Earlier this year, I reviewed the $50 Black's Law Dictionary app, the definitive legal dictionary for attorneys. At the other end of the spectrum is the free Plain English Law Dictionary app from Nolo. Nolo is well known for selling books and software that allow non-lawyers to draft their own documents, so obviously lawyers are not the target audience for this app. But this app does a nice job of living up to its title, explaining common legal terms in easy to understand, plain English.
The app has a choice of three themes: modern, classic and orange. From the main screen, you can choose a topic area to see a list of terms.
The app includes hundreds of legal terms, and also includes explanations of many noteworthy cases and statutes, such as New York Times v. Sullivan and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can use the A to Z slider on the right side to jump to a specific term. Nolo does a very nice job with this feature because a large pop-up tab appears as you slide your finger, making it easy to stop on the right letter. I would love to see Apple add this feature to apps like Contacts that also feature an A to Z slider.
The center icon on the app allows you to access the part of the Nolo website that contains a lawyer directory. Surprisingly, the page is not optimized for the iPhone screen so you really need to zoom to read anything. Another feature of the app is that you can shake it at any time to see a random legal word and definition.
Even though this app is geared toward non-lawyers, I think that lawyers will enjoy checking it out. It is a good app to recommend to your clients, and you might even learn something on an area of law that you don't practice. For example, I don't practice employment law so I had never before heard of the term "frolic and detour," which the app says refers to employee conduct outside the scope of employment for which an employer is not liable. I am aware of that legal doctrine, but if a colleague had told me that someone was frolicking and detouring, I definitely would have been confused and I probably would have assumed they were trying to tell a joke. But now I know. Anyway, Nolo did a nice job with this app, and especially since it is free, you should check it out.