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Lawyers have used current-events tools to monitor case law, statutory and regulatory change for years. Thomson Corp.’s Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis provide easy ways to save the perfect search and even update it automatically. But these tools also can be used to monitor client activity. Whether you are using Thomson’s Watch or LexisNexis’ Total Alerts � or one of many free resources on the Web � there’s a way to make the process even easier, using RSS. RSS, aka really simple syndication, is pervasive on Web sites and in databases where data is updated frequently. An RSS file is a simple text file that is created by one computer so that another computer can look at it and see if it has new information. Take a blog, for example. When an author publishes a new post, the RSS file for that site incorporates a link, and often a description, of the new post. Researchers who have subscribed to the RSS feed will have a tool, whether an intranet page or an RSS reader, to monitor updates. When the RSS file is updated, the researcher sees the new posting automatically. NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES The breadth of possible RSS sources is enormous. Blogs, online newspapers and magazines, and news aggregation sites all offer news feeds in the RSS format, and users can supplement the significant content in their fee-based databases by using free RSS feeds. Like e-mail alerts and clipping services that trigger as news happens, RSS updates occur when content is added to the original source, so it’s easy to monitor client news and activities without a dramatic increase in e-mail-triggered alerts. A potential client’s corporate Web site is a great place to start to try RSS. You can also search sources such as Google News or Yahoo News and save your search as an ongoing alert. These services pick up newspapers that might not be included in your fee-based service, and include news wires. Blogs and online news provide one level of monitoring but can be supplemented with law-specific information. One useful resource is RSS feed of newly filed cases, pulled from the Pacer federal court database. Visit Justia and run a search that focuses on the practice areas and courts you want included in your RSS feed. Once you’ve run the search, you will see an RSS link that enables you to save that search as an RSS feed. Similarly, some state courts are making their dockets available through RSS. The Ohio Supreme Court has a case-notification service. Once a case is filed for appeal, a researcher can log in and create an RSS alert to follow it as the clerk of the court office updates the file. FILTERING TOOLS You can make your RSS feeds more powerful as research tools with an RSS filtering tool. These enable you to take greater control over the RSS feed from a site. One example is Yahoo Pipes. News feeds are just one type of content that can be managed using Yahoo Pipes. You plug in the Web address to the RSS feed you want to customize, and then apply filters. You might require a particular keyword be included in a posting for it to be displayed to you or you might explicitly block postings that contain irrelevant phrases or terms. Watching a client for securities problems? Try using the filter to require certain keywords, to eliminate labor issues or new store openings. Yahoo Pipes goes beyond content filtering and provides additional controls. For example, you can control the sort order of the items or block by the publication date of posts. Another type of service provides both filtering and feed aggregation, examples of which include free Feedrinse.com and fee-based FeedDigest.com. Both sites enable you to place filters on RSS feeds and then combine multiple RSS feeds � perhaps by client or by subject matter � into a single global RSS feed. This is especially useful when you have a number of RSS feeds that change infrequently. The benefit of RSS is that it can be re-used in a number of ways. Once you have identified the RSS feeds you want to track, you can display them in a variety of ways. Newsgator.com (fee-based) and Mobipocket.com (free) can display RSS feeds on Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Mobile PCs and phones, and Palm operating system devices, among others. You can leave your feeds on the Web and use a personalized page, such as iGoogle or My Yahoo, to display your news updates, accessible anywhere you have an Internet connection. The beauty of RSS is that you do not need to be a tech expert to use it. Once feeds are identified, customized if necessary, you can leave them in place without having to tinker. They are flexible enough to be placed in a firm intranet or extranet portal page, on a personal page, or on your mobile device. You will want to supplement your RSS feeds with other information sources for comprehensive coverage, but it provides a great resource to find out what is happening in your clients’ � and potential clients’ � world. This article originally appeared inLaw Technology News , a publication of ALM. •

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