The Georgetown Law Librarians regularly evaluate mobile applications related to legal research activities. To date, only a few native mobile applications exist specifically to perform legal research. However, enough good apps exist to give us an insight into the types of applications and services we might expect in the coming years. Here, we present a few insights into mobile applications for legal research.
Narrowly-Focused Tasks Make an App Easy to Use
The hallmark of most native mobile apps is quick information access. Apps can best answer simple research questions or verify laws quickly. Also, if these needs are recurring, an app can be very helpful.
FastCase provides a legal research application that lets you search federal and state case law from their servers without charge. They provide an iPhone and iPad version of the application, and both are free after creating an account. FastCase makes their money by selling access to their databases through individual subscriptions as well as bulk deals with bar associations. The mobile app describes the FastCase website and its additional features, but there is no upgrade path from one to the other.
LexisNexis Get Cases and Shepardize
The name no longer does justice to this app that allows researchers to find and update all U.S. statutes and cases available through Lexis.
Statutes include all of the annotations found through the Lexis website. For example the USC code sections includes case annotations and citations to related administrative law.
A further advantage of this app is that it contains Lexis annotations to all federal and state cases. Covering all cases available in the Lexis database, the app provides relevant value-added Lexis features such as case briefs, headnotes, and summaries of the case written by legal experts.
With a found case or statute this app provides an overview of the item’s subsequent legal treatment through Shepard’s. A researcher may also use Shepard’s to discover newer cases which distinguish the known case based upon the facts of the case.
A Great App Might Not be An App at All
So far, the ThomsonReuters strategy seems to be to develop Westlaw products so content is web-friendly instead of creating apps for specific devices. The main focus is on optimizing the WestlawNext platform, and the mobile applications page about WestlawNext touts flexible display for multiple mobile device types, including the iPhone. The result is app-like in features and usability, but it is accessed through a browser, such as Safari. The WestlawNext mobile site is fully-featured and simplifies finding Westlaw content. Because you must use your Westlaw password to access the site, it lets you access folders saved on WestlawNext, your favorites and any recent research activity.
There is one device-specific app for WestlawNext, created for the iPad, described on this page from ThomsonReuters.
Downloading Westlaw Document to a Kindle
As we noted back in December, WestlawNext allows users to download individual documents or groups of documents to a Kindle device. Before doing so, however, you need to add WestlawNext to your Kindle’s Approved E-mail List. Simply access the "Your Account" section of Amazon.com and select "Manage Your Kindle"; from the Digital Content options. From that page, add "westlawnext@westlawnext" (no quotes) to your "Approved E-Mail List." Also, be sure to note your "Kindle E-mail Address" located near the top of the page, as you will need to enter it on WestlawNext in order to download to your Kindle.
Note that there is no fee for documents received wirelessly on a Kindle. If received via 3G, however, a nominal fee will apply (15 cents per megabyte for users living in the U.S.).
Iinformation on transferring, downloading & sending files to a Kindle is available on the Amazon website.
Government Apps May Provide More than Legal Research
IRS2Go from the Internal Revenue Service
As we noted in a January blog post, the Internal Revenue Service announced that a new mobile app has been released and is now available for your iPhone, iTouch or Android. Known as IRS2Go, this official IRS app will provide daily tax tips and updates for tax planning and preparation purposes.
Additionally, you’ll be able to check your refund status for the 2010 Tax Year. As usual, the app is available by visiting the iTunes app store or the Android Marketplace.
For additional tax research needs, make use of the Library’s Federal Tax Research Guide which explains how and where to find tax documentation.
More than thirty device-specific apps are available from the federal government, found in the USA.Gov Apps Directory. For instance, on this site, you’ll find a White House iPhone app, an Android app for Product Recalls,