Legal research: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Posted on March 3, 2010. Filed under: Practice Management, Productivity, Research, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Legal research: the good the bad and the ugly.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


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 ( and LoisLaw ( 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 (, 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.

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More new iPhone apps for lawyers

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: iPhone, Portability, Productivity | Tags: , , |


This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “More new iPhone apps for lawyers.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


More new iPhone apps for lawyers

In July 2009 I wrote a column about iPhone apps for lawyers.

A number of interesting, new apps have been released since then, so I figured it is time for an update.

My previous column — published in the July 13, 2009 edition of The Daily Record — included information on the vast assortment of apps for databases of federal and state laws, thus allowing lawyers to carry relevant laws and rules in their pockets in an easily accessible format. Today there is a huge assortment of apps of that nature, since many different versions of those types of apps have been released in the interim. I’ll leave it up to you to peruse the app store for the laws specific to your jurisdiction and areas of practice.

One free app of this type to consider, however, is “Law Stack,” which includes full text versions of the U.S. Constitution, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 5) the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

If you are a LexisNexis subscriber, you definitely should download their new, free app, which allows you to quickly obtain and Shepardize cases, anywhere, anytime.

Dragon Dictation is another free app that is cutting edge and a huge money saver over the traditional software program with which you already may be familiar. The app allows users to dictate a message, which it then transcribes instantly. Users then have the option to edit it and send it via e-mail or text. The message also can be copied to a clipboard and pasted wherever you’d like using the iPhone interface. The transcription is amazingly accurate, making the app a must-have for busy lawyers on the go.

To stay on top of the latest legal news, you can download the ABA Journal’s free legal news app. JD Supra’s Legal Edge app, also free, is another great option for staying on top of the latest news and legal filings in your areas of practice.

One of my favorite apps that I use constantly is Zosh, a true bargain at $2.99. Zosh allows users to upload forms — PDF, Word, Excel, PPT, jpg and many other formats — that have been e-mailed, fill them in, sign them and send them right from your iPhone. There’s no need to print the forms, scan them, fax them or mail them. The app is a tremendous time saver and removes the hassle from that entire process. It’s a life saver and I absolutely love it!

Finally, for lawyers who travel frequently, TripIt is a really useful iPhone app that coordinates with TripIt’s corresponding Web site. After setting up an account,
simply forward itinerary confirmation e-mails from airlines or travel sites to your TripIt account, which allows users to have all travel plans in one place, easily accessible via an iPhone. A social networking aspect to the service also is available, allowing users to share their travel plans with family and friends in his or TripIt network.

There are plenty of other great apps for lawyers as well, and more are being released each day. Explore new apps as they’re released and give them a test drive. It’s worth the time and effort, it’s fun and it saves time and money in the long run.

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Tricks for efficient online interaction

Posted on November 2, 2009. Filed under: Internet 101, Productivity, Social Media, Web 2.0 |


This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Tricks for efficient online interaction”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Tricks for efficient online interaction

Many lawyers understand the importance of networking, but let’s face it — running a law practice takes time and no one ever seems to have enough of it. In fact, the lack of time is one of the main reasons lawyers offer as an excuse to avoid online networking.

If you use the right timesaving tools, however, you will be able to streamline your online networking experience, so that the time you spend online will be more effective and efficient.

The first thing you need to do is use Firefox as your default Web browser. The tools you can add to the browser bar will make your life online much simpler.

My first add-on recommendation? Ditch Google Reader as the RSS feed reader and switch to Feedly ( Feedly pulls the feeds 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.

Feedly doesn’t stop there, however. It also allows blogs posts and articles appearing in your feed to be shared quickly and easily. Choose the appropriate button in the tool bar appearing at the top of each item in your feed and, with the click of a button, you can share content on Twitter or Facebook. Feedly automatically creates the body of the post and shortens the link for you. E-mail the content to a client or colleague to whom it might be of interest, add it to your delicious bookmarks or clip it to Evernote.
Feedly also has a new experiment called “Karma,” which allows tracking of the links you’ve shared on Twitter. You can see which links are most popular, how many times people have re-tweeted your links and how many times people clicked through to the content.

