Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of apps, sites, and technology.

Tell us your favorite apps – get featured!

emot-applauseiBraryGuy is excited to announce a new crowdsourced feature.  Let’s hear your APPlause!

It seems like there is an app for everything these days. Just within the realm of information alone, there are apps for staying updated on the news, conducting research, managing your time, communicating with your team, and even billing for the good work you do. These are just the tip of the technological iceberg! At iBraryGuy, we do our very best to share reviews of some of our latest and greatest app discoveries. Yet we cannot help but wonder what you are using. Continue reading

Tracking Legislation: GovTrack.us & LegiScan

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As legal information professionals, I am sure you have received requests to track proposed legislation. Changes in statutory law are obviously fundamentally important to the practice of law. The potential for legislative change creates an information need requiring a method of monitoring the status of proposed legislation as it bounces around the legislature. Thankfully, monitoring proposed laws/bills can be done electronically. In fact, there is an abundance of software and services that can accomplish this task. In the past, I have turned to subscription services to set these tracks up. Using a Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg BNA is fine and will do the job of tracking legislation for you, but the drawback to these services is they cost money. Notably, there are alternatives on the web that track legislation, and do so for free. Continue reading

Quickly Check the Availability of State Court Electronic Docket and Document Access With CourtReference.com

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Though I have detailed its flaws, PACER’s existence as the centralized interface containing electronic access to Federal court dockets and documents makes our jobs as law librarians much easier. State courts, on the other hand, are the wild west of electronic docket and document access. Continue reading

Ravel Law: Visualizing Legal Research

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Ravel Law incorporates the age-old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” into legal research. Visualization is fundamentally incorporated into Ravel Law’s software design. When users conduct a search on a legal topic, or a prior case, Ravel delivers an interactive graphic displaying cases associated with this topic or prior case; the cases that are the most heavily cited have larger icons, thus signifying quickly to researchers which cases are fundamentally important to whatever topic or prior case they’re researching.

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Inforuptcy: Enhanced & Cost Effective Bankruptcy Docket & Document Retrieval

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Interfacing with PACER is just a fact of life, especially for those of you working in Bankruptcy practice groups. Our country’s Bankruptcy courts, of course, are electronically accessible via PACER, and feature cases with massive dockets comprised of thousands of filed documents; many trees are destroyed during bankruptcy proceedings. So, the ability to locally store dockets and documents and keep these files organized is a Herculean challenge—in practice, most legal professionals presumably end up querying PACER over and over again, pulling the same documents multiple times. The issue with this: every time you pull a docket or document from PACER, you are charged a fee ($.10 a page, capped at $3.00 per document). It doesn’t matter if you pull the same document three times, you will be charged a fee every time you pull it. Continue reading

PacerPro Unveils DocketShare

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I have been lucky enough to give a few presentations that usually require a brief explanation of cloud computing. I am intrigued by the concept, of course, but am always terrified I am going to lose the interest of my audience as I ramble on about private clouds, software as a service, security concerns, and the like, so I have been trying to discipline myself to really keep definitions to a sentence or two, and not ramble excitedly on about technological ephemera. My typical fall-back summary of the cloud is: cloud computing basically puts the internet in-between you and your hard drive. And because the internet is connecting you to your data, you now have the option of connecting other users to your data. This concept of collaboration is one of the fundaments of the cloud-computing/network age. Continue reading

Pacer Pro is Pacer Improved

If you have ever pulled a federal court document, then you are familiar with Pacer. Pacer’s critics are many and prone to point out the software’s numerable flaws including its arcane UI and user costs. Luckily, we are riding a wave of programmers and entrepreneurs who have been willing to improve upon this outdated interface (see my previous write-up of DkT). The latest is the impressive Pacer Pro, which, as Robert Ambrogi writes in his excellent review of Pacer Pro in the March 2014 issue of ABAJournal (available here) “provides universal search[ing], more robust search tools, more informative search results, and better ways to manage documents and downloads”. He’s right, this is a vast improvement on the Pacer UI–and it’s free! Here are some of the really good things Pacer Pro does: Continue reading

How is Bloomberg Law’s New App?

Bloomberg Law has announced the release of a new app that works in conjunction with your Bloomberg Law subscription. The app is available both for the Apple iOS (via the App Store) and the Android operating system (via Google Play). Continue reading

App Review: DkT

If you work in the legal field, there is no doubt you have experienced working with PACER; it’s the interface that enables users to access and file federal court documents. DkT (available here) is a brand new app that puts an easily-navigable, streamlined mobile user interface on top of PACER, enabling users to access documents via their mobile devices. PACER does have its own mobile interface, but DkT has design features that clearly separate it as a better option for users, including: Continue reading

Same Content, Different Apps: Martindale-Hubbell, Lawyers.com

Lexis has created two apps that do the exact same thing: the Martindale-Hubbell and Lawyers.com apps allow user access to the same, giant directory of attorneys. Lexis, though, clearly has different audiences in mind for the two apps, having tailored Martindale-Hubbell to attorneys and Lawyers.com for the public.

The Martindale-Hubbell app is intended to be used by attorneys. More legal language is employed in the template searches that drive the app: users can search for “area of practice” or “law school” for example. The copy from the app description in the iTunes store indicates attorneys are the prime audience for this app as well. The copy, accessible here, reads: “Need to refer a case to an attorney outside your jurisdiction?” and “Ever wished you could look-up opposing counsel’s background and expertise on the fly?”.

Lawyers.com, on the other hand, is directed towards members of the public who need an attorney. The app delivers the contact information of the lawyer closest to the user’s current location, gives contact information for the searched-for attorneys, and even displays directions on how to reach their office. And iTunes store copy, accessible here, states: “Need to find a lawyer fast?” “Looking for ratings and reviews on lawyers in your area?”, and even goes on to state the content underlying the app is coming from the Martindale-Hubbell lawyer directory.

It’s a little reductive, but generally true, to say that apps typically are user interfaces thrown on top of databases. More often than not, apps are just a mode for users to access, interface with, and sometimes contribute content to some underlying, large database. Observing Lexis’s creation of two different interfaces intended for two different audiences to settle on top of the same content gives us an interesting insight into the actions and perspectives of one of the really big fish of the legal research world. Re-organizing the same information is something that continually occurs in the world of apps, though usually it’s different app producers creating different interfaces, not the same producer creating multiple apps that do the same thing. But, Lexis’s actions are clever–the public and attorneys are different enough audiences, with different enough research goals, who will emphasize different enough search criteria, that deploying different interfaces for them seems to be an effective solution.

Lastly, though downloading and using the apps is free, I’m sure you’ll have to pay for whatever attorney you find.