If ever there was a Swiss Army knife of an app for lawyers, it is the Wolfram Lawyer’s Professional Assistant. This multi-function app for iPad and iPhone can perform calendar computations, fee calculations, settlement calculations, interest-rate calculations and more. Use it to research historical weather information or population demographics. Look up legal terms and statutes of limitation. The list of what it can do goes on.
You may already know about Wolfram|Alpha, which calls itself the “computational knowledge engine.” While it resembles a search engine, it is actually a website that computes answers to natural-language queries based on a large collection of algorithms and curated data. The site is used by everyone from scientists to kids doing homework. Many lawyers use it for date calculations, financial calculations, statistics and other information.
The app came out in December 2011 (as I noted in a blog post at the time). I never actually used it until recently, when I was looking for an app that performed one of the functions it includes. For a single app, it is surprisingly multifaceted. It includes:
- Reference tools. The app includes a dictionary of legal terms; statutes of limitations for each U.S. state; and information about visa types, including requirements, common issues and extensions and limits.
- Calendar computations. Compute business days, days between and days from now.
- Financial computations. Perform fee calculations, settlement calculations, current interest rates, historical value of money, and U.S. federal tax rates.
- Investigative information. Look up historical weather, find company information, look up Internet protocol addresses and web traffic, and calculate blood alcohol levels.
- Crime data. Obtain crime rates and histories for specific crimes, as well as state and national average comparisons.
- Demographics. Get population and economic demographics for specific cities and international information about currency, country economies, and languages spoken, as well as time zone conversions.
- Damages determination. Obtains salaries for any occupation, look up company information, compare city-to-city costs of living, and determine life expectancy.
- Estate planning. Calculate present and future values, interest rates, periodic payments and genealogical relations.
- Real estate. The app includes mortgage calculations, closing cost estimation, a square footage calculator, home sales prices, and utility prices.
- International. Convert times and currencies, determine the languages spoken and the economic properties for any country, and obtain general country information.
The app is not perfect. In a 2012 post at Lawyerist, Gyi Tsakalakis offered his impressions of the app and rounded up some of the other reviews that had been done. Of particular concern was a review by Peter Summerill at MacLitigator in which he pointed out an error in the statutes of limitations listed for Utah. The app listed a one-year SOL for “medical malpractice actions based on insertion of a foreign object,” which Summerill said was, “Not. Quite. Right.”
Oddly, the app now lists a two-year SOL for “medical malpractice (foreign object insertion)” in Utah, which is still not right, according to my reading of Utah law. The statute sets a two-year SOL for medical malpractice, and then says:
[I]n an action where the allegation against the health care provider is that a foreign object has been wrongfully left within a patient’s body, the claim shall be barred unless commenced within one year after the plaintiff or patient discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the existence of the foreign object wrongfully left in the patient’s body, whichever first occurs.
So it is a one-year discovery rule, not two years as the app now says.
In addition to the reviews by Tsakalakis and Summerill, see also Jeff Richardson’s review at iPhone J.D.
The SOL issue is a legitimate concern, of course, but I would hope no lawyer would rely exclusively on an app of this sort for SOL research. The reason to buy an app such as this is for its handiness, just as a Swiss Army Knife is no replacement for an actual saw, screwdriver, can opener or hunting knife. It is an all-in-one tool for those times when you need quick reference or quick calculations.
The cost of the app is $4.99. Regrettably, there is no Android version.