Starting tomorrow and continuing every Friday thereafter, the creators of the Rulebook app will offer for free one of the books from its library of state and federal rule books. The company is calling this its Free Rule Book Friday promotion. The company will announce which book it is offering each Friday morning via its [...]
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The popular blog that covers the Supreme Court, SCOTUSblog, released an iOS app yesterday. It provides mobile access to the same content that is available on the blog. It also provides push notifications of breaking news from the court. The blog’s announcement yesterday said that additional features and improvements will be rolled out regularly.
(Click thumbnails above for larger view.)
The app’s home screen shows the same stories that you see on the blog’s home page. A menu lets you narrow the stories you see to those that are categorized as “featured,” “breaking news,” “round-up” (a daily item that rounds up short news items), and editor’s notes.
You can also view the blog’s Twitter feed from within the app.
Updates, 10/9/13, 3:53 p.m.: Some additions and clarifications to my original post from earlier today:
- Invites to the app can be requested from within the app once you download it. Once you are authorized to use the app, you can invite others from within the settings menu. Alternatively, you can invite others from the web page http://at.law.com/appinvite.
- The full contributor network will officially launch in the first quarter of 2014. Only some contributors will go live by the end of November.
- The overhaul of Law.com also will not go live until the first quarter of 2014. The changes slated for November are not the full overhaul but a relaunch of existing sites with a new look and feel and new functions.
* * *
At an event in Boston last night, legal publisher ALM unveiled a new Law.com app for iPads and iPhones that delivers content from all ALM publications and websites in a seamless, stylish and customizable interface. Also last night, ALM revealed that it will be pushing out a major overhaul of the Law.com website by the end of November and that, as part of that, it will be launching an extensive contributor network in the style of The Huffington Post, with from 100 to 500 writers from outside ALM regularly contributing commentary and analysis.
Last June, when ALM launched a set of 14 iOS apps for its different publications, I wasn’t thrilled with them. By contrast, with this new Law.com app, ALM has got it right in every way. I had a chance to use it at the launch event on an iPad and have also installed it on my iPhone. In both cases, it is a pleasure to use and view and incorporates various features that make it functional as well as attractive.
First off, let me emphasize that the app is currently usable only by invitation. Anyone can download it, but you will not be able to log in unless you have been pre-authorized by Law.com. Those users who have been authorized will be given the opportunity to invite up to three “friends and family” to participate. The app will become fully available to any Law.com registered user in February 2014 in conjunction with LegalTech New York.
On the iPad, the app’s home page displays a tiled array of top stories from various ALM publications. You can easily swipe through these stories similar to the way you would on an app such as Flipboard. The home page shows these in horizontal layers of two side-by-side tiles, each layer representing a publication or category.
This home page can be customized in several ways. For one, you can drag and drop the tiles to arrange them in whatever order you prefer. Even better, you can add and delete tiles. A small pencil icon in the upper left corner brings up a menu from which you can select what to include here. You can select specific publications or you can select from a list of practice areas or subjects. You can also create a search and have it appear as a permanent tile.
The app also lets you add news sources from outside the universe of ALM properties. You can select from a list of legal blogs and news sources and have those appear on your home page as well. At this point, you cannot add sources that are not on the list, but you can submit a request directly through the app for a source to be added.
On the iPhone, the app uses a similar tiled array to display stories, only in a single rather than a double column. As with the iPad version, you can easily swipe through stories, add them to your Briefcase and share them to social media or by email.
As you would expect, the app incorporates tools for social sharing of stories. It also has a Briefcase feature where you can save stories and create custom folders.
The app’s designers have done a great job of integrating ads in a way that makes them unobtrusive. Effectively, they have created a new kind of ad format that appears between stories as you swipe from side to side in order to move from story to story. The ads stand out graphically, but don’t get in your way.
Regarding the contributor network, Law.com will be inviting outside authors to become regular contributors to the site. When this network launches in November, it is expected to have at least 100 contributors. By the time of LegalTech in February, the Law.com editors hope to have as many as 500 contributors.
The contributors will not be paid but will be given access to a WordPress-based platform that will allow them to publish directly to the Law.com site. These contributors are expected to include individuals from all walks of the legal profession, including lawyers, law professors, legal marketers, legal recruiters and the like.
