MobileLaw is a new app for the iPad and iPhone that contains the text of more than 200 sets of statutes, rules and other legal authorities, and gives you access for the low, low price of free. The app was developed by attorney Peyton Healey, a commercial litigator with the Dallas law firm Powers Taylor. The app is nicely designed, and it was just updated this past weekend to support the iPhone, including the longer screen on the iPhone 5.When you start the app, you will most likely want to tap one of the first two options, either State Texts or Federal Texts. You will then see at the top, in bold, the sources of law that are already downloaded to your device. Below, in gray, are the additional sources that you may download for no charge.
To download more law, just tap on it. For example, in the above list in the Federal Texts section there is one called "Organic Laws." It contains the Declaration of Independence, the 1777 Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and similar sources. Just tap it to download, which only takes a few seconds. The State Texts section currently contains laws and rules from Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. The number of sources available to download varies from state to state. In Florida, for example, there are four selections: the rules of appellate procedure, civil procedure, criminal procedure, and the Title VII rules on evidence.
Once you have a set of laws downloaded, it remains on the device so you can access it in the future even if you don't have Internet access. The app uses an accordion style to show the law, so you see a top level list of categories, and you tap on a category to expand the laws underneath that category.
If you would prefer to just see a big long list of rules, you can do that too. At the bottom right, just turn on the Rules button.
Tap on a rule to read the law. Some rules have better formatting than others. For example, you can clearly see the hard returns at the end of certain lines in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution -- the first sentence ends the line at "perfect" and than picks up with "Union" on a new line. But other sources, such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, have better formatting.
You can easily browse between rules by swiping left or right.
Buttons at the bottom of each rule give you various options. Tap the bookmark icon to add to a list of bookmarked rules. Unfortunately, the bookmark icon always looks the same and doesn't indicate if you have already chosen a rule as one of your favorites. The next button allows you to add notes. The third button lets you email the text of a rule, or your notes, or both. The fourth button let you print the rule and/or your notes.
A search field at the top will let you search for a word or an exact phrase. The app does not allow for sophisticated searches such as AND / OR searches. The app searches across all of the downloaded law and displays the rules containing your search term, but unfortunately the app does not highlight the term within the rule. Thus, you will know that the term you looked for is in there somewhere, but you need to hunt to find it.
You can navigate around the app by tapping the shark button at the top right. You will then see a number of choices: the home icon (go to the main page of the app), the State of Texas icon (go to the list of state law, for all states not just Texas), another shark icon (for information about the app), a capital icon (for the list of federal laws) and the bookmark icon. The icon corresponding to the part of the app that you are currently using doesn't have a circle around it.
All of the above pictures show the iPhone in portrait mode. The app does not allow you turn the iPhone to landscape mode. However, the app also works on an iPad, and on an iPad you can use the app in either portrait or landscape mode. The layout of the app on the iPad is similar to how it looks on the iPhone, but the buttons are moved to the top and are always visible to take advantage of the larger screen.
Bookmarks and notes do not sync between the iPhone and iPad versions of the app.
I've concentrated on the first two parts of this app — federal law and state law — but you can see from the home screen of the app there are other options too. There is a MobileLaw Review which contains scholarly articles, and then there are options to see a list of attorneys, expert witnesses, meditators and local counsel services. For many of these options, the only law firm currently listed is Peyton Healey's own law firm, Powers Taylor. On the MobileLaw webpage, there is a form that allows other law firms, mediators, expert witnesses or legal support services companies to add their information to the app for $100/month. Healey tells me that he doesn't charge users to download his app because he sees it as a marketing device to promote himself and his law firm, and it is interesting to see that Healey offers the marketing potential to others, too, for a fee. But none of this information gets in the way of using the app to read state and federal law, and frankly I hope that Healey does receive some financial support for the app because that will help to encourage him to continue to update the app itself and the law contained within.
MobileLaw lacks some of the features found in paid apps such as the Rulebook app I reviewed earlier this year. For example, the search function is limited (as I noted above), you cannot change the font or font size, and you cannot highlight the rules. But the app is still relatively new and more features are being planned. Healey tells me that a highlight feature should be available in about a month. If you are looking for an app that works on the iPad or iPhone, that has a nice design, and that works well for browsing the law, you should definitely give MobileLaw a look because I suspect that it will fit your needs quite well.