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Westlaw and Lexis better watch out. In an effort to become more valuable to its 11,000 members, the Connecticut Bar Association is exploring the development of its own online legal research service, CBA Executive Director Tim Hazen confirmed for The Law Tribune. And, judging by early responses to a questionnaire the association began sending to its membership some weeks ago, the idea seems to be a real hit. This is obviously something that is striking people’s imagination and something they are very interested in, Hazen said. Roughly 1,000 of the questionnaires sent out were returned within two weeks. Hazen said 95 percent of the respondents reported that they would be willing to pay extra bar fees to have a members-only, online law library at their disposal. What the extra assessments would amount to, and whether they would be charged only to members who wanted to have access to the service, are two questions CBA officials are still contemplating, Hazen noted. The association, through the questionnaire, also is seeking input on what materials the online law library should contain. Among the suggestions pitched by the questionnaire, besides reported state case law, are state Workers’ Compensation Review Board decisions, formal and informal opinions of the CBA’s ethics committee, unreported superior court decisions, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings, and opinions issued by the state attorney general. The whole point of providing such a service, said Hazen, would be to offer CBA members information that they cannot attain online — at least not at the same price. The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), which offers its 30,000 members access to its Casemaker Web Library at no extra cost, wants the CBA to take part in its joint venture with the Cincinnati-based legal publisher, Lawriter Corp., in order to create a nationwide online legal research network. This fall, it sent officials to Connecticut to make a formal presentation, according to Rick Bannister, the OSBA’s assistant executive director for administration. “Clearly we’re providing a savings [to attorneys who do research online] here in the state of Ohio,” Bannister declared. The more case law that can be added to the site, he emphasized, “the more valuable it will be for our subscribers.” The Nebraska Bar Association is the first group to sign on to the project. But Bannister expects others to follow its lead, he said. Hazen, however, said the Ohio bar group is only one of several vendors the CBA is currently discussing the idea with. Any bar association that’s got its eyes open, he added, knows that it needs to work hard to be competitive these days. An online legal research service would be only one of the tangible benefits that the CBA hopes to roll out in the near future in its ongoing attempt to be relevant in our members’ lives, he maintained. It’s all part of a reinvigorated Connecticut Bar Association, Hazen declared.

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