The legal research and information site Justia this week added peer-based lawyer ratings and reviews as part of the Justia Lawyer Directory.

The new Justia Lawyer Rating and Reviews is based solely on attorney-to-attorney reviews and is intended to provide clients with valuable insights from peers and colleagues personally familiar with the lawyers’ work, Justia says.

Ratings are displayed as a badge on attorney profiles in the directory. Attorneys may also display the badge on their websites and other marketing materials. So far, only some lawyers have ratings.

In order to rate a lawyer in the directory, the reviewer must be an attorney and must also be personally familiar with the work of the lawyer. The rating system uses both numerical and written components.

Reviewers are asked to give an overall score for a lawyer, and also to numerically rate the lawyer on:

  • Legal knowledge.
  • Legal analysis.
  • Communication skills.
  • Ethics and professionalism.

Reviewers are also asked to provide narrative explanations to support the numerical scores.

“Our team works diligently to ensure the Justia Lawyer Directory is a useful resource for individuals and businesses seeking to hire an attorney,” said Justia CTO Vasu Kappettu in a statement announcing the feature. “The new Justia Lawyer Rating and Reviews system will add another helpful dimension for consumers and business people to compare their options.”

[Disclosure: Justia designed and hosts this blog at no charge to me.]

The global legal publisher vLex, LLC and its Canadian partner Compass/vLex Canada are announcing today that they will support the Feb. 23-25 Global Legal Hackathon by offering up to 100 participants the use of Iceberg, an artificial intelligence platform for massive content projects that vLex initially developed to facilitate its own publishing of legal materials and then began offering commercially in 2017.

As I wrote last month, organizers of the hackathon say it will be the largest legal hackathon ever, “an intense 51-hour, six-continent sprint of legal tech education, creativity, and invention.” Organizers have solicited law firms, legal departments and law schools to participate as participants or hosts and they have invited software companies and developers to offer free access to their technology to hackathon teams.

Compass/vLex Canada is hosting the hackathon in Ottawa, CEO Colin Lachance told me, and is offering a version of Iceberg to event participants.

Iceberg was initially developed after it was announced last May that the Barcelona and Miami-based legal publisher vLex and California-based legal information company Justia would partner with and invest in Compass to launch a major Canadian legal research suite.

Iceberg was used to expedite the ingestion and normalization of the broad corpus of Canadian law and allow the launch of vLex Canada just a month later.

“In the months that followed,” Lachance said, “vLex established a machine-driven classification of Canadian legal topics, applied deep learning methodologies to create a process for dynamic recommendations of highly similar cases, developed a world-first personal research history visualization model and created an algorithmically-driven predictor for Canadian common law wrongful dismissal damages. All using Iceberg.”

vLex subsequently began licensing a commercial version of Iceberg to law firms, corporations and governments.

Iceberg is uniquely suited to projects that involve creating custom legal knowledge and analytics, Lachance said. Among its features:

  • Graph-oriented data representation that can fit any data model from document databases to analytic profiles, classification taxonomies or temporal events.
  • It can import/export structured data, connect to current databases using built-in connectors, work with imported data from crawled or public sources and from vLex’s own legal information resources.
  • It allows enterprise users to apply advanced natural language processing, machine learning and other cognitive computing techniques to extract insights and rapidly prototype applications related to internal or client information.

A modified version of Iceberg will be provided to up to 100 hackathon participants. Within the coming weeks, Lachance said, he will provide more details on the scope of functionality that will be provided, the pre-loaded content that will be included, the third-party integrations that will be available, and how event participants can register to gain access.

At a minimum, he said, functionality will include the capacity to upload a substantial amount of the user’s own data, the ability to link into vLex case law citations, certain legal-domain machine learning capabilities and well-documented Iceberg GraphQL APIs to enable users to build amazing.

Yesterday marked the first day of operation for vLex Canada Open, the first phase of a major new legal research suite for Canada.

As I reported last month, Canadian legal publisher Maritime Law Book Ltd. is launching the research suite in partnership with two other legal publishers: vLex, a Barcelona and Miami-based legal publisher that claims to have one of the world’s largest collections of legal information, and Justia, the California-based legal information company that is among the world’s largest providers and supporters of free access to legal information.

