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For the paralegal and the legal assistant, the task of navigating the Internet to locate the most comprehensive and current legal information in support of their firm’s litigation tasks has been a daunting one. Just look at the amount of information on the Web, projected at the start of 2005 as approaching 12 billion pages of fact — and, sometimes, fiction. Initially, the paralegal/legal assistant needs to know how to get to the information. Once there, the researcher must be able to organize: making a conscious decision about “what’s hot and what’s not;” separating the good, the bad and the ugly; and all the while keeping a realistic expectation of what the Web contains. What the Web presents is a tremendous capacity for information and it has, quite frankly, barely scratched the surface. That said, don’t tear down the firm’s library just yet. Several years ago, Dan Giancaterino, the Internet librarian at the famed Jenkins Law Library cautioned that the Web has warts. At a seminar in Computer Assisted Legal Research held here in Philadelphia, he encouraged researchers to use the Web to find background facts; regulations, laws and statutes; recent relevant cases; and information about people, places and things. Then, he added this caveat to his presentation: “Don’t cancel your WestLaw or LEXIS account; don’t discard your print reporters; don’t believe everything you find on the Web; and don’t assume everything is online. Anyone can publish a Web page, so follow the four rules for evaluating Web sites: who has the authority for the site; is the site current; is the site complete and accurate; does the site have a bias.” What Giancaterino is recommending is to create a balance between the firm’s library (hard copy) research and Internet research, to secure the optimum result of information gathering. Some of the most extensive and accurate Web sites are virtual law libraries, such as those maintained by Cornell, Georgetown, Emory, Indiana and Washburn universities. In addition, the researcher can feel comfortable with the Internet Law Library, formerly maintained by the House of Representatives and now part of LawGuru; and the Law Library of Congress, just to name two of numerous sites out there. I find the virtual law library sites as comprehensive, accurate and — just as important — user-friendly for the researcher. Cornell University’s Law School maintains the Legal Information Institute. Here you will readily locate court opinions, constitutions and codes, and a feature titled “Law About,” leading the researcher through 125 legal topics in 18 practice areas. The site also links the user to directories of legal organizations, lawyers and legal journals. On the home page, Cornell tracks major current events, law events and significant decisions on important and controversial topics. At Georgetown University’s law library, part of its mission as the research arm of the faculty and students of Georgetown Law Center is to “collect and organize information about research resources on the Web.” This site, as well, is quick-loading, with extensive federal and state collections, and links to other research sources. Georgetown also provides a thorough tutorial section on researching statutory, case law and secondary sources. Meanwhile, at Washburn (Kan.) University School of Law, WashLaw offers a thorough compendium of links to sites of state law information, national law journals and law reviews, and legal organizations and institutes. Case law sites are also linked, along with access to other virtual and hard copy libraries. There are many other first-tier sites, too numerous to mention here, that the paralegal or legal assistant researcher will locate in cruising through the Internet. These sites will provide linkage to additional sites that will, more than likely, contain the answers to the questions posed. As with any research tool, the critical component is to determine the validity of the information source. The law is a living, breathing entity, always subject to change. So, also, is the Internet, providing massive information, most of which is updated or changed in an instantaneous heartbeat. The marriage of the two provides legal researchers with yet another tool to locate, identify and confirm information in the ongoing quest for the facts. John Geis is a freelance litigation paralegal in Philadelphia. A member of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals since 1993, he serves on PAP’s public relations and marketing committee. Geis holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. John’s University and New York University, respectively, and an A.AS. degree in paralegal studies from the Community College of Philadelphia.

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