Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of apps, sites, and technology.

Judicial Profiles Show Judges are Humans Too

Cardozo

“Is this guy the second coming of Benjamin Cardozo, or is he a blithering idiot?”

The above quote may or may not be an actual line of dialogue spoken to me by an attorney during a recent judicial profile request. Though typically not as colorfully submitted, requests for judicial profile searches are ubiquitous. This is logical: there are 600+ federal judges swinging gavels around out there, way too many for a single attorney to become familiar with. And, each one of these individual appointments has his or her own personality quirks and idiosyncrasies (they are humans after all), variables that can easily play a role in a case’s proceedings. This creates a need for descriptive information about a judge’s judicial temperament, procedure, and–to take the above example, intelligence. And, the ideal source for this specific information has to be supplied by people attorneys can trust. Isn’t it shocking to find out this source may be…other attorneys? Continue reading

Predicting the Future with Analytics

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“3D Bar Graph Meeting”, (c) Scott Maxwell

The term “jargon” has complicated social meanings. Jargon primarily refers to specialized language used by a specific group of individuals; conversely, this means individuals outside of the in-crowd don’t know what the heck is being talked about when jargon starts to be tossed around. Secondary dictionary definitions attribute vaguely morally-loaded values on the term, as per dictionary.com: “unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish”, “language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning”. These negative connotations suggest people don’t like or trust jargon, presumably because of its ability to exclude. But, we have a productive option: to find out what the jargon being used actually means. Continue reading

How Legal Apps Rank: Part 2, the Success Stories

In Part 1 of How Legal Apps Rank, available here, I examined the Apple App store category rankings of the WestlawNext and Lexis Advance apps. In this post, I will examine the legal apps we should all be paying attention to: the success stories.

In searching for as many legal apps as I could find, I stumbled across many legal app pathfinders, bibliographies, and “best of” lists, but a special thanks goes out to the two lists that especially stood out: the often-updated libguide created by University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School Reference Librarian Jenny Zook and UCLA School of Law Reference Librarian Vicki Steiner’s guide. Also, I tried to be as inclusive and search for as many apps as possible–from apps produced by the big publishers, to those put together by the start-ups and the little guys.

My methodology was to, again, plug the apps into App Annie, and examine the apps’ historical, categorical rankings. Again, I have limited myself to the Apple App store/apps designed for the iPhone or iPad.

Time for the big reveal–here are the apps that surprised and stood out:

trialpad

TrialPad, published, in name, by Saurian Communications, Inc., though really by Lit Software, is an award-winning trial presentation app. To simplify its features: while users are at trial or mediation TrialPad easily connects to TVs and enables attorneys to display documents, play videos, and more, all with a host of great annotation tools. TrialPad is for the iPad only, and costs $89.99. Here’s its “Grossing Ranks” chart:

TrialPad_Grossing_Better
First, we can see this app has hit the #1 position in the “Business” category on a number of occasions (note that the y-axis on this chart has been reduced to 1-30, showing how frequently this app ranks highly). The “Business” category in the app store is generally the domain of scanning apps, .pdf readers, invoice/timesheet creation apps, and other esoterica–TrialPad genuinely sticks out for having such a specifically defined audience. Also notable, this is the “Grossing Ranks” chart, as opposed to the “Download Ranks” chart. TrialPad, again, costs $89.99 which is higher than most apps and means less downloads are required to lead to higher grosses and therefore a higher ranking in the “Grossing Ranks” chart.

With all of this said, here is the “Download Ranks” chart:

TrialPad_Downloads

On this chart, I have extended the y-axis values to 1-100; we can see TrialPad is not consistently in the top 30 like it is in the Grossing Ranks, but it still is a very high-performing app, and one that law librarians and information professionals need to have on the radar (as an aside, it appears this app has been on our radar as, beyond the times I saw it in app patherfinders and guides, I also recall this app being demo’ed at the 2014 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Cafe by Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian from the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Library).

