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Oxford law student overcomes legal dispute with Facebook to launch contract law revision app

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He came up with the idea while revising for exams

A second-year law student at the University of Oxford has spoken to Legal Cheek about his new contract law revision app — and the legal dispute with Facebook he overcame to launch it.

Max Herberg came up with the idea for LLBook while he was studying for his contract law exams in first year. He says:

“Existing revision guides are quite expensive and are often in paperback format, which makes them liable to obsolescence when new laws are made and new cases are decided. In our smartphones, we have the perfect tool to circumvent this.”

The app, Herberg says, can be easily updated, saving law students precious cash on new edition textbooks. It’s also free, which helps level out the playing field across university law departments where students have access to very different resources.

Setting to work on LLBook in October and launching early this year, Herberg describes the creating process as “a nice distraction” to his intense law degree.

Screenshots from LLBook

The biggest strain on his time was creating the case summaries for the app, which form the basis of the app and its quiz function. This wasn’t too hard for Herberg as he was studying for his exams at the time so writing content was useful for him. He drafted in a freelance app designer for the more technical stuff.

What was perhaps more stressful for Herberg — who studies law with Spanish law at St Anne’s College, Oxford — was LLBook’s trademark application. After registering the app in October, Herberg found himself in a dispute with Facebook’s legal team over the company’s European-wide trademark of the word ‘book’.

But, it all worked out in the end. The law student tells Legal Cheek he spent time in the library swotting up on IP law before he reached an amicable agreement with the social media giant over the name.

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LLBook has only been up and running for a few weeks but Herberg says the reaction’s been “great”. More than 250 users have started playing with the app, and he’s hoping to expand into other areas of law — like land, tort, crime and EU — and to make it available to Android users.

As for what’s next for Herberg himself, “I like to keep an open mind”. While he is toying with the idea of academia (comparative private law) or going into legal practice (competition law), Herberg’s focus for now “is on helping students fully expand their knowledge”.

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39 Comments

Anonymous

The market is too small for this to be mildly successful. With the price of the app, the return from even assuming a great uptake of a few thousand (which isn’t happening), he will make a few hundred or less. Probably less. Something to put on your CV? Yes…but the point about businesses is that they are supposed to be profitable. Could you make more working as a shoe polisher for less time spent? Definitely.

(6)(61)

Anonymous

With the infrastructure of the app I am sure he can venture in to other subjects and create licensing agreements with various universities…

(18)(3)

Anonymous

This is laughable. The “infrastructure of the app”, “licensing agreements”…

Firstly, does it work? No, it doesn’t work because universities teach law differently You can’t revise for LSE’s contract law course using the Warwick module materials. The exam papers are different, the topics will be different and learning a bunch of case names and principles, which are already provided by universities in the module materials alongside textbooks etc., will not assist. Many cases aren’t relevant to certain topics within particular modules.

It is the same with all modules and all courses at universities. There is just too much material for an undergrad to know everything and there is no reward for knowing everything.

So it is entirely ineffective and probably a waste of time. Like those who use Nutshells to try to pass their undergrad exams.

The market is too small to pitch to just UCL or Bristol students.

Secondly there is competition and it is better. Quizlit for example. Just go on and create your own revision cards from your module materials.

Third the sheer amount of work to do it for multiple modules for multiple subjects to too great for a small operation. Larger players have looked into it and are taking the most profitable course.

Third, universities would never allow licensing agreements as it is taking away from their revenue stream. The reason why they use their own branded module materials is because they are making money off their textbooks. Which although usually mandatory for students at hugely inflated prices are scarely very profitable either and that fact is widely lamented by lecturers.

It is just a little CV ploy which isn’t making money, must have been profoundly loss making so far and doesn’t have the market to ever be very profitable.

(10)(30)

Anonymous

All of your wordy criticism seems to be based on the obvious point that factoid-style learning won’t help a student if s/he hasn’t done the underlying reading and thinking. Fair enough. Everyone knows this. But revision (and reminders throughout the course) *are* helped by simple reference to case names and principles.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with Nutshells if you use them properly.

(11)(3)

Anonymous

No, that’s not what I was saying at all. I am saying that a lot of the cases will be irrelevant to some courses and not include other cases which are relevant. For example, in employment law, many courses do not cover TUPE in detail. Some do not cover it at all. Learning about TUPE is a waste of time if you are one of these students. If relevant/irrelevant cases/legislation are mixed in, you will waste time.

Those are entire topics, but then within shared topics, there are problems – say every course covers employee status. Some courses may breeze over it, some may have it as a cornerstone. Some courses you could miss it out. But then there are hundreds of cases discussing employee status. Your course leader has picked say 15 of them – your course leader does not know all the cases because are too many. Another course leader at another university may pick 20, and only 5 of those cases may be the same cases as those selected by your leader. And in an exam, you have such limited time – say 45 minutes a question – you don’t have time to go on about other cases other than the ones your lecturer cares about. Often in a problem question, they revolve around the specific fact patterns of the cases which have been given to you by the lecturer.