Finally, Feedly allows content to be shared quickly via e-mail or Twitter as pages are viewed on the Web via a mini-tool bar appearing at the very bottom left corner of each Web page.
Another favorite tool is Shareaholic (,also a Firefox browser toolbar add-on. Like Feedly, Shareaholic automatically generates the body of each post and shortens links, allowing you to quickly share content on different Web platforms. One of the benefits of Shareaholic is the breadth of networking sites it supports, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Evernote, delicious, Diigo and Twine.

Should you decide to test the waters and begin interacting on Twitter, a number of platforms and tools are available to make your Twitter experience far more pleasant.
Three very popular desktop Twitter platforms are Tweetdeck(, Seesmic ( and Tweetie (www.ate The platforms offer different features that simplify your Twitter user experience. Tweetree (www.tweet and Tweetvisor (www.tweet are two online Web interfaces that accomplish the same goal.

Another really useful Firefox add-on is Mr. Tweet (, which once installed automatically provides useful information about your followers on Twitter, in turn allowing you to efficiently sort through and maintain your relationships there.
Microsoft Outlook users should be aware of Twinbox (, an add-in that seamlessly integrates Twitter and Outlook, making it easy for you to manage a Twitter account directly from Outlook.

Twitter applications can be used on your smartphone to keep up with the conversation stream. Popular iPhone Twitter applications include Tweetie (, Tweetdeck ( and Twitterific (
Arguably, the most popular BlackBerry applicationis Twitterberry (www.twitter Other Black-Berry applications to consider are Twibble ( and Tiny Tweeter ( If the Palm Pre is your smart phone of choice, Tweed ( is a good Twitter application to consider.

Finally, Social Mention ( is a great, free resource that allows real-time searches of online social networking sites for mentions of you, your business, your competitors, key words relevant to an area of practice or other topics. Search results can be filtered to locate mentions from certain types of sites, such as Twitter, blogs, or video sites such as YouTube. Search results also provide interesting data about the results, including whether the sentiment expressed is positive or  negative.
Online networking does not need to be an overwhelming experience. With the proper tools, online interactions can be made more efficient, and more streamlined than you ever dreamed possible. Put these tools to use and make online networking work for your law practice.

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Blackberry Apps for Lawyers

Posted on July 21, 2009. Filed under: Productivity |


This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Blackberry Apps for Lawyers.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


After reading last week’s article about iPhone apps for lawyers, a regular reader e-mailed me to request a similar article for Blackberry owners.

As the familiar expression goes: “Ask and ye shall receive.”

After some research, I located a number of Blackberry applications that would be useful for attorneys; but, it wasn’t easy.

I was happy to discover how easy it was to locate the “Blackberry App World,” the official Blackberry app store. My happiness quickly turned to consternation, however, when I realized I could only peruse the app store if I downloaded the app store program — using only Internet Explorer or a Blackberry. Unfortunately, I’m a Mac gal and had access to neither.

Nevertheless, I managed to unearth an assortment of Blackberry applications that would benefit just about any law practice.

First, there a number of apps consisting of databases of federal and state laws, which allow lawyers to carry relevant laws and rules in their pockets in an easily accessible format.

From the developer “The Law Pod,” lawyers can purchase the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence and the U.S. Constitution.

Also, provides state statutes for California, Texas and Florida.

There is a legal dictionary —Beiks Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, for $19.95.

And there are a number of apps that, while not targeted specifically toward lawyers, could prove very useful.

First, for managing and creating documents, there’s the eOffice 4.6 Mobile Office Suite. It costs $29.95, and allows you to work with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Files you’ve created can be shared using the Bluetooth File Sharing app, which costs only $9.99.

The RDM+:Remote Desktop for Mobiles app costs $39.99 and allows remote access to your desktop via your Blackberry, dates, DateMathica, from Shrunken Head Software, a date calculator that costs $9.99, is worth a look.

Another useful product from that same company is BizTrackIt, at $39.99, which allows you to track billable/unbillable time by project and e-mail time record reports in CSV file format or synchronize them to your PC using Desktop Manager.

With Viigo RSS Reader, a free app, you can keep up with all the news as it comes in.
Skype, the well-known VOIP software that provides unlimited long distance phone calls, now is available for Blackberrys as well, and it’s free.