This contributors’ “channel” will be featured on the Law.com website and also within the app.
As mentioned above, Law.com will also be unveiling a new design of its website with new features and functionality.
The challenge of developing an app for the legal market is to define a compelling reason for lawyers to use it. We are all busy and we all have established sources for getting the news and information we need. A new app introduced last week is an example of one that is nice enough in concept and well executed in design. But it falls short in delivery and offers no strong reason for me to use it.
The app has the unfortunate name of Legal Newsance. I assume this is a play on the concept “legal nuisance,” but the irony is unfortunate. In fact, Google assumes the same thing — search the app’s name and Google replies, “Did you mean: legal nuisance?”
For a free app, Legal Newsance has lofty goals, promising to deliver curated legal news across a range of topics, legal research, job listings and on-demand CLE. The problem it has, at least at this point in its development, is that each of these categories are fairly sparse and scattered in the content they provide.
For example, the description of the legal research component on the Legal Newsance website lures you in with the come-on, “Tired of paying expensive subscription fees to access online research resources?” Well, maybe you are, but this app does not provide a substitute to paid research resources. Rather, it consists primarily of links to readily available government sites containing statutes, regulations, court rules and the like.
To its credit, it does a nice job of organizing this information and making it easy to find. Research links are organized by main practice-area topics such as “Advertising and Media,” “Corporate and Securities,” and the like, each of which drills down to further subtopics.
Job listings and on-demand CLE programs are similarly sparse. Job listings so far appear to come from just a handful of large law firms. In fact, the bulk of the listings appear to come from just three firms. The CLE listings come primarily from the Colorado Bar and Continuing Education of the Bar in California. The app does not actually deliver these programs; rather it lists them and provides links to their registration pages, where you can purchase streaming versions.
In fact, if you want to see which programs are listed in the app, you can see the same listings on the Legal Newsance website.
Possibly the most fully realized component of the app is its legal news feed. As with the research section, the news stories are organized by practice-area topics. There are also sections for top stories, legal industry news, “legally insane,” and work/life stories.
Here again, however, the selection of stories lacks sufficient focus to compel me to use this on a regular basis. Perhaps if I was killing time somewhere, I might browse its headlines. But generally I get my news feeds from sources I have already selected and set up. And my regular sources already include some for general legal news from around the country, such as the ABA Journal’s Law News Now.
Let me stop right here and give the app’s developers credit where credit is deserved: They have adopted an explicit policy of not “scraping” legal news and blog posts. They spell it out right on their website and I applaud them for that. When you click on a headline within the app, you go to a page that provides a brief excerpt of the story, that identifies the source of the story, and that provides a link to the full text at the source site.
Given that the app is free, the question arises of how its developers make money. The answer is through a component called the KnowStore, which also exists on the app’s website. The KnowStore sells what it describes as “focused, targeted legal know-how.” By another name, these products are legal forms — so far all contract and corporate templates and clauses. You can purchase these through the app at prices that range from 99 cents to $2.99.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. I tested it on my iPhone, where it was responsive and easy to use. It would not work on my Nook HD+, possibly due to the Nook’s bastardized Android OS.
The Colorado company that developed it, Similan Labs LLC, was formed by an attorney who was formerly head of legal for a New York IT services and software development company.
You may find this more useful than I did. But as I said at the outset, I look for apps that give me a compelling reason to use them — that serve some useful role in my daily work or that fill a gap in my information needs. This one does not does not do that for me.
Talk about a living Constitution — here’s one the framers never saw coming. Today, the U.S. government is marking Constitution Day by launching an official annotated Constitution app that will provide legal analysis and interpretation directly on your iPhone or iPad. (Sorry Android folks, that one is still in development.)
The app is a companion to a new Web resource, Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. Both the app and the website were developed by the Library of Congress, together with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Government Printing Office.
The launch of these new resources also coincides with the 100th anniversary edition of the nearly 3,000-page print treatise of the same name, originally published in 1913 and updated every 10 years since. Unlike the print volume, these new resources will be updated multiple times a year as new court decisions are issued. The analysis is prepared by attorneys at the Congressional Research Service in the Library of Congress. The version launched today is current through June 26.
Features of the app include:
- The full text of the Constitution.
