The team behind the iLegal legislation app for iPhones and iPads has been kind enough to provide me with a review copy and I’ve had it running for nearly a week now. It is simple but effective little app that in essence provides an offline version of the revised Acts of Parliament on the legislation.gov.uk website (formerly the Statute Law Database).
It is a universal app, so one purchase provides a version for both your iPhone and your iPad if, like me, you have developed an unhealthy and financially disadvantageous obsession with all things Apple (‘They look so nice! And they are so easy to use! And Toby, Sam, Josh, C.J. and Co use them on The West Wing all the time!’). The interface is simple and intuitive and even on my now tragically out of date iPhone 3GS and iPad 1 the app navigates between one screen and another very quickly – much faster than using the website version.
The app downloads all the revised Acts from legislation.gov.uk and stores them on your iDevice, making it quicker and easier to find them. Importantly, you do not need an internet or 3G connection to get access to the legislation, making it useful for court or other instant access needs. There is also a bookmarks feature, and I was quickly able to bookmark all of the immigration and nationality Acts for making future access even easier.
There are limitations. The app is restricted to Acts rather than Statutory Instruments or, for us immigration lawyers, the Immigration Rules. The Engraved team say that they have something including SIs in the pipeline, though. The other limitation is that the app is only as good as legislation.gov.uk itself, which is not entirely up to date. The underlying database does seem to be getting better and the Immigration Acts are in a better state now than they were when I first started using the website after it launched, suggesting that it is getting better and will hopefully continue to do so. As examples of problems, section 81 of the 2002 Act continue to refer to the unlamented Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. The website notifies the reader that the section is not up to date and provides a link to the correct, fully up to date version. The app does not, however.
For me, the app will be useful. As an immigration law geek I am careful to keep myself informed on the latest version of legislation so I will know when something is not right. I already have and will continue to use the app for instant access to double check the exact wording of various provisions, or the correct citation.
The app costs £39.99. That will seem expensive for an iPhone app but, as the developers point out, they have to eat. The fact is that iLegal is a niche product that is never going to be downloaded outside legal circles so the developers need to charge a relatively high price in comparison to apps with a wider market.