Plenty of Constitutional Law students will remember the colloquial phrase, “I know it when I see it,” used by Justice Potter Stewart to describe obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio. Unfortunately, as you learn in Evidence class, hearsay evidence isn’t so easy to recognize, regardless of the number of times you memorize, “an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” And let’s not even discuss the difficulty in recognizing double hearsay evidence.
For most law students and attorneys, perceiving whether a statement is hearsay is the most difficult part of class or trial. Additionally, not properly objecting to hearsay evidence could be detrimental to your client’s case. And as much as judges like to show that they understand the hearsay rule and all of its exceptions, they don’t. In all likelihood, they’re just waiting for the attorneys to provide a good justification (or objection) for admitting the testimony, documents, or other statements.
Personally, I suck at hearsay, its exceptions, and “not hearsay” rules, so I’m happy anytime I can brush up on the intricacies. Thankfully, there’s a new app available for attorneys and students to help bridge the gap between the theoretical lessons in law school and the practical hearsay challenges.
The app is called, Hearsay When I Hear It!, and it’s available now in Google Play.
The best part of the app is the relatively low cost of $0.99. This app should be on everyone’s “apps I’ve purchased, used, and will use again” list.
Hearsay for practical purposes
One of the challenges of hearsay in law school (at least for me) is that I didn’t actually get hands-on examples of how hearsay works. Additionally, since I didn’t really understand the whole trial procedure process, I was even more lost when I attempted to figure out how hearsay fit into the picture. I know some of my classmates felt the same concerns.
Hearsay When I Hear It! actually works to mesh the theoretical with the practical, by giving users a “trial” scenario where witnesses are asked questions about the lawsuit.
Currently, there are two trials. Both of them are personal injury cases. Hopefully, the developer will add more trials and scenarios for different types of cases. I’d also like a feature where I could create cases and submit them for inclusion. More options would also help expand the usability of this app. Currently, there’s only 8 witnesses — 4 per trial — with about 10 questions in each witness. Eighty questions won’t go too far, especially if you’re a law student trying to get more hearsay experience.
After selecting your trial, your next step is to select a difficulty level. The difficulty level only effects the amount of time you have to answer questions, not the difficulty of the questions. Your choices range from untimed to Clarence Darrow.
Selecting Clarence Darrow won’t necessarily make you the next leader of the ACLU, it just means you’ll have about 1 second to decide whether to object or not.
The evidence questions come in two general forms based on a witness’s speech or documents related to or created by the witness.
I’m not sure how many questions — the Google Play description says 240 — are in the app database, but since both cases are personal injury related you’ll see statements more than documents. In some ways, this predictability made the game a little easier.
Depending on the correctness of your answer, you’ll see a congratulations or “shame” screen.
This will make you fee really good, or really bad about your hearsay knowledge. Depending on the witness, I felt really bad. As you move through the questions, your score will increase or decrease because of an incorrect or correct answer.
The game shows you your final score at the conclusion of each section.
I think I did pretty well on my first attempt, especially since I scored well above the maximum possible score.
Unless 0 was the midpoint, and negative numbers were better…
There are a couple of problems
Hearsay When I Hear It! is a fun way to challenge yourself. There are some obvious graphical errors — bland, cliche, dated — but the app is easy-to-use, setup, and most importantly, does exactly like it should.
I’m worried about the long-term viability of the application, especially considering the limited number of questions and scenarios. Personally, I’d like to see some more criminal, family, or business litigation trials, but I understand the reasoning for fewer trials in this initial release.
Hearsay When I Hear It! has one glaring problem though, and that’s the inability to silence the application. Although there’s a mute button, which you’d assume turns on the app’s “closed captioning” function, I couldn’t ever mute the sound.
If you’re playing this to pass time in court, be sure you turn down your media volume. The voices (I presume they’re the developer’s) aren’t pleasant to listen to continually, especially in short bursts. Also, the game paused until the voice stopped, so I couldn’t answer the question. This slowed down playing time significantly. I’d really like to see a little more speed and less delay between questions. Cutting out the audio (or making it an option download) would also save some space on the app’s size (currently 25mb).
Hearsay in your hand
Overall, Hearsay When I Hear It! is a great way to refresh your skills and pass time. Despite its few issues, the app works well and offers a unique way to help study. I think this is a good primer for law students, but experienced lawyers will probably bore after one trial. However, I suggest that unless you’re hitting 80 or 90-plus points, you probably have some work to do. I’m giving 3.5 stars to Hearsay When I Hear It!