The iLegal iPhone application, created by Timothy Leigh, a law student currently studying the Legal Practice Course, aims to provide you with the law in your pocket – or at least access to the UK’s revised primary legislation as taken from the UK Statutory Law Database (SLD).
It provides access to all the UK’s primary legislation (bar the 10 acts that are currently still not available on the SLD) without the need for an internet connection.
When you launch the app you get presented with a choice to browse: English Parliament; Northern Ireland; Parliament of Great Britain; Scotland; United Kingdom; and Wales. Selecting any of these will then move you to a ”˜by year’ list, which in turn takes you to an alphabetical list of legislation for that year.
When you select a piece of legislation the app displays the full text of that legislation, including any SLD warning notice listing any years for which there are outstanding effects on that legislation that have yet to be applied and linking to the Tables of Legislative Effects and updates status of legislation pages.
Once you are in a piece of legislation you can scroll through the legislation, navigate to particular sections via hyperlinks for longer acts, navigate by page (although this only works in portrait mode) search within the act (results are highlighted in yellow), bookmark the act for quick access via a bookmarks folder or email the act.
Along the bottom of the app are buttons for Browse (your default entry point), Bookmarks (where any bookmarked acts will appear for quick access), Search (to search for an act) and More (copyright information).
I found the app very straightforward to use, particularly in browse mode when I was looking for pieces of legislation I am familiar with. The text – as one might expect – is quite small, especially in portrait mode, but is adequate in landscape mode (an option to change text size in portrait mode would be a nice addition).
Being able to bookmark acts to create your own personal legal handbook is also nice (although when I updated from one version of the app to a newer version my bookmarks were lost), and would certainly appeal to lawyers using the app.
On basic functionality I would say that whilst the word search function, within an act, works and the words are clearly highlighted, some way of navigating the hits on a word would be nice, as scrolling through multiple hits in a very large piece of legislation on the app is not an enjoyable experience, and I am not convinced just clicking though to the next page to scroll is adequate.
Some improved work on functionality and search would make the app better such as: being able to bookmark sections of acts as well as complete acts; and an annotation function.
Is it worth owning?
There are several things that anyone who actually works in the law would need to know before considering using the app that it currently doesn’t provide. It doesn’t say when the content was last updated, so you have no idea when the snapshot of the law was taken, or indeed how often it will be refreshed and what action you might need to take to ensure you’re always up to date.
I also think the app needs to more upfront in its marketing about the source of the legislation, as I think those who would be interested in the app would want to know where the legislation is coming from, and how up to date it is, before parting with their money.
It also needs to be clearer about its claim to enable you to access “the revised text of all UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales legislation as well as Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain and English Parliament” as this is clearly misleading. As it uses the SLD as source, it excludes entirely 10 acts that are in force in the UK; almost half the content is not “fully revised” and anyone using the app would need to either search through Tables of Legislative Effects and then find the actual text of those additional pieces of legislation to get a clear picture of a piece of legislation, or use another source.
As an information professional, whilst I fully support the goal of the SLD, I would never recommend a lawyer use it to research a piece of legislation and would instead point them to completely up-to-date legislation services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. However, I recognise that not everyone has access to these services and may therefore rely on the SLD for access to the law, which is fine if you’re clear of its limitations.
I very much like the idea behind the app. Being able to carry around access to all the UK’s primary legislation in your pocket will appeal to many people and especially those working in the law. And for half of primary legislation there is no problem; but to get the full picture of the law you’re viewing you would need to cross reference with several other pieces of legislation – including SIs, which are not included in the app – and if you were undertaking such a cross referencing task you would not want to do it on your iPhone.
If the SLD’s content was fully up-to-date, this would have the potential to be a must have app for every UK legal practitioner and student, and would make it £39 price tag a snip for the convenience it would provide.
As it is, whilst I can certainly see individual lawyers who are taken in by the marketing or who are less than aware of currency of the SLD content downloading the app, I cannot see that any law firm – who have access to more complete fully revised versions of the legislation – would recommend their lawyers used the app, as they would not want their lawyers potentially giving legal advice based on legislation that was not fully amended and up-to-date.
Scott Vine is Senior Information Officer, Communications, Media and Technology Group, Clifford Chance LLP.