[The following column originally appeared in print in May 2007. I am republishing it as part of my continuing effort to maintain an archive of my published columns. Important note: I have not updated this since its original publication. While most of the sites remain as described, some may have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]
As we do here every so often, this month we round up a selection of some of what’s new among law-related Web sites.
- Legal vertical search. A new search tool allows more focused searching of the legal Web than would a general search site, with the goal of delivering more relevant results. Launched by Law.com, the tool is called Law.com Quest. It provides the option of searching only the Law.com network of sites, which includes all ALM publications, or a broader, hand-picked selection of legal Web sites and legal blogs.
- A useful feature is Quest’s ability to filter search results by date ranges or by content source or type. For example, if you search within the Law.com network, you can filter results to show only those from the National Law Journal or The American Lawyer, or you can choose to see only results that come from court decisions or blogs. If you use the broader “legal Web” search, you can filter results by selected courts and regions.
Quest is a significant improvement over previous options for searching the Law.com network of sites. Even better, it adds a broader search of select legal Web sites and blogs. Beyond its scope, its most striking feature is its ease of use, facilitated by its ability to filter search results by date ranges and by content source or type. Its broad vertical search, combined with its search of ALM articles, court decisions and features, should make it a key search tool for legal professionals.
- Opening Congress. A new Web site, OpenCongress, draws on a variety of sources – from official government sites to blogs – to provide an in-depth view of “the real story behind what’s happening in Congress.” A joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation, the site allows you to track official legislative information as well as news reports, blog posts, campaign contribution information and other sources. Use it to track a bill, a member of Congress, a specific issue or just to follow the latest developments on Capitol Hill.
- OpenCongress works by tracking a variety of sources. They include official legislative information from Thomas made available by way of GovTrack.us, including all bills, members of Congress, votes, committee reports, issue areas and more; news articles about Congress from Google News; blog posts about Congress drawn from Technorati and Google Blog Search; and campaign contribution information from OpenSecrets.org.
The site allows you to set up RSS feeds for virtually anything you want to track – a single bill, a member of Congress or blog posts about a bill. You can also track what is hot in Congress by subscribing to feeds for most-viewed items. A separate issues page lets you monitor Congressional activity by topics.
- Tracking wrongful convictions. The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas School of law has created the Actual Innocence Awareness Database to track developments related to wrongful convictions. The database contains citations (and links, when the materials are online) to popular media, journal articles, books, reports, legislation and Web sites. Materials are classified by the primary causes of wrongful conviction: forensics/DNA, eyewitness identification, false confessions, jailhouse informants, police or prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective representation. There is also a general category and the entire database can be searched.
- Legal articles library. A new free resource for lawyers provides access to hundreds of articles written by lawyers for CLE programs or for publication in legal periodicals. Called Litilaw, it claims to be the largest free collection of advanced legal articles available on the Internet. The site focuses on collecting articles of interest to litigators and organizes them under more than 30 substantive and procedural categories. Search the full text of articles or browse them by categories or latest additions. Full articles are available only in PDF format.
- Litilaw provides a synopsis of each article, but the full text resides offsite at the article’s original location – usually a CLE provider or law firm. In fact, the site invites attorneys to add links to their own articles. The site is operated by Lexbe.com, www.lexbe.com, a company that markets a Web-based case analysis and document-management system.
- Patents marketplace. A new Web site, LegalForce, offers an online “marketplace” for buying, selling and licensing patents. Through July, listing patents for sale costs nothing. Interested buyers can view listings and post bids, which are non-binding as serve as invitations to negotiate. The site also provides a networking forum for inventors, attorneys and IP professionals, where they can participate in topical forums, post videos (illustrating their inventions, for example), post classified ads and list events.
- According to the Web site, LegalForce also offers IP legal services, including patent preparation and prosecution, “through a network of U.S. patent attorneys using LegalForce intellectual property support services in India.” According to a white paper, this means that much of the patent work is outsourced through U.S. patent attorneys to patent engineers in India.
- Anglo-American legal tradition. The O’Quinn Law Library at the University of Houston Law Center has launched a Web site, Anglo-American Legal Tradition, that provides access to nearly half a million images of U.K. court documents covering roughly four centuries from 1272 to 1650.
- The images are of documents on file with the National Archives of the United Kingdom. Previously, access to these documents was possible only by visiting the National Archives and viewing them first-hand. The O’Quinn Library acquired them through the 15-year effort of Houston law professor Robert C. Palmer to negotiate the license, which allows the free, non-commercial, public display and use of the images.
In addition to the document images, the site includes Palmer’s overviews of English legal history. Eventually, it will include additional teaching materials and finding aids to enhance the site’s functionality.
- Constitution finder. From the University of Richmond School of Law comes Constitution Finder, a database of worldwide constitutions, charters, amendments and related documents. The site lists documents by nation and links to the Web locations of the source documents. The site neither houses nor translates documents, so not all source documents are available in English.