Colin Lachance, CEO of Maritime Law Book, described yesterday’s debut of vLex Canada Open as a “soft launch.” It provides researchers with a free tier of access to Canadian primary law. Next month, two paid services will launch:

  • vLex Canada, a professional grade suite of tools and services for lawyers, together with support for library, law society and firm-wide implementation.
  • vLex Global, featuring case law, legislation, regulations, books and journals, and other secondary materials from Canada, the United States and more than 100 countries, enhanced with legal editorial analysis and commentary, and updated daily.

Last November, Maritime Law Book, which has been in business since 1969, came under new ownership, led by new CEO Lachance, the former president and CEO of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). In December, Maritime launched a new case law research platform, Compass.

With this new initiative, vLex is taking a substantial ownership stake in Compass and its co-founder and CEO, Luis Faus, has joined the Compass board of directors. Justia has also become a Compass investor and strategic partner and its CEO, Tim Stanley, has also joined the Compass board of directors.

[Disclosure: Justia hosts and maintains this blog and designed its template, all at no cost to me.]

One of Canada’s oldest legal publishers is about to launch what could turn out to be the country’s most cutting-edge and comprehensive legal research suite.

Last November, Maritime Law Book Ltd., a Canadian case law publisher founded in 1969, came under new ownership, led by a new CEO, Colin Lachance, the former president and CEO of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). In December, Maritime launched a new case law research platform, Compass.

Now, Compass has announced plans to launch a major new legal research suite for Canada, backed by strategic investments from two leading companies in legal information publishing, vLex, a Barcelona and Miami-based legal publisher that claims to have one of the world’s largest collections of legal information, and Justia, the California-based legal information company run by the original founders of FindLaw, CEO Tim Stanley and President Stacy Stern. Justia is among the world’s largest providers and supporters of free access to legal information.

vLex will take a substantial ownership stake in Compass and its co-founder and CEO, Luis Faus, will join the Compass board of directors. Justia will also become a Compass investor and strategic partner and Stanley will also join the Compass board of directors.

With these investments, Compass has announced, it will soon launch three new legal research services:

  • vLex Open Canada, a free tier of access to Canadian primary law.
  • vLex Canada, a professional grade suite of tools and services for lawyers, together with support for library, law society and firm-wide implementation.
  • vLex Global, featuring case law, legislation, regulations, books and journals, and other secondary materials from Canada, the United States and more than 100 countries, enhanced with legal editorial analysis and commentary, and updated daily.

“With the continued departure of small independent publishers and the nascent state of the legal tech startup market, the need for strong and innovative commercial competition to LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters in Canada has never been more pressing,” CEO Lachance said in a statement. “Building on the backbone of the historic MLB collection and the active participation of great partners who bring advanced technology and successful track records of decades of legal innovation and disruption, we will provide that competition.”

Lachance told me this morning that he expected the new platforms to launch sometime in June. He said that the services will effectively be two separate platforms, Global and Canada, with the Canada platform offering a free tier and a paid tier. While the global platform will include Canada data, he said that he expects its market to be more centered on courts, universities, government, and firms with international work, while the Canada platform’s market will be more for solo and small law firms.

Compass also announced that Canada-based legal market analyst Jordan Furlong has joined its board of directors.

[Disclosure: Justia hosts and maintains this blog and designed its template, all at no cost to me.]

 

 

Justia today launched a service providing free, daily summaries of federal and state court opinions. The service, daily.justia.com, covers all federal circuit courts of appeal and select state supreme courts. Additional state courts will be added in the coming weeks.

The daily summaries provide brief descriptions of each decision and are tagged by area of law. You can choose the specific courts you wish to follow. The summaries are written for Justia by lawyers.

Also available are weekly digests grouped by practice area. More than 60 practice areas are available to choose from.

To see a sample of a daily summary, click here. For a sample weekly summary, click here. To subscribe, visit the subscriptions page. For more information, see the Justia Blog.

Justia founder Tim Stanley tells me that the summaries will be shared with other publishers of free case law, such as the Legal Information Institute, to use with their services.

(See my special thanks to Justia disclaimer.)

The next revolution in legal publishing is just around the corner. Starting in 2011, Public.Resource.Org, an organization devoted to putting government documents in the public domain, will begin a weekly release of HTML versions of all slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of all 50 states and the federal government. The weekly release, to be called the Report of Current Opinions, will be available for reuse without restriction by anyone under the Creative Commons CC-Zero License and will include full star pagination.

