TAG | caselaw

Apr 25, 2011

‘Free Law Reporter’ Puts Searchable Opinions Online

A newly launched website, The Free Law Reporter, provides free access to a searchable index of recent federal and state court opinions. Developed by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), the site describes itself as an “electronic case reporter” that makes the opinions searchable and also provides them as ebook collections. FLR  uses the [...]

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Feb 3, 2011

Lexis Advance Now Has an iPhone App

I wrote here in October about the launch of Lexis Advance for Solos, the LexisNexis flat-rate legal research platform for one- and two-lawyer firms. This week, Lexis rolled out a new app that allows lawyers who subscribe to Advance to use it from their iPhones.

The app lets you search by text or citation “instantly,” meaning that you do not have to select a specific content type or jurisdiction. If you prefer, you can first narrow a search by content type, jurisdiction or topic.

The app can also be used to Shepardize cases and statutes to determine whether they are still good law and to find other authorities that cite them.

The app includes Work Folders to save documents, searches, citations and Shepard’s results.

The app is free but you will need to be an Advance subscriber to use it.

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Jan 13, 2011

Google Scholar Now Searches Cases by Jurisdiction and Court

When I first wrote last year about the fact that Google Scholar had added case law research, I acknowledged it was still rough around the edges. Even so, I described it as “more than just a good start,” adding, “I expect there will be further refinements and enhancements to come.”

A notable enhancement launched this week: Google Scholar added the ability to search court opinions and law journals by jurisdiction. Simply go to the advanced search page and, under “Collections” at the bottom of the page, pick your jurisdiction.

The default choices are to search all courts within a federal circuit or within a state. But click the link that says, “Select specific courts to search,” and you open a menu that lets you pick individual courts. In fact, you can even “mix and match” specific courts from across multiple  jurisdictions.

Thus, you could, if you wanted, conduct a single search of just the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts and the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, or any other combination.

Needless to say, this enhances the ability to use Google Scholar for more targeted research.

Read more about this at the Google Scholar Blog.

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Oct 8, 2010

LexisNexis Rolls Out Lexis Advance for Solos

A busy schedule has kept me from reviewing Lexis Advance for Solos, the new LexisNexis legal research platform for one- and two-lawyer firms that LexisNexis released earlier this week. Today, I finally had a chance to sit down (in the virtual sense) with Lexis executives for a tour.

There have already been several thoughtful reviews. I recommend that you read the reviews written by Sean Doherty,  Greg Lambert, Joe Hodnicki and Little Richard. The common thread running through these is that the reviewers generally give it thumbs-up.

Add my thumbs to the list. Three features make this a product worth the consideration of any solo:

  • Easy, intuitive search. If you can use Google, you can use Lexis Advance.
  • Flat-rate pricing. Advance costs $175 a month for a solo. No more, no less. Add another lawyer for $140 a month. Your paralegal is included in your subscription.
  • A comprehensive library. No cutting of corners here. You get a full-fledged research library that includes primary law from all 50 states, Shepard’s Citations, dockets, jury verdicts, expert witness transcripts and more.

Let me go into a bit more detail about these features. Let me add the caveat that I was given a demonstration via Microsoft Live Meeting but did not get in and take a test drive on my own.

Intuitive Search

Lexis Advance home page (click to view larger)

Dominating the Lexis Advance home page is “the big red box,” as Marty Kilmer, the LexisNexis “product champion” who gave me the demonstration of Advance, called it, although he added that he prefers to describe it as “an invitation to search.”

It is a Google-like search bar and functions in much the same way. A single search covers all libraries. Search using natural language or Boolean phrases. Click “search options” to bring up a pop-up menu that will help you construct a Boolean search.

To assist you as you enter a search, a drop-down list of words and phrases appears as you type your query, so you can select from the list. The same happens for names of well-known cases, so if you start to type “roe,” the case Roe v. Wade will appear in the suggestion list.

Case law search results (click to view larger)

If you would rather not search across all libraries, you can prefilter search results by content type (e.g., cases, statutes, etc.), jurisdiction or practice area.

Once you’ve run a search, results appear in a window with tabs across the top for content type. Thus, you can click on the tabs to see results within cases, statutes, analytical materials, briefs and pleadings, jury instructions, etc.

A panel on the left side of the results screen enables furthering filtering along a number of parameters, including by jurisdiction and court. A timeline histogram not only allows filtering by date but also illustrates historical activity related to the search query.

Web search results (click to view larger)

When you conduct a search, Advance also searches the open Web and includes those results under a separate tab. These are websites selected by Lexis editors as those most useful to legal professionals. That means you are not searching all of the Web, but sites more likely to contain relevant information.

Users can create up to 500 folders or subfolders to keep track of their research. Store full documents here or select and annotate snippets. The folders are saved for as long as you remain a subscriber. Advance also retains your search history so you can easily retrace your steps.

Advance uses tabbed browsing so that search windows remain open as you view results and individual documents in new tabs.

Advance includes a beta search feature called Legal Issue Trail (for which Lexis has applied for a patent). Turn it on, and it highlights segments of text that represent discrete points of law. Click on any of the highlighted segments to run a search on that specific point of law.

Flat-Rate Pricing

As I said above, Advance is offered at the flat-rate subscription price of $175 a month. A second lawyer is $140 a month. At this point, no lawyers beyond two are allowed — Advance for Solos is only for solos and duos. However, if you have paralegals, they can get passwords under your subscription for no extra cost.

A contract is required of at least a year. As an introductory offer for new users, Lexis is including access to its 24 most popular treatises for  the term of the initial contract, up to three years. If you sign up for a one-year contract, you get the extra treatises for just a year.

The price includes 24/7 telephone support at no extra cost. Lexis believes that Advance is so easy to use that it will reduce the overall volume of support calls, even with free round-the-clock support.

What it Includes

For that flat monthly fee, you get access to a generous array of LexisNexis materials. They include:

  • Primary law from all U.S. states and territories, including all federal and state case law available on traditional LexisNexis, all LexisNexis headnotes and case summaries, and all available statutes and constitutions.
  • Shepard’s citations service.
  • LexisNexis jury verdicts, briefs, pleadings and motions, including premium materials from IDEX.
  • LexisNexis CourtLink content, including its full collection of dockets.
  • Expert witness transcripts, depositions and curricula vitae.

Those analytical materials and treatises I mentioned above include Moore’s Federal Practice, Nimmer on Copyright, Milgrim on Trade Secrets, Corbin on Contracts, Bender’s Federal Practice Forms and more.

Click here for a PDF brochure with a complete list of materials included in Lexis Advance: Lexis Advance for Solos Content Summary.

What’s Missing from Advance

Having only seen a demonstration, it is difficult to say much about shortcomings or glitches in Lexis Advance. One important aspect to note is that the walls around the content library are made of brick. By that I mean that you cannot access LexisNexis libraries outside your subscription even if you want to. This is one price and one set of resources.

One relatively minor issue is that you can print from Advance only via your browser’s print function. There is no capacity to print directly to a word processing document. Similarly, there is no ability to e-mail a document from within Advance, other than by sending a page via your browser. (You can toggle full-page mode as you view a document, which eliminates the sidebar panels.)

Another shortcoming right now is that you cannot share folders. As I said above, you can create up to 500 folders and use them to store research, clips, documents and whatever. But only the subscriber can access these folders.

Lexis says sharing, printing and e-mailing are all on the to-do list and will all be made available at some point down the road. Exactly when, they would not say.

Also on the to-do list is to add more content to Advance. Again, however, the company is not saying what content or when, only that it’s working “full-steam ahead on future enhancements.”

A Glimpse of the Future

Lexis Advance for Solos is an advance look at a line of products Lexis will be rolling out for various user groups. While they may not all look exactly alike or share precisely the same features, they will all be built on the same basic platform.

Clemens Ceipek, the LexisNexis vice president who is directing the company’s “New Lexis” initiative,  said that the development of Advance is the single-biggest investment the company has ever made. Everything about it is new technology, designed from scratch. Extensive efforts were made to get input and feedback from users, he said, including 30,000 interactions with customers.

Notably, new iterations of Advance will be tailored to user type, not firm type, Ceipek said. They will all be alike in that they will all share the ability to search across libraries with a single search. But they will differ depending on whether they are targeted to law librarians, transactional lawyers, litigators, or what have you.

The Bottom Line

As I said at the outset, based on my guided tour of Lexis Advance for Solos, I give it two thumbs up. It offers a comprehensive library of resources and materials from a leading legal publisher, all wrapped in an intuitive search and display environment, and delivered for a reasonable and predictable monthly price.

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Jul 8, 2010

The WSJ Reports on Bloomberg Law

Last February, Law.com published my review of Bloomberg Law, in which I wrote, “Bloomberg’s biggest challenge may lie in convincing the legal market that it needs another high-end research service.” That is essentially the same conclusion reached by Wall Street Journal reporter Russell Adams, who writes about the service today in a piece titled, Bloomberg Hangs New Shingle.

Free trials Bloomberg gave to several prominent law firms expire this summer, Adams says, “and Bloomberg is busy trying to convert users into paying clients.”

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Jul 8, 2010

A New Research Service for Cases, Statutes

Promising a comprehensive legal research tool at an affordable price, a new legal research site, eLaw, launched yesterday.  Although the service provides access to case law and statutes for all 50 states, it is available only to attorneys in New York and New Jersey.

