Lawyers often search online databases for information on cases and laws.

As smartphones become more prevalent, more companies like Houston-based startup PushLegal are pushing to make that information mobile.

The company, founded by local defense attorney Jonathan Paull, is hawking a mobile app for attorneys that puts legal research on mobile devices, allowing lawyers to quickly research and reference on the go and in the courtroom.

After recently settling a lawsuit with a local legal publisher, the company is making a push to target attorneys state by state, starting with those - Texas, California, Florida and New York - that have the most lawyers.

"The legal publishing model is changing," said 25-year old Alex Torry, chief operating officer of PushLegal. "Now you can store an entire law library on your smartphone and carry it with you wherever you go. It saves people time, and for lawyers, time is money."

While Westlaw, Lexis Nexis, Fastcase and others also have mobile apps, Torry says PushLegal is hoping to compete by being faster and more affordable as well as providing more information.

The company gets rules and codes from public-domain government websites. Case law is pulled from Google Scholar, a free search engine that indexes the full text of judicial opinions. Part-time contract workers compile annotations.

"The law is free for all to use and all to publish, and previously published reference works are perfectly appropriate sources to use in compiling the law," Torry said.
PushLegal also lets attorneys store the information on their phones, so if they're stuck without signal, they can still search for information.

Users pay $30 monthly or $300 annual subscription fees. About 150 active users are using the most recent and full version of the app, which was launched in July. Since the initial launch in September 2011, when the app was offered for free, the company has seen 30,000 downloads. Students will soon be able to access the app for free until graduation.

The app, however, didn't launch without its own legal troubles.

Jones McClure Publishing of Houston, the publisher of the O'Connor's series of legal books, sued PushLegal in July for allegedly engaging "in wholesale, willful copying" of 11 O'Connor's books. PushLegal denied the charges, according to court records.

However, a news release four months later announcing settlement of the case, the terms of which were undisclosed, quotes Paull and Torry acknowledging that "certain of Push Legal's contract content developers had copied Jones McClure's books, we've apologized to Jones McClure Publishing, and we have now completely corrected the copied portions."

With the litigation behind it, PushLegal hopes to be in all 50 states within a few years and eventually offer legal publishers a platform to share legal commentaries and other proprietary information.

Most of the funding has come from friends and family, but Torry says the startup seeks to raise an additional $500,000 to cover future steps and recent legal costs. He projects the company will break even during the second half of 2013.

One Houston lawyer who has used PushLegal said he likes that it constantly updates with the most recent cases.

Defense attorney Rocket Rosen said he's used the app in court to research a case in the news that was similar to that of one of his clients. Rosen said he wanted to understand what charges his client may face.

"I looked it up and said, 'Hey, there's the charge.' I'm 57 years old and into sports and golf. It's like pulling up a score. It has the latest cases."
Purva Patel is a freelance writer in Houston.