- The full text of the treatise. A clause-by-clause discussion of the entire Constitution.
- Discussions of all Supreme Court cases and selected historical documents relevant to interpreting the Constitution.
- Lists of all federal, state, and local laws struck down by the Supreme Court, and all cases where the court overturned its prior precedent.
- Tables of contents and cases and an index.
The website version includes the full treatise as a digitally signed, searchable PDF. It includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s seal of authenticity on every page. A Featured Topics and Cases page highlights recent Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate pivotal interpretations of the Constitution’s provisions.
Be forewarned: This app is a space hog. The iTunes store lists it as 94.1 MB, but the installed version takes up 104 MB on my iPhone.
Note also that the PDF pages do not rotate to landscape view. On an iPhone, that makes for clumsy reading, because to make the text large enough to read easily, you need to constantly slide back and forth across the page.
What are the most popular legal and business smartphone apps among lawyers? According to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, the most popular legal app by a long shot is Fastcase. The most popular business app is Dropbox.
- Fastcase, 26.5 percent.
- Westlaw and Lexis, 7.7 percent each.
- WestlawNext, 7.3 percent.
Other apps they named were ABA Journal, LawStack, American Bar Association, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, PLI and Lexis Advance.
When the lawyers were asked whether they had ever downloaded a general business app and, if so, which ones, the top three they named were:
- Dropbox, 15.2 percent.
- Evernote, 9.8 percent.
- LinkedIn, 8.6 percent.
Other business apps they frequently mentioned were Dragon Dictation, Documents to Go, Wall Street Journal, PDF readers, Quickoffice, banking, and Adobe and Good Reader.
I’ve written about the Fastcase app a number of times, including having published an exclusive first look before it was officially released. The app, which is available for iOS and Android, provides direct access to a free library of cases and statutes.
The Legal Technology Survey Report is published in six volumes. Each volume can be purchased for $350 or, for ABA members, for $300. The volumes are:
- Vol. 1: Technology Basics.
- Vol. 2: Law Office Technology.
- Vol. 3: Litigation and Courtroom Technology.
- Vol. 4: Web and Communication Technology.
- Vol. 5: Online Research.
- Vol. 6: Mobile Lawyers.
A combined edition and executive summary will be available later this month.
The findings discussed above came from the volume on mobile lawyers.
Legal news company ALM today rolled out a set of apps for iPhones and iPads covering 14 of its national and regional publications.
The apps, which can be downloaded from at.law.com/apps, cover the the following publications:
- The American Lawyer.
- Corporate Counsel.
- Law Technology News.
- The National Law Journal.
- Connecticut Law Tribune.
- Daily Business Review.
- Daily Report Online.
- Delaware Business Court Insider.
- Delaware Law Weekly.
- New Jersey Law Journal.
- New York Law Journal.
- Texas Lawyer.
- The Legal Intelligencer.
- The Recorder.
A press release issued by ALM today says this:
The apps offer a superior and faster reading experience than what is possible through a smartphone or tablet Web browser. They also provide offline reading capability so users can view news stories and other articles even when they are not connected to the Web.
I had a different experience when I tried the app for The National Law Journal. The screenshot at right shows what is supposed to be the “front page.” This is not what you’d expect for a news outlet’s front page. It seems to bear little relation to the stories that appear on the NLJ’s web front page. Further, it lists items out of context, leaving the reader confused. Why, for example, is the name of the law firm Sidley Austin listed there? When I click through to the article, I find it is a profile of the firm, and I have to guess that it has something to do with the recently published NLJ 350. But that is purely a guess on my part — the app offers no context.
This may not be the fault of the app, however. The mobile version of the NLJ web page shows virtually the same front page as the app and is just as confusing.
On top of all that, the app was slow on my iPhone, with pages taking several seconds to load and in one case more than five minutes over a strong 3G connection. And I could find no way to save content for offline reading, although that may be because the app already downloaded it to my device. A “help” page would be helpful here.
The press release goes on to say:
The apps are being sponsored by leading financial and legal institutions who are providing end-users free complimentary access to the content during the launch sponsorship.
That’s a good thing, I guess. It means that some content that might otherwise be behind a paywall is available here thanks to the sponsor. In fact, if you look at the NLJ front page using the iPhone’s Safari browser, several of these stories are locked. If you look at the same stories using the app, they are unlocked.
