Thursday, 25th February 2016
Where is the market heading for legal mobile apps and what do the major information vendors currently offer? We've reviewed Bloomberg Law, Fastcase, HeinOnline and Lexis Advance to find out.
For legal professionals on the move, phone apps can be a lifeline for accessing vital information. John DiGilio, the national manager of research services for Reed Smith, has been reviewing the major legal research apps for Jinfo.
There's an increasing number of legal apps for different tasks, explains John. "The market for mobile applications has quickly become saturated with legal research offerings. However, this is only a part of a much larger legal market that includes apps for everything from time management to client billing."
The research vendors have different approaches. In our mini review of HeinOnline, for instance, we described how the app brings a desktop-like experience to your phone. However, we found in our mini review of Bloomberg Law, that the app doesn't access all of the same information.
"Some vendors are clearly seeking to replicate as much of web experience as they can in miniature form. Others have created more basic companion-style apps that are designed to focus on the things mobile users are most likely to need. In both cases, the idea still seems to be to drive usage to the main websites," says John.
Which of these approaches is likely to succeed? John believes both have their place.
"Both areas of development offer their pros and cons, and the wealth of choices makes it an exciting time for legal research on the go. Vendors and developers are clearly putting a great deal of work into this exploding market. Where they seem to be making missteps is in not realising that the mobile experience is vastly different from that of the desktop. Each has its place in today's hectic world of legal practice, and the parameters of each need to be respected."
Apps live or die on their usage, of course. We noted in our mini review of Fastcase HD, ranked as the most popular app by the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Survey in 2013 and 2014, that its success could be taken as an indicator of the content and functionality lawyers are looking for.
But it's early days, says John. "Publishers still seem to be testing the waters and perhaps even struggling to get their heads around what mobile users are looking for in their applications. The innovation and dedication that they are displaying in this area is, however, a sign of big things to come."
Getting to grips with a mobile app can sometimes be a learning curve, as John found when he reviewed Lexis Advance HD. He believes it's issues like this that the profession needs to consider. "The mobile market is not going away and all signs point to continued growth and proliferation of this technology. Sooner or later, law firm adoption is going to surge. Next challenge? Integrating mobile training and best practices into the law firm workflow!"
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