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Just a few years ago, attorneys and their staff did a lot of waiting — waiting for papers to be served, or rulings to come in the mail, and for librarians to �research and find relevant case information. The time lag created questions and the questions resulted in more client �inquiries and multiple trips to the courthouse. Then technology came to the practice of law, and, as most attorneys who are “in the know” now recognize, there are plenty of options beyond �PACER in the world of online case �research technology. To get off the waiting line, technology-conscious partners should make it a point to stay abreast of the latest trends in the world of online case and docket research. Today, the advance of online �programs coupled with high-speed Internet access has allowed attorneys near-instant access to practically any kind of case information that they might need. Firms that haven’t paid much attention recently to the wealth of case information available over the Internet could be at a serious competitive disadvantage. Online research has changed the way �attorneys serve clients and build their practices. While this is “old news” to some, there are quite a few advances happening in the online research world that many attorneys and staff have yet to start �deploying. One such recent advance is the accessibility of state courts. Even as recently as last year, getting the information one needed from state courts was a time-consuming and frustrating exercise. PACER only covered federal courts, and most state courts were not online. Among those that were accessible electronically, their databases were often slow, and their interfaces were incompatible with many of the major online services. This is beginning to change. FEATURING … STATE COURTS! More and more state and local courts are becoming wired, affording easier �access to their dockets and filings. One service to try is CourtExpress, an Internet service headquartered in Washington, D.C., which has what could be considered the best access to state courts among the �major players in the industry. (For more information, see www.courtexpress.com.) It provides dockets and documents from more than 500 local and state courts, and it has also created custom interfaces to state courts that would otherwise not be accessible via the Internet. Another current advance in the world of online case research is the �accessibility of judges’ rulings soon after they are handed down. The Admini�strative Office of the U.S. Courts provides this service at www.nysd.uscourts.gov/�courtweb, updated daily, with links to the full-text order or opinion as well as a historical database of previous rulings. Currently, there are only eight courts participating, since judge participation is optional. However, it can still be a valuable resource to attorneys working on cases in those courts and cases that could be affected by a judge’s decision. Other advances in online case �research include the ability of attorneys and other legal staff to get more information and “drill down” into the data that they retrieve through online databases. With today’s technology, attorneys can look up cases similar to their own and �retrieve documents that show how previous cases were won, which arguments found favor with the judge and which �expert witnesses were most credible. Further, users can determine how familiar the judge is with the particular issue at hand and can determine the most viable path to a summary judgment. In complicated cases, attorneys can reference the briefs filed in similar cases to be sure they are emphasizing arguments that have been successful before the court. Reviewing the winning brief from a previous case can ensure a more thorough and comprehensive defense. KEEP TABS ON NEW SUITS Along those same lines, today’s online docket database provides services that notify a user when there has been activity in tracked cases. For example, an �attorney can sign up for a service, enter the name of a person, company, judge or attorney that he or she wants to track and receive notification when that name is involved in any lawsuit or legal filing of any kind. This kind of advance in technology is shaping the way that �attorneys get clients and prepare for their cases. Attorneys using an online docket research and document-retrieval service can give their clients a higher level of service and improve their work product without leaving their offices. The attorneys who stay informed about new �features and services in these areas are able to gain a competitive advantage and build their practices. Damon C. Anastasia, a partner in Chicago-based Seyfarth Shaw’s Los Angeles office, represents corporate clients in the pretrial, trial and appellate phases.

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