Q: Is it malpractice to do poor research?

A: Yep! ABA Model Rule 1.1 of Professional Responsibility states “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” That’s legal research. Check out the comments to it at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_1_competence.html



Q: Why isn’t there a free legal research resource on par with Lexis/Westlaw?


A: Good question! A couple of reasons...

1.) Westlaw and Lexis (and the subsidiaries that they have purchased through the years) have a 100 year head start on the Free Law business.

2) Governments don’t provide the adequate raw materials that organizations interested in publishing Free Law can adapt. Creating a primary law database is significantly more difficult if you just have the PDFs posted on the website to deal with.

3) Related to both, the back catalog of law is often locked away in print books that must be scanned and/or rekeyed.

4) Neither the government nor the legal profession seem terribly interested in changing the status quo. The information provided by West and Lexis isn’t “authenticated” or “official” (and if you check out a court case called Rudovsky v. West you’ll get an eyeful of the “quality” of West’s editorial standards) but it’s what people are used to and they see no reason to change. It’s really sort of a catch 22...Governments/Legal profession won’t make a move to switch from Wexis until there’s a viable alternative, but there won’t be a viable alternative until government/legal profession get off their asses and support the Free Law movement. 5) And finally the real value of West and Lexis is the wide body of secondary resources they provide. Personally, I would be thrilled with a free and open primary law depository. When that happens, it will be easier for people to create secondary resources (which will then be published openly) and a true alternative to Westlaw and Lexis can be created.



Q: “teedle-day?”

A: The tilde symbol: ~





Q: Has Way Back Machine or Archive.org recently lost funding that you know of? It's my understanding that the "Way Back Machine" (web archive) is no longer being updated, due to Archive.org losing funding.

A: I haven't heard anything about that (and I follow Brewster Kahle and Jason Scott on twitter and they havne’t said anything) and there’s no mention of it on the archive.org webpage. They seem to be pretty straight shooters and I think they’d include that info very prominently. Archive.org is a fabulous public service and I’d hate to see them go out of business.



Q:What are your thoughts using Zotero as an add-on to Firefox?
Comment: I think Zotero already does support Bluebook format...Zotero has a generic legal bluebook format; it takes a few sessions to use as a citation tool.

A: I honestly have never used Zotero, just because my research never required it back when I was in academia...however, I have heard nothing but good things about it.



Q:Does Google track the research you are doing in Google Scholar? What are the ethical implications given Google's privacy policy?

A: I’m not an ethics expert, but the possibilities of doing client research on “open networks” is probably being thought about by people that are. The good news is that you can clear (and prevent Google from harvesting) your websearch history. http://support.google.com/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=465

I personally have mine stopped, which I forgot about during the presentation. That’s probably why I don’t worry about overly much.



Q: Is Google Scholar a good tool for non-attorneys (or others who are not trained in law)?

A: It depends what you’re using it for. If you’re doing an overview of the law reviews and other secondary type materials (or even the case law) there to determine if you should maybe seek an attorney’s assistance, then yes....you’re not really losing anything and it’s probably easier and more convenient to use than visiting a local law library. However, if you’re using it to represent yourself, well, it’s actually no worse than going to a library and using public access Westlaw or Lexis or paying for these things at home. Case law and legislation and regulations and how they interact with each other are difficult for the non-lawyer to understand, no matter where you got them. For the non-lawyer, finding a case on point is not the hard part...the hard part is interpreting it and making sure it’s good law and not affected by another type of law.



Q: What mobile apps are available for legal research?

A: Fastcase (any others?) Audience comment: LawStack, U.S. Code, LawBox. Also look at UCLA Guide on Mobile Legal Apps or iPhoneJD blog (I would agree with the comments above. I’ve played a little with the Fastcase one and liked it and it is free to use. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m friendly with the CEO and they gave me an award last year.)





Q: What are the key differences between West and Lexis in research?

A: Not a lot. Basically it’s like the difference between McDonald’s and Burger King. The new Lexis Advance has gotten some really crummy reviews, but I haven’t used it enough to have a personal opinion on it. WestlawNext is either the greatest invention since sliced bread or dumbing down legal research to the point that a novice research may miss out on the context of what they are looking at. At the end of the day, research is a highly individualized activity and you have to go with what you personally prefer for reasons that might not always make sense. Also, many firms are one vendor shops, so if you’re a law student, become familiar with both as much as possible, because you never know what your access will be in The Real World.




Audience Comment: Library of Congress has a good index to laws - __http://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide.php__



Audience Comment: Lexisone seems to be doing away with free caselaw. It's "Lexis Communities" now



Audience Comment: http://freelegalweb.org/ example of UK project aiming at being a comprehensive, free source. Pilot project looks at housing law