If you regularly follow any of these ALM publications, its app might prove handy. But given my admittedly brief experience using the NLJ app, I would like to see editorial and navigational enhancements to make it clearer to the reader what stories are about and why they’re there.
Two experts in legal research have developed an app for iOS and Android devices that they describe as like an international GPS for lawyers, helping you quickly locate the right web resource for a variety of legal research tasks. After trying it out over several days, I am impressed by how much it covers.
In some cases, however, I was tripped up by anomalies in how the app organizes resources. I found myself confused about why certain resources were omitted, when it turns out some of them were there all along, only not where I thought I’d find them. More on that below.
Called LawSauce, the app helps you sift through the variety of legal materials available online and find the ones best suited to help you find what you need. It covers more than 100 jurisdictions and includes more than 8,000 links. More links are being added all the time — in fact new links were added just this morning.
The app was developed by Ruth Bird, law librarian at the Bodleian Law Library at the University of Oxford in the U.K., and Natalie Wieland, legal research skills adviser at the University of Melbourne Law School in Australia. They created it, Bird told me, after being constantly confronted by frustrated researchers who find too much information on the web and want a shortcut to the right spot.
The app works by guiding you to the appropriate resource. For example, let’s say you want to find a case from the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The first screen in LawSauce asks you to select a task. From the drop-down menu, tap, “Find Cases.” That takes you to the next screen, which asks you to select a region. Tap “Africa.” The next screen asks you to select a jurisdiction, so from a list of African countries, you tap “South Africa.” The next screen asks you to select a title. Various resources are listed, but you tap, “Constitutional Court of South Africa.” Next you go to a screen that asks you select a resource. Only one is listed — the World Legal Information Institute. Click “Next” and you come to a page that summarizes your selections and has a hyperlink to the World LII. (If the selected resource is not free, LawSauce displays a dollar sign.) Tap the link to open your device’s browser and go to the World LII.
That first screen, where you are asked to select a task, summarizes the types of resources you can find through this app. The selections available there are:
- Find blogs. This provides links to selected legal blogs.
- Find cases. This links to the source of the case reports or to the court, not the actual cases. You must search within the linked resource to find specific cases.
- Find gazettes. This links to the official government site for the gazette or official journal of the country or entity, provided in the language of the country. (For the U.S., the only source included here is the Federal Register.)
- Find Hansard. This links to parliamentary or congressional debates. (In the U.S., this links to the Congressional Record.)
- Find journal title. This links to the provider or aggregator of legal journals.
- Find legislation. This includes links to acts, statutes, bills, regulations, statutory instruments, subordinate legislation, delegated legislation and rules.
- Find LRC Reports. This links to Law Reform Commission sites with collections of their reports.
- Find treaties. This links to international, multilateral and bilateral treaties.
The first time I tried the app, I found myself confused about what appeared to be omissions. Because I am located in Massachusetts, I thought I’d try a simple task of finding resources for the cases of our highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court. So I went through the screens, selecting “Find Cases,” then “North America,” and then “Massachusetts.”
When I got to the screen that said, “Select Title,” I scrolled down and found “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.” When I selected that, LawSauce showed me only one resource, Fastcase. This surprised me, because Fastcase is a paid subscription service and there are several free sources for SJC opinions, including FindLaw, Justia and MassCases.com, not to mention Google Scholar.
I emailed Ruth Bird about this and she promptly replied, explaining that at least some of these resources I asked about are there, including FindLaw. However, they are listed using the label given by the particular provider.
Thus, if I go back to that “Select a Title” page where I selected “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court,” it turns out there is also a listing for “Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts” that would have led me to FindLaw. There is also “Massachusetts Reports,” which would have led me to Westlaw. There is also “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Slip Opinions,” which would have led me to the Social Law Library. And there is “Massachusetts State Reports,” which would have led me to the Legal Information Institute.
“Part of my difficulty,” Bird wrote in her email, “is that each provider labels the source slightly differently, and so the titles are not consistent. I am wrestling with whether to just name the courts and then list all the resource providers, or to honour the naming conventions of each provider.”
