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Networking On The Net

By Robert J. Ambrogi

Cyberspace may not be a substitute for your local bar association when it comes to networking with your colleagues, but more and more lawyers are using the Internet and other online services as forums for discussing everything from courtroom strategy to law office technology.

No matter your area of interest, you are likely to find like-minded lawyers somewhere online.

Most of these discussions are not really discussions at all, at least not in the sense of conversations taking place in real time. Rather, they are a series of e-mail messages posted where others who share similar interests can read them and reply.

Mailing Lists

On the Internet, discussion groups most often take the form of "mailing lists." These are lists to which you subscribe by sending an e-mail message to a designated address. Unlike magazine subscriptions, there is no fee. Lists are generally open to anyone, although some restrict access to certain professionals or members of certain organizations.

Once you have subscribed, you receive back an e-mail message acknowledging your request and, in most cases, telling you more about the purpose of the list. Be sure to save this message, because, among other things, it tells you how to "unsubscribe," something you will sometime later most certainly want to know.

You will then begin to receive e-mail generated by other subscribers to the list. Usually these messages follow "threads," or topical themes. "Can anyone recommend good software for time and billing?" someone may ask, to which anyone with an opinion or a suggestion will weigh in with a reply. As a subscriber, you are likewise entitled to post a reply or begin a new thread.

The volume of e-mail a list generates varies with the list. Some may have only a message or two in a month, while others will flood your e-mail in box every day. If the quantity of e-mail becomes too much, simply "unsubscribe."

News Groups

Another "place" on the Internet where law-related discussions take place is in what are called "Usenet news groups." As with the mailing lists, these are organized around topics, but their operation is more akin to a bulletin board than a subscription list. Messages are posted to the news groups, and anyone interested can browse through the subject headers and select messages to read or post their own messages.

While mailing lists often are moderated by someone who sees that messages remain within the range of the list's purpose, most Usenet groups are not moderated. As a result, these groups can sometimes be overwhelmed by too much "noise," which in Internet jargon refers to repetitive, useless or bothersome messages.

It can get especially noisy on the unmoderated law-related news groups, such as "" or "," because there are a lot of people out there in Cyberspace who want either (a) free legal advice or (b) to bash lawyers. For this reason, the unmoderated groups have come to have little to offer lawyers interested in serious discussion of a topic. A better, moderated Usenet group is ""

Other Online Services

Commercial online services also offer forums for lawyers to discuss topics of mutual interest. The more specialized of these are to be found on the two commercial services targeted at lawyers, Lexis Counsel Connect and Law Journal EXTRA!.

Both offer a range of discussion groups focusing on substantive areas of the law as well as on issues relating to management, technology and even lifestyle. LCC generally has the more substantive discussion forums, if for no other reason than numbers of lawyers participating. (LCC also has a forum that may be the least substantive -- but most fun: the "Cracker Barrel" forum.)

But as of Sept. 25, LJX dropped its requirement of a subscription fee and opened its proprietary forums to anyone on the Internet. (The free service can be found on the World Wide Web at: It also provided a hypertext interface to make it easier to read postings to non-proprietary, Internet discussion groups. The result could be a much greater degree of participation in the LJX discussion groups, although the participation will no longer be exclusively by lawyers.

Other commercial online services, while designed for a broad range of users, usually have areas dedicated to law and lawyers. CompuServe, for instance, has The Legal Forum, which includes discussion groups on a range of law-related topics and a library of law-related materials, including software, legal forms, articles, selected cases, and other resources. America Online has a similar offering, called the Legal Information Network. The Microsoft Network has an area devoted to law, but it is not as developed, at least so far, as similar areas on CompuServe and AOL.

Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of "," a monthly newsletter about the Internet published by Legal Communications Ltd., Philadelphia. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (978) 546-7898.


A Sampling Of Mailing Lists

Here is a sampling of law-related mailing lists on the Internet. To subscribe to any of these, send an e-mail to the listed address contained the appropriate message

For a comprehensive guide to law-related mailing lists, see "Law Lists," by University of Chicago Law School Librarian Lyonette Louis-Jacques, at:



Send the following message to "subscribe net-lawyers {firstname lastname}."

Advertising Law


Send the following message to "subscribe adlaw."

Agricultural Law


Send the following message to "subscribe AGLAW-L {Your Name}."

Americans With Disabilities Act


Send the following message to or listserv@NDSUVM1.bitnet: "subscribe ada-law {Your Name}."

Bankruptcy Law


Send the following message to "subscribe bankrlaw {your name}."

Business Law


Send the following message to or listserv@umab.bitnet: "sub BIZLAW-L {Firstname Lastname}."

Civil Rights


Send the following message to "subscribe CivilRts {Your Name, Position, Institution}."

Criminal Justice


Send the following message to or listserv@cunyvm.bitnet:

"subscribe cjust-L {Your Name}."

Dispute Resolution


Send the following message to "subscribe dispute-res {firstname lastname}."

Estate Planning


Send the following message to "subscribe estplan-l."



Send the following message to "subscribe legalethics-L {Your Name}."

Family Law


Send the following message to "subscribe familylaw-L {Your Name}."

Health Law


Send the following message to "subscribe healthlaw-L {Your Name}."



Send the following message to "subscribe risknet {your real name}."

Limited-Liability Companies


Send the following message to "sub LNET-LLC {first name last name}."

Poverty Law


Send the following message to "subscribe povertylaw-l {Your Name}."

Real Property Law

DIRT (Real Estate Lawyers)

Send the following message to "subscribe."

Tax Law


Send the following message to or listserv@shsu.bitnet: "subscribe fedtax-L {Your Name}."