Entries in mobile (9)


The WestlawNext App for the iPad Redefines Legal Research for the Mobile Lawyer

Several months ago Westlaw unveiled its next-generation web-based legal research service, called WestlawNext. Although I knew an overhaul of their system was in the works, once I got my hands on WestlawNext I was blown away by Westlaw's implementation of the new service. I was also pleased to see that they had designed an "iPad Edition" of the website specifically formatted for viewing on the iPad. Although it wasn't a native "app" for the iPad, it was easily accessible from the iPad's web browser and the bookmark could be saved as an icon to the iPad's home screen.

My best attempt at describing WestlawNext is that it takes all of the best features and components from Westlaw and reorganizes and reintegrates them into a single web-based interface that is extremely easy and efficient to use. Westlaw clearly had the end-user in mind when they added much needed features, such as saving research and documents (including snippets and notes) to custom-named folders.

The "iPad Edition" of the WestlawNext site was quite usable from the iPad's mobile browser and I could have lived with it for my mobile research needs. But when Westlaw released its native WestlawNext app for the iPad in late August, I was ecstatic, as the iPad app itself is phenomenal.

The application's user interface is well designed and intuitive. The "Home" screen is where you start your research. A search bar is located at the very top of the screen, where you can enter citations, database names, and search terms, in either natural language or Boolean syntax. It also includes a button to select the jurisdiction(s) for the search. The center of the home screen contains five buttons that, when selected, list either your recent searches, recent documents, frequently used databases, favorited items, or a list of categories to browse from (cases, statutes, secondary sources, etc.) A button bar located at the very bottom of the screen takes you to your complete search and browsing history and to your custom folders where all of your saved research is stored.

If a search is entered into the search bar, the application takes you to a results page showing a list of search results on the right side of the page and a list of various filters (content type, jurisdiction, date, etc.) on the left. Depending on the type of search conducted (e.g. cases), the results list shows the case caption, court and date information, a short synopsis of the case, and snippets from the case containing your search terms, highlighted and in bold text. You can press a button located at the top right-hand corner of the page to send the results list to any email address.

Selecting a result from the list takes you to the document reading page, which is where the application really shines. There is quite a bit of functionality is designed into this part of the application, as this is where you will be spending most of your time reading documents and making decisions about the utility of those documents. The main part of the screen displays the document in typical Westlaw fashion, showing the full caption, a case summary, West Headnotes, and the text of the opinion. Search terms are highlighted and bolded in the document.

A tool bar at the top of the screen contains buttons that provide access to KeyCite (Westlaw's citation service), as well as buttons that let you adjust font size and typeface, email or save the document to a custom research folder, or attach a research note to the document. A tool bar at the bottom of the screen allows you to cycle forward and backward though your results and search terms.

In addition to searching by search term or citation, from the home screen you can also browse through databases and categories, such as statutes and regulations. You select your jurisdiction and then drill down through the jurisdiction's organizational structure or table of contents (e.g. volume, chapter, section) until you find the statute you are looking for. The text of the statute is presented in the document viewer with all the bells and whistles I mentioned above (KeyCite, email, font adjustments, etc.) You can also access legislative materials and Notes of Decisions (annotations.) 

Access to Westlaw's KeyCite information is available just about anytime a document is being viewed or listed in a results list. When you press the KeyCite button or color-coded indicator flag, case treatment information is presented with helpful text and graphics to indicate the status and depth of treatment of the case, captions, dates, and headnote references.

The application also tracks your search history, recent documents, notes, frequently used databases, favorites, and saved documents and, best of all, automatically stores the information on the WestlawNext servers so that the information stays in sync with your account. In other words, all of your mobile research is available when you sit down at your desktop in the office or at home (and vice versa.) 

Needless to say, I was very impressed with the WestlawNext application for the iPad. WestlawNext is a premium paid service and, therefore, a WestlawNext subscription is required in order to use the application. If you are looking for a free alternative to WestlawNext, you should consider the Fastcase application, which I have discussed in a previous post and is a terrific legal research application in its own right. However, it does lack some of the premium features offered by WestlawNext, such as the KeyCite citation service. If you are a Westlaw subscriber and have not yet tried out WestlawNext, it is definitely worth a look. And if you have an iPad, a subscription to WestlawNext becomes even more compelling.

