Legal Research on the Go!


Last month the Legal Division of Special Libraries Association (SLA) conducted a webinar entitled Legal Research on the Go: How Apps and Mobile Devices are Changing Law Librarianship. It was a very informative presentation with some timely and relevant news.

According to a comScore Device Essentials study in 2011, iPads made up 90.4% of the tablet market. The majority of mobile phones are now smart phones. And of those smart phones, Android operating system has 47% of the market. Accessories such as Logitech’s keyboard and flash drive for the iPad and apps greatly increase the functionality of these mobile devices.

From the ABA’s Legal Technology Survey (2011), 15% of lawyers use a tablet when they are working away from the office and at larger firms, 26% use them. iPads are appearing more in law school classrooms because of the convenience and mobility. In fact, Monterrey School of Law has issued iPads to each of its students, staff and faculty.

The strengths of an iPad include not only its convenient size and light weight, but also that it boots up quickly and has a longer battery life (10/12 hours). iPads have a few weaknesses such as not having an external keyboard. In addition, the on-screen keyboard is small and more difficult to use for long content creation. It also has little internal storage (uses the cloud). Applications are the most compelling advantage. No one has to go buy software at a store or over the internet; instead one goes to the app store to get what is wanted. Lots of developers are creating loads of apps.

The different legal research vendors are taking varied approaches to providing support for mobile devices. WestlawNext and Lexis Advance have not changed their offering, just improved the ease of access and navigation. A user logs in directly to the site which is formatted to iPad dimensions. Users can highlight or annotate information and save it to their personal account in the cloud. This has the advantage that users can then access it from any computer; obviously, increasing the mobility of use.

Other vendors like CCH Mobile and Intelliconnect have taken a different approach. Through a subscription, users can access content created for ready reference use rather than connecting with full content. Other vendors are using a third model by offering free content but again it is more quick reference than extensive access. Bloomberg has not yet developed an app for Bloomberg Law division. And finally, BNA offers both freebies like a tax calculator and apps for current subscribers. The ultimate question for all of these legal reference providers will be how iPads are used by lawyers and law students.

Many developers create apps, launch them, and then see who uses them. Most of the legal apps have been developed to help trial lawyers improve their presentations in the courtroom. Three presentation apps include ROPC Evidence, Exhibit A, and Trial Pad. Transcript Pad is designed to organize transcripts. You add notes and make a highlight page at the end of the transcript. iJuror lets you populate data per juror and make custom questions for each one. JuryTracker (see image below) lets you monitor the body language and facial expressions of jurors during the trial, make notes about whether they are leaders or followers, and print out a report at the end of the day. PROVIEW is Westlaw’s eReader and will be needed to read their eBooks. In the future, it will act like a library where users check in/out books through an institutional account. fastcase is a free app for advanced case research. LawStack is a free, quick reference tool for accessing federal rules and the constitution. It can easily be updated by jurisdiction.

Law schools tend to get advanced technology first. Companies want students to learn on their products so that they will push law firms to purchase the technology. One law school found that students are more inclined to use the WestlawNext app (84%) over the Westlaw app (16%). Black’s Law Dictionary app ($55) is continually updated and costs considerably less than the print version ($80). It is also easier to carry around. Document apps are designed to make using documents easier like CamScanner which makes a pdf file. Audiotorium, a note taking app, enables the user to record the speaker. Two apps for Microsoft Office are called DataViz and Desktop. iAnnotate lets you make annotations on pdf files.

Law schools are using eBooks. Westlaw offers them on TWEN (course management system) or Law School Exchange so they cost less, can be marked up, or be rented for a semester. Lexis sells eBooks on their website and provides them in particular eReader format.

Cloud computing, another key topic in mobile reference, is where storage is on someone else’s server. Some of the more popular cloud computing apps are Dropbox, Mozy, LogMein, and JoinMe. Several of the big legal vendors are pushing apps and also providing storage on their own servers. For example, Bloomberg Law has inexpensive, good collaboration software that many law schools are using. In the real world, law firms are more concerned with cloud computing and the security issues of having client information on someone else’s system.

Finally, the presenters of the webinar recommended the following sites for keeping up to date:

 ~Betty Thomas~

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Filed under electronic resources, Of Interest to Law Students

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