Legal.online, Col. 49, March 1999Copyright 1999 Robert J. Ambrogi
Best Of The Web For Lawyers
Which are the best Web sites for legal professionals?
Each year, the newsletter legal.online assembles a panel of judges to pick The Best of the Web for Lawyers. Judges are asked to evaluate sites based on their overall impression of three factors: design, content and usefulness to lawyers.
Complete lists of winners and honorable mentions for this and past years are available on the Web at http://www.legalonline.com. What follows is a quick look at this year's best.
Morrison & Foerster, http://www.mofo.com.The front page is attractive and practical, featuring two sets of icons, one allowing quick movement to substantive firm information, and the other allowing easy access to tools for exploring and searching its site. The site's practice-area pages are particularly well organized -- with the latest practice-area news and a menu allowing the visitor to jump to related articles and publications, information on current cases, lists of practice-area attorneys, practice-area descriptions, calendars of related seminars and speaking engagements, and links to relevant outside sites. Another section offers similar information, organized instead by industry.
Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, http://www.procopio.com.Although not fond of the opening "splash" screen, which displays a welcome before automatically loading the index page, the judges liked the overall design of this 50-lawyer San Diego firm's site. The index page shows a picture of the firm's lobby, from which visitors can move to any of the substantive sections. This law-office motif is carried throughout -- links to articles and newsletters, for example, are displayed as law books, and links to practice-area pages are shown as file drawers. For those who dislike graphics, there is a complete textual site map.
Oppedahl & Larson, http://www.patents.com.Nothing pretty about this site. It is substance, pure and simple. No graphics, no splash pages, just rich content covering the gamut of intellectual property law. The site is a virtual treatise, with detailed information about patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, computer law and what it calls "weblaw." Proof, once again, that content is key in Web design.
Legal Information Starting Point
FindLaw, http://www.findlaw.com.FindLaw has evolved into a multifaceted starting point for lawyers using the Web. Its core is a comprehensive index of links to resources in more than 30 practice areas as well as to case law, codes, legal associations, law reviews and more. Its "LawCrawler" is a unique search engine that provides greater precision than general search tools. Its libraries of court opinions and statutes feature the most extensive Supreme Court collection available free on the Internet. During 1998, it added legal news, free Web pages, and free e-mail.
Legal Research – Cases"V." contains opinions from the Supreme Court, all 13 federal circuits, and the appellate courts of all 50 states. Its archives date to 1930 for many states, to 1930 for most federal circuits, and to 1900 for the Supreme Court. Access costs $6.95 a month per attorney in the law firm (not per user).
Legal Research – Laws
GPO Access, http://www.access.gpo.gov.The U.S. Government Printing Office provides an exhaustive collection of federal laws in an easy-to-use format. Included are the U.S. Code, the Constitution, the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations and much more.
Legal Research – Overall
FindLaw, http://www.findlaw.com.Between its extensive index of law-related resources and its innovative LawCrawler search engine, FindLaw makes it easy to locate legal resources on the Web. Add its archives of legal discussion lists and its library of primary legal materials, and you have the best, free law library in Cyberspace.
West Group, http://www.westgroup.com.With the introduction this year of Westlaw.com, the full Westlaw database on the Web, West put the jewel in the crown of this useful site. It joined a variety of practical features, including the KeyCite citation service and West's Legal Directory. Other highlights include KnowX, providing public records information, and the Rutter Group, providing online CLE.
GPO Access, http://www.access.gpo.gov.Winner of best research site for laws is also overall best government site. Beyond its extensive databases of primary laws, it also houses the Federal Bulletin Board, a collection of more than 4,500 federal agency documents.
Legal Reference Publication
Center for Information Law and Policy, http://www.cilp.org/tblhome.html.CILP's “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 links to federal and state court opinions and government resources on the Web.
National Bar Association
ABANet, http://www.abanet.org.The American Bar Association continues to expand and improve its site. Offerings range from full-text articles to discussion groups to continuing legal education. For the first time, the ABA in 1998 restricted areas of the site to members, but ample content remains available to the public.
State/Local Bar Association
WisBar, http://www.wisbar.org.The State Bar of Wisconsin's site is innovative, informative, and rich in practical features, all in a well-designed package. It features a library of essential legal resources that includes court decisions, court rules and downloadable legal forms. It also offers online CLE and an assortment of online discussion groups.
Legal Search Tool
LawCrawler, http://www.lawcrawler.com.Using a general Web search tool for legal research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Findlaw's LawCrawler cuts the haystack to more manageable size by searching only sites known to contain legal information, achieving more precise and relevant results.
General Search Tool
HotBot, http://www.hotbot.com.Although it is impossible to gauge which search engine is the most comprehensive, HotBot is clearly among them. It indexes every word, link and media file on more than 110 million Web documents. It is also one of the most current, refreshing its entire database of documents every three to four weeks.
FindLaw Legal News, http://LegalNews.FindLaw.com.FindLaw's free service provides U.S. and international legal news updated throughout the day, from Reuters' news service. Stories are organized 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.
Cornell Law School, http://www.law.cornell.edu.Cornell's Legal Information Institute pioneered legal publishing on the Internet. It established the first law site on the Internet in 1992 and the first on the Web in 1993. It quickly became the leading site for Supreme Court opinions. Its hypertext version of the U.S. Code remains its most popular feature.
Law Library Resource Xchange, http://www.llrx.com.LLRX is an Internet newsletter with a focus on legal research, technology and management. Completely free, it is updated twice a month with insightful feature articles and regular columns.
Florida State University, http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/index.html.This law review has been published online since 1995. Each article is available in a choice of hypertext or Adobe Acrobat versions. The hypertext version uses a split-frame screen to display the text across the top with corresponding footnotes at the bottom.
National Institutes of Health, http://www.nih.gov.The medical research arm of the U.S., the NIH's Web site is an electronic storehouse of medical knowledge. Its online health libraries cover such topics as cancer, AIDS, women's health, and clinical alerts. The site is also the hub linking the sites of a range of related organizations.
SEC EDGAR, http://www.sec.gov.The EDGAR database stands as one of the best examples of government information on the Net and one of the most useful sites for lawyers. The system by which companies file electronically with the SEC, EDGAR houses a range of corporate documents, including initial public offerings, proxy statements, annual reports, registration statements and more. Use EDGAR to research a corporate adversary, search annual reports, or even find sample forms.
White Pages Directory
Switchboard, http://www.switchboard.com.How can a lawyer use Switchboard? Use it to search for a missing witness. Get the e-mail address of opposing counsel. Find a long-lost law school pal. Create a map to an unfamiliar courthouse. Search for a particular business or type of business. Of the many white pages on the Web, Switchboard, the judges said, is best.
Expert Witness DirectoryThe Internet has become an important tool for locating experts. But as the number of experts with Web sites skyrockets, the task of sorting through them all becomes ever more daunting. FindLaw brings order to the task, with an extensive index of experts on the Web.
CLE Online, http://www.cleonline.com.This innovative site presents CLE in the form of threaded, hypertext discussions backed up by libraries of downloadable information. Many of its programs are produced in cooperation with the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association. Most seminars cost $59.
Service To The Legal Community
Legalethics.com, http://www.legalethics.com.This free site is devoted to the unique ethical issues raised by the Internet. Its greatest service is its tracking and publishing relevant state and local ethics rulings. New for 1998, opinions were organized both by state and by topic, such as e-mail confidentiality or Web site marketing.
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.
Copyright 1999 Robert J. Ambrogi