The Law Pod, a company started by law student Fitz Collings, is one of a few companies that sells legal reference materials for the iPhone. The Law Pod sells the U.S. Constition for $0.99, and five other sets of rules for $1.99 each: the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Appellate Procedure and Bankruptcy Procedure. I reviewed the app sold by The Law Pod back in February of 2009, and at the time I noted that there were design differences between the Law Pod apps and the similar apps developed by Cliff Maier that might lead some to prefer one over the other, but also noted that The Law Pod apps were missing many features that were offered by the Cliff Maier apps. Earlier this week, the Law Pod apps were updated to version 2.0, and there are some great improvements. I'll focus this post on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure app, but these same improvements appear in many of the Law Pod apps and I presume that all of them will eventually receive updates to 2.0.
One design difference that has always existed between The Law Pod and legal reference apps sold by others is the way that the rules are set forth when you start the app. In Cliff Maier's apps, for example, you see a list of titles, which you then must tap to see a list of rules under each title. The Law Pod has always instead given you a list of the rules. One of the recent changes is that the list now includes the title of the rule, not just the number. Here are the main screens of The Law Pod app (left) and the Cliff Maier app (right) to show you the difference:
Cliff Maier's apps have long included a helpful JUMP button to allow you to go to a specific rule. The Law Pod apps now include a similar GoTo button. There seems to be a slight bug if you want to go to rules with a decimal point. Notice how the below screen says "Example: 1.1"? While there is no Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 1.1, there is a Rule 4.1, but you cant jump to it because the keypad lacks a period/decimal point. You have to go to Rule 4 and then tap the NEXT button at the bottom to go to Rule 4.1. I presume this minor bug will be fixed, and putting aside that bug, the GoTo feature works quite well.
A third new feature is the ability to change the font size and font (the default Helvitica, Times or Courier). For anyone whose eyes are not as good as they used to be, this is a great feature.
There are other small improvements as well. The app now saves your location in the app when you exit, so you can quickly return to the last rule you were reviewing. Search features are improved so that the results are filtered as you type, and the search terms are highlighted in the rules. Finally, you can view Advisory Committee Notes for each rule.
There are now several companies selling legal reference apps, but with these improvements, the apps sold by The Law Pod are excellent choices.