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What’s wrong with this picture? It’s mid-afternoon at a large, busy law firm, and the firm’s library is empty. Nothing is amiss here. It’s just that the lawyers are doing their research from their desks by computer. This scene is probably not that uncommon in some of the United States’ larger firms. While libraries will always have their place, computer and Internet research has had a dramatic effect on the legal profession’s notion of libraries and research. According to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, small and large firms and corporate law departments are moving toward computer and Internet research. One hundred percent of all firms and law departments surveyed planned on providing full Internet (Web and e-mail) access in 1999, and 99.73 percent report already having someone in their firm/department with full Internet access. In those firms that have Internet access, 58.8 percent access the Internet from their desktops via dedicated modems and 45.16 percent use a network connection. Only 2.69 percent still access the Internet via a dedicated terminal, such as the old Lexis or Westlaw terminals. Why the near-universal move to the Internet? Lawyers have learned of its vast store of legal and factual material. Today, 49 out of 50 states (Connecticut is the exception) post their decisions online, and most now have cases going back four or five years that are in searchable databases. All the federal Courts of Appeals are online, and the U.S. Supreme Court has online access to cases going back to 1893 and including selected historic decisions prior to 1893. Just five years ago, this information was not available online, except through expensive computer research. Now it’s free. A DAUNTING TASK One general problem, however, is that the Internet is so vast that it can be a daunting task to find specific materials. Imagine sitting in a library with thousands of books piled up around you in no order whatsoever. You need to find a specific book or, worse yet, a specific fact in a book. What do you do? You could be sitting in the greatest library in the world, in a quantitative sense, yet have no effective way to find anything. Another drawback is that its information is both uncontrolled and mostly unverifiable. One lawyer-commentator, Glenn S. Bachal, aptly describes this phenomenon: The Internet is in part a library that expands at a phenomenal rate every day, but without the watchful eye of a librarian and without the discipline of a single, comprehensive card catalog. It is a bundle of information packages, which, consistent with their usually free nature, almost always come with explicit disclaimers of accuracy and disclaimers of all other conceivable warranties of usefulness. It is a phone booth that provides little or no indication whether those to whom one is connecting are real-world geniuses or are instead people who are locked in an attic. It is a peephole into the day-to-day affairs of businesses and people. Despite the many shortcomings and distractions of this evolving interactive world, the Internet is an amazing resource for the lawyer who is both focused and smart. The good news for lawyers, unlike those relegated to general searching on the Internet, is that the legal material is, for the most part, well organized and can be trusted. There are several good starting points that will lead even the novice legal researcher in the right direction. Perhaps the most well-known legal starting point is Findlaw ( http://www.findlaw.com/), where one can begin an effective research project. Findlaw simply organizes the available legal sites on the Internet by linking the user to other sites that hold the primary material. For example, from Findlaw’s home page, one can access, through links, materials from the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Code, CFR and Federal Register, cases from the U.S. Supreme Court, from all federal circuits and selected district, bankruptcy and other specialized courts. The federal system allows full-text searching of all U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions from January 1995 to the present, and many District Court decisions are now being posted along with local rules and forms. The Courts of Appeals’ decisions contain hyperlinks to U.S. Supreme Court cases cited in the decision, so, with one click on the site, the decision pops up in a new window. The Connecticut District Court site contains selected decisions organized by topic, judge and case name going back to 1999. These sites will not yet replace the commercial online research giants because of the limitation of archived material. But it is only a matter of time. STATE LAW MADE EASY State law is also well organized on Findlaw. Material available in each state includes cases, statutes, legislative material and rules. The Connecticut link, while lacking case law, provides a wealth of other information. It includes statutes, banking laws and regulations, Connecticut Law Revision Commission materials (including the proposed Code of Evidence), Public and Special Acts from 1996 to the present, FOIC decisions, workers’ compensation laws (statutes, regulations, and Review Board decisions), Attorney General opinions and selected town and city ordinances. In addition to Findlaw, other major sites that organize legal materials include Cornell’s Legal Information Institute ( http://www.law.cornell.edu/); CataLaw: Meta Index of Law and Government ( http://www.catalaw.com/); and Meta-Index for U.S. Legal Research ( http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/metaindex). Each of these major sites will access the same places, but through a unique approach. Another newer, private source of case law is Lexisone.com, http://www.lexisone.com/, a free service started by Lexis-Nexis last summer. A case can be retrieved by its site or by searches using the familiar Boolean search terms used in traditional Lexis research. The site contains all cases from the two highest courts from each state from Jan. 1, 1996; all federal Circuit Court cases from Jan. 1, 1996; and the complete collection of U.S. Supreme Court cases (from 1790). In addition, the site offers access to 1,100 free legal forms and an annotated Legal Research Guide of 16,000 legal-related links. But the Internet is probably best known today for providing lawyers with access to government resources that were previously either unavailable or were available only to those who spent time at the agencies searching through voluminous records. The federal government and its resources are now online and most are in databases that are well organized and searchable. One site that is very useful for searching for all federal government agencies on the Web is the U.S. Federal Government Agencies Directory ( http://www.lib.lsu.edu/gov/fedgov.html), created by Louisiana State University. This private site provides links to all federal agencies on the Internet from the executive, judicial and legislative branches to such quasi-official agencies as the Smithsonian Institution. Particularly useful sites include OSHA)( http://www.osha.gov/); the SEC ( http://www.sec.gov/), which provides all kinds of information on public companies in their own words (and hence admissions) as contained in their SEC filings; the National Transportation and Safety Board ( http://www.ntsb.gov/); and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/). THE NET’S GREATEST ASSET Factual research is still perhaps the Internet’s greatest asset for lawyers doing many types of pre-trial investigations. Just learn to use all the features of one of the great search engines, such as IXQuick Metasearch ( http://www.ixquick.com/) that offers a meta-search engine that is fast and very comprehensive, accessing in one search 14 search engines. One impressive site that organizes factual research into topical areas is the CyberTimes Navigator, http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/ reference/cynavi.html, the guide to the Internet compiled by The New York Timesfor its own reporters. Within this site, one can find all the major search engines and sites that provide reference materials, news organizations, people and telephone directories. Medical information on the Internet is well organized and comprehensive. No longer must the lawyer head to the medical school library for preliminary research on medical issues. Some of the most popular medical sites are the Hardin Library for Health Services at the University of Iowa ( http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/md/ index.html); Medline ( http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/ factsheets/medline.html); and Internet Grateful Med ( http://igm.nlm.nih.gov/), which allows the user to search specialized medical databases in addition to Medline. The Internet is still considered to be in its infancy, yet the legal and factual material available to the practicing lawyer is enormous and growing exponentially. This vast global digital library is now available free of charge to any lawyer with a modest computer, a modem, a phone line and an Internet connection. The legal Internet has certainly not replaced the need for traditional treatises and digests that allow one to search for legal concepts and issues (as opposed to text-based searching). The casebook, on the other hand, may soon be relegated to a design element for adorning the walls of showpiece law libraries. William P. Yelenak is a partner with Moore, O’Brien, Jacques & Yelenak, a law firm in Cheshire, Conn. He is the former chair of the Legal Technology Committee of the Connecticut Bar Association.

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