Law Ratchet Debuts: Like Google Reader for Legal News

article_list_view_on_ipad_full-768x1024With Google Reader set to shut down on July 1, many of us have been scrambling to find a substitute way to keep up with news and blogs. Yesterday, a new aggregation tool was launched, Law Ratchet, designed to enable legal professionals to keep up with the top legal and business news, analysis and commentary.

Available for free both as an iPad app and on the Web, Law Ratchet is essentially an RSS reader, similar in function to Google Reader. Unlike other RSS readers, however, Law Ratchet is preconfigured with news feeds and categories. There are 40 categories to choose from, ranging from administrative law to law and technology to small and solo practice to top 25 blogs. You can add or remove any one from the list of categories you follow.

A press release yesterday described it this way:

Law Ratchet offers a fast, easy and engaging experience. Users may check the latest top stories, see what legal topics are trending on blogs and social media, or find articles in their practice areas through one of over 40 curated categories. The app also provides industry news about law firms, law schools and legal jobs, as well as lighter news, gossip and pop culture articles. For individual topics, Law Ratchet provides a powerful, flexible search function, and searches may be saved as custom news categories.

For those of us who are persnickety about our news readers, there is a downside to Law Ratchet’s approach. Because the categories and news sources are preconfigured, you cannot add blogs that you like to follow. Law Ratchet’s FAQ invites users to suggest new sites and categories by email, but that is not the same as discovering a blog you want to follow and adding it to your newsreader.

The FAQ goes on to say, “We are also testing a cool new feature to allow users to create their own custom categories, giving you even more flexibility to configure the Law Ratchet experience.” But that cool new feature is not yet available.

For that matter, I could not find any search function, as promised in the press release. Perhaps this is available only in the iPad version, which I did not try.

Law Ratchet’s design is clean and straightforward. It is easy to navigate and to add or remove categories. Articles and posts are displayed as they come via the source’s RSS feed and you can click through to the original source. Individual articles can be saved for later viewing or shared on social media or by email.

Given that you cannot add your own feeds, Law Ratchet is not a replacement for Google Reader. However, I found it to be a great way to skim current legal news items and blog posts.