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A Look Back At Sites Launched in 2004
By Robert J. Ambrogi
It was neither the best of years nor the worst of years. With so much attention paid to the explosive growth of blogs in 2004, other law-related Web sites arrived on the scene more quietly. What follows is a round-up of some of the more useful and intriguing law-related sites that made their debut in 2004.
- ABAbooks.org. Sure, I'm partial to LawCatalog.com, the online bookstore of American Lawyer Media, and not just because they are the folks who publish my book. But now there is competition on the block, with the launch of the American Bar Association's new Web store. The site provides access to nearly 1,500 ABA products, including books, CDs, DVDs, audiotapes and videotapes, magazines, journals, online catalogs, course materials and newsletters.
- America's Leading Business Lawyers. The 2004-2005 Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Business Lawyers is the only legal directory to rank both law firms and individual lawyers. Published by Chambers and Partners, the London-based publisher of Chambers Global and Chambers UK Leading Lawyers, the guide offers reports on the highest-ranking firms and lawyers for each state in over 20 areas of commercial law.
- Deadlines On Demand. Designed to help solo and small-firm lawyers create calendars of court deadlines, this site provides pay-per-use access to CompuLaw's rules-based service. A user calculates dates by entering the area of law, the court location and the date of an event, such as a trial. The service researches a jurisdiction's rules, adjusts for holidays and schedules all deadlines. The resulting list of deadlines and corresponding authorities is displayed on the screen as well as e-mailed to the user. The cost ranges from $9.95 to $99.95.
- DiscoveryResources.org. This is a useful and well-done site providing articles, news and Web links related to electronic discovery. It provides links to resources for case law, rules and regulations, CLE Webcasts, news articles and other resources. It is sponsored by the electronic discovery company Fios Inc.
- The Harry A. Blackmun Papers. With the opening to the public last March of Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun's papers, the Library of Congress launched this complementary site. Although the papers are not available on the Web, the site serves as a searchable finding aid to the complete Blackmun collection. The site also includes sound and video recordings of Blackmun.
- JuryTest. This service offers a Web-based alternative to live mock trials. But unlike other online jury-testing services, it seeks to preserve realism by using audio of the lawyer's spoken-word presentation. JuryTest permits lawyers to record case summaries and arguments using a toll-free telephone number. Instead of reviewing written case descriptions, jurors listen to the lawyers via RealAudio. As they listen, they are able to look at documents and exhibits pertaining to the case. Also unlike other services, JuryTest pays jurors for their time, a feature the company believes results in jurors who better reflect actual jury pools. The cost is $399 and up per case, depending on the number of jurors, number of arguments and other factors.
- Law.com CLE Center. The site promises "new features and expanded functionality" over earlier CLE offerings on law.com. It includes an "online classroom setting," a new layout and design, enhanced program-search functionality, "My Account" for tracking your registered programs, libraries of supporting materials, and "CLE counselors."
- National Agricultural Law Center. Created by Congress in 1987 and housed at the University of Arkansas School of Law, the center is an extensive resource for information relating to agricultural and food law. Its site features The National AgLaw Reporter, covering judicial developments, federal rules and administrative developments, and decisions from the USDA judicial officer. The site's Reading Rooms - organized by topics such as Animal Feeding Operations, Clean Water Act, Biotechnology, Food Safety, Farm Programs and Farm Labor - provide links to current electronic resources, including laws, cases and articles. Other Features include a glossary of agricultural programs and policy, links to agricultural and food law activities in Congress, and information on the nation's farm bills from 1938 to the present.
- Pro Se/Unbundling Resource Center. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services created the Pro Se/Unbundling Resource Center in order to help state policymakers better understand the growing practice of unbundling of legal services, in which lawyers partner with a client to accomplish discrete tasks rather than provide complete representation, and pro se-or self-representation. Among the resources included in the site are articles, reports, cases, court rules and ethics opinions.
- Queryster. Here is a tool that puts a new spin on meta-searching - searching across multiple search engines from a single interface. By default, Queryster submits your search to 10 of the most popular search engines, although you can customize it to query any of more than 25 popular search engines. The top of the page displays the logos of the search sites you have selected. Clicking on any one makes it your default search site. Enter your query, and Queryster takes you to a page showing the results from your default search site. Still displayed across the top of the page are the logos of the other search sites. Click any of those to bring up your search results from that site. Queryster makes it easy to search multiple sites and quickly compare results.
- Thomson Legal Record. From FindLaw comes this tool, described as "a first-of-its-kind resource designed to help in-house corporate attorneys make more informed decisions when hiring outside counsel." The idea is a good one: enable users to research and verify an attorney's real-world litigation experience by combining a high-level view of an attorney's litigation history drawn from Westlaw with an attorney's West Legal Directory profile and published articles on FindLaw.com. While the idea is good, the execution is only so-so. Litigation histories are incomplete, and for those lawyers whose histories are displayed, you can read the cases only if you have a Westlaw account, so non-subscribers are out of luck.
- U.S. Law Schools News Brief. This site is devoted to publishing the latest news releases from U.S. law schools nationwide. It includes an RSS feed. The site is a service of St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami, the same folks who bring you DiplomacyMonitor.com.
- Voices of Civil Rights. On the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights teamed up to launch this site, devoted to collecting and preserving personal accounts from the past and present of the civil rights movement. Using text, audio and transcripts, it focuses on the unheralded individuals who have stories to tell of the civil rights movement.
Robert J. Ambrogi is author of the newly revised and expanded second edition of "The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web," now available at www.lawcatalog.com.