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legal.online, Column No. 35, January 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
Off The Beaten (Or Oft-Surfed) Path
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Some law-related Web sites defy categorization. Over the years, I have accumulated a hodgepodge of URLs that never quite seem to fit in any article. Some are practical, some unusual, some are old, some fairly new.
Herewith, a trip off the beaten path of legal Web surfing, in which we explore the less traveled terrain of law-related sites on the Internet.
Dont be fooled by the name you neednt be in Arizona to benefit from the Arizona Lawyers Guide to the Internet, http://www.azstarnet.com/~frey, a collection of Internet resources for legal and factual research. Unlike so many other such sites, this one is selective and closely monitored. That means old or useless links are thrown out and new ones are regularly added.
Counsel Quest, http://www.counselquest.com, is a surprisingly comprehensive guide to legal resources on the Internet, organized in a simple, easy-to-use format. The first page indexes the entire site by categories and sub-categories, using Windows-style file-folder icons. A "Remote Briefcase" loads the entire index into a second, smaller browser window, allowing you to follow links in one window while keeping the index readily available.
For a unique approach to Internet research, try Plaintiff v. Defendant Legal Issues, http://www.dpg-law.com. Rather than organize sites by subject, its attorney/publisher, D. Pamela Gaines, posits a specific legal query and then maps a research trail for finding its answer. Each month highlights a different liability topic, with a new query each week. November, for example focused on evidentiary matters.
The University of Michigan Documents Center, http://www.lib.umich.edu/libhome/Documents.center, is a comprehensive guide to finding U.S., state and international government documents online. It is organized by government entity and topically. The entire site is searchable.
Consider The Law Engine, http://www.fastsearch.com/law/index.html, an alternative to Findlaw (http://www.findlaw.com). Its index of legal sites is nowhere near as extensive, but the focus here is on simplicity and ease of use. Its links are organized into major categories, all of which are listed on one page. There is also a search page organizing a number of major search engines and indices.
The most commonly requested government forms on the Internet have been linked together at Uncle Sam Forms From The Feds, http://www.lib.memphis.edu/gpo/forms.htm. From the library at the University of Memphis, this site includes forms from the Copyright Office, the Department of Energy, the Food and Drug Administration, and more.
What do you want to know? Whatever it is, you are likely to find the answer at Martindales The Reference Desk, http://www-sci.lib.uci.edu/~martindale/Ref.html. There are thousands of links to everything from online calculators to world-wide postal information. Whether your question relates to medicine, science, air travel, business, computers or education, Martindales has the links.
Subtitled, "Secrets Good Lawyers [and their best clients] Already Know," A Good Lawyer, http://www.agoodlawyer.com, is an online book written by McLean, Va., lawyer Stephen W. Comiskey. He describes it as intended to fill in the gaps left after law school. It is full of nuggets such as, "Lawyers are the custodians of the ideals of our society," and, "A trial is theater with consequences."
David J. Loundy is a Chicago lawyer who also happens to be an Internet junkie and a proficient writer. He writes a monthly technology law column for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, all of which (dating back to 1994) are on his Web site, E-Law, http://www.Loundy.com. Loundy tackles issues such as meta-tags, Internet fraud, spam, encryption, and the Millenium Bug, all in an informed and thorough style.
Law office technology can be an awfully dry topic, but Technology Update, http://www.abanet.org/lpm/magazine/lpmcontents.html, manages to cover it in a manner that is not only insightful, but also irreverent and humorous. Written by G. Burgess Allison, the column has appeared in Law Practice Management, the magazine of the ABAs Law Practice Management Section, since 1983. Now, those who do not receive the magazine can enjoy Allisons bimonthly column online.
Bridges, Tools, Etc.
Bridges, http://www.c2.com:8000, is a site unlike any other. It is an experimental, interactive, collaborative gathering place for lawyers, CPAs and others. Key to its uniqueness is visitors ability not merely to read, but also add to, any page, as well as to create whole new pages. What is this good for? For one, discussion groups, and Bridges is host to several, mostly focusing on taxation, employee benefits and technology. Beyond discussion groups is the Automation Guide project of the American Institute of CPAs, through which any member with Web access can participate in updating the AICPAs guide to automating a tax practice. Bridges so encourages interactivity that any visitor to the site can add his or her own Web page.
