For two years in a row now, I’ve done a presentation titled “Technology for Law Students” as part of my school’s 1L Orientation program. Much of what I discuss in that segment revolves around the use of apps to make studying for classes or drafting assignments easier and/or more effective for new law students. While I rely exclusively on iPhone/iPad apps, there are likely equivalents on Android and other platforms. Here, in no particular order, are my five favorite apps for law school:
1. Dropbox (Free)
Dropbox is great for accessing files across all of your devices (i.e., laptop, tablet, phone) and also for sharing folders with classmates. One of my professors had a ban on laptops in the classroom, but didn’t have a problem with tablets. I was able to take advantage of that exception to view my briefs in class, eliminating the need to print them out beforehand. Dropbox is also useful for working on collaborative projects by creating a shared reservoir for research material and work product drafts. An alternative to Dropbox that builds upon that particular feature is Google Drive, though my own experience with Drive is limited.
2. Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th ed. ($54.99) ***Update: 10th edition now available!!!
I feel forever indebted to this app for giving me a competitive advantage in my first year of law school. Black’s 9th allowed me to quickly search for terms and find related concepts even in the heat of a cold call. Not only does the app boast an impressive collection of definitions, Black’s 9th also contains highlighted terms within those definitions to explore large sections of the law with ease and speed.
***Update: The App for the 10th Edition is now available. You can find it here. According to the Thomson Reuters website, the 10th edition has added roughly 5,000 terms (bringing the total to over 50,000) and also doubled the sources quoted and cited over the 9th.
3. Genius Scan (Free + $6.99 for Full Version)
The concept here is simple: Genius Scan takes pictures using the camera on your phone or tablet and makes the image look as-if you ran the document through a traditional scanner. The app also allows you to organize collections of scans. There is also a full version for $6.99 called Genius Scan+ that removes ads and allows for printing, cloud export, and customizable email signatures.
Sometimes school-provided scanners can be a pain. Other times, they aren’t accessible because you’re home or at work. Whatever the case may be, the first year especially is filled with administrative hurdles and it never hurts to have a scanner in your pocket to send professional-looking forms in a pinch. Having the ability to organize your scans is important on its own as you can separate pictures of your reading assignments from those taken in your bathroom mirror (selfies).
4. Rulebook (Free + $39.99 for Bluebook)
Rulebook is free. Content that you can download through its library function is not, however. For example, The Bluebook can be downloaded through Rulebook for $39.99. Much like my recommendation for Black’s Law Dictionary, I find the searching and indexing functions of a digital book far more effective for the purposes of law school than a hardcopy can provide. As a perk, the Rulebook creators update the Bluebook fairly often with bug fixes and also respond to tech support questions quickly.
5. Flashcardlet (Free)
Many people learn best using flash cards. While there is a surprising lack of good apps for flash cards on the App Store, Flashcardlet is pretty effective. Cards can be created within the app or through an internet browser. Decks of cards can then be shared with friends or classmates for efficient studying (if you have a friend that you trust to make good cards). A personal example: I created cards for the note cases in my contracts class while two other friends split up the main cases. We then had a productive study session together where we were able to draw out other interpretations and points-of-view about the cases.
In addition to these five, the large research databases make spectacular appearances on the iPad, including HeinOnline, JSTOR, LexisAdvance, and WestlawNext. In fact, I personally find Hein’s iPad app easier to navigate than its website. Finding preferences such as that are essential to learning efficient practices. Students should experiment with technology early on in order to find their own path to success in law school. The students who understand their own habits and resources first have a unique advantage over others in their class.
I used the iPad’s built-in screenshot function to capture all images contained in this review, with the exception of the Genius Scan photos. Those images were provided to the App Store and I saved them from there.
This review was authored by Justin Iverson, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2015, Savannah Law School.
**This review is not intended to be an endorsement of any product. Its sole purpose is to provide useful information to law students.