Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black's Law Dictionary on Your iPhone

On April 15, West released its first iPhone application, Black’s Law Dictionary. In the last few weeks, some legal blogs picked up the story, but most have simply pointed out the existence of the app and linked to a brief YouTube video with its developers (

For $49.99, though, a bit more exploration may be in order. That’s not the most expensive app on the iTunes Store (that honor goes to iRa Pro, a mobile video surveillance program retailing at $899.99), but it's certainly hefty enough to give the average law student pause…especially when a print edition can be had for nearly the same price, and the definitions can also be found on Westlaw (BLACKS database).

The authors of iPhone J.D. (, a blog for attorneys who use iPhones, have just posted an excellent review of the new Black’s Law Dictionary app ( Although lengthy, the comparison is a must-read for anyone who is considering a download of the new app.

The authors provide screenshots of the Black’s app, and it does indeed look cool. Definitions include cross-links to other words in the dictionary, and audio pronunciations are available for about 7,000 terms. The app also provides links to related content in Westlaw, such as key numbers and code sections (although you’ll need to log in on your iPhone’s web browser).

But caveat emptor! The blog authors also point out that the next print edition of Black’s Law Dictionary is due in just two short months ( It’s unknown how many new terms will be added to the 9th edition (although the 8th edition had 17,000 more definitions than the 7th), but iPhone users should know that their dictionary app will become a bit outdated in June 2009. (West representatives told iPhone J.D. that they’re not yet sure whether a 9th-edition app will be developed.)

Have you tried the Black’s Law Dictionary iPhone app? Tell us your experiences in the comments.