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legal.online, Col. No. 37, March 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
New Services Deliver Legal News Via The Web
Sidebar: Local Sites For State Legal News
By Robert J. Ambrogi
It sits there like a ghost from the past. Type in the URL, http://twn.westpub.com/headlines/final.htm, and up comes the home page for West's Legal News, still displaying its last headline, dateline Jan. 17, 1997: "West's Legal News Suspends Operations."
WLN was an early effort at providing current legal news over the Web. It had a promising debut. West gave it its own staff of lawyers and journalists, and it was to be the focal point of West's planned online service, The West Network. But when new owners took over West's helm, they closed down WLN.
Recent months have brought a resurgence of legal news to the Web, with several legal sites either adding or expanding offerings of news. These include traditional news providers, such as Law Journal EXTRA!; others that have not previously offered news, including FindLaw and Hieros Gamos; and, ironically, West itself.
LJX Legal Headlines
Law Journal EXTRA! may have started the trend. News has always been a focal point of the site, culled mostly from the National Law Journal and New York Law Journal.
In September, LJX expanded the scope of its news coverage by adding two new services: "The LJX Files" and "Web News Roundup."
Although its name sounds like a take-off on a popular TV show, The LJX Files is actually more a kind of news library, supplementing stories about current legal news with the full text of the actual pleadings, decision or other documents involved.
You can, for example, read a news story about the $15.3 billion settlement of Texas' Medicaid reimbursement suit against the tobacco industry, then jump to the full text of the settlement agreement.
The other new service, Web News Roundup, provides links directly to law-related news stories elsewhere on the Web, saving users from having to search the many news sites online for law-related stories.
It surveys stories from newspapers such as The Washington Post, the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and USA Today. In addition to linking to particular stories, it provides a collection of links to other news sources on the Web.
LJX news can be found at: http://www.ljx.com/news.
A News 'Xchange'
A few months later, in December, Lexis-Nexis officially unveiled "Xchange," its Web-based legal research and current-awareness service, http://www.lexis.com. Besides offering a gateway to the Lexis-Nexis research database, Xchange provides both general and practice-specific news.
General news comes courtesy of CNN. A link from Xchange brings you to CNN Quick News, a service specially tailored for Xchange that highlights legal news but also includes general news and weather.
Practice-area news is provided through pages devoted to particular legal specialties. These pages provide current case summaries and legal headlines related to the area of law. As of this writing, the only areas covered were family law, law practice management, torts and insurance, labor and employment, criminal, and tax law. Lexis-Nexis planned to add additional practice areas within months.
The Xchange news services are free, but first-time visitors must register. Once registered, you will have a personal "start page" with links to the various Xchange services. While many parts of Xchange are free, some are not -- particularly the legal-research database. To access this from Xchange, you must have a Lexis-Nexis account.
Legal News From FindLaw
Then, on the very same day in January, two of the Web's most popular legal indexes, FindLaw and Hieros Gamos, announced free news services of their own.
FindLaw's service is essentially a feed of legal news from the Reuters news wire. It uses a Reuters' service that allows Web site owners to pinpoint the news topics they are interested in and have Reuters forward them directly to their sites. Reuters updates the stories regularly throughout the day.
Stories are organized on FindLaw into topical sections, each of which includes a summary of stories and a short list of related resources. Some of these sections are ongoing; others focus on stories currently in the news.
Among the current-news sections are ones devoted to the Microsoft antitrust litigation, White House "affairs," tobacco litigation and telecommunications.
Ongoing news sections focus on Cyberspace law, intellectual property, the Supreme Court, the Justice Department, criminal law, business litigation, other litigation, settlements, the European Union, Asia, international and miscellaneous.
A section for recent case law lists new decisions from the Supreme Court and the federal circuits, with links to the full text of each decision.
FindLaw also provides a collection of links to other legal and general news sources on the Web.
A form allows you to subscribe to receive news updates via e-mail.
FindLaw's legal news service is at: http://LegalNews.FindLaw.com.
An Internet Newsstand
Hieros Gamos calls its service "The Internet Newsstand." It promises current legal news, organized by practice area and updated hourly.
It accomplishes this through an arrangement with the News Tracker service of the Internet index Excite (http://www.excite.com). In essence, Excite performs a key-word search of some 400 news sources on the Web every hour. If you choose, for example, "Employment Law News," HG links you to an Excite page listing the stories it found relevant to employment law. The list includes a brief summary and a link to the full text.
Among the news sources Excite searches are dozens of leading newspapers, including the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle; news services, including Reuters; magazines; and other online sources, such as CNN and MSNBC.
In addition to the Excite service, HG offers a separate page for daily practice-related news. This page collects links to various Web news services relevant to your practice area. Thus, select "Employment Law," and in addition to the Excite service, HG offers links to Law Journal EXTRA!, the Employment Law Advisory Bulletin, AFL-CIO News Online, and other such sources.
HG also includes links to various other news sources of interest to lawyers, such as The Federal Register, the FCC Daily News Digest, and press releases from a variety of federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Beyond legal news, HG provides an extensive collection of links to general news services, weather and sports, and financial information. Sources include USA Today, Reuters, PR News, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe. It even includes links to audio news broadcasts from National Public Radio.
A search page allows users to search for archived articles in many of the available news sources.
HG's newsstand is at: http://www.hg.org/newsstand.html.
West's Law Highlights
All of which brings us back to West, which recently began offering "Daily Law Highlights" from its Web site, http://www.westgroup.com.
These highlights consist of summaries of the most significant legal developments each business day as determined West's editors. Summaries cover judicial, legislative, administrative and executive materials, including cases, Supreme Court actions, court rules, executive orders, administrative regulations, session laws, bills introduced, attorney general opinions, government press releases, bibliographic references and other information.
It provides links to the full text of documents through the WestDoc service, which charges a fee of $8 for each document you retrieve.
Robert J. Ambrogi (email@example.com), a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter legal.online, http://www.legalonline.com. Past installments of this column are archived at: http://www.legaline.com.
Local Sites For State Legal News
In addition to the Web sites offering legal news on a national basis, there are a number that deliver state-specific legal news. Most of these sites are the electronic siblings of print periodicals.
Among the sites offering state legal news:
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi