App Review: PushLegal

Kevin Costner heard “the Voice,” and the adage is proving true: if you build it, they will come. As more developers recognize Android for its potential, especially in the lawyer apps realm, the number of available apps will come.

PushLegal recently released its Android app (free) to the masses, which features links to its online database of legal information.

Overall the app is decent, but it’s not without some major cons and flaws.

First, the app did not work on my Asus Transformer Pad Infinity running Android 4.1.

Although the developers claim Android 2.1+ compatibility, I suspect compatibility stops at Android 4.0 – the app worked on my Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy S III, both running ICS. You know I’m pushing for tablet-phone compatible apps for Android, and if developers are serious about striking a niche in Android, they’ll develop dual compatible apps. Basically, to me, the app is useless if it’s not tablet-compatible.

Non-tablet-compatibility isn’t the biggest killer though. Price is. PushLegal features a free 30-day trial, but a monthly subscription of $29.95 or $299 per year. To me, that’s a significant investment for an app that doesn’t run on my tablet. There are comparable apps, such as dLaw or Fastcase, which offer free or lower-cost materials. Granted, I’m somewhat disappointed in the recent updates for dLaw, and I assume the paid subscription will provide the freshness that dLaw lacks.

Finally, the app requires an internet connection to access the database. Usually this won’t be a problem, but if you’re in the middle of Zanzabar (BFE), you might need to find an alternate method for legal research. Although I understand the need for restrictions, I much prefer dLaw’s method of providing app add-ons for a low-cost that work offline. I’m assured by Alex Torry, PushLegal’s COO, that “we will soon be coming out with an additional Android app – PushLegal Choice – which will enable users to select individual books. It’s an in-app purchase model that comes with a free book. We want to give people 2 ways to access and buy our content.” Obviously, I’ll wait to comment on that, and hopefully that product will satisfy my offline desire.

Those are really my biggest complaints about this app. Otherwise, it features a very user-friendly interface with a plethora of useful information. I can really see a lot of lawyers liking the compact nature of the information. Unlike Fastcase, which a vomit-like menagerie of cases, statutes, and citations, PushLegal provides a compact synopsis of the seemingly (I’ll admit I didn’t verify the statutory or case law authority) relevant and recent information.

“Books” are laid out in a library-like format for you to select off of a shelf.

You build your library by selecting books from the PushLegal database.

Unfortunately, right now the database is fairly limited: 5 states and federal references. I’m sure as the popularity of the product increases, so will the relevant statutory materials.

Limited as the relevance may be, each “Region” has plenty of information and features something I love, a list of “leading cases” and an automatic link to Google Scholar to check the authority.

PushLegal features a great search function that can help minimize the tedious task of wading through information. I was shocked at how surprisingly fast some results appeared.

PushLegal isn’t going to appeal to every attorney (especially if you’re not in New York, Delaware, Florida, California, or Texas), but it’s well on its way to becoming a useful app. I think criminal defense lawyers (it’s geared to them) will benefit most heavily, and I found the immigration materials, which is a sub-practice of mine, very useful and thorough. Of course, you’re not going to have much of an opportunity to browse the database while you’re arguing your client’s habeas claim, but you might find some useful counter-arguments or authority.

Want more information? Check out this video:

Overall, and if you can afford the post-30 day costs, I give this app 3 of 5 stars.

Update (11/29/12):

Attributed quote to Alex Torry, COO of PushLegal.

Let me assure you that I don’t think this app is strictly limited to criminal attorneys. While all attorneys will benefit from this app and service, I think that most criminal attorneys will see immediate returns from the instant access. When I examine an app/service I look at one key factor to begin with: does this app impress me enough in 5 minutes of use that I (or other attorneys) would want to make a significant investment. Without delving too deep, which is what most lawyers trying the product will do, I try to critically analyze what value I can gain from the app. I think PushLegal adds two things think a lot of other apps don’t add: a roving bookshelf, accessible across devices (forgetting about my internet issue), that contains pertinent statutes, and secondly, PushLegal gives me access to the major cases in that field of law. I think number 2 is most important. Again, I can get the information, but having the relevant cases listed makes it easier to springboard my own research, if necessary.

Further, PushLegal clarified that the app does allow offline use and only requires internet access to download the new books, viewing full cases in Google Scholar, and tapping on the “Click here for more annotations” link to Google Scholar. PushLegal also features an online version, which is accessible through your mobile device’s web browser. I still prefer a tablet-optimized app for these types of programs.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.