Legal research: the good, the bad and the ugly.
There is a grand scale transformation of legal research plat- forms occurring right now, which is a good thing for the legal profession as a whole.
While none of the existing services are necessarily ugly or bad, some of the most prominent platforms — ones with which we lawyers have always had a love/hate relationship — are antiquated and have been in desperate need of a re-haul for years now.
New entrants into the legal research space have caused fierce competition for customers. The increased competition has resulted in a rich variety of legal research options for lawyers. Some services provide more in-depth results than others, some have very user- friendly interfaces and some are inexpensive, or even free.
At LegalTech New York in February, the two largest, most familiar and most costly legal research platforms in the industry rolled out new products as part of an attempt to keep their offerings fresh and current.
Westlaw introduced WestlawNext, the next generation of Westlaw, a platform that had not changed substantially since its last revamp in 1998. An online brochure describes the platform: “Legal research that’s more human gives you an easier way to search, yet delivers all of what you’re looking for. … [Y]ou can apply intelligent tools to help you work smarter and faster with total confidence you have the information you need. All of which makes life easier.”
There has been some criticism expressed in the legal blogos- phere regarding the added “premium” users must pay in order to access the new platform, and some have decried West’s apparent lack of transparency in that regard.
LexisNexis also announced plans to roll out a new version of its platform, tentatively called “Lexis New,” later this year. In the meantime, Lexis introduced Lexis/Microsoft Office inte- gration, also during LegalTech. The company’s Web site states the new product allows lawyers “reviewing a Word document or an Outlook e-mail message … [to] seamlessly access content and resources from LexisNexis, the open Web, or their law firm or corporate files.”
LexisNexis also offers an iPhone app that allows subscribers to check case citations on the fly.
Two cheaper platforms have been around for at least a decade,Fastcase (www.fastcase.com) and LoisLaw (www.loislaw.com). Both offer subscribers the ability to access case law and statutes via user-friendly Web interfaces.
Fastcase, a 10-year-old legal research company, already serves more than 380,000 lawyers nationwide and has 17 state and local bar associations as its clients. One new notable feature from Fastcase is a free iPhone app. I downloaded the app when it was first released and, in my opinion, it’s a must-have for any lawyer who owns an iPhone. It allows users to quickly and easily search Fastcase’s entire case law database using the intuitive iPhone interface. And, you certainly can’t beat the price.
Another free legal research alternative is Google Legal Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/), which debuted at the end of 2009 and offers a free searchable database of U.S. case law from federal and state courts dating back 80 years, as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1791 and law review articles. Google Legal Scholar is a great resource and, for some lawyers, may offer a good alternative to the traditional legal research platforms.
Finally, a new contender is Bloomberg Law, which will be released later this year The product has been in beta testing for the last year and is offered by the well-established and well known financial news and information services media company, Bloomberg LLC. As described at its Web site, Bloomberg Law will provide an “the all-in-one legal research platform that integrates legal content with proprietary news and business intelligence.”
Many predict that the platform will appeal mostly to larger law firms as a feasible alternative to LexisNexis and Westlaw.
There is no doubt 2010 will be an interesting, and tumultuous, year for legal research providers and the lawyers who use their services. Only time will tell which platforms will win the battle for user loyalty. In the meantime, at least lawyers have far more choices than ever before.
This screencast features, and is sponsored by, the following legal technology products:
- Firmex–provides secure, virtual data rooms, which
can be used in a legal corporate environment to manage online due diligence,
exchange closing drafts, create digital record books, share litigation
documents and secure client access to important files.
- Mavenlink–provides an online collaborative workspace that allows lawyers to manage a client's case from start to finish, including uploading and collaborating on documents with clients and communicating with clients about their case in a secure, easily viewable environment.
In this episode of lawtechTalk, like the last episode, I'm experimenting with a new format. During each screencast and demo, I'll be interviewing a representative
from each company. Hopefully this interactivity will make the
screencast even more interesting for you, the viewer.
There are 3 parts to this episode, which you can access by scrolling through and clicking on each segment below:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
As you can probably imagine, I spend a lot of time online. Throughout my day, I find myself returning to the same Web sites over and over again. And, similarly, there are certain online tools that I use repeatedly.
It occurred to me that sharing my favorite Web sites and online tools might be useful to my readers. Although not all of these tools will be relevant to you, you may find a gem or two that will make your online life much simpler and more fulfilling.
Every morning I turn to three Web sites for information and news. First, I review the most popular news of the day at Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/most- popular). The popular news is categorized in three ways: the “most e-mailed news,” the “most viewed news” and the “most recommended news.” Skimming over the news stories and headlines in each section gives me a good sense of what’s happening in the world and the interest level of certain events to other Internet users.
I then read through my RSS feeds using my RSS feed reader of choice, Feedly (www.feedly.com). Feedly pulls the feeds to blogs and other news sources that you subscribe to using Google Reader and presents them to you in a far more user-friendly interface. Feeds appear in a magazine-like view that is much easier on the eyes and sorting through new items is simple and intuitive.
