I recently twisted Margaret Phelan’s arm into arranging for me to receive a Kindle copy of the latest (and greatest) edition Phelan and Gillespie’s Immigration Law Handbook, known to all immigration lawyers as the bench book for immigration law. I am well accustomed to thumbing through the hard copy version of Phelan but I confess to being a bit of a luddite when it comes to ebooks. Although I own both a Kindle and an iPad I rarely use them for reading actual books and never yet for a legal textbook. I had always thought that it would be impractical to look up statutory provisions in an electronic version without being able to skim and to skip large sections of the book in question, which is a lot harder to do electronically than when one can glance at the text one is skipping through.
Part of the impetus for this experiment was the increased size of the latest Phelan, which is even bigger and heavier than previous editions. It is simply impractical to carry a copy to far flung tribunals on the off chance it might be needed.
The publishers have now been kind enough to provide me with a Kindle copy. This can be used on almost any electronic device you care to name because Amazon go to great pains to ensure almost universal access to their wares. It is therefore useable on an iPad, an iPhone or on any Android tablet or phone, as well as on Amazon’s own Kindle devices. I tested it on my iPad but not on these other devices.
My initial ‘dry run’ impression was positive. The electronic contents page can be called up at any time for navigating to another part of the book, and there is a back button that takes the reader back to the last page viewed before an internal link within the book was followed. For example, this takes you back to the same page of the contents page you navigated from rather than back to the start of entire (quite long) contents sections. The same incredibly useful footnotes are found in the electronic version as in the paper version. However, the contents page is also the same as for the paper version and it is not hugely detailed. Statutes and statutory instruments include a section by section contents page at the start of the legal instrument in question but not so the Immigration Rules or European materials. For example, there is a link to the appendices for the Immigration Rules as a whole in the contents pages but not to individual appendices. This isn’t really an issue in the paper version as it is easy to flick through the pages, but this does not work quite so well in an electronic version.
Most importantly, it is up to date and accurate as of publication, unlike legislation.gov.uk.
A dry run in the comfort of my home is all very well, but would the electronic version be as trusty as the paper version when used under pressure in court?
My experience last week suggests that the electronic version is as easy to use as the paper version, at least for some ‘use case scenarios’, and given I carry my iPad anyway the weight of the extra electrons was worthwhile. When I urgently needed to look up a statutory reference I was able to easily and simply without relying on an internet connection and with access to the crucial, correct amendment and commencement information.
The Presenting Officer with no warning to me and no rule 24 notice suggested in the Upper Tribunal there was no jurisdiction to hear the appeal because of section 88A of the 2002 Act. Coming in after lunch, the judge rather implausibly claimed independently to have had the same thought. I was quickly able to access s.88A in Phelan while the judge was talking, check the invaluable footnotes to see which was the commencement order for the section then look it up on legislation.gov.uk. By the time the judge announced that the issue was an important one deserving of further consideration (when not raised by the ECO, the ECM, at the FTT, in grounds of appeal or in an r.24 notice?!) and that he would rise, I was able to say that was unnecessary and quote paragraph 4 of the relevant commencement order.
Without Phelan to hand, I would never have been able to find the commencement order in the time available. The client was impressed, I was able to avoid an adjournment and the PO was, bless him, rather put on the back foot. Most importantly of all, had I not had Phelan to hand the entire appeal could have been dismissed for want of jurisdiction because of the spurious and late legal point.
Electronic legal text books look like they are here to stay. My experience is that they can substitute for ‘the real thing’, at least if you know roughly what it is you are looking for. Get yours here (affiliate link).