Law in Contemporary Society
Ok maybe not, but has anyone used Google Scholar to search for legal opinions? It's still quite primitive, but it has "how cited" similar to shepard's and keycite, all of the cites within the texts are conveniently hyperlinked, and a search for libel and public figure in New York cases brought up most of the same cases I found using Westlaw for my moot court brief. Did I mention it's completely free?

If this type of technology gets better and stays as readily accessible, why will we need to pay high fees for Westlaw and Lexis Nexis? Someone asked in class how we can cover costs working on our own, but I think it will only get easier and cheaper to do the kind of work lawyers do, and this is one example of how this will happen.

@Art - I don't know if you've looked at LoisLaw - but it is a low cost system for legal research. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of Lexis or Westlaw and still isn't free, but from what I understand, it is more and more of a challenger to Lexis/Westlaw. I'm not super familiar with it, but I figured I'd at least bring it up on this thread. People who are familiar, feel free to comment about it.

-- DavidGoldin 21 Apr 2010

so I thought I'd try a search on LOISLAW after con law today after seeing this post. First one that I did was HAMDI, since that is what we were talking about. The case that came up was entitled Hamdi v Runsfeld. I sent an email to customer service (I was feeling a little bored and had a minute), who promptly emailed me back, confirming the typo and stating that they were changing it to RumsFIELD. I decided not to reply regarding their second spelling.

-- PeterWade - 22 Apr 2010

@Art - Thanks for the link. You probably know that when you use Lexis or Westlaw with a non-student account (e.g., at a firm) you are charged either by the search (several hundreds of dollars each time you click "SEARCH," with some exceptions) or by the minute. Either way, it would certainly save money to do some preliminary searching for free using Google to get a rough idea of search terms, etc.

IMO, two reasons why the marginal cost of maintaining the Lexis and Westlaw databases won't approach zero anytime soon: (1) maintaining the Key Cite-type system requires lots of trained labor (legally training people need to skim opinions, figure out how each case fits into the earlier cases, etc.) and (2) the licensing cost for all the treatises that are available (Warren's Weed, etc.). I can see the cost of (1) diminishing fairly rapidly (due to outsourcing, lots of out-of-work lawyers, etc.), but the cost of (2) remaining high for the foreseeable future.

Bloomberg is also coming out with a (commercial) Lexis / Westlaw competitor that may help to lower prices among all three services...[1]

-- SaswatMisra 22 Apr 2010

If you're interested in another cost saving device, I would also suggest taking a look at Cornell's Legal Information Institute. You're probably already familiar with it. When you type "Rule [##]" into google, it's usually the first thing that pops up in a search and will take you the specific federal rule of civil or criminal procedure. Their goal is to give free access to laws online. They also have certain supreme court decisions as well. Since, it's backed by Cornell Law School, it seems legitimate and I have less fears of typos or inaccuracies.

Recently, I've noticed that they have been asking for donations. Seems like a neat program to support. I think the issue goes beyond how to save lawyers money. If people have to follow these rules, they should have access to them.

@Ashley - I have been using this site for a while and appreciate it quite a bit. I think that the thing that I find most exciting is the access to recent Supreme Court decisions. Now, anyone can access these opinions by simply typing the party names into Google. This may seem trivial to law students who understand what a citation is and are used to pulling up cases, but for someone who simply wants to learn more about a decision they read about in the news, this is a great tool. While the site is quite useful for lawyers (especially those of us working in the private sector who have to pay for Lexis/Westlaw), it is also incredibly useful for non-lawyers trying to understand the decisions that are shaping the law as we know it. I'm excited to see what the future holds.

-- DavidGoldin 06 Jul 2010

This is not exactly a Westlaw killer - but it does relate to free access to government documents. Recap - the firefox extension that turns Pacer around.

From the FAQ:

What is PACER? PACER stands for “Public Access to Court Electronic Records.” It is the website the federal judiciary uses to make public records available to the general public. You can use PACER to access legal documents relating to thousands of federal court cases.

Who uses PACER? Although PACER is officially available to the general public, it is mostly used by practicing attorneys. The site is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate, and it has a “paywall” that requires users to pay significant fees for the documents they download from PACER.

What does RECAP do? RECAP is an extension (or “add on”) for the Firefox web browser that improves the PACER experience while helping PACER users build a free and open repository of public court records. RECAP users automatically donate the documents they purchase from PACER into a public repository hosted by the Internet Archive. And RECAP saves users money by alerting them when a document they are searching for is already available from this repository. RECAP also makes other enhancements to the PACER experience, including more user-friendly file names.

-- DevinMcDougall - 09 Jul 2010

I'm not sure this is the right thread for this, but I was wondering if anyone had used Westlaw Next yet? As someone who uses Google Scholar and finds it very helpful, it seems to me that Westlaw Next is an attempt to limit the use of/interest in Scholar. I've been using Next quite a bit and, while I like some of the new, smaller features (folders, etc.) I find that it's "natural language" search is pretty poor. Just wanted to see if anyone else had any experience with it (and maybe someone who could tell me where I'm going wrong).

-- JohnSchwab - 12 Jul 2010


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r9 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:32:36 - IanSullivan
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