My guess is that the geographic limitation is because eLaw uses the Casemaker database. Casemaker is marketed primarily as a member benefit for state and local bar associations. That means a lawyer can subscribe to it only through a bar association affinity program.

As it happens, the two states in which eLaw is offering access to Casemaker are two states whose bars do not. New Jersey offers its members Fastcase and New York offers Loislaw. Thus, eLaw provides lawyers in those states a “back door” into Casemaker.

I have not tried eLaw yet. Subscriptions start at $25 a month, according to the site. Subscriptions can be bundled with eLaw’s other products, Dates & Dockets, a docket-monitoring and e-filing service for New York and New Jersey, and Bench & Bar, an online version of Lawyers Diary and Manual.

eLaw includes federal and state cases, as well as statutes, court rules, attorney general opinions, state administrative rules and select municipal codes.

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Jul 6, 2010

Preview of Fastcase’s App for the iPad

As I said here last week, Fastcase is preparing to launch an iPad version of its popular iPhone app. The iPhone app, which I first previewed in January, last week was named 2010 New Product of the Year by the American Association of Law Libraries.

Meanwhile, the iPad version of the app is ready to go and awaiting final approval by Apple. Once Apple gives the OK, the app will launch.

Until then, here are four screen shots provided by Fastcase.

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May 27, 2010

The Lawyer Who Took Down West’s Copyright in Court Opinions Has Died

It now seems almost ludicrous. But until fairly recently, legal publishing giant West claimed that it owned the copyright to federal court decisions. I’m not talking about the headnotes West writes or the key numbering it adds, I’m talking about basic information such as the name of the case, the date of the case, the names of the attorneys who argued it, and the page numbers of the opinions.

That all came to a screeching halt with the 1998 companion opinions of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, both titled Matthew Bender & Co., Inc. v. West Publishing Co.158 F.3d 674 and 158 F.3d 693.  These were the David-versus-Goliath cases in which HyperLaw, then a publisher of Supreme Court and federal circuit cases on CD-ROM, challenged West’s longstanding claim of ownership and won.

Paul J. Ruskin was one of the lawyers who won those cases for HyperLaw and, in so doing, changed the course of legal publishing immeasurably. In fact, had it not been for those cases, there probably would not be the Google Scholar versions of the opinions I linked to in the previous paragraph, nor any of many other versions now freely available on the Web.

Ruskin died April 27 after a battle with cancer. A 1981 graduate of Antioch School of Law, he was admitted to practice in New York, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

His Web site is still up, as a memorial to him. On it, he provides a detailed synopsis of HyperLaw’s long battle in court.

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May 3, 2010

The Latest Review of WestlawNext

Back in January, I had the first pre-launch review of WestlawNext, West’s next-generation version of its legal-research service. Via a tweet today from Ron Coleman, I learned of an April 23 review posted at AALL Spectrum by Ryan Harrington, reference librarian at Yale Law School. Harrington’s bottom line: “I found the product to be a vast improvement over the previous model, but still flawed.” I recommend that you read his full review.

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Feb 27, 2010

Bloomberg Law: Can it be a Contender?

[The following column originally appeared in print in January 2010. 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.]

Is there room in the legal market for a third high-end legal research service? That is the question as Bloomberg, a company known for its financial news, attempts to muscle in on the turf now occupied by Westlaw and LexisNexis. In December, it officially launched its comprehensive, Web-based service, Bloomberg Law.

For Bloomberg, it is a radical move. It is the first time the company has untethered a major information product from its trademark terminals. The terminals are ubiquitous in financial firms but have never achieved significant presence in law firms. This Web-based product represents Bloomberg’s concession to the legal market’s lack of interest in its terminal-based services.

For the legal market, the move is brazen. Bloomberg seeks to stake out a claim on terrain where West and Lexis have had years to shore up fortifications. In taking on these services mano-a-mano, Bloomberg differentiates itself as the only one that integrates legal content with proprietary news and business intelligence.

Bloomberg’s biggest challenge may lie in convincing the legal market that it needs another high-end research service. The trend in research is towards lower cost services and more open access to legal materials. Bloomberg would seem to be swimming against the tide.

One way Bloomberg will compete is by offering a uniform, fixed price as a counterpoint to the cryptic and confusing pricing plans of West and Lexis. A Bloomberg subscription is $450 per user per month. That is not cheap, but it covers all usage and is less than firms would generally pay to West or Lexis. It also offers a floating license for $1,250 a month that covers five users, but allows only one to log in at a time.

Swagger and Substance

Price aside, the bigger question is how Bloomberg measures up as a legal research service. This much is clear: Bloomberg is getting into the game with swagger. Not only is it loading up on primary legal content, but it is also creating reams of editorial enhancements. It has developed its own citator to rival Shepard’s and KeyCite, its own headnotes, and its own numbering system to rival West’s key numbers.

