Get the Blue Book on your iPad or iPhone

No, not Kelley Blue Book, I mean THE Blue Book known to every lawyer and (hopefully) paralegal. Yes, The Blue Book, A Uniform System of Citation is available for your iPad and iPhone. This information comes to us straight from the Greg Hoole, the head of Ready Reference Apps, LLC, which publishes rulebook, one of the best legal reference apps on the market.

Legal professionals who want to acquire The Bluebook can do so from within the app at a cost of $39.99. This is basically the same cost (within a nickel or two) of the standard retail price. (And, no, Amazon doesn’t stock it from what I can tell.)

A number of us lawyers (including me) think that the Blue Book is overly complex, but the fact of the matter is that it is the standard citation manual. Many court rules require citations to be in Blue Book format, so until another work comes along and displaces the Blue Book as the gold standard, it is what we’re stuck with.

Having the Blue Book on the iPad or iPhone is a great asset, and the rulebook app (yes, the name is all lower case letters) provides a convenient way to use it.

For those who haven’t yet downloaded rulebook, now may be a very good time to do so. On August 22, 2012, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure will all be available for download at no cost. These works normally cost $1.99 each, so on August 22 you have the chance to get the app (which is free) plus ten dollars worth of federal rules all for free. It’s a heck of a deal. Don’t forget, the app also provides free updates as the rules are changed. The app also has many other state court rules available for it, including the “biggies” of California, Illinois, New York and Texas. I am assured that Indiana rules are coming soon.

New lawyer app: rulebook

Every year our office has a small, quiet ritual. Your office probably does as well. Books containing the rules of court we use in our practice are replaced with the new year’s editions. When my new set of books showed up this year, I became a little irritated. When I started practicing law back in 1991, the rules of court produced by Thomson West could fit into a single volume–both Indiana and federal rules.

Now, we have five volumes that take up close to a foot of shelf space:

When I saw all these books and thought about how much paper they consumed, I wished that I had learned to write code so I could create an app that would let me carry all this stuff in my iPad or iPhone.

One lawyer must have had similar thoughts. Greg Hoole is an attorney in Utah, and he created an app for attorneys that I highly recommend: rulebook. The app itself is free, and from within the app you can purchase certain rule sets or download the Federal Rules of Evidence for free. The cost of a rule set is $.99, so it’s wonderfully cost-effective.

What helps set rulebook apart from its competition is the fact that you can treat it like you would a paper version of the rules. You can highlight sections (there are a few different highlight colors to choose from), make notes on sections, and bookmark sections. (By sections I mean blocks of text—from a few words to as many paragraphs as you want.) You can also search for terms, and the app uses hyperlinks to let you jump from one rule to another when rules are cross-referenced. You can also browse by simply swiping the “page” forward or backward, which is a nice touch.

One nice feature of this app is that you only need an Internet connection when you are downloading a new rule set. Otherwise, your rules are on your device to use whenever you need them. The app works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and looks great on all of the devices.

If I have one criticism of the app it is that right now its rule sets are limited to largely the usual states: California, New York, Texas, and the not-so-usual state of Utah. (The federal court local rules for these states are also available.) If your practice involves regular work in the federal courts, the app is handy—especially if you practice in one of those four states. Because I practice in Indiana, the app is useful only for its federal rules sets. Greg Hoole indicates that more rule sets are on the way, which is good news. At the same time, of course, lawyers in various states are going to have to wonder when their state will become available. Until then, we will have to be content with PDFs of our rules I suppose.

Rule books (and apps) are only as useful if they are current, and the app’s producers say that they will add updates in a timely fashion. Keeping up with rule changes in 50 states and 92 federal court districts could be a massive undertaking, but it is something that will be necessary to keep lawyers continually using the app.

In a nutshell, rulebook gets one thumb up from me. If Indiana and the other states were available now, I’d give it two thumbs up. I understand, though, that it takes time to put the rule sets in, and you have to launch the app at some point even if it seems incomplete. Otherwise, you’d never get it out the door.

I will anxiously await the Indiana rule sets (hint hint hint) and use it in the meantime for my federal practice.