Most attorneys who use an iPhone can make good use of an app that contains the text of frequently used statutes or rules. It is helpful to have the language at your fingertips for when you need it. The App Store has quite a few choices in this genre, but a few developers have taken steps to stand out from the field. One such app is PUSH Legal, an app by Alex Torry of Houston, TX, that contains select federal and state rules and statutes (including California, Delaware, Florida, New York and Texas). The distinguishing feature is that PUSH Legal recognizes that sometimes what matters most is not the text of the rule, but instead how the rule has been interpreted. Thus, for many rules (and by "many" I mean a very large number of them, virtually all that I have seen so far in the federal collections), the app also includes summaries of seminal cases discussing the rule. You can even click a link to read those cases via Google Scholar. (I discussed Google Scholar when it debuted in late 2009.) And if you want to read even more cases discussing the rule, every rule in PUSH Legal has a link that composes a search to run in Google Scholar to look for more cases.
The PUSH Legal app itself is free, but you have to pay for a subscription through the PUSH Legal website for $29.95/month or $299.00/year. That price gives you access to all of their bodies of law, not only on the iPhone but also on their website. (If you are a criminal defense attorney who belongs to NACDL, there is a 20% discount.) When you sign up for PUSH Legal on their website, you can cancel your subscription within seven days at no charge.
The main screen of the app shows you the bodies of law that you have downloaded. To get more, tap the Library button. There is also a link to Google Scholar if you want to jump right there to do research. Keep in mind, however, that Google Scholar is a free resource so you can always just use Google Scholar in Safari on your iPhone without paying for this app.
If you know the rule that you need, just browse to it in a list and the rule is there under the "Article" tab. You can read the rule on your iPhone or you can tap a button to email the text.
To see the selected seminal cases, tap the Leading Cases tab. Under Fed. R. Civ. Pro 19, for example, there are six leading cases included.
Are these selected cases really the seminal cases? Obviously that will be a topic on which reasonable minds can disagree. The developer tells me that these "Leading Cases" are selected by professors, legal scholars, and practicing lawyers. I practice class action law, and I see that PUSH Legal selects 12 cases for Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23. The first listed case is the recent Wal-Mart decision, and that probably is a good place to start to see the current application of Rule 23, the last case listed is the important Zahn case from 1973, and between that there are some good federal appellate decisions. If someone was trying to get an overview of Rule 23, they could do far worse than look at those 12 cases, so that gives me hope that the rest of the selected cases are equally useful.
The third tab says "Google Scholar" but that just brings you a blank search screen. If you want more cases discussing a rule, the better option is to scroll to the bottom of the Article tab where there is a "Click here for more annotations" link that will automatically run a search in Google Scholar for cases discussing the rule.
After you click that link, you will see your search results in Google Scholar and you can tap any case to read it:
Although the PUSH Legal app is only designed for the iPhone, you can also access the PUSH Legal website on your iPad to get the same features. And the website is designed to look very nice on the iPad:
There is a lot to like about PUSH Legal, but there are some areas that need improvement. First, if you run a search for a term, the app searches only the titles of the rules. So if you search for "sanction" in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the app will show you Rules 11 and 37, but won't show you the other eight rules that include the term "sanction" in the text. Second, there is no way to search within a specific rule. The developer tells me that there are plans to address both of these issues in a future update.
Third, there is no way to bookmark frequently used rules or statutes, a feature that is common in other apps like this.
Fourth, there are no shortcuts when working with long rules. You need to manually scroll all the way down — no sidebar on the right to speed up that process. And unlike many other apps, you cannot simply tap at the top of the screen to quickly scroll back to the top.
Thus, while PUSH Legal's "Leading Cases" feature is a great option that makes it better than every other iPhone app in this genre, when you want to search and browse the text of rules, PUSH Legal lacks many of the helpful features contained in other apps.
Another difference between PUSH Legal and similar apps is price. Apps containing rules often cost just a few dollars, a fraction of the cost of a PUSH Legal subscription. Having said that, you can debate whether that difference in cost is a pro or a con. I've seen many other apps in this genre come out with much fanfare, only to then die a year or two later when the author fails to update the apps as the rules change. Indeed, there is a serious danger associated with relying on out-of-date rules. Due to the subscription model, the developer of PUSH Legal, Alex Torry, will hopefully have the financial incentive to keep the law current in this app.
I'm happy to see PUSH Legal come to the iPhone. If you practice in a jurisdiction covered by this app, I can see this being a very useful, albeit pricey, tool. And fortunately, you can try before you buy because of the seven day cancellation policy, which should give you time to decide if this app is right for you. I think that the user interface needs to be updated to turn this into a really great app, but it is a good start.
Click here to sign up for PUSH Legal on the PUSH Legal website.