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March 20, 2014

Law school highlights apps for students

By Emily Scharf

On Wednesday, March 5, Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law hosted a seminar highlighting various websites and apps that could be useful for law students pursuing their degree.

The event was presented by Collection Development/Acquistions librarian Rebecca Mattson and Electronic Services librarian, Brian Cassidy as part of the Law Research Certificate Seminars.

Students who attended the seminar received 25 points toward a Law Library Research Certificate, which is awarded and signed by the director of the law school once a student attends four seminars, reaching 100 points.

Both Mattson and Cassidy agreed the certificate is a bonus to have on a resume.

"If we can help the students in their career by offering a little thing they can throw on their resume as well, it's value added," Cassidy said.

The law app seminar is based off the law library's research guide, a compilation of sources and databases that have been deemed useful for law students.  

"A student suggested we do something on apps, so we rolled it into our Research Certificate Seminar series," Mattson said, adding that the March 5 seminar was the second the school has presented in reference to using apps.

According to Mattson, the first seminar was held in the fall and was geared toward new law students who may not have known how to use Westlaw or Lexis — the main legal research databases that attorneys use.

Cassidy noted that at every law school, students have access to both Westlaw and Lexis, and many provide access to a newer database called Bloomberg Law, including Cleveland State.

"While in law school, students have access to these databases for free," Cassidy said. "However, once the student graduates, they either have to pay for it themselves or their firm will pay for it."

Cassidy explained that it can be tough for recent graduates to afford these resources, especially as a solo practitioner.

"With all of the focus that the law school is trying to emphasize with the incubator for solo practitioners, we want to level set people," Cassidy said. "If you're not working at a big firm, you need to be aware of some of these free things, whether they're apps or other websites."

The first group of apps discussed dealt with note taking, such as Dragon Dictation, which is a text to speech app; iAnnotate, which allows users to load pdf files onto an iPad and make notes; Penultimate, a handwriting app; and Evernote, a cloud-based app that allows users to import documents and take notes and sync information from a computer to an iPad and vice versa.

The next group of apps mentioned were legal research apps, such as Lexis advance, Fastcase, Lawstack and Westlaw. Cassidy noted that while students have access to Westlaw and Lexis, it may still be helpful to download some of these other apps to see what is available.

Also presented were study aid apps, such as Nutshell, which explains the law in an abbreviated format; and iStudy pro, which comes with a GPA calculator, which Cassidy said can be helpful because students do not receive as many grades in law school as undergraduate classes.

There are also several deposition apps, which allow the user to access pre-stored deposition questions as well as add their own, which can make the deposition process much less daunting.

Another app the presenters talked about was Document Review. Document Review allows the user to upload documents and view them electronically on their iPad. According to Mattson, document reviewing is a popular job for new law school graduates, especially while waiting for admittance into the Bar.

Other non law-specific apps were briefly touched upon, for instance, Yelp, a search engine that allows the device to read your location and find businesses and services in the area.

"I'm completely in love with Yelp for personal use," Cassidy expressed. "If anyone hasn't used Yelp, get on there."

CardMunch was another app mentioned, which reads and stores business cards so that all of the user's professional contacts can be stored neatly in one place.

While only a handful of students attended the March 5 presentation, Cassidy said he thinks the app seminar is something that is going to continue to grow among students.

"We've got the research guide that we'd like students to know about, but the presentation highlights that information which could be useful to new law students," Cassidy explained.

According to Mattson, all first-year law students receive an iPad, and the seminar was meant to be a helpful tool to get started.

"Everything just keeps getting more and more technology focused," Mattson said.

Cassidy believes it is important for employees of the law school to make sure that the students leave aware as to what programs and apps people are using.