The Young Lawyers Section of the Maryland State Bar Association thought that it would be useful to create an iPhone and iPad apps for attorneys with the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct and important rules for lawyers. After a grant from the Maryland Bar Foundation, the result is the free MSBA app, which just appeared on the App Store this week. Thanks to Erek Barron, chair of the YLS of the MSBA, for bringing this app to my attention.
The main menu of the app has two modes. When the app starts you are presented with five buttons (the app calls them "tabs") that you can select: (1) The Maryland Rules of Evidence, (2) The Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct, (3) rules on Attorney Trust Accounts, (4) the Maryland Ideals of Professionalism and (5) the MSBA Code of Civility. Alternatively, you can display "list" mode which simply lists the chapters of all of these bodies of law in one long list. I'm not sure why the "list" view would ever be easier to use than the "tabs" view.
When you tap on a chapter you see all of the rules in that chapter. For example, tap on Rule 1 "Client-Lawyer Relationship" and you see a long list of every rule and comment, from Rule 1.1 to Rule 1.18, in one long list divided up into four different parts. It is nice to get all of the text of the rules and comments in a free app, but I don't understand the thinking behind putting all of the rules together. For example, if you want to review Rule 1.13 "Organization as Client" you need to first tap Rule 1, then scroll all the way down to the bottom, then tap a button to go the next part, then scroll all of the way to the bottom again, then tap a button to go to the third part, and then you can find the rule. It would be so much faster to have all of the rules in an index so that you can jump straight to Rule 1.13. The other bodies of law, such as the Rules of Evidence, are similarly grouped into long lists under each chapter.
There is a search feature which allows you to do a full text search. Hits are highlighted in yellow making them easy to find ... except that you have to scroll through that long list of rules to find the hits. You can also add bookmarks to each of the long sets of lists ... which once again would be a much more useful feature if you could add bookmarks to jump to a specific rule.
The app also includes a Links button at the bottom which provides links to parts of the MSBA website including the MSBA Hotline, MSBA Ethics Opinions (for members only) and Fastcase (for members only). The inclusion of Fastcase is curious. Lawyers in Maryland who want to use Fastcase on a computer need to first login at the MSBA website because (like many other state bars) the MSBA purchased Fastcase access for its member attorneys. But if you are on an iPhone or an iPad, the Fastcase app is free to everyone, regardless of whether your state bar has a contract with Fastcase. Why would anyone want to tap a link to the Maryland website on an iPhone to access the web version of Fastcase when they can instead just use the fantastic Fastcase iPhone / iPad app?
I love that the Young Lawyers Section of the Maryland Bar saw the need for an app and created something that is free for all attorneys. This is even a universal app so you can use it on both the iPhone and the iPad. I disagree with the decision to lump sets of rules together because it makes it harder to find the one rule that you need, and perhaps a 2.0 version of this app will address that. Nevertheless, if you are a Maryland attorney, you should still get this free app in case you want to look up any of these rules. For everyone else, perhaps this app can serve as an example and an impetus for other state bar associations to provide useful iPhone and iPad apps to their members.