Legal Research

The great thing about free stuff is that it is free. Nobody cares what kind of plastic junk they’re getting as long as it’s free. Why do sports fans go nuts over t-shirt cannons, even though the shirts are ugly as hell and always XXL? Duh, because they’re free.

To me, it seems logical that no one has any right to complain when free stuff is taken away, or when it turns out to be a major letdown.

If you want a crummy T-shirt so badly, go buy one. If you want to go to Starbucks, don’t complain that your aunt Maggie didn’t give you a big enough gift card for Christmas. Just go buy your coffee.

Judging from a recent LexisNexis online promotion geared toward law students, though, it seems I might be in the minority. On its Facebook page, Lexis has been advertising “challenges” for law students. Supposedly, the first 1,000 students to complete each challenge win 1,000 “Lexis points,” which are similar to credit card rewards points.

Tragically, some computer problems caused students to have trouble accessing and submitting their answers earlier this week. A tidal wave of law school students became enraged and took to Lexis’s Facebook with their fury. Woe to he who angers law students….

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Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of legal writing and English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that only 29% of our readers lie back and think of England when dealing with punctuation and quotation marks. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

This week, we turn to a hotly-debated issue among legal professionals: the use of the Bluebook. At least one federal judge hates it, joining hundreds upon thousands of law students to date.

Should we consider putting the Bluebook on the backburner in our legal writing?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Let me tell you about a couple of cases I lost. Now, wait: before the Commentariat sharpens its knives (“This guy couldn’t get a big-firm job, then loses all his cases. No wonder he’s writing for ATL. Heh.” — Guest), let me point out a few things. In 17 years as an employment litigator, I’ve won plenty more cases than I’ve lost. But I didn’t learn as much from the cases I won; I learned much more from the ones I lost.

So this post covers the single most important lesson I’ve learned in litigation, and now I’m sharing it with you. You didn’t learn it in