To accomplish all this and bring itself up to competitive speed, Bloomberg hired an army of lawyers – some 500 now on the payroll, I was told – and has them nose to the grindstone writing headnotes, tagging cases and readying a law digest.

One of those lawyers recently gave me a tour of Bloomberg Law and then gave me a trial account so that I could explore it on my own. (I cannot tell you his title because Bloomberg’s egalitarian structure does not allow job titles.)

A Work in Progress

My overall impression of Bloomberg Law was of a luxury yacht only partially constructed. It looks impressive and many parts of it are fitted out with top-of-the-line features. But as you wander around its decks, many doorways open to unfinished, empty rooms. It is seaworthy, one assumes, but still has a lengthy punch list.

This is ambition exceeding execution, perhaps. Take the Bloomberg Law Digest, for example. It is touted as a detailed index of legal topics collecting key cases, statutes, regulations and other materials. So far, however, many of the topic headings lead only to blank pages, still awaiting content from that army of lawyers.

Cases are another example. Bloomberg’s library of cases is complete, in that it has full collections of all federal and state appellate decisions and trial-court libraries on a par with those offered by West and Lexis. The cases include pagination.

However, Bloomberg Law’s reference guide and marketing materials say that cases include staff-written headnotes and points of law. Some do, but in my trials, the majority of the cases still do not have headnotes. Click the button that is supposed to display the headnotes and instead you get a message, “No headnotes available.”

One strong and fully executed feature is the Bloomberg Law Citator, Bloomberg’s answer to Shepard’s from LexisNexis and KeyCite from West. As you view a case, an icon alerts you to its status and a panel to the right shows a graphical summary of subsequent citations. A click of a button opens an in-depth analysis showing the case’s direct history, citation history and a list of the cases it cited.

A nice feature of Bloomberg is docket searching, covering federal dockets and selected state and international dockets. It is the only legal research service that has complete U.K. dockets, I was told. It also provides tracking and alert services for federal legislation and regulations.

A Marriage of Law and News

A key emphasis of Bloomberg Law is the marriage of legal research and current awareness. The idea is to provide lawyers with primary legal content while also enabling them to monitor their clients’ industries and businesses. It does this well, integrating law and news seamlessly in a number of ways.

To this end, the home page replicates a news terminal. The lead legal news story tops the page and legal headlines appear in a box to the right. The page’s lower half has tabs allowing you to choose among Morning Legal Briefings, daily reports of top news in various practice areas; Law Reports, more in-depth stories covering court and legal developments; and top news from around the world or filtered by topic or region.

The front page also has a watchlist where you can track company stocks and click through to in-depth information and news about the company. Every public company has a page. Among other things, the pages list all recent filings in which a company is named, including from court dockets and SEC filings.

A Design that Shines

One aspect in which Bloomberg Law shines is its design. It is fast, intuitive and thoughtfully arranged. I especially like that – as do most modern browsers – it uses tabs, opening new documents in separate tabs so that you never lose your research trail or have to backtrack through it.

Searching on Bloomberg Law is quick and uses either Boolean or plain-language queries. A search can be run broadly across a range of content types (e.g., court opinions, dockets and statutes) or more narrowly by jurisdiction, practice area or industry. Filters allow easy refinement of search results by topic and industry.

The Research Trail feature automatically saves all research and documents and stores them indefinitely for later retrieval. Another feature, Workspace, allows you to save research and documents in folders and share them with colleagues. Sharing can be done only within your own firm.

Tabs across the top of the screen provide ready access to a user’s Workspace and Research Trail, as well as to saved searches and alerts. Users can set alerts for virtually any type of content on Bloomberg Law.

The left-hand navigation pane collapses with a click to provide more viewing space on the screen. The pane provides links to all of the main sections of Bloomberg Law and also to a collection of practice-area pages. These pages highlight recent court opinions and articles related to the practice area, link to key resources for the area (including blogs), and provide shortcuts to search core libraries related to the practice.

Bloomberg of
fers a telephone and e-mail help desk staffed 24/7 by lawyers, law librarians and paralegals. I e-mailed the help desk at nearly midnight about a log-in problem and received an answer within minutes, much to my surprise.

Will it Float?

For now, Bloomberg Law is a work in progress. It remains to be seen whether, once construction is completed, there will be sufficient demand for it in the legal market.

The product is targeted at larger firms, but also at smaller firms with a need for robust docket searching and financial intelligence. Few large firms are likely to dump West or Lexis and switch solely to Bloomberg Law. That means they are likely to buy this only if they see it as a necessary add-on to their research arsenal or a partial substitute for higher-priced services.

Law firms heavily involved in securities and finance are most likely to buy Bloomberg Law, given its melding of law and financial news. For the broader legal market, Bloomberg Law has a tough sell ahead and a lot of work to complete in the meantime.

Copyright 2010 Robert J. Ambrogi

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