Earlier this year, I reviewed Rulebook, a free app by Utah attorney Greg Hoole that lets you purchase bodies of statutory law and rules so that you can access them on your iPhone and iPad. I was impressed with the app because it includes all of the features that you would want for such an app (browse, search, bookmark, highlight, annotate), plus at least one innovative feature — the ability to save your notes and highlighting even when the rule itself is updated. My only somewhat negative comment about the app was that I wanted to see more content, because at the time the app only offered the major federal rules (Appellate, Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure and Evidence) plus the state and local rules for California, New York, Texas and Utah.
Some content from others states has been added over the last few months (Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio), but the exciting new content added last month is the addition of The Bluebook. Yes, The Bluebook, the arguably authoritative guide to legal citation for over 80 years, a joint venture from the fine folks behind the law reviews of Harvard, Columbia, U. Penn. and Yale, now in its 19th edition. (Fun fact: the first fourteen editions were simply called "A Uniform System of Citation," and it was not until the fifteenth edition released in 1991 — when I started law school — that "The Bluebook" was added to the title.) I've been working with a review copy of The Bluebook for the last few weeks, and I'm impressed.
If you went to law school, I don't need to tell you what is in The Bluebook. Suffice it to say that all of the content is here, the entire text of The Bluebook including all of the Bluepages, all of the rules, and all of the tables. But in a great app like Rulebook, it is easier than ever to use the Bluebook.
In the iPad version, you see a list of rules on the left. Simply tap a rule to see the text of The Bluebook on the right. When there is a reference to another part of The Bluebook, you can simply tap the hyperlink to jump right there. And any references to external websites will launch the website in Safari when you tap them.
You can also add bookmarks. For example, I try to follow Bluebook format when I abbreviate case names, so my paper version of The Bluebook contains a Post-It Note for Table T6. In the app, I can simply add T6 to my list of bookmarks.
Instead of simply browsing the rules or using the Bookmarks feature to find something, you can access the Index. Just scroll down to the bottom of the list on the left, select the first letter, and then tap an entry to jump to the section of The Bluebook.
You also perform a full text search, something that is not possible with the paper version. So, for example, let's say that I want to cite the treatise that we all simply call "Wright & Miller," which I remember is an example somewhere in The Bluebook. I can do a search for "Wright" and just tap on the first result (Section B8.1 from the Bluepages) to see the correct citation format for a brief:
You can also do more complicated AND/OR searches by selecting whether you want to search for an exact phrase, all words, or any word.
Note that some parts of The Bluebook will not show up in a full text search. For example, the entries in Table T6 (shown above) are a static graphic. Thus, I cannot do a search for "Maritime" to find the part of T6 that says to use "Mar."
You can also use all of the formatting functions that Rulebook offers for other content. So if you want to read The Bluebook in 19 point Marker Felt, have at it. I won't judge you for it, although I cannot speak for the editors of the Harvard Law Review.
The above images are all from the iPad version of The Bluebook, but it works on the iPhone as well. The format is adjusted for the smaller iPhone screen, but all of the content is there.
Because of the unique way that Rulebook handles content updates, the content of The Bluebook can be updated without you losing your annotations. For example, the current 19th edition was released 2010, but it has been updated twice since then. Greg Hoole tells me that any future updates to the 19th edition will be included free of charge. I presume that the 20th edition of The Bluebook will be released around 2015 (they appear to be on a five year release cycle right now); whenever it does come out, Hoole tells me that will be a separate charge.
Speaking of cost, you pay for virtually all content in the Rulebook app, and The Bluebook costs $39.99. To put this price in perspective, the paper version of The Bluebook costs $34 but that doesn't include updates, search, hyperlinks, etc. There is also an online subscription version of The Bluebook that costs $32 for one year or $50 for three years. I'm told that when you purchase The Bluebook on one iOS device (such as an iPad) you will also be able to use it on your other iOS devices as well (such as your iPhone) but I wasn't able to confirm that with my review copy.
Working with The Bluebook reminds me a lot of the Black's Law Dictionary app. I reviewed that $54.99 app two years ago, but I continue to use it today mainly just because it is always with me. I would never think to carry a hard copy of Black's Law Dictionary to court, but there have been times when I've wanted to use the right words to explain something in a hearing so I've pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and looked up the definition of a legal term to help me come up with the right way to say something. A paper copy of The Bluebook is smaller and lighter, but unless you are in law school and working on a law review article, you are unlikely to ever carry it around ... but you might find yourself at home one night working on a brief and wondering how to cite a blog post, and then you might find instant access to Rule 18.2.2 using the device on you desk or in your pocket very useful.
I suppose I should point out that I don't always follow the citation formats in The Bluebook. For example, we have some citation customs here in Louisiana that are different. (I know ... big surprise to learn that things are different in Louisiana, the only state based on the French Civil Code instead of English common law.) But I appreciate having access to The Bluebook as a reference guide, and now that it is on my iPad and iPhone, access is easier than ever.
If you are a litigator, in academia, or citations are otherwise a part of your law practice, then you may appreciate seeing The Bluebook available for the iPhone and iPad as much as I do. And I'm especially happy to see it part of a well-designed app like Rulebook.
(You can then purchase The Bluebook by tapping the Library icon at the bottom left and selecting "Style Manuals")