That’s why if you use notes from people at other universities – or download notes from Oxbridge notes – they will be very limiting. It is better to use your own material. But at least with those notes, you can see a whole hashed out content, section by section. Rote memorising flash cards with wholly irrelevant material does more harm than good.

I mean, I got a first at university. I barely read a case and I’m not advocating large amounts of textbook reading which you’ll forget, but I know how university courses work. I looked into how to do well and bought the Nutshells and downloaded the Oxbridge notes, and they aren’t particularly useful and are probably more harm than good to many people.

Anonymous

“Those are entire topics, but then within shared topics, there are problems – say every course covers employee status. Some courses may breeze over it, some may have it as a cornerstone. Some courses you could miss it out. But then there are hundreds of cases discussing employee status…And in an exam, you have such limited time – say 45 minutes a question – you don’t have time to go on about other cases other than the ones your lecturer cares about.”

That’s just not true. There are key cases in every subject. These are universal. And lecturers will know of virtually all the significant cases further to the absolutely core ones. If a student cites and discusses cases that are relevant and a tutor doesn’t know them (which is unlikely) the tutor will look them up. I would expect a student who cites, say, a very recent case that isn’t known to the marker, but strongly makes the point being argued, to get extra marks.

Neither are problem questions set around non-core cases, as you suggest.

Between universities the subject matter of the main components of the LLB (or jurisprudence) is much of a muchness frankly (though not the quality of teaching, and Oxbridge has its peculiar fetish for Roman law).

I agree that Nutshell-type collections can be misused. But that’s not the point. All materials can be misused or, in the case of denser textbooks, unused.

Anonymous

It absolutely is true. I know this having:
– spoken, when I was a student, to lecturers are different universities
– having had access to the very different exam papers at different universities
– having reviewed the notes and course materials from different universities

It really tedious having to respond to you on this. Obviously universities do not teach an entire 700 page textbook, they have selected bits and bobs and then focus really on about 10% of that.

I have already explained using employment law as an example. When I was at university, the course was radically different to my friends at other universities. We didn’t touch Autoclenz and other cases. We barely covered employment status and it wasn’t even an exam question.

For jurisprudence, some universities do legal feminism, some do law and the holocaust, some do Dworkin and some don’t cover any of that.

Same with any subject, there are cases which are cornerstones to the course. Sometimes the lecturer has a real academic interest in one and its related case history. That will shape the course.

Your comment that law is law no matter where you do it is plainly ridiculous and banal.

Anonymous

If it’s tedious don’t respond. You made the claims. They’re wrong.

Your last post is just waffle. (If your employment course didn’t cover employment status it must have been completely shit and pointless.)

I’m beginning to suspect you’re in the market and Mr Herberg has trodden on your commercial toes.

Anonymous

It is tedious because you are a liar or can’t be bothered to read.

Just as I said my course barely covered x, you asset I said it didn’t cover it at all.

Mine was a well ranked university from which I got a good TC.

I have given multiple examples of how courses differ. You ignore them.

There is no market for law student apps but I am quite sure many people replying, possibly yourself, are the Oxford student in question or associated with him.

Anonymous

You’re a bullshitter or a moron. What you’ve said is wrong. Anyone who’s looked at university law courses will know you’re wrong.

Employment course ‘barely covered’ employment status is fuck all different from ‘didn’t cover’. Nitpicking twat.

Big Dolla

The app is free. I’m not sure if he’s monetised it in other forms, but it seems like profit wasn’t the main motive.

Regardless of profitability, I for one commend the student on his initiative, and would rate his experience highly if his CV came across my desk.

(33)(1)

Anonymous

I think your desk is in your student room.

Almost all apps start free and then start charging. Or start charging for services within once they have the audience. Everyone should know this.

(7)(13)

Anonymous

Why the assumption this is about money? The article even says he’s not planning to make a career in this area. He’s just a hobbyist who has done something useful for other students with his time. Sounds good to me.

(12)(1)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Bugger off fascist.

(7)(5)

Oscar

Please, change your alias. Mr Corbyn won’t be pleased that someone with such short ability to engage in intelectual confrontation declares himself affiliated with his cause.

(1)(4)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

And the Academy Awards wouldn’t want to be associated with you I suspect.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Facebook’s European-wide trademark of the word ‘book’ – Anyone else want to know how he reached ‘an amicable agreement’ after ‘swotting up on IP law’ ?

(18)(1)

Anonymous

Threatened to bring proceedings to invalidate the mark?

(5)(2)

Anonymous

Yeah – that’s probably the most impressive part of the project.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Isn’t a trademark on the word book a little broad?

(5)(0)

Oscar

Still hope! At least one constructive comment among these postings. Gosh! How many frustrated cynical minds already.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

I don’t believe the likes and dislikes are representative of the readers. More like Max. Fair cop to try something. Also far cop to point out that it is not a business yet turning over any money. Also fair cop to say the market is limited and that it is pretty worthless for students.

