paper is expensive, but not brutally so ($20 typically for four 200-page notebooks). The surprising cost: pen refills. The ink refills have to be small to fit with all the electronics, and it's an uncommon size. So: $5 for five or six refills, and I go through one every week or two.
Not a perfect solution, but worth considering for some uses.
Bill - I use it mostly for in-person meetings. Sometimes, I'll use it for phoners, but if I've got to take heavy-duty notes from a phone discussion, I'll keyboard 'em.
As for the paper size - I'm not bothered by the 8.5x11, but I do very, very little field work these days. That would be an issue for street reporters - the only sizes Livescribe offers are college-ruled spiral notebooks and journal books. (What? No back-pocket reporter notebook?!?)
I've got my own little shorthand stunts; unlike, say, the Graffiti system Palm used to use, this doesn't attempt to "learn" your alphabet or handwriting. It simply garbles or skips the shorthand.
This discussion seems to oddly long for a simple question. If you don't want to use paper there are two methods:
1. record everything
2. type everything.
On the go: type into your phone. Having a phone with a full keyboard helps. Most smartphones also allow you to record audio. At home, type on the computer/laptop. I personally hate typing notes, on my phone or computer, but I also don't have a problem with taking notes. Unless there are some other methods of taking notes I am unaware of, you have to pick between recording, writing, or typing.
As far as the legal standards on hand-written notes: seriously, how many times have you been sued or subpoenaed?