Android Apps for Legal Research (An Excerpt from “Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers”
Adapted and excepted from Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers by Daniel J. Siegel, coming in February from LPM Publishing.
Use your Android phone or tablet to conduct free or low-cost legal research on-the-go. A number of apps have recently emerged that make it easy to perform research and to save your results. Several apps provide specific types of information lawyers need, such as rules, codes, and statutes. The days of carrying heavy books around are disappearing.
Westlaw users will appreciate the streamlined design of this app, which allows them to find information quickly. When you log in, you can browse content, KeyCite a document, or look through recent research. When you browse content, you see a list of all of the types of content available; from there, you navigate to what you want (such as statutes or cases), or to the jurisdiction whose materials you need, and then perform your search. Once you have the results, you can sort them by a variety of criteria, e-mail them or save them, and do related searches. The app makes using Westlaw on your tablet a snap, and it is a terrific enhancement for Westlaw customers.
Fastcase’s free Android app is indeed fast, and it generates impressive and accurate results. A comprehensive database allows users to locate virtually any state or federal case or statute with just a few keystrokes. The interface is clean, and the navigation is good. Once you get used to it, you’ll use this easy and accurate app again and again.
Push Legal is an impressive mobile law library that contains databases of rules and statutes for a handful of states, including Delaware, Texas, New York, and California, as well as Federal Rules of Evidence, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It also includes an expansive library for federal criminal attorneys. Although not free, Push Legal is well worth the cost if its database is relevant to your practice. Unlike many other apps, Push Legal is well organized and provides easy access to information. A Scholar section links to Google Scholar’s database of court opinions. The program is also available as a desktop version and is sold by subscription, which includes all of the app’s available databases.
Somewhat of a hybrid, Law Guide tries to be a few different things: a legal dictionary, a link to other legal resources, and a case review product (which is really advertising aimed at the public). While not as thorough as Black’s, the dictionary has most of the definitions lawyers will need. In addition, the Resources section provides links to many helpful sites.
Currently available only for Pennsylvania, this lightning-fast app provides instant access to state court records, including criminal charges, lawsuit filings, civil judgments, and traffic offenses, but not to civil case dockets. The developer claims that he will expand the app to all fifty states; if he does, it will be well worth the cost (the Pennsylvania version is $3.99). Meanwhile, check to see if a similar app is available for your state.
PocketJustice has more than six hundred U.S. Supreme Court constitutional decisions “of any note,” as well as audio from the oral argument in many of the cases. Created by the Oyez Project at Chicago-Kent College of Law, this app is thoughtfully arranged and includes the voting alignment and other details from the selected decisions. Users are able to search for lawyers, justices, and keywords and can designate cases as favorites. The product does not allow sharing of cases, but otherwise it is a resource that those dealing with constitutional matters should have.
This tool has great potential but needs work before it can be considered a must-have. DroidLaw is an app for which users purchase specific databases, such as the U.S. Code, the California Civil Code, or the vehicle code of New York. The number of databases is impressive, although each is sold separately. The problem is that many of them seem to be works in progress. The developer has clearly undertaken a massive project and perhaps will be able to transform this into a more useful global database.
Also a directory, this app provides links to ten legal dictionaries, including the FindLaw Legal Dictionary and ALM’s legal dictionary. Law Dictionary is a useful resource, particularly when you are searching for a more obscure term that might not be included in some of the less complete reference books.
This product provides limited access to LexisNexis CourtLink, the website that allows lawyers to track the status of cases in many federal and state courts. Thus, although you cannot initiate a docket search, you can quickly view any case-related alerts or updated information about cases you are following.
If you handle matters before the American Arbitration Association, then this app is for you. It provides all of AAA’s rules with a straightforward navigation that makes it easy to find what you need. It also has a search function to help when the answer isn’t obvious. The program is not optimized for all devices, however, so its resolution varies.
This app may not be what you were expecting. It allows you to read any of the various editions of Super Lawyers magazine (generally by geographic area) and to search each for names of “super lawyers.” Unfortunately, it’s not a searchable database of all “super lawyers,” which would be even better.
For more tips, pre-order a copy of Android Apps in One Hour for Lawyers by Daniel J. Siegel. (A 15% pre-publication discount applies until the book is published!)