To my mind, the app should do the latter — list the court (or legislature or whatever) and then list all the sources.
This app is available for both iOS and Android devices. Currently, it costs $4.99 to purchase. A free version is being developed that will include all the same resources and features but that will have advertising. The LawSauce site provides links to the Apple and Android stores for downloading the app.
Apart from the one issue I described above, I can recommend this app as useful to anyone who is frequently engaged in legal research — particularly research in jurisdictions outside those in which you normally work. The developers have done a Herculean task of assembling these thousands of links from jurisdictions worldwide and organizing them in a way that lets you find them with just a few clicks.
Business cards can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that they provide an easy way to exchange contact information. The curse comes when you get back to your office and have to figure out what to do with them. Basically, you have two choices. One is to condemn the cards to business-card purgatory – that shelf in your office where they sit and gather dust. The other is to make them useful by adding the information to your contact-management system.
In the prehistoric days of the all-paper Rolodex, adding business cards to your contacts was easy. You could just clip two notches in a card and insert it in your Rolodex in appropriate alphabetical order. In fact, business-card notch clippers were once popular giveaways at legal trade shows. Now, however, you face the problem of having to get the information from that paper card to your digital file.
Not surprisingly, there are apps for that. One of the easiest to use is Bump, which is available for iPhone and Android. With Bump, you can forget the paper business cards altogether. Just hold your phone in your hand and bump the hand of another Bump user. Your contact information is magically transferred between phones.
Bump sounds like the ideal remedy for business-card overload. The problem is that the other person’s phone needs to have Bump installed and both people need to have it ready to go and set up to exchange contacts. Rarely have I actually used Bump, primarily because the other person either does not have it or has never set it up.
Another alternative is an app that turns your smart phone into a business-card scanner. There are a number of such apps available. One I have used is CamCard from IntSig, available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. Snap a picture of the business card and CamCard recognizes the contact information and saves it to your address book. It will also read QR code business cards. Once you’ve saved the information, you can search for the contact on LinkedIn or export the information to Excel.
These scanner apps are nice but imperfect. If you start with a plain, block-text business card and get a well-lit, sharp picture, the OCR software does a good job of deciphering the information on the card and inserting the correct information in the correct fields. But if you start with a more stylized card or cannot get a clear shot, the OCR performs less admirably. Either way, you end up having to go in and manually check and edit the scanned information. For the amount of text contained on a business card, it almost seems easier to type it directly.
The Holy Grail
What makes CardMunch different is that it uses real humans. Just as with the other apps, you use your smart phone to snap a photo of the business card. Once you have the picture, you tap “upload” and wait. Unlike OCR apps, CardMunch sends the image to real-live humans. They transcribe the information and send it back to you, at which point CardMunch notifies you, “You have a new contact.” The most recent one I tried was returned to me in roughly an hour.
CardMunch stores your contacts and also stores the scanned cards in a cover-flow view — hold your iPhone vertically to see the list of contacts, turn it horizontal to see the cover flow. You can also save each entry to your smartphone contacts, which you can then synchronize with your Outlook contacts.
Another neat feature of CardMunch is its integration with LinkeIn. Each contact in CardMunch includes a “connect” button. Just click it to send a connection request to that person on LinkedIn. (If the person is not on LinkedIn, you receive an email from CardMunch telling you that.) CardMunch also pulls information from your contacts’ LinkedIn profiles, including their photographs, and adds it to their CardMunch file.
The only bad news I can report about CardMunch is that it is available only for iPhone. Its website used to say that support for both Android and BlackBerry phones “is coming soon.” But that message appears to have disappeared.
At ABA Techshow next week in Chicago, the cloud practice management platform MyCase is slated to debut a mobile app that will be a first for practice-management apps in that it will allow both clients and lawyers to access their case information. While other practice-management platforms have mobile apps allowing lawyers to access their case and client information, this would be the first that would include a separate portal for use by clients.
Reportedly, the app will include features that will allow clients to:
- View information about their case.
- Send and receive messages to and from the law firm.
- See and respond to comments.
The app will also allow lawyers to access their matters within MyCase, send messages to clients, view contact and calendar information, and bill on the go.
I have not seen the app, which MyCase will officially debut during Techshow. The app will not be available for download until it has completed the iTunes store approval process.