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Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

March, 2004

Solo/Small Firm Practitioner

Two Useful References to Help with the Internet

By Pat Yevics


Despite the widespread use of the Internet for all types of research, there are still many good print publications that should be on your bookshelf. In fact, one of the most effective and efficient ways to get information about how to use the Internet is with print publications. (Go figure!)

In this month’s column, I will recommend and review two of those publications, give some tips from those publications and provide some helpful websites.

One of the best and most recent (2004) publications on lawyers using the Internet is an ABA Law Practice Management publication: The Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet by Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch. Levitt is a California lawyer and former law librarian, and her knowledge of the Internet is amazing. I had the opportunity to see her give a presentation on using the Internet and it was one of best presentations I had ever seen on the topic. Regardless of your level of use, you can learn something of great value. Rosch is a developer and web designer for Levitt’s firm, Internet for Lawyers (www.netforlawyers.com). He is also vice president of marketing for the firm. 

This is a book that all practitioners should have in their offices. It should be required reading for all staff regardless of their position in the firm. Since staff in solo and small firms wear so many different hats, having the ability to do research on the Internet can be a great value to the firm. The book is 600 pages and is meant to be used as a reference tool. It also includes a CD with hyperlinks to many of the websites listed in the book.

The book is practical and incredibly helpful whether you have a lot of experience with fact-finding on the Internet or are fairly new and unsure of how to search for information.

But the book does more than just provide a list of sites; it is filled with tips about how to use your time effectively in searching for information. It offers new and extremely helpful tips on using sites that are well-known by many who use the Internet. It also compares sites and lets you know when it is better to use one particular site over another.

The book discusses the difference between legal and factual research and the difference in meaning in similar terms. There is also an excellent and critical discussion on judging the worth and credibility of information that is found on the Internet. It gives a 10 point “Internet Source Credibility Checklist” and discusses each of the points in detail. I found this particularly helpful.

There is also an important section that gives information about citing Internet resources, something I have not seen in other publications. One of the best sites about this topic can be found at Cornell University’s website (www.lawcornell.edu.citation).

Chapters 3 and 4 offer some very helpful tips on search strategies and search tools and engines. Although some of the information is basic, there are some real gems that even Internet-savvy users will find invaluable. (You will find yourself saying, “I didn’t know that!”)

Other chapters include “General Factual Research,” “Government Resources On-Line,” “Finding and Backgrounding People,” “Accessing Public Records,” “Finding and Backgrounding Expert Witnesses,” “Company Research,” “Competitive Intelligence Research,” “Medical Research,” “Scientific Research,” “Environmental Research,” “Foreign and International Research,” “Law Practice Management and Professional Development,” “Statistical Research,” “Transportation Research,” “Entertainment Industry Research” and “Intellectual Property.”

Admittedly, most solo and small firm practitioners will not need to research many of these topics, but it is helpful to have a reference tool on your shelf that you can turn to should you ever need to research a new topic. This publication is a great starting point. It is also valuable for new staff members who may not be as familiar with legal research.

You may be asking the same question that I did: “Won’t the book be obsolete very quickly?” Well, since this book is more a provider of techniques for using the Internet than just a simple list of sites it has a longer shelf life than most technology books. It also gives suggestions on how to keep up with new and improved techniques for the future. Technology will always be moving and changing and it is critical to know how to keep up; this book helps you with that process.

Another ABA Law Practice Management publication that predates (1999) The Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet is The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers by Jerry Lawson. Lawson is a lawyer from Virginia and has frequently been a speaker at some of MSBA’s technology and solo programs. Like his presentation, Lawson’s book is practical and especially helpful for solo and small firm practitioners. Like the Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding, there are chapters in the book on research, search engines, directories and other research related topics; it also discusses e-mail, Internet security, ethics and marketing. In addition to his own work, there is an extensive portion of the book devoted to “Other Voices.” This is where many of the leading authorities in the field of the Internet and the legal profession give their tips and suggestions or, as Lawson refers to it, “the best from the best.”

The tips are not just a series of websites but rather information from a broad spectrum of the legal community on ways to use the Internet now and how it will change how we practice in the future. In addition, there are tips for lawyers who practice in a variety of areas, including estates and trusts, litigation, business, tax and environmental. There are tips for librarians, paralegals solo practitioners and the judiciary. I have used this portion of the book when preparing information for various seminars.

Both of these publications can be purchased directly online from the MSBA website (www.msba.org). If you are not a member of the ABA, you will receive a 30 percent discount off the ABA non-member price by purchasing it through the MSBA website. The cost of the Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet for MSBA members is $56 and for The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers the cost is $35. You must include 5 percent Maryland sales tax and shipping and handling. You can print an order form from the website by going to www.msba.org/departments/
membership/abapubs.htm
  and clicking on “Technology.” Both books can be purchased together before April 15 at a cost of $85 plus $4.25 Maryland sales tax and $12.95 shipping and handling for a total of $102.20.

Websites Worth Knowing

Included here is a list of sites that I have used and recommended to others. Most (though not all) of the sites are free. The purpose of this is simply to provide a list and not review the sites. All of these sites are listed as hyperlinks on the MSBA website at www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/articles.htm.

  1. To determine the credibility of a website: Consumer Union’s Consumer WebWatch offers a set of recommendations at www.consumerwebwatch.org/bestpractices/index.html
  2. To search for PDF files: www.searchpdf.adobe
  3. General research: Librarians Index of the Internet (www.lii.org); also, the best source of facts on the Internet (www.refdesk.com); Newspapers (www.newspapers.com)
  4. Help in finding old versions of websites: www.archive.org
  5. Help in finding people: www.skipease.com
  6. Help in finding public information: www.knowx.com; also www.accurint.com
  7. Searchable databases: www.searchsystems.net (search by state)
  8. Sites for various practice  areas: www.lexisone.com/legalresearch/legalguide/
    practice_areas/practice_ areas_index.htm 
  9. Family Law: www.divorcenet.com; also American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (www.aaml.org)
  10. Personal Injury: www.howardnations.com (outstanding set of links for injury and accident cause); also Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov – excellent for product liability); American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org); National Highway Transportation Administration (www.nhtsa.gov)
  11. Litigation Legal Vote: www.legalvote.com - this site lets you have your case tested by the public; the cost can range from $50.00 to $500.00. Another great source for links for litigators is www.craigball.com
  12. Estates and Trusts: www.estateplanninglinks.com; also Wills on the Web (www.ca-probate.com/wills.htm)
  13. Taxation: www.taxsites.com
  14. Real Property: www.dataquick.com; also www.realestatesupport.com
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2004

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