AMBROGI LAW OFFICE > ARTICLES
The Year's Most Laudable Web Site Launches
By Robert J. Ambrogi
In the annals of Internet history, 2002 may go down as the year of the blog. Twelve months ago, few of us had ever heard the term - a contraction of Web log - even though blogs had existed in one form or another since at least 1997. Today, their number is estimated to be anywhere from 200,000 to more than half a million.
The explosion in blogging has been felt within the legal field, with lawyers, academics, pundits and even judges introducing blogs of their own. Many of these blogs are interesting, some quite good, and a handful truly useful.
But blogs were not the only law-related Web sites started in 2002. Other notable sites debuted, covering topics ranging from Daubert to domestic violence. This column looks at some of the year's most laudable launches.
Early Web logs tended to be esoteric, highly personal journals with little practical interest for lawyers. But as blogs have grown in number and popularity, legal professionals have created blogs that are of true intellectual interest and practical use.
Of law-related blogs created in 2002, several of the best came from practicing attorneys. One of the most notable is TalkLeft
, news and musings on the politics of crime from Denver criminal lawyer Jeralyn Merritt. Others include How Appealing
, a blog devoted to appellate litigation by Howard J. Bashman, chair of the Appellate Group at Philadelphia's Buchanan Ingersoll, and SCOTUSBlog
, published by the Washington, D.C., firm Goldstein & Howe.
Law professors also created outstanding blogs during 2002. Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig draws a loyal following to his Lessig Blog
, where he discusses cyberlaw, intellectual property, the Internet, and whatever else he chooses. UCLA's Eugene Volokh launched The Volokh Conspiracy
, another popular blog, along with his brother and other contributors.
A number of noteworthy sites devoted to specific legal topics started during 2002. One of the best of these, Daubert on the Web
, is devoted to analysis of the Supreme Court's 1993 decision, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, which forever changed the rules on expert scientific testimony. Created by Philadelphia litigator Peter B. Nordberg, it offers more than 300 appellate cases, organized by circuit and field of expertise, along with a procedural guide, tactics and an evolving treatise.
Another worthy site is the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
, maintained by the University of California, San Francisco. As part of their 1998 settlement with the states, tobacco companies agreed to publish industry documents on the Web until 2010. This library came into being in order to head off the eventual loss of public access to these documents. It houses more than 20 million pages from tobacco industry files, dating to the 1930s - many of them secret until uncovered through litigation.
The Women's Law Initiative
is a nationwide resource for women who are victims of domestic violence. It explains, for every state in the U.S., how to get a restraining order, and provides the applicable statutes and court forms. It includes a number of articles on domestic violence, and provides links to state and local domestic-violence resources.
One of the more unique sites introduced in 2002 is The Religious Liberty Archive
, which focuses on religious freedom as it has played out in courts and legislatures. Sponsored by the Denver law firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, the site is a virtual library of religious freedom law, housing the full texts of pertinent Supreme Court cases since 1815, federal and state laws, treatises and historical materials. News of recent developments and links to related materials round out the site.
When Internet expression meets with a cease-and-desist demand, look for guidance to Chilling Effects
, a site devoted to the legal protection of online speech. Launched in 2002 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and four law schools, it publishes actual cease-and-desist letters annotated with comments on the applicable law. Topics include linking, fan fiction, parody and criticism, copyright and trademark.
Its name may be unwieldy, but the site it launched in 2002 is not. The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court
, or AMICC, created a comprehensive repository of information about the United States and its uncertain relationship with the International Criminal Court. In support of its goal to have the U.S. ratify the Rome Statute that created the ICC, AMICC devotes this useful and informative site to news, background and policy analysis.
In June, the International Bar Association introduced Global Competition Forum
, the first site to provide comprehensive access to the most current versions of the world's 100-plus competition laws, as well as more than 600 links to national competition authorities and international organizations with antitrust interests. The site also includes articles, speeches and commentary by experts in competition law enforcement and reform.
You do not have to be an IP lawyer to have tripped across the phrase, "All rights reserved." But what if the creator of a work of intellectual property wants to reserve only some rights? This is the operating thesis of Creative Commons
, a project with roots in the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. It is working to develop a Web application that will allow creators to dedicate their work to the public domain or license it on terms more generous than copyright.
Among search engines, Google
reigns supreme. But Teoma
, introduced in 2002, has proven itself a worthy challenger. Both rank pages through a sort of popularity contest, reading each link to a page as a vote for its quality. But while Google draws votes from all the Web, Teoma takes each page to a jury of its peers. It first identifies other sites on the same topic, then analyzes how often those sites link to the page. This makes sense for lawyers. Of all the law-related sites on the Web, the best ones for lawyers are likely to be the ones that lawyers themselves link to.
A search index that stands out for its feistiness, among other things, is MyWay.com
. Introduced late in 2002, it challenges reigning Web index Yahoo with an ad campaign whose slogan is "Yahoo is toast," and a site that replicates many of Yahoo's features but that excludes advertising of any kind, charges no fees for any of its services, and has one of the simplest and least intrusive privacy policies found anywhere on the Web. Best of all, MyWay's Web search and index are powered by Google.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is author of The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, available through LawCatalog.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.