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legal.online, Column No. 36, February 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
Best Of The Web For Lawyers
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Which are the best Web sites for lawyers?
Every year, legal.online the newsletter companion to this column assembles a panel of judges to select the best of the Web for legal professionals. And every year, as the number and quality of sites expand exponentially, the judges job gets that much harder.
There are countless legal sites offering high-quality content. Particularly difficult was choosing the best law firm sites amidst the thousands now online.
Below are the 1997 winners. More detailed information, together with the list of honorable mentions, is available at: http://www.legalonline.com.
Best Large Firm Site
Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, http://www.brobeck.com.
Here is proof that marketing is as much about retaining clients as attracting them. It caters to current clients, allowing them to contact their attorney directly or submit research questions to the firms law library. New visitors are directed to a virtual "receptionist," with information about the firm and of what is available through the site.
Best Medium Firm Site
Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke, http://www.ssbb.com.
Simple but attractive graphics make it easy for visitors to find their way around this site. A navigation bar at the bottom of the screen links to each major section. On each page, a small graphic of the firms office building provides a consistent link back to the home page.
Best Solo Or Small Firm Site
Siskind, Susser, Haas & Chang, http://www.visalaw.com.
Gregory H. Siskind literally wrote the book on lawyer marketing online, as author of the American Bar Associations, The Lawyers Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Siskind was one of the earliest lawyers to have a home page and, largely thanks to the Internet, SSH&C has achieved international recognition.
Best Legal Information Starting Point
If you could bookmark only one site, it should be this. Begun as a list of links compiled for a workshop, it has grown into several sites in one. At its core is an index of resources in more than 30 practice areas as well as case law, codes, associations, and law reviews. Beyond the index is LawCrawler, an innovative legal search engine. A growing library of court opinions and statutes features the Webs most extensive set of Supreme Court opinions.
Best Legal Research Site Cases
When selected last year as best caselaw research site, this was a free library called Lawyers Legal Research. It is no longer free, and has a new name and look, but once again, our judges chose it as best. "V." provides opinions from the Supreme Court, all 13 federal circuits, and the appellate courts of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, dating back to 1930 for many courts, and to 1900 for the Supreme Court. An annual subscription is $595. Newcomers get a free trial.
Best Legal Research Site Laws
On Jan. 5, 1995, Congress unveiled its legislative information site, dubbed "Thomas," as a means of opening the legislative process to all. Today, it includes all bills, public laws and legislation; the Congressional Record since 1993; complete committee information; and a library of historical documents.
Best Legal Research Site Overall
The winner of our Best Legal Information Starting Point is also our judges pick for best overall legal research site, thanks to its extensive index, its innovative search engine, its legal discussion archives and its library of court opinions.
Best Law-related Company Site
Law Journal EXTRA!, http://www.ljx.com.
From the publishers of the National Law Journal, LJX provides one-stop access to a variety of resources, from news to research, from legal memoranda to technology reviews, with more than 34 sections devoted to specific practice areas. A recent merger with Counsel Connect will combine the two services during 1998.
Best Government Site
GPO Access, http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
Best government site for the second year, this service of the U.S. Government Printing Office provides a wealth of federal information. It features searchable databases of executive and legislative material, including the U.S. Code, and is home to the Federal Bulletin Board, a collection of more than 4,500 federal documents.
Best Legal Reference Publication
Center for Information Law and Policy, http://www.cilp.org/tblhome.html.
CILPs collection of "locators" The Federal Court Locator, The State Court Locator, The Federal Web Locator, the State Web Locator, and the Tax Law Locator make it easy to find court opinions and government resources on the Web. CILP is a joint project of Villanova University School of Law and the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Best National Bar Association Site
Also our judges choice last year, the American Bar Associations site has even more to offer this year, from full-text articles to discussion groups to continuing legal education. The site seamlessly organizes the ABAs more than 2,200 individual entities into a simple, easy-to-navigate format.
Best State/Local Bar Association Site
State Bar of Wisconsin, http://www.wisbar.org.