Winscribe dictation software also is available, and provides online and offline functionality with secure data and voice transmission.

Last, but not least —a number of assorted apps of interest. The Wikipock Basic Edition, at $9.99, allows you to have access to all of Wikipedia, even if you have no internet connection.

Another popular online service, Evernote, is now available for Blackberrys. The free application allows you to capture photos, notes and voice memos, which then can be synced with your desktop Evernote client.

Finally, a free and very popular online application, Pandora, is available to Blackberry owners. Pandora is your very own personalized radio that streams music directly to your Blackberry. Radio stations can be created and tweaked to suit your
preferences by indicating which songs you like best, and least.

So, if you’re a diehard Blackberry fan, or simply own a Blackberry because you have no other choice, there are apps out there that can improve your Blackberry experience, increase your efficiency and improve your law practice.

Give them a try!

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Don’t Fear Technology-Change is Good.

Posted on January 23, 2009. Filed under: Practice Management, Productivity, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized, Web 2.0 |

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “There’s No Need To Fear Technology a…“, posted with vodpod

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Making Your Law Office More Portable

Posted on August 26, 2008. Filed under: Portability, Productivity, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Making Your Law Office More Portable.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Making Your Law Office More Portable

I know, I know. Some of you are wondering, “Why in the world would I want to take my law office with me? It can stay right where it is, thank you very much.”

Rest assured there are a number of legitimate and, dare I say, logical, reasons to consider making certain aspects of your law practice more portable, not the least of which are flexibility, efficiency, and convenience.

The ability to access relevant information anytime, anywhere saves both time and money. Free or inexpensive online applications and resources provide lawyers with cost-efficient alternatives to the traditional office-based law practice.

As we all know, time wasted is money lost. One of the more frustrating aspects of practicing law is finding yourself unexpectedly delayed, in court or elsewhere, and knowing that if you just had certain information you would be able to make productive use of the time.

Portability provides you with the ability to do just that by allowing you to access contact information, e-mails, documents and other relevant information with the touch of a button.

The first step toward portability is to invest in a smart phone, and if at all possible, a laptop. Smart phones, such as the iPhone or Blackberry, are an indispensable part of the portable office. Smart
phones allow you to access your contacts, your e-mail accounts and the Internet no matter where you are.

Internet access is extremely important, since it is the key to the portable law office. Web-based applications and the ability to utilize them via your phone or laptop free you from practicing law within
the confines of your office.

Web-based e-mail is ideal and Gmail is one of the best email systems available. It’s free, has a huge storage capacity, conveniently groups related e-mails into “conversations” and has a number of
unique mechanisms that assist in organizing, labeling and accessing stored e-mails. Contacts are easily managed and accessed via Gmail, and, best of all, Gmail is compatible with the vast majority
of cutting edge Web-based productivity applications.

Gmail can be easily used in conjunction with office-based e-mail servers. For example, my work e-mail address is set up so that all messages are forwarded to my Gmail account. Messages from that
account are automatically labeled and filtered as they are received into my Gmail account. And, my Gmail account is programmed so that all new messages sent from the Gmail account are sent from my
work e-mail address. In other words, my work e-mail address is the default address for all new emails created from my Gmail account.

Opening a Gmail account also automatically provides you with access to a number of free and useful Google applications. The first is Google Calendar, a simple and intuitive calendaring system that is fully integrated with Gmail.

Another very useful application for the legal practitioner is Google Docs, a Web-based word processing system. With Google Docs, you can upload or create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms.

You can then access and edit the files via any computer or smart phone that has Internet access.  You can also permit others to access the files, thus providing a simple way to share and col-
laborate online.

Once you’re familiar with Google’s Web-based applications, the world is your oyster and true portability becomes a reality.

There are innumerable free Web-based productivity applications and organizational tools that are compatible with Google’s mail and calendaring systems. I’ll discuss some of the options in the near
future, but in the meantime you can visit the blog Practicing Law in the 21st Century (http://21stcentury and explore the many applications available by clicking on the navigation tabs located at the top of the Web page.

Portability is the key to practicing law in the 21st century. Once you’ve made the jump, you’ll wonder how you managed to get work done in the “old days,” when the portable law office was simply a

–Nicole Black

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