The Lawyer’s Deskbook Goes Mobile

A company run by a Texas criminal lawyer has introduced a mobile app designed to enable attorneys to quickly access statutes and case law from the courtroom, the boardroom or wherever they may be. The app, PUSH Legal, enables lawyers to load up their mobile devices with a library of annotated deskbooks covering a range of legal topics.  The app is available for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android devices.

The idea is good but the price tag might be hard to swallow for many lawyers. The app itself is free and comes preloaded with the Federal Rules of Evidence. For roughly the next two months, you’ll be able to download a 45-day trial version of any of the other volumes for 99 cents. Thereafter, each book will be sold as an annual subscription at a minimum cost of $29.99, with some costing as much as $149.

What you get for that are books containing statutes or rules along with brief annotations of leading cases. The app also links directly to Google Scholar, using preconfigured search queries to find additional cases and articles there.

For example, if I open the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure volume, I find an outline of the rules. If I navigate to a specific rule, I come to a page that contains the text of the rule. From that page, I can click a tab, “Leading Cases,” to display a brief list of what are supposed to be the leading cases interpreting the rule. The list has a one-paragraph summary of the case and a link to the full text in Google Scholar. Also from within that window, I can click a link, “Click here for more annotations,” to open a page in Google Scholar that displays the results of the preconfigured search query related to the rule.

You may have noticed above that I said it displays a brief list of “what are supposed to be the leading cases.” I was surprised to open the Federal Rules of Evidence volume and click on Rule 702, governing testimony by experts, and find only one case, the 8th Circuit opinion in Fox v. Dannenberg, but no reference to the seminal case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. That said, if you click on the “more annotations” link, the first case shown in Google Scholar is Daubert.

In a phone call with PUSH Legal’s founder, lawyer Jonathan Paull, he acknowledged that the app still has some bugs that need to be worked out. But he expects to have any such issues taken care of before the launch of the full-priced deskbooks later this year.

So far, the majority of the deskbooks are devoted to federal and Texas practice. They include volumes covering Title 18 of the U.S. Code, the federal sentencing guidelines, the federal search and seizure manual, various Texas codes and rules, and various federal court rules. The criminal laws of California, Florida and New York each have a volume, as does the Delaware corporation law.

The company is working to add more volumes from these states and to add other states.

The FAQ on the app’s website says, “Other legal apps contain statutes, but PUSH Legal is the only legal app that contains case law to boot.” As stated, this is not accurate. For one, the Fastcase app provides direct access to full-text cases. Of course, the difference with PUSH Legal is that it ties key cases to the rules and statutes they interpret.

[Update: After I posted this, PUSH Legal revised the FAQ to say it is "the only legal app that ties key cases to the rules and statutes they interpret."]

As I noted, you can install this app for free and try out its pre-loaded FRE volume. For the price of a song, you can also try out any of its other volumes.

By Jan. 1 at the latest, the company will begin charging full freight for these volumes. At that point, users will have to confront the question of whether it’s worth $29.99 per volume per year to have these on their mobile devices. To my mind, the answer to that question will depend entirely on how well annotated they are.

Posted in: General
Tagged: apps and caselaw
Updated:

2 Responses to “The Lawyer’s Deskbook Goes Mobile”

  1. This technology is pretty fascinating and, if effective, probably well worth the cost. My question is, if this is supposed to be used in a trial setting, how many juries would be turned off by a lawyer who consults his iPhone or iPad during a trial? How important is that level of convenience?

  2. I have used the app in open court and on the record, without a problem. Only on one occassion, has a judge asked what I was looking at. Once I showed the judge just what I was doing, he was impressed with the technology. In my experience, to most judge’s there really is no difference between referring to the app and a regular paper back deskbook.

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