As this is supposed to be a blog that addresses the use of Apple products in a law firm, I thought we would do the standard end of the year app review. While I have not yet incorporated the use of these products in the courtroom, I do use them all of the time while in the office, on the road, and at home. There are some real Mac studs out there using all kinds of Apple hardware and related software products in really creative and useful ways – both inside the courtroom and the office. Guys like Finis Price and Ben Stevens have so much experience and knowledge in these areas. But for now, it’s just me here. These are the top five law apps that I have in one folder on both my iPhone 4s and iPad.
Fastcase is the one app that simply over delivers consistently; and, therefore is indispensable. As a free alternative to Westlaw or LexisNexis, this app gives you legal research capabilities in your pocket of comparable, and in some cases superior, value. Upon launching, you have the options for searching by case law or by statute. Under the case law search, you set the jurisdiction to be state specific, federal or to include all; date ranges; and sorting order. Searching by statute works similarly. I have found using Fastcase to be ridiculously easy when you quickly want to find the text of a case by searching on the citation or cases that cite to your case. Cases include footnotes and hyperlinked citations within for easy navigation and further research.
The same is true for searching statutes. Here, however, you can also browse the statutes in a top down manner. In the Maryland statutes, you can browse the code for each separate year 2008-2011.
You can adjust your settings to control how many results per page are displayed and the order in which they are displayed, along with other controls. One drawback is that you can not print the case or statute from your iPhone or iPad easily. There are workarounds to make this possible but for the most part, you need to go to the website version in order to print. And you must have a Fastcase account if doing so. But a lot of state bar associations have relationships with Fastcase to make it free to their members. In any case, Fastcase does more than you expect it to and for a price far cheaper than expected.
Court Days is a fairly new addition to my legal apps folder. This handy utility allows you to calculate dates – using both calendar days and court days. In date-to-date mode, you give the app the start and stop dates and it calculates the number of court days in between and/or the number of calendar days (breaking down number of weekdays, weekend days, and holidays). Start and stop dates are easily set with the standard date wheel. In court days mode, you have even more options. You give the app a starting date and ask it to calculate the date for a given number of days before or after that date. Again, the result can be displayed in court days and/or calendar days. The app can be set to use different state holiday calendars and even use custom holiday for specific jurisdictions. And for convenience, you can set it up to give up to three sequential dates. So you can pick a mediation date thirty days out, a pre-trial date 15 days beyond that, and a trial date 60 days thereafter. It’s a really very useful app, especially so since it is free.
Nolo Plain English Law Dictionary
This app is handy for exactly what you think it mint be good for – quickly looking up legal terms and definitions. Published by the Nolo Network it is heavy on advertising but useful for its limited purpose. Users can search on a particular legal term or phrase using some limited boolean logic and have the app provide a general plain english definition along with related terms. For instance, a search on contributory negligence returned a very workable definition along with 50 other related terms such as assumption of risk, comparative negligence, last clear chance, etc. One nifty little feature, with the app open if you you shake the iPhone you get a random word of the day and its definition displayed – fun for those times when you are waiting. This app will not make people forget about the more expensive Black’s Law Dictionary app, but the price is right for what it does – yep, you guessed it, it’s free.
Here again is a free app that does one thing pretty well – give the user a place to quickly look up a bunch of federal rules and procedures. LawBox provides access to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Evidence along with a copy of the Constitution and US Code title 28 Judiciary and Judicial Procedure. You can search within any of these databases or drill down from the top to find the rule that meets your need. Once found, you can double tap to bring up a side bar that allows you to email the rule citation along the text of the rule. It’s not a terribly broad app but it does its one job pretty well.
Last, but not least, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) publishes its own mobile application for a variety of mobile devices. Like LawBox, this is simply an application to look up published material. As you would expect, this app tailors its content to Maryland specific material. Thus, the Rules of Evidence are the Maryland Rules and not the Federal Rules. Along with evidence, the app presents the Rules of Professional Conduct, Ideals of Professionalism, MSBA Code of Civility, and rules regarding Attorney Trust Accounts. These are all helpful for controlling the difficult opposing counsel as well as keeping yourself from becoming that guy.
So these are the apps I have in my legal folder on both my iPhone and my iPad. All I can tell you is that they work for me – your mileage might vary. Next time, I’ll discuss other non-legal specific apps that I think most, if not all, lawyers ought to have on their mobile devices.