I included a few more screenshots below.


Fastcase Brings Mobile Legal Research to the iPad

Fastcase has released its new legal research application for the iPad. Their iPhone version of the application has been available for some time now. However, I was looking forward to their release of the iPad version because I think the iPad is a much more suitable platform for conducting legal research.

The iPad version of Fastcase is the first native application of its kind for the device. If you are a WestlawNext subscriber, they had the foresight to create an iPad-formatted version of their new web-based service. WestlawNext is amazing, and is what I normally use for my day-to-day legal research needs. But the Westlaw service can be pricey and, for the sole practitioner or small firm that cannot afford the service, a free legal research service is a life saver. The fact that Fastcase for the iPad is a fully-functional and very well executed application makes it a must-have for the mobile lawyer.

The Fastcase user interface is clean and uncluttered, yet takes full advantage of the iPad's best features.  The initial view presents the user with the option of searching caselaw, searching statutes, or browsing statutes. Selecting "search caselaw," for example, will take you to a screen where you can, among other things, select the jurisdiction(s) to be searched and limit the results by date. Cases can be searched by both citation and keyword/search phrase. The statute browser (shown below) allows you to drill down through various titles and chapters until you get to the section you are looking for.

Statute Browser

Search results first appear in a table with a short summary (optional) under each citation.  Upon selecting a citation, a new split-view window appears which, if the iPad is in landscape orientation, shows a list of the search results in a table on the left and the selected document on the right. If the iPad is in portrait orientation, the main view shows the selected document and the search results list is accessible from a pop-out button in the upper lefthand corner. The search terms are also highlighted in the document. Another great design feature is a slider that allows the user to resize the text of the selected document.

Initial Search Results Page

Split View Search Results Page

Aside from a well-designed screen layout, Fastcase also provides some great legal research tools.  One such feature is the ability to save documents at the push of a button. The saved documents can be retrieved anytime from a tab bar at the bottom of the main screen.  Pressing the "Most Relevant" button on the search results page will scroll to the point in the document that contains the text most relevant to the search parameters.  The application also keeps track of your recent searches, so that you can always go back to them at a later date.  By tapping the orange numbers at the top of the search results page, Fastcase takes you to its "Authority Check Report," which lists other cases that cite to your current document. Unlike Westlaw's KeyCite service, Fastcase does not discuss the treatment of the cited case but, nevertheless, it is a useful tool so long as you don't mind doing a little extra reading.

Authority Check Report

All-in-all, Fastcase did a good job in creating a very usable mobile legal research application. It does not contain all of the features available in WestlawNext's full-service web-based application, but again, Fastcase is free.  If you own an iPad, Fastcase is definitely worth a look.


The iPad and the Cloud--The Future of Mobile Lawyering

I have been road testing the iPad for just about two months now and have had the opportunity to use it for work in a number of locales: at the office, at home, in court, in meetings, and on an airplane. As of today, the list of applications available for the iPad has reached 8,675, with around 150 new applications added daily, and, with over two million iPads now in the public's hands, the "is that the iPad?" questions are beginning to wane. People's questions are begging to focus on what the iPad can be used for and, correspondingly, what applications are worth downloading. 

For me and others who are using the iPad on a daily basis as part of their workflow, the answer to the "what applications" question is becoming quite clear: The best applications are those that use cloud-based services. Why? Because the utility of the iPad as a compact mobile computing appliance comes from being able to do outside the office what you normally do inside the office. Whether you are working from the office, home, a hotel, or the beach, the services you use need to be universally available regardless of the device you are working from--whether it be the iPhone, iPad, laptop, or desktop computer. Those services that offer applications that make it easy for you to efficiently switch between devices, so that you can get your work done no matter where you are, are the services that will ultimately be the most useful.

In this respect, several iPad/iPhone applications for cloud-based services are emerging as winners.

Dropbox (dropbox.com) - Dropbox is essentially a cloud-based file storage system that allows you to maintain files online. The service automatically syncs your files between multiple devices, including your desktop computers, so that you always have the most current version of a document available. The service is free for up to 2GB of storage, and they charge a small monthly fee for up to 50 or 100 GB. For what I do, 2GB is more than enough space. Dropbox offers free applications for both the iPhone and iPad that give you access to all of your up-to-date files. Also, since it is a cloud-based service, you can share files with others via URL links. One advantage of using the service is that if your hard drive crashes on your laptop, all of your files are backed-up on the system. Also, because it is a web-based service, you can access you documents from anyone's computer, so long as you have access to a web browser.