Another benefit of Feedly is that it allows content to be shared quickly via e-mail, Twitter or on other social networking sites. Next, I hit Trendalicious (www.glozer.net/ trendy/), a Web site that offers a real-time ranking of the 100 most popular Web pages as reflected by the top pages trending on three Web sites that sort online content based upon user input: Delicious, digg and reddit. Trendalicious is a great way to get a feel for the topics and new technology products that the online community is focusing on at any given time.
As I peruse the blogs posts, news stories and Web sites that I discover using the above sources, I bookmark those that I find particularly interesting using Diigo (www.diigo.com), a Web- based bookmarking site. I prefer Web-based bookmarking sites to using the bookmark function of my browser because it is more streamlined and I can access my bookmarks from any computer.
Diigo is my preferred web-based bookmarking site for a number of reasons. First, Diigo automatically backs up any site that you bookmark to your “delicious” (www.delicious.com) account. Delicious is one of the most popular Web-based bookmarking services, and backing up your bookmarks to that database as well ensures that your information will not be lost on the off-chance that Diigo or Delicious should fail and lose all of your data.
Diigo also allows you to annotate web pages that interest you. You simply highlight the Web pages or add “sticky notes” using Diigo’s interface and save them to Diigo. The annotations will subsequently appear on the Web sites anytime you visit thereafter.
I also frequently use the “SimilarWeb” Firefox browser add-on (www.similar web.com/) whenever I land on a Web site that interests me. This add-on provides me with links to: (1) similar Web sites; (2) related articles from news sites and blogs; and (3) the latest social media buzz about the Web site. It’s an invaluable tool that is a real time saver.
Finally, once I’ve caught up with the news of the day, I update my daily to-do list by visiting TeuxDeux (http://teuxdeux.com), a simple, intuitive, Web-based to-do application. I recently started using TeuxDeux and it is now my to-do list application of choice.
My next step is to get to work tackling the items on my to-do list. As I do so, I find myself constantly revisiting the Web sites and tools mentioned above throughout my day. Hopefully you’ll find that a few of these resources will become as invaluable to you as they are to me.
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Real-time Web a Game Changer.”
Real-time Web a Game Changer
You’ll have to forgive me for having online technologies, including social media, on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been speaking about social media for lawyers quite a bit in recent months and am now enmeshed in the process of writing a book with Carolyn Elefant about social media for lawyers, which will be published by the American Bar Association.
As a result, I’ve spent a good deal of time mulling over how the rapidly changing world of online technology will affect the legal profession. The technologies are evolving at a rapid pace and changing the world around us on a global scale.
Rest assured, our profession is not immune to the paradigm shift. Social media, cloud computing, mobile computing, real-time Web and real-time search are some of the core areas predicted to be game changers over the coming year.
Lawyers cannot afford to ignore the trends and should, at the very least, make an effort to learn and understand the concepts.
Two major developments were announced last week that will make one of the predicted game changing trends —real-time Web and real-time search —a more viable reality. Twitter announced agreements with Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) and Google to allow both engines full access to its data, as produced in real time.
Microsoft also negotiated an agreement with Facebook that will allow Bing access to some of Facebook’s data.
Of course, some of you are probably wondering: What is the real-time Web, and why should I care? Good question.
In July, Wikipedia described the real-time Web as:
[T]he concept of searching for and finding information online as it is produced. Advancements in web search technology coupled with growing use of social media enable online activities to be queried as they occur. A traditional web search crawls and indexes web pages periodically, returning results based on relevance to the search query. The real time web delivers the most popular topics recently discussed or posted by users. The content is often “soft” in that it is based on the social web —people’s opinions, attitudes, thoughts and interests —as opposed to hard news or facts.
Now in its infancy, the real-time Web soon will be commonplace, and will allow instantaneous access to information on any topic or event, as soon as that information becomes available, and as the event is occurring.
At first glance, that may not seem to be an earth-shattering concept, but it is a paradigm shift worthy of note. Lawyers should sit up and take notice.
User-generated content, the fundamental building block of the “social Web,” now is more influential, and instantaneously is given more credence as aresult of appearing in search engine results as soon as it is created.
Criticisms of legal employers or law schools appearing on Twitter have become infinitely more powerful.
Small businesses, including law firms, that use Twitter or Facebook as part of their marketing efforts online can strategically tweak their marketing approach on those platforms to mirror trends and topics affecting their business, and thereby appear higher in search engine results.
Astute lawyers likewise will use real-time search to locate issues and trends that may affect their areas of practice, then tailor their marketing and litigation efforts accordingly. Class action attorneys, for instance, can search for real-time complaints about a particular drug or product and predict when or where a class of injured people may exist long before their technologically deficient colleagues get wind of it.
Make no mistake about it —real-time search finally is here, and it’s going to alter the way that business is done. It’s a game changer, folks.
At the very least, learn about it and understand its ramifications. If you’re feeling especially daring, put it to work for your law practice. It can never hurt to stay ahead of the curve, especially when most of your competitors don’t even realize the curve exists.
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