"WisBar" is everything a bar association site should be innovative, informative, and rich in practical features, all in a well-designed and easy to navigate package. A library of legal resources includes the full text of Wisconsin appellate decisions and downloadable legal forms. It also offers online CLE, a directory of Wisconsin lawyers, and online discussion groups.
Best Legal Search Tool
Using a general search tool for legal research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. LawCrawler, from FindLaw, cuts the haystack to more manageable size. Using the search engine that powers AltaVista, it scours only sites that contain legal information, returning more precise and relevant results.
Best General Search Tool
This Internet index is the tool to use when you need to find that needle in the cyber-haystack. Its "spider" roams the Web collecting some 6 million pages a day. Every word from every page is indexed, allowing keyword searching of virtually the entire Web, all with great speed and sublime simplicity.
Best Legal News Site
Law Journal EXTRA!, http://www.ljx.com.
LJX features legal headlines from the National Law Journal and elsewhere, as well as a round-up of legal news from other online news outlets. The new year will bring even more news to LJX, as its recent purchase by American Lawyer Group adds content from the AmLaw chain of newspapers and magazines.
Best Law School Site
Cornell Law School, http://www.law.cornell.edu.
Cornells Legal Information Institute pioneered hypertext publishing of legal materials. It established the first law site on the Internet in 1992 and the first on the Web in 1993. It quickly became the leading Internet site for Supreme Court opinions and later New York decisions. Its hypertext U.S. Code remains its most popular feature, along with a host of significant legal documents.
Best Law Library Site
WashLaw Web, http://lawlib.wuacc.edu.
Washburn Universitys law library has long been ahead of the Internet curve. It was among the first to catalogue law-related resources on the Internet and among the first to create a Web index of legal resources. Washburn went on to host a variety of electronic mailing lists for lawyers and remains at the forefront of technology.
Best Law Review Site
Richmond Journal of Law & Technology, http://www.urich.edu/~jolt.
When it appeared in 1995, JOLT, from the University of Richmond, was the first law review published exclusively online. Focusing on the impact of computer-related and emerging technologies on the law, it has included seminal articles that have come to shape the emerging field of Cyberlaw.
Best Medical Research Site
American Medical Association, http://www.ama-assn.org.
For lawyers, the AMA offers an broad collection of scientific and educational resources. It includes abstracts and selected full text from medical journals and archives devoted to specific medical specialties. Its Physician Select provides a searchable database of virtually every U.S. physician.
Best Company Research Site
Securities & Exchange Commission EDGAR, http://www.sec.gov.
The EDGAR database of corporate filings stands as one of the best examples of government information on the Net and one of the most useful sites for lawyers. The SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system presents a myriad of practical possibilities. Research a corporate adversary. Search annual reports. Even use its enormous database as a forms library.
Best White Pages Directory
When you need to find a phone number or e-mail address, this comprehensive directory is the place to turn. Use Four11 not just for phone numbers, but to help locate missing heirs, lost witnesses or even former college friends.
Best Expert Witness Directory
FindLaw index of experts, http://www.findlaw.com/13experts/index.html.
As the Internet has become a valuable tool for locating expert witnesses, the number of experts with Web sites has skyrocketed, complicating the task of sorting through them all. FindLaw brings order to the task, with an extensive index of experts on the Web.
Best CLE Site
Practising Law Institute, http://www.pli.edu.
PLI overhauled its site in 1997 to offer information on every program and publication, as well as online audio seminars. Browse PLIs calendar or search for specific programs. Likewise, browse or search PLIs libraries of publications, audio tapes and videos.
Best Service To The Legal Community
Legalethics.com is devoted to the unique ethical issues raised by the Internet. Among its greatest services has been in tracking and publishing state and local ethics rulings. It maintains a comprehensive collection of ethics-related links, provides information on each states ethics agency and conduct rules, and provides links to full-text rules and opinions where available.
Note To Readers
Many readers ask where they can find past installments of this column online. Until now, the answer has been nowhere. But after so many requests, I have put the entire collection of columns three years worth on my law firm Web site at: http://www.legaline.com. Hope they prove useful.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter legal.online, http://www.legalonline.com. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (978) 546-7898.