(1)(4)

Anonymous

Ehh don’t see why everyone is being down on this. Seems like a pretty useful tool. I’ve used spaced repetition apps like Anki and found them really useful — it’s a fairly effort-light way of memorising stuff, especially if someone has already created the flash-cards for you. Not a replacement for other forms of study, but good for the grunt work of memorising.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

‘Judgment’ not ‘Judgement’ (see second phone in photo).

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Why won’t you remove this LC? It’s obviously antisemetic. This is why we need better political education in this country

(0)(0)

Trolololol

If he had done the ‘technical’ stuff himself I would have been impressed. But, given he had to get help for this part, all he has done is exchanged a few emails with Facebook suits and put into motion the same idea countless other students have had at some point or another.

Yes I will concede that this will look good on his cv (providing he still attains a strong degree). Moreover, the emails with FB suits is something to talk about in interviews. Yet my point is still valid, he has not taught himself to code and revision notes are not difficult to make. Further, FB and other company’s will pursue any person they believe to be breaching TM, but it should be remembered that this does not mean there is a breach or any actionable TM.

(4)(2)

SkyPie

Totally agree… It is more than likely that the facebook legal team sent him the standard cease & desist letter in case there was an overlaps with the trademarks. I would suggest he simply showed they were different or that their trademark could not have such a far reaching effect. All pretty standard and easy.

(1)(2)

Big Dolla

The same idea which ‘countless other students’ thought of, but did not put into action. And of course, I’m not saying this is the first app of its kind; but there is something to be said for the student’s initiative, all in the midst of an intense degree.

(5)(0)

Trolololol

I will concede that point, it does show he is motivated. But, it does not mean this is a good idea or that his efforts are worth what he will receive.

I can code and I thought about making an app like this, these are the reasons why I didn’t make one:

1) my degree result was more important
2) although the core of a law degree is the same at every uni, what cases are used varies widely
3) there is no money in this idea, the only gain is for a cv but there are many other options which a firm or chambers will value more (such as being a member of a society or mooting)
4) this will not help other students, law revision is personal and should be developed during your course

I wis him good luck in this, I have just bad an observation. If by chance he does read this, I hope he does not take it negatively.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Obviously intended to go onto his CV and nothing else.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I know this guy and he’s the most insufferable ar*ehole. He would sell his own mother for a magic circle training contract. I imagine he’ll do very well in corporate law, but all his colleagues are going to hate him.

(6)(2)

US Trainee

Good, sounds like he will fit right in with the MC lawyers and trainees then.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I think that this is a helpful comment.

My reaction was as someone who can code a bit:

He obviously didn’t make the app himself and in order to make the app, you have to get a developer. That’s the hard part, making the app. That costs money. Where did that money come from? Developers are expensive and students aren’t earning money. So did he use his parent’s money to pay a developer to build an app and then just copy and pasted some revision notes into the text of the flashcards? That’s the most credible answer.

The other element to this is that there’s no evidence that this is or will be profit making. So has used his parent’s money to throw at an unprofitable business idea to brighten his CV? I don’t this is an unreasonable point to make.

I was President of a Law Society. We had to create a website. It cost close to a thousand pounds using someone who could do this type of thing very well and is a professional designer at a huge, huge discount as she was also on the committee, working countless hours. So when people say: everyone has thought of this, but few have put it action…I would suggest, it is because it is very expensive to do this.

My other issue is with people generally using money for their CVs. I know people who have used these “Fund Me” charity schemes where they raise a couple of k from friends/family/strangers on these websites to go off for a week to e.g. a Caribbean island to support local lawyers and help give legal advice to the locals or help build a road. I think these are a joke, what are you learning in a week? What are you doing? I wouldn’t want some pastey skinny middle class white kid who hasn’t done a day’s work in his/her life building my house – I’d rather not pay for their flights and accommodation to my island and I’d rather get a local to build it. I think it’s just CV material.

So my feeling with this if he has thrown money at it, couldn’t he have done something actually helpful – like fund a charity or create a helpful charitable initiative…if he’s not making money…which he isn’t.

(2)(1)

Trolololol

I agree with you in large part but not with everything.

As he can’t code and had to get help, this seriously weakens the effort he put in and the skills he has learnt. Although it will still look good on his cv.

Yes a lot of people with money can improve their cv by spending money: I know someone at cab who got his parent to get him a horse to have something interesting to talk about in interviews. I meet another student during the bptc who had her parents support her charity (with 15k) which made her look very successful. And all of this is without talking about middle class students who can put lots of expensive and cool sounding things on their cv which don’t require anything more than money.

However I would say if you can afford this than why wouldn’t you do it? Getting your parents to pay for an expensive gap year which you can talk about in an interview or having them found a hobby is a great way to get ahead.

The real issue comes when a firm or chambers decide that these things are what is needed to join their profession and exclude those which can’t afford it.

(1)(0)

Big Dolla

Just read through the guy’s LinkedIn. Have to agree, he seems insufferable.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

lol

(0)(0)

DGAF

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

His LinkedIn profile is the funny thing I have read in years.

His experiences are questionable, which is probably why he has not attained worthwhile legal opportunities.

His grades are okay at best, for all of his statements on his profile he can’t even pass 70%.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

lol

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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