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Phelan and Gillespie Immigration Law Handbook 9th edition ebook review


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Christmas gift guide edition

Is the ebook edition of Phelan and Gillespie’s Immigration Law Handbook (9th edition) the ideal Christmas gift for the immigration lawyer you have the misfortune of loving or being related to? With only two days to go, it isn’t too late to order the ebook edition, which possesses the admirable virtues of:

  1. Costing £10 less than the hard copy at only £50.39
  2. Not costing anything in postage and
  3. For which it does not matter that you have now missed the last posting date.

Will your favourite immigration lawyer thank you, though? Probably not, as this Christmas edition review of the ebook version reveals…

Short version

Buy the hard copy. The physical book is no doubt as excellent as ever.

Navigation: Impossible

The ebook version is totally useless for a working immigration lawyer because it is impossible to navigate to a relevant part of the Immigration Rules or any specific part of the other large documents. The only internal hyperlink in the contents page is to the very start of each document, and then the contents page to each document does not include any internal hyperlinks. This is useless in a reference ebook: it is impossible to refer, basically.

There is also no signal by way of header or footer on any given page as to what document or part of document you are reading. This is a significant way of navigating a physical book but is not possible in an ebook. Imagine trying to find Appendix FM-SE, as I have just tried to, or any specific paragraph of any of the myriad appendices to the rules, simply by moving the “percentage read” bar at the bottom of the screen. This absence is a necessary corollary to having an ebook that can render differently depending on text and screen size, it is not the fault of the publisher – but it does mean that a good contents page is particularly important.


The search function could be the saving grace, but in the context of the heavily cross-referenced Immigration Rules even searching a specific paragraph (assuming you know the alphabet soup “number” in the first place, which you probably do not) it simply does not work as a practical proposition. Internal search also seems incredibly slow or simply broken, even on my fairly new iPad Air 2, although that may well be the fault of the Kindle software rather than the publishers, Oxford University Press.

Weighing the pros and cons

Ebooks offer the promise of convenience and only weigh as much as your tablet or phone, which you carry anyway. You can carry an almost infinite number of ebooks with no ill effect on your back, they do not require a live internet connection and search should offer added value.

This is particularly relevant to Phelan, which is now a massive tome (the fault of legislators rather than Margaret or Jim!).

This promise remains illusory if you cannot actually use the damn thing because it is so badly designed by the publisher, though. It would be super simple to add internal links to the contents pages of some or all of the documents included in the handbook but, alas, it has not been done.

Sorry, but it is time to start panicking again if you are still looking for the ideal immigration lawyer gift. Perhaps you might instead consider an Appendix FM Special Edition tin of alphabet spaghetti?

Hard copy:


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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.