A new app called Opinion Minion uses your mobile phone’s camera to read case citations and then deliver you the opinion from Google Scholar.

The app, which describes itself as “your legal helper,” uses text-recognition software to read the case citation and then search for it on Google Scholar. As of this writing, it is available only for the iPhone and iPad, but developer Thomas Peavler said an Android version will be ready soon.

Simply hold the app’s grey bar over the citation, and it scans the text and then delivers what it considers to be the best result, which you can expand into a list of all results.

Hold it over a citation, and it pulls up the case.

Click the star under the case in the results list to save it to your Google Scholar library or click the caption to go to the full text.

It works with hard-copy documents or with documents on a computer screen. If for any reason the scan does not work, you can type in the citation.

By default, Opinion Minion automatically looks for and captures a citation. If you point it at a string of citations, I found, that’s a problem, because it does not know which one to capture.

But a toggle switch turns off the auto-capture and lets you tap the screen to capture a citation. That way, you can be sure to have the precise citation aligned.

Why Use It?

All of which begs the question, “Why?”

The app’s website offers two reasons. One is speed:

“In a time-pressed courtroom, you don’t have time to go to the internet and type in a case citation. Opinion Minion taks you right to the case you need!”

The other reason it offers is accessibility:

“Opinion Minion is powered by Google Scholar, so all of your starred cases are automatically shared across all of your devices connected to Google.”

Of course, that would be true if you just searched directly on Google Scholar, without using Opinion Minion.

The app costs 99 cents to purchase. Is it worth it?

Well, it is probably a second or two faster to scan a citation with the app than it is to type the citation (given that all you need is “123 F.3d 456”). But then you first have to find the app on your phone and open it, which also takes a couple seconds.

Bottom line: You probably won’t save much time. But, heck, it’s only 99 cents. And it’s kind of fun.

Development Plans

Meanwhile, Peavler — who is just beginning his first year of college — has big plans for the app. He has submitted a provisional patent application for a text-recognition-based software that will use machine learning to recognize all manner of legal citations.

“The vision is to train Opinion Minion from The Bluebook and other rules of form guidelines to provide users a powerful tool that will connect them to the broad range of legal authorities they need,” he explained in an email. “Rather than navigating to each database individually, users will be able to connect their subscriptions to Opinion Minion and search all of their databases at once.”

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.