Free Legal Resources for the Attorney
by Thuy Le
A simple tablet with a few apps can help an attorney walk into a courtroom with confidence knowing that they have the facts of their client’s case and the law at their fingertips. Following are the top FREE apps that are available for both iOS and Android that can help keep an attorney organized and prepared for court. I’ve excluded the free apps that require a subscription (e.g. Westlaw/Lexis).
One of the easiest ways to access your clients’ file in court is not to carry around a folder but to have it uploaded to Dropbox. With Dropbox, you can upload pictures, audio files, and documents and access them anywhere in the world. Want to remind the prosecutor that your client’s 911 call is completely different than what is written in the offense report? You can link the file to an email to the prosecutor for them to listen or you can pull up the relevant portion on your tablet and show them in court. Dropbox allows you to link large files and email the link. This is perfect for files that are too large to attach to an email. If you want added security, I suggest using an encryption service for your files before upload.
This award-winning app allows you to capture recordings, notes, and website links and organizes everything into a searchable database. This is perfect for when you’re doing research and want to keep everything organized. Evernote at its most basic allows you to write down notes and reminders and then lets you later pull it up in a searchable database. However, some of the most useful features of Evernote is the email forwarding, the photo capture, and the geocache function. Email forwarding allows you to forward your emails from one of your server accounts to Evernote to keep it organized. For example, your client Keanu Reeves is sending you emails asking about his court date for his aggravated assault charge. Instead of keeping track of the emails in your email server, you can forward it to Evernote and it’ll organize all your emails, documents, invoices, and John Wick pictures into a searchable Keanu Reeves file. The photo capture feature allows you to turn pictures into documents and converts business cards into a format that you can later search. The geocache function allows you to pull up notes based on where you created the note. Can’t remember which file or memo you were working on in Austin? Pull up the geocache location function on Evernote and it’ll pull up all the notes created in Austin. Evernote will also let you dictate your notes for those who can’t or don’t like to type. Evernote is perfect in keeping everything organized by keywords, dates, or location. Best of all, you can still access your notes, emails, and files when offline.
These are two different free apps that pulls up caselaw. Casemaker is available for free for Texas attorneys. Fastcase uses a boolean search field to pull up caselaw by search criteria. Does the judge during trial want caselaw about whether an officer can enter a home where he receives a noise complaint? Enter those search terms into the search bar and it’ll pull up the cases most relevant to the search terms. You can also sort the results by most relevant or date or even specific courts. I’ve used it to find specific rulings by certain judges to see how likely they would rule on a certain issue. Fastcase will highlight the search terms so you can scan to see if the case is relevant. Of course the more specific the search terms, the better the results.
This free reference allows you to access the U.S. Constitution, the Federal Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the Texas Penal Code, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and about a hundred other codes, statutes, and documents statewide and federally. This database is searchable and is most helpful when you can’t quite remember the specific sections of the code. Want to know how the issue of self defense is raised? You can type in “self defense” in the search bar and it will pull up all the sections in the Texas penal code, Texas code of criminal procedure and any other database you specify to search for those teams. This has been a quick way for me to look up the law without having to carry around a codebook or read one of the outdated prosecutor’s codebook left in the courtroom.
The Oyez Project has teamed up with the Chicago-Kent College of Law to create this app to help you understand the Supreme Court and its rulings. This app has the most recent Supreme Court rulings and visually organizes it in a way that’s easy to understand. Pictures of the justices who voted for or against a case, who wrote the majority and minority opinions, and who joined whom in the opinions are laid out graphically so it’s easy to follow. There’s also the transcript and the briefs available for the cases. But the best feature is the audio of the oral arguments for the cases. The audio can be downloaded or streamed and is laid out Twitter-like with the Justices’ and attorneys’ pictures next to the transcript of the argument. The app also tells you what cases are pending before SCOTUS and the constitutional arguments made the parties. The search bar allows you to quickly pull up Supreme Court cases based on topic. This is useful if you can’t remember, but want to find the case, that dealt with whether one has an expectation of privacy in a phone booth. I’ve wasted hours reading and listening to the audio of the arguments on the most recent major Supreme Court rulings. Overall, one of the best apps in helping you understand and learn about the Supreme Court.