Turns out TrialPad isn’t the only Saurian Communications, Inc./Lit Software, app to have on the radar–the other?:

transcriptpad

TranscriptPad provides attorneys with a bevy of annotation and review tools for use with legal transcripts. TranscriptPad, too, is only for the iPad and costs $89.99. Below, I have pulled TranscriptPad’s “Grossing Ranks” chart:

TranscriptPad_Grossing

Though slightly outperformed by its brethren TrialPad, TranscriptPad still exhibits stellar results. I reduced the y-axis to 1-30 in the above “Grossing Ranks” chart, which shows how often TranscriptPad is located near the top of the “Business” category. TranscriptPad even hit the #1 ranking on  July 17, 2014. TranscriptPad’s “Grossing Ranks” positions are aided by the fact this app also costs $89.99, meaning the grossing rank can be accentuated with less downloads. To that end, here is the download chart with the y-axis extended to 1-250:

TranscriptPad_Downloads

All in all Lit Software must be commended for producing two of the most successful legal apps on the market, even more impressive that this coming from a start-up and not one of the big legal publishers.

ijuror

Our next success story app is also another victory for the little guys, or in this case, guy. iJuror is published by the prolific Scott Falbo, who has 86 other app credits to his name. iJuror helps in the process of jury selection, enabling attorneys to quickly appoint characteristics and notes to potential jurors, as well as compile reports they can easily share with colleagues, among other features. Below is the “Grossing Ranks” chart for iJuror:

iJuror_Gross

This app is ranked in the “Business” category (same as TrialPad and TranscriptPad), and is available for the iPad only. The y-axis is reduced to 1-250 in the above, which shows a consistent placement around the #100 rank. This particular app does cost $24.99, which is more than what usually dots the “Business” category in the app store, and means less downloads equal a higher bump in the “Grossing Ranks” chart. This is an older app, introduced in 2010, and still able to remain relevant, as per the above chart.

Practical Law The Journal – Litigation

Now, to deviate, the next two apps display the importance of current awareness materials. The first is the Thomson Reuters published  Practical Law The Journal – Litigation app, which offers a convenient way for subscribers to read this publication on-the-go. Below is the “Download Ranks” chart:

PLJ-Litigation_Downloads

The above, with the y-axis filtered to 1-250, shows the app’s “Professional & Trade” category rankings; the app hit #1 on January 30, 2014. And, similarly, let’s look at another current awareness app:

ABA Journal magazine

ABA Journal Magazine is the mobile extension of the American Bar Journal’s magazine, ABA Journal. The app is simple, designed to enable on-the-go attorneys the ability to read the contents of the print magazine (subscription required). Below is the all-time “Download Ranks” chart for the iPhone delivery of this app; the y-axis set to 1-50, and this is the “Professional & Trade” category:

ABAJournal_DownloadsABA Journal Magazine has broached the top ten in “Professional & Trade” a few times, even hitting #1 early in its deployment, on Feb. 13th, 2014.

Both Practical Law The Journal – Litigation and ABA Journal Magazine exemplify that iPads (in particular) do an excellent job of displaying the content of serials. Not only are they visually appealing in app form, more than just the current issue is accessible, and navigation is not restricted to leafing through pages. The lesson: current awareness materials translate to tablets really well.

In summation, those are the legal app success stories–thanks for reading!

Starting in October: Tell us your favorite apps – get featured!

emot-applauseiBraryGuy is excited to announce a new crowdsourced feature starting in October.  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

A Compilation of Secretary of State Sites: Making State of Incorporation Searches Easier

SecretaryOfState-PA

One of the great things about the U.S. is the uniqueness of each individual state. Beyond cultural, political, historical and artistic variances, this truism (fortunately or unfortunately) applies to Secretary of State corporation search interfaces. Each state’s agency handles the design and offerings of their interface their own way—some allow for free corporate status reports, free corporate documents, and free searching, while others find a way to charge for each step in the process of obtaining company information. 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

Ravel_Icon

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.

Ravel_Map1 Continue reading

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