Radical or retro? New corporate law research tool is a bit of both

Several weeks ago, Dennis Kennedy introduced me to Eric Korb, managing partner of LawyerLinks. Dennis had toured the new research service and was sufficiently impressed to suggest I do the same. Like Dennis, I came away impressed with what I saw.

LawyerLinks is a new corporate-law research service that so effectively organizes its materials using a topical index that its developers see no need to include full-text searching. While this no-search approach might seem radical, it initially struck me as retro. Upon first using it, I remembered long-ago days of hard-copy research when my initial approach to a problem might have been to pick up a treatise and browse its table of contents. Finding a chapter that seemed on point, I would read it for an overview of the key legal issues and considerations.

LawyerLinks strikes me as somewhat like that treatise of old, with a significant difference – it goes far deeper into the topic than any print treatise ever could. Its developers say they designed it to reflect the way lawyers work. To my mind, they have succeeded.

The concept is simple: LawyerLinks organizes all of its materials using an index of key terms and phrases. The index is made up of more than 1,000 terms, from “10-K” to “hedge fund registration” to “variable interest entities.” Materials are also organized by topics, such as “Delaware corporate law,” “financial reporting” and “NYSE/NASDAQ requirements.” These terms and topics are further organized into broader collections, among them SEC and Banking.

The left panel of your browser displays a list of topics and terms. The contents of this list vary depending on the collection you have selected. Click on a topic, such as “asset-backed securities” from the SEC collection, and the page that appears to the right provides a summary of SEC law, recent developments related to the topic, and a collection of deeper links providing more detailed information on key issues relating to asset-backed securities.

Each term and each topic is a visible tip of a much-deeper iceberg, allowing users to drill deeper and deeper into a subject, with the left-hand navigation pane always visible. Materials contain extensive hyperlinks to related materials within the collection.

The aim is to provide quick links to core information while eliminating “false positives” from research results. The collection is highly focused, targeted at corporate and securities law matters, but includes a broad range of materials within that area, including statutes, regulations, interpretative materials and Delaware court decisions. It is also up to date, with new materials added daily.

So confident are LawyerLinks’ developers of the intuitiveness of their index that they provide no full-text searching. This is a shortcoming, to my mind, one the developers say they may eventually address. But its index-only approach is successful in enabling users to zero in quickly on relevant results.

LawyerLinks offers a 30-day free trial, after which users must select either a pay-as-you-go plan – presently about $1 a minute – or a group subscription of $1,495 per user per year. I’ll have more on LawyerLinks in my November Web Watch column in Law Technology News.