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In today’s legal profession, the Internet is fast becoming an indispensable component of legal research. Attorneys who have learned their way around the ‘Net have at their disposal an immense source of free information previously available only through costly proprietary databases. The Internet also serves up a plethora of information traditionally not available on fee-oriented databases, such as financial reports, downloadable legal and government forms, research patents, legislative histories, medical and pharmaceutical databases and technical information. In fact, so much legal information is now available on the Web that accessing the exact information needed can be overwhelming. According to Larry Cheeseman, supervising librarian for Connecticut’s Judicial Branch, the key to conducting practical legal research on the Web is knowing how to look and where to begin. “Having a good start page is probably the most important factor to effective research,” says Cheeseman. The start page is the Web page from which a search is begun. Cheeseman, who has 33 years of experience as a court librarian, maintains a home page, which lists key Internet sites for Connecticut legal researchers. The page, which can be accessed at http://sites.netscape.net/larry cheeseman/keycites.htm, lists several start pages, depending on the area of law practiced. The guide also lists an abundance of Web pages under categories such as Connecticut, local government, federal government, law schools, reference and legal research, and legal search engines. The site even has a link to all the newspapers published in the state. One of the start pages recommended on Cheeseman’s page is the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s law libraries site ( http://www.jud.state.ct.us/LawLib/ index.html), which offers links to sources such as federal and state laws, cases, and administrative decisions. According to Cheeseman, one unique feature helps to make that state site a powerful research tool: pathfinders, which are basically a series of legal research guides in the form of compiled bibliographies of specialized research on a particular subject. Those research guides walk visitors through all the resources available in the library on a particular subject and show where the information can be found, including direct links to materials that are available on the Internet. Currently, most of the pathfinders deal with family law, but comprehensive guides for civil and criminal areas are in the works. Cheeseman, who conducts periodic seminars on Internet legal research, said an essential tool necessary for accessing documents from most courts and federal agencies is Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free at http://www.adobe.com/. When a file is opened using Acrobat, the software will open within the browser and set up its own tool bar. Cheeseman also pointed out that the current version of MS Internet Explorer allows researchers to cut and paste from Acrobat. “I think it’s really coming to the point where, especially for accessing current documents and research, the Internet is an essential component in the practice of law,” said Cheeseman.

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