Carl Malamud, the founder of Public.Resource.Org, announced RECOP in a post today at the O’Reilly Radar blog. He will obtain the cases from Fastcase, which will provide all opinions in a given week by the end of the following week. Participants in the Law.gov project — which include both for-profit organizations such as Justia and Fastcase and academic institutions such as PrincetonCornell and Stanford — will assist by performing initial post-processing of the raw HTML data.

[See also this update: More Details on RECOP from Fastcase’s Ed Walters.]

In addition to weekly release of all current opinions, Malumud announced today, the feed will include periodic releases of important segments of the back file, including:

  • A release of 3 million pages of 9th Circuit briefs from 1892 to 1968 which were produced in cooperation with UC Hastings College of the Law and the Internet Archive and is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Double-keyed HTML for at least the first 10 volumes of the Federal Reporter, First Series and all 30 volumes of the Federal Cases will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2011. This data is being furnished as part of the YesWeScan Project.
  • William S. Hein & Co., which provided high-resolution scans of the Federal Cases, is providing a high-resolution scan of the Federal Reporter, First Series which will be released in the first quarter of 2011.

The project is actively pursuing several other important archives that are missing from the collection, Malamud said, including Supreme Court Briefs and multiple versions of the annotated statutes of the 50 states. “We would welcome the contribution of any legal publishers wishing to furnish such data,” he said.

Notably, the RECOP project will be limited in its duration. Malamud explains:

Providing the back file and ongoing release of primary legal materials is really the job of those institutions of government that make the law. That is the idea behind Law.Gov, an idea that the government must do a much better job of promulgating the raw materials of our democracy. Because we feel strongly that government must strive much harder to be that shining city upon the hill that Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy both aspired to, we have set two timeouts on this new service.

The first timeout is a sunset clause. RECOP will operate in 2011 and 2012 and then terminate. By then, Malamud says, the government should be able to pick up the reins. The second timeout could come earlier. “We have established a milestone of July 1, 2011,” Malamud writes, “by which government needs to step up to the plate and join us in helping make this service real.”

It is not clear from Malamud’s post what happens if government does not step up to the plate.

More details on the project will be released in mid-January, Malamud said.

The U.S. legal portal Justia has launched a legal portal for Mexico, Justia Mexico. As Justia does for the U.S., Justia Mexico does for that country, providing legal information and resources for lawyers and consumers, all without cost.

The Justia Mexico site provides access to Mexican federal and state constitutions, laws, codes and regulations. Notably, while the Mexican government provides only one PDF file for all of the laws in Mexico, Justia Mexico allows pinpoint citations to the state codes.

In addition to legal information, Justia Mexico provides streams of Mexican law blog posts and legal tweets, a list of the largest law firms in Mexico, and a directory of Mexican law schools.

Read more in the announcement at the Justia blog.

(Full disclosure: Justia designed this blog for me at no cost. See this post: A Special Thanks to Justia for Rescuing my Blog.)

Two years ago in a post here, I bemoaned the shuttering of The Virtual Chase, a website devoted to enhancing the research skills of legal professionals. Founded in 1995 by Genie Tyburski, a law librarian at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Philadelphia, the site was a top destination for legal researchers, until Genie announced she would no longer put time into keeping it up.

Well, The Virtual Chase is back, relaunched this week by the legal information portal Justia, which acquired the site from Tyburski and has been quietly working on rebuilding it. “The re-launched Virtual Chase features a new design, as well as additional online legal research and community resources for law librarians and other legal professionals,” Justia founder Tim Stanley writes in a blog post.

The new site’s resources are organized within four broad categories:

  • Legal Research. Here you’ll find guides to federal and state law, links to general legal resources, and practice-specific research guides.
  • Other Resources. This section contains information on conducting business-related research and research on non-legal topics of interest to lawyers.
  • Community. Here you will find links to law librarian blogs, listservs and library associations, as well as a constantly updated law-librarian Twitter stream.
  • Law Libraries. A state-by-state guide to finding a law library.

And of course you can keep up with new developments at the site by following @Virtualchase on Twitter.

