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Keep up to speed with a law app - May-24-12
Source: The Times - Law
Mobile device programs are giving students the chance to tap in to a wide range of legal services, says Grania Langdon-Down
Need help with revision as your law exams bear down on you? Worried about mispronouncing a legal term in the classroom? Don’t know how to tie a tie for that crucial interview? Then there is a mobile app that can help — and it’s coming to a phone or tablet near you.
Popular in the US, the appetite here for mobile apps — self-contained programs that can be downloaded on to mobile devices — is growing. And publishers are starting to offer their law reference books and databases as mobile apps.
Among the big players, LexisNexis launched its first two legal apps in February — Legal Terms, which provides LexisLibrary subscribers with on-the-go access to key points of law, and On the Case, which gives subscribers access to a wide range of case law.
But the student market remains largely untapped — though students are increasingly seeking out free or inexpensive apps to tackle revision, search for precedents and get to their lectures on time.
Legal technology specialist Alex Heshmaty says that mobile apps were initially popularised by Apple’s iPhone. “However the Android platform — Google’s rival mobile platform — is winning market share by leaps and bounds due to the greater affordability of its smartphones,” he says. “There is supposedly more quality control when it comes to iPhone apps, but there are more free Android apps — some of them very good indeed.”
He warns students, however: “The app market is unregulated, so it’s particularly important to check the credentials of the app publisher in the legal information sphere. Unless you’re purchasing one from a well-established academic publisher, it may be worth consulting your lecturer. Also, ensure that the app is regularly updated with the latest legislation.”
Spotting a gap in the student market, Oxford University Press (OUP) teamed up with EducationApps, an educational mobile app development company, to make its Concentrate series of law revision and study guides available on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
George Burgess, who set up EducationApps when he was a teenager, says that he wanted to work with OUP because it is “such a highly trusted brand”. “The student market is attractive because there is little existing quality competition, even though those studying law are typically willing to spend more than their counterparts studying other subjects,” he says.
With students increasingly wanting to study and learn any time, anywhere, law schools have also been looking at how they can make use of the functionality mobile delivery offers.
Mobile is definitely the way forward, says Sue House, information librarian at the University of Glamorgan’s law school. Students and staff there can download the LexisNexis legal apps for free. “This is the first time we’ve promoted apps related to the legal databases we subscribe to: LexisLibrary,” she says. “Our students need to develop mobile legal research skills if they are to perform effectively in their future law careers.”
The university is also taking part in a pilot project, iLegal, that is exploring how iPads can be used in the classroom to prepare students for their working lives.
At the Open University, learning and teaching technologies manager Keith Honnor says that they have focused on optimising their virtual learning environment (VLE) platform for mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads. “We have made the VLE responsive, so when you browse a site it will reconfigure to mobile view depending on your device. It makes it easier for students to browse forums and respond to posts via their phone,” he says.
The mobile optimised view of the VLE was also tested for accessibility for students with disabilities. “However, the level of accessibility,” he says, “is largely determined by the accessibility of the device — the Apple iOS, for instance, with the ‘pinch/zoom’ capabilities can support sight-disabled users.”
The College of Law is creating a range of new media for its vocational two-year LL. B, which starts this September, including “client instructions” using avatars.
Initially available to students via its learning platform, these are being developed for mobiles and tablets. It is also working on an e-book foundation guide that will also be available to the wider market as a mobile app.
Scott Slorach, the board member responsible for innovation and design, says: “It’s thought that more than 85 per cent of students who start an LL. B course intend to practice law but, by the end, that drops to under 50 per cent. Many students expect their courses to be — like medicine — vocational, considering individuals, businesses and their legal problems. They then spend the majority of their time in academic discussion on historical cases.
“We want to move the law degree from being very dry to something both practical and three-dimensional. Using new media that students can have on tap in their pockets will help bring the law alive.”
What law students think of the new apps
Sam Harding, a GDL student at BPP law school reviews two of the OUP Concentrate revision apps
Land Law Concentrate: Detail is important in law, so having to choose the false/true statement of law from four options is a good way to make you think as the choices don’t allow for a facile process of elimination. Best of all is the explanation for the right answer if you get one wrong, and the reasoning for the others being incorrect where relevant. But it would be nice to have an explanation for the answers you do get right just to consolidate.
Equity & Trusts Concentrate: This was particularly helpful with case law — it explains which case is relevant to establish a certain point of law, why the others were wrong, and what those other cases did establish. It is a great way of getting plenty of extra information into your answers.
On the practical side, they’re very easy to use, so ideal for the commute to college. The multiple-choice format is good, with intelligent questions. I think they’d be especially useful on the way into exams as a quick stimulant to get your brain in the right mode for each module.
Dean Smith, LPC student at the University of Glamorgan uses the LexisNexis apps
On the Case and Legal Term: The idea of having legal apps on a smartphone is the way forward. These are extremely useful for preparingfor today’s fast-moving legal environment.
Ollie Evans, law student at De Montfort University reviews mobile apps on his dietjustice.net website
CrimeLine Law — drawing on the Bailii database, it puts thousands of cases and statutes at your fingertips. You have so little desk real estate while labouring over an essay, this app replaces a pile of books with your iPad;
Pocket Lawyer PACE — for students interested in criminal law; contains all the codes of practice and definitions;
His top apps to help cope with student life:
iStudiez Pro — helps you to manage your life and work but requires a degree of commitment to keep up-to-date;
Keeper — creates strong passwords and keeps them on your phone in locked and encrypted software;
Pageonce — securely logs on to your online banking, provides itemised statements and notifies you when you reach your overdraft limit;
Springpad — life-management tool. Works on the list concept but uses photos, notes, barcodes, audio and map locations to widen scope;
How to Tie a Tie — dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Takes you step by step to find a more professional look.
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