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Copyright 1997 Robert J. Ambrogi
10 Must-Have Sites For Every Lawyers Bookmarks List
By Robert J. Ambrogi
How do lawyers find the legal information they need on the Internet?
All different ways, really. As with any law library, frequent users tend to adopt their own favored indexes and search tools comfortable allies to which they return with each new research quest. The more you use the Internet, the more you will find yourself coming back to the handful of resources that you have found to be key.
Here are 10 research resources that I turn to again and again. I suggest they be on every lawyers bookmarks list. With these as your starting points, you should be able to find just about any law-related resource available on the Internet.
FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com) is the Swiss Army knife of Internet legal research a variety of useful tools together in a single site. At its core is the FindLaw index, an extensive collection of links to legal resources available on the Internet. You can browse the index by headings or search it by topic or key word. If the index comes up short, try LawCrawler, a tool that performs full-text, key-word searches across a broad number of law-related Internet sites. FindLaw also enables you to search the full text of law reviews on the Internet or subscribe to receive free law-review abstracts by e-mail. FindLaws library of Supreme Court cases may be the best on the Net, with all opinions since 1906, including U.S. Reports citation.
2. Legal Information Institute.
Founded in 1992, Cornell Law Schools LII (http://fatty.law.cornell.edu) serves two roles important to legal researchers: as a publisher of core legal materials and as an indexer of law-related information elsewhere on the Internet. On the publishing side, LII is best known for its collection of current and historical Supreme Court opinions, and for its complementary e-mail service announcing new opinions as they are handed down. It is also home to full, hypertext versions of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Code, the Uniform Commercial Code, a large collection of multilateral treaties, and various other core legal materials. LIIs index of legal resources available on the Internet is far from exhaustive, but remains one of the best jumping off points for research on a particular topic of law.
3. Internet Law Library.
The Internet Law Library of the U.S. House of Representatives (http://law.house.gov) is a top place to start your search for federal, state and international statutes, codes, regulations, treaties and other primary legal materials. Its federal library, alone, includes the U.S. Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, a variety of historical documents, and a selection of current documents from Congress and the Executive Branch. There is an equally comprehensive collection of links to state laws, international laws and treaties.
4. Villanova Center for Information Law and Policy.
If you are looking to locate federal or state court decisions, statutes or codes, Villanovas site (http://www.law.vill.edu) makes it easy with its series of law "locators." The Federal Court Locator and State Court Locator list all court sites on the Internet. The Federal Web Locator and State Web Locator index federal and state government sites. For lawyers with more specialized interests, there are also a Tax Law Locator and an International Law Locator. A similar service, including a federal courts locator, is provided by Emory Universitys Law Finder, http://www.law.emory.edu.
This Web site (http://thomas.loc.gov), from the U.S. Congress, is devoted to publishing legislative materials on the Internet. It includes the full text of all House and Senate bills, which can be searched by key words or bill numbers. Also available are the full text of the Congressional Record since 1993, all committee reports since 1995, bill status, and various other materials and information.
6. GPO Access.
Here is where to start if you are looking for materials from the executive branch of the federal government. Operated by the U.S. Government Printing Office, this site (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs) includes a broad selection of documents from federal and independent agencies, including the Federal Register and General Accounting Office Reports. It also provides a gateway to the Federal Bulletin Board, a service designed to enable the White House and federal agencies to provide immediate, public access to government information in electronic form. In addition, GPO serves as host to Web sites for various independent agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Office of Special Counsel.
7. Lawyer finders.
Whether to refer a client or locate an old law school chum, we all turn on occasion to one of the two primary lawyer directories: Martindale-Hubbell or Wests Legal Directory. In addition to their print and CD-ROM versions, both are also available, free, on the Internet. Bookmark them both, because they do not always return the same results.
8. Law Lists.
No matter the legal topic, there is sure to be a relevant discussion forum on the Internet. These forums can provide lawyers fertile ground for mining sought-after information. Some of these forums take the form of subscription lists to which messages are distributed by e-mail, others are Usenet groups in which messages are posted as if on electronic bulletin boards. Lyonette Louis-Jacques, a University of Chicago law librarian, has compiled this list of all law-related Internet discussion lists (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/lawlists/info.html). Browse the list alphabetically or search it by key word.
The Web site of the American Bar Association (http://www.abanet.org) is everything an online bar association should be, providing informative articles covering everything from law office technology to substantive legal topics, hosting discussion groups devoted to topics both specialized and practical, dispensing current legal and legislative news, and offering a host of other services and information resources of interest and use to lawyers.
10. General search engine.
When all else fails, or when your search is for non-legal information, turn to one of the general Internet search engines. Choose one that allows for Boolean or other more sophisticated searches so that your results will more precisely relate to your query. There are several, but the two best are:
Which sites are top on your bookmark list? Send me an e-mail and Ill post your picks in a future column.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of legal.online, a monthly newsletter about the Internet (http://www.legalonline.com). He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (978) 546-7898.