By way of disclaimer, I should note that I have personal experience with Justia’s skill at rescuing websites from the brink of disaster.

Many, many moons ago, from 1995 to 1999, I published the first-ever newsletter to cover the Internet for lawyers, legal.online. Every year, we doled out awards we called “Best of the Web for Lawyers.” The recipients of these awards were selected by panels of judges that included trailblazers in leading the legal profession online, including Erik Heels, Gregory Siskind, Jerry Lawson, Genie Tyburski, and Bradley Hillis. Invariably, in categories such as “Best Legal Information Starting Point” and “Best Legal Research Site,” the top award would go to FindLaw, which in those days was operated by the husband-and-wife team of Tim Stanley and Stacy Stern.

In 2001, Thomson bought FindLaw from Tim and Stacy. In 2005, I wrote a series of posts critical of FindLaw, saying that Thomson had let it deteriorate as a legal resource. “The deterioration of FindLaw’s index is so extreme as to call into question its usefulness as a primary resource for legal professionals,” I wrote then. (It has since turned itself around, while targeting itself more to consumers than to legal professionals.)

Meanwhile, Tim and Stacy went on to found a new company, Justia. As I noted in a post here in 2007, Justia started out with a focus on “legal marketing solutions,” creating websites and blogs and providing search engine optimization. Increasingly, Justia devoted itself to public-interest projects — notably the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center and Recall Warnings — and to building Justia into the kind of legal resource that FindLaw had earlier foreshadowed, adding such innovations as Justia Dockets & Filings, the Justia Supreme Court Center, BlawgSearch for searching law-related blogs, Blawgs.fm for searching law-related podcasts, and LegalBirds for finding legal professionals on Twitter.

Justia to the Rescue

Where am I going with this? Well, a couple months ago, when Blogger announced it would shut down support for blogs published via FTP, I wondered what to do with this blog, which I had published via Blogger since its launch in 2002. In a post in March, I questioned whether I should just shut this blog down and start anew. I knew I wanted to move to WordPress and I thought I wanted to move to a new domain, but I was concerned about losing my permalinks and all those accumulated years of “link love.”

In response to my concerns, I received a number of helpful pieces of advice and offers of assistance. But by far the most generous offer I received was from Tim at Justia, who offered not only his advice, but his assistance in migrating LawSites from Blogger to WordPress and in creating a new design template — all for free. Given the respect I’d developed over the years for the work of Tim, Stacy and Justia, I was bowled over by this offer. At the same time, I was reluctant to accept it, for the simple reason that something in my gut is opposed to taking anything for free.

But after mulling it over and considering my options, I decided to take Tim up on it. In order to make it as easy as possible for the Justia folks, I sent them some links to resources I had found on migrating off of Blogger and I suggested some WordPress templates that I’d be happy with. I naively and severely underestimated what work would be involved and, more to the point, what work they would do.

The blog you see now is the result of Justia’s work and I cannot begin to express my thanks to them. They spent over a month on this project and I am thrilled with the result. I want to express my enormous thanks to the Justia people who worked on this:

  • Soby Mathew, who did the design, conversion and templates.
  • Nick Moline, who did the server set-up, blog import, modules and tweaks.
  • Ken Chan, who did quality assurance.
  • Cicely Wilson and Vasu Kappettu, who functioned as project managers, coordinating it all and making it all happen. I owe a particular thanks to Vasu, who kept me informed at every step and responded generously to every question and concern I had.

Needless to say, I wish to extend a huge thank you to Tim and Stacy for their generosity and for all the great work they’ve done over the years and continue to do.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention that, if you like what you see here, you can get Justia to design a website or blog for you. Check out their work here. They even offer free templated sites for lawyers.

I am thrilled to announce that LawSites is moving. The new address for the blog is https://www.lawsitesblog.com and the new RSS feed is https://www.lawsitesblog.com/feed. I hope you will check out the new site.

I am particularly thrilled with the new design, which was done for me by the good folks at Justia. The blog will now run on WordPress, as I move off Blogger, where I’ve been since 2002.

Today is moving day (given that Blogger’s FTP support shuts down tomorrow). Once the dust settles, I will post more about the transition. For now, I hope you’ll update your feeds and bookmarks and let me know your thoughts on the new design.

This will be my final post via Blogger FTP.