Designed to help attorneys use the Internet in the practice of law, Internet Tools For Attorneys, http://www.netlawtools.com, offers practical sections on legal research, Web site design, mailing lists and software. It also includes a number of articles on creating Web pages and using the Internet, as well as reviews of books and software related to lawyers using the Internet.
What makes the Web special is its ability to combine text, pictures and sound. Oyez Oyez Oyez, http://oyez.at.nwu.edu/oyez.html, is a database of Supreme Court cases that makes the most of that, providing not merely text, but actual audio of the oral arguments in many important cases, as well as, for some, audio of the announcement of the courts opinion. Under development is a visual tour of the court.
By telling the fictional but legally accurate story of a criminal prosecution, Anatomy of a Murder, http://tqd.advanced.org/2760/homep.htm, offers a trip through the workings of the criminal justice system. It includes a glossary of legal terms and summaries of significant Supreme Court criminal rulings.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, http://www.cbldf.org, was founded in 1986 to support an Illinois store owner arrested for selling "obscene" comics. Its Web site offers a history of comic-book censorship, updates on current cases, and a gallery of posters and products you can purchase to help support the CBLDF.
The title of Lawgirl, http://www.lawgirl.com, is enough to clue you in that this is no ordinary lawyers Web site. Take a struggling Los Angeles artist, mix in a law degree and a heaping portion of HTML, and you come up with a site that combines an interactive copyright tutorial with a music law forum and a Hunk o the Month award.
Lawyers, it seems, have an allegiance to WordPerfect. For them, The Legal WordPerfect Page, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/rcbjr, is the perfect site, offering a number of articles as well as more than 60 shareware macros developed by the publisher of the site, attorney Richard C. Belthoff Jr. Among the macros: a judgment interest calculator, a target date calculator, legal timesheets, fax receipts and telephone memos.
Cyberjury, http://www.cyberjury.com, is an interactive Web site through which visitors act as jurors deciding real cases. It is maintained by a New Jersey personal injury lawyer to assist him in jury selection and case evaluation. Once registered as a juror, visitors are invited to read through each case and answer a series of questions.
Lets face it lawyers arent very funny, but cartoonist David Carter manages to find humor in the courtroom. Better yet, he publishes his cartoons on the Web. A new installment of JP ... the legal cartoon, http://www2.southwind.net/~jptoon, appears every Monday and Thursday. Older ones are saved for two months. So stop by regularly and follow the travails of Judge Pyg and the cast of characters who frequent his courtroom.
Subtitled, "A Collection of Legal Curiousities," Lex Loco, http://www.netside.net/~drose/lexloco.html, features a collection of "amusing, unusual or sometimes just plain weird" legal opinions all actual reported cases. Read how a man who sued Satan had his case thrown out for lack of personal jurisdiction, or about the prisoner who claimed God instructed him to file lawsuits and sent an elephant to guide him in his quest.
It was only a matter of time before some wily lawyer convinced Wile E. Coyote to sue for all the defective merchandise hes purchased over the years in pursuit of the Road Runner. Coyote v. Acme Products Corp., http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/chugr/wilee.htm, presents the legal arguments, courtesy of Chug Roberts, former editor of Wests Legal News and now director of editorial services for Congressional Quarterly.
JP is not the only legal cartoon on the Web. Legal Insanity, http://www.repper.com/insanity/index.htm, is drawn by Steve Rushing, a judge in Pinellas County, Fla. Rushing has published two books of cartoons and offers samples on his Web site.
Question: Where can you find a page with nearly 400 lawyer jokes? Answer: Canonical List of Lawyer Humor, http://www-personal.usyd.edu.au/~atan/jokes/canonical_lawyer.html. Sample: "What do you call a lawyer with an I.Q. of 50? Your honor."
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of legal.online, a monthly newsletter about the Internet. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (978) 546-7898.