By Beth Paton
Mobile technology is becoming ever more ubiquitous, so it seemed the right time to take a look at apps for law students and lawyers. For the purposes of this blog post I selected three apps to road test.
I was ably assisted with these reviews by my husband, Alec, who obtained a first in Law at Staffordshire University in 2005, and an LPC from City University in 2006. I asked him to participate in the hope that a non-librarian perspective would be useful to our readers. I’d like to thank him for his contributions to this post (and for letting me use his iPad!).
The Law Guide App (free) was designed by New York-based company TheLaw.com. It is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad (iOS 3.1.3 or later) and Android devices.
Alec: The Law Guide App is a handy glossary for most terms that any student or practitioner could be expected to come across. While it lacks specific citations, the definitions are easy to understand without becoming patronisingly facile. For the princely sum of precisely zero pounds you can get a hold of a quick reference guide to almost any legal term a student is liable to stumble across.
Beth: The interface is extremely basic, and it took me a minute to realise that it wasn’t just one long list of index terms, as the A-Z links down the right hand side of the page were a bit on the small side. However, once I got to grips with it I thought it was very comprehensive for a free resource, provided people are aware of the U.S. bias. It’s particularly useful for looking up unfamiliar Latin terms.
OUP’s Family Law Concentrate (£2.49) part of their ‘Concentrate’ revision series, is one of 14 different subject-specific law revision apps aimed at undergraduates, and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (iOS 4.0 or later).
Alec: The OUP’s Family Law Concentrate is a revision aid, asking questions and providing explanations when you get one wrong. There are a variety of near identical apps from the OUP, all doing virtually the exact same thing. As an aide memoir it proved two things: namely that I forgot a lot of section numbers and case law citations since graduation and also that I haven’t kept up with the last 3 years of developments in the field. How much a user gets out of this probably depends on how much he/she enjoys having revision turned into a single-player version of University Challenge. It covers the basics well, but a ten minute session quickly threw up several repeated questions, suggesting a worryingly limited number of questions.
Beth: I agree with Alec that the questions are a little limited, but the interface is nice and simple and is very straightforward to use. I think that the ‘progress report’ feature is a nice addition to show students how their revision is going. It would be interesting to compare the content to the print versions of the Concentrate revision guides, which currently retail at £11.99 each on OUP’s website.
LawSauce (£2.99 from iTunes, £3.10 from Android) was designed by Natalie Wieland, founder of Bliss Consulting and CPD Interactive; Legal Research Skills Adviser, Melbourne Law School, and our own Bodleian Law Librarian, Ruth Bird. It is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (iOS 3.2 or later) and Android devices.
Alec: LawSauce is a rather handy app to help find a specific source or publication. The program itself is basic enough and is very much “what you see is what you get”. If you want to know where on the Internet to find a specific journal or law report the app will very quickly direct you to the correct site. For a busy academic or practitioner it may likely be invaluable. For a student, its desirability will depend on: a) whether you have 3 quid to spare, and b) whether you can be bothered to get to the library.
Beth: This app has a bright and welcoming interface, and is very simple to use. It’s a good time-saving app to help people find the resources they need. According to their website, it is also updated on a regular basis, which is very important for both students and legal professionals. Some resources it links to (e.g. Fastcase) are not free access though, so users will need to watch out for that.
This is just a very small selection of the legal apps available through the iTunes and Android app stores. There are dozens of apps out there, ranging from £0 to £40 or more. However, it pays to be careful about which ones you download. Here are a few tips:
- Although the number of legal apps developed in the UK and Europe is increasing, the majority are still from the U.S. so you will need to bear that in mind if you only want information on UK or EU law.
- Look at when the app was created or last updated – is the information current enough?
- Who created the app? Finding out about the company or individuals involved in producing the app will give you a clue about the quality of information, and whether it is likely to be biased in some way.
- Who was it created for? Sometimes this is clearly stated in the description (as with the Concentrate series), but others are less specific. Read the descriptions carefully and look for reviews online to make sure it’s going to be helpful to you.
If you have any suggestions or recommendations for other legal apps, do please send us your comments and ideas.