Good Reader (goodreader.net) - The Good Reader app ($0.99) builds on the availability of cloud-based services and provides an interface for accessing and viewing documents--and of particular interest to me, very large PDF documents. I previously published a detailed review of Good Reader here and I continue to use Good Reader for reading voluminous documents. Not only can you access documents stored in the cloud (such as on Dropbox) but you can quickly and easily import the documents directly from your email server, through iTunes, or over a WiFi connection 

Evernote (evernote.com) - I struggled for a while trying to find a good note taking application for the iPad. Ultimately for me, the best solution was Evernote. Evernote is a free cloud-based service (that can be upgraded to a premium pay service if you really need the extra space--which I don't) that allows you to store notes, web-clippings, photos, voice recordings, and many other things in the cloud. You can access your notes from their free iPhone and iPad applications, from their webpage, or from their native desktop applications. I now use Evernote for all of my note-taking needs because you can create, edit, search, tag, and view your notes from anywhere, and they are always kept in sync. If I am in court, I take notes on the iPad Evernote application. I then assign tags to the notes to make it easy to find later. You can also search notes by name, keyword, date, etc. An underused feature is the ability to forward an email to your assigned Evernote email address and the email will be stored on the system.

Toodledo (toodledo.com) - Toodledo is a full-featured cloud-based todo list service. The web-based service is free, and the related iPhone and iPad applications are $2.99--well worth the minimal cost. Your todo list is always kept in sync between the iPhone, iPad, and web service. There are also third party applications that sync with Toodledo, such as Todo for the iPad, which I prefer because it provides a more aesthetically pleasing interface, but it is essentially the same thing, as it uses the Toodledo service to maintain the todo list.


The iPad Lawyer

As I anxiously await Saturday’s debut of Apple’s iPad, I’m starting to dream up all the possible ways lawyers will be able to use the iPad in their everyday law practices. Now that Apple’s embargo on discussing the iPad has been lifted, prompting the release of numerous video reviews including the hour-long demonstration by Andy Ihnatko on Twit.tv, it is clear -- at least to me -- that we will be seeing a lot of iPads in the hands of lawyers and in the courtroom. 

I plan to dive right in and start using the iPad for just about everything while I’m away from the office. Aside from the obvious uses, such as a word processor and e-mail client, the iPad promises to be an excellent notetaker and research tool. Several developers have already released robust notetaking applications for the iPad, such as Notability. The Fastcase application (assuming it will be updated for the iPad) and the Google Scholar website should be much more usable on the iPad than they are on the iPhone, and it will be interesting to see whether the rumored soon-to-be-released Westlaw application will be as amazing as their (still in beta) Westlaw Next service.

I also routinely use the Dragon Dictation application to dictate e-mails and notes on my iPhone and I hope to use the same application on the iPad to dictate notes, letters, etc., into iWork. Apple’s comment that iWork on the iPad will be able to sync with Google Docs -- which I commonly use for drafting and collaborating on documents -- will cater to my particular workflow. In addition, I’m toiling with idea of using either Apple’s Keynote application or an e-book reader, such as Stanza, in place of the written outlines I typically use for courtroom oral argument. How nice would it be to flip from page to page in your outline with the tap of a finger?

I have a lot more ideas that I would like to explore once I have an iPad in hand, but in the meantime, I would love to hear feedback from other lawyers on how, if at all, they envision incorporating the iPad into their law practices. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please feel free to post your comments.


Court Days 2.0 Update

I am excited to report that I just completed a major update to the Court Days legal date calculator for the iPhone. I added a lot of new features and enhancements, many of which were requested by Court Days users. 

Some of these new features and improvements include:

  • You can now provide you own custom court holidays. This is especially useful if your jurisdiction is not in the application's default database or if your local court sets its own holiday schedule.
  • You can now calculate the number of court days, calendar days, weekdays, etc. between two dates.
  • You can now email the results of your date calculations.
  • The application now defaults back to your last selections and settings on relaunch.

The update has been submitted to Apple for approval and should be available on the iTunes Store soon. In the meantime, take a look at some of the screenshots below.