Review of LexisNexis iPhone App

by Joshua Auriemma on November 4, 2009

lexis-iphone-appI have to admit that when I received an email yesterday pushing the new Lexis iPhone application, my expectations were not very high.  After spending some time with the program however, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

The first thing you have to realize is that this isn’t a replacement for having LexisNexis open on your computer.  In fact, you’re not going to be able to research at all.  The purpose of this application is to allow you to read and Shepardize a case when you already know the citation.  If you can come to terms with its limited functionality, the app performs these basic functions quite well.

The user interface is very straight-forward as you can see.  The first screen asks you for a citation and you can either pull the case text or perform a rudimentary Shepard’s analysis.

lexis-iphone-app-caseIMG_0157After clicking one of the two buttons, a login screen prompts you to enter your LexisNexis login and password.

I elected to pull up Brown v. Board of Education, and as you can see, the display is about the same as you’re used to seeing when pulling up a case in Lexis.  The one [admittedly large] drawback in the display is that there are no clickable hyperlinks in the cases.  So if you want to look up a referenced case, you have to highlight the citation, then cut and paste it into a new search.  It’s a relatively simple process, but it’s strange that hyperlinks are missing because it would make the program much easier to use.  Still, the text is surprisingly legible, and I actually don’t mind reading cases for an extended period of time even with the small typeface.

IMG_0161The main problem that I have with the app is the seriously crippled Shepard’s function.  Yes, it technically exists, and it will technically give you an idea of the disposition, but I question its usefulness.  While it will tell you the number of cases distinguishing, following, overturning, etc., it will not link you to them, and in fact it won’t even tell you the name or citation of those cases.  It seems that this function is only useful for a cursory glance at the general treatment, but nothing else.  In my opinion, this shortcoming isn’t a deal-breaker because as I explained at the beginning of this review, this is not meant as a replacement for researching on your computer.

In the end, I imagine this as a “I need to commute somewhere but I also need to read this case . . . guess I’ll just jot down the citation” kind of program.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And for that very limited purpose, I think the developers did a fairly good job.

Pros:
– User friendly
– Simple and clean design
– Legible case formatting for extended reading

Cons:
– Limited ability to research — must know case citation
– No hyperlinked cases in the case text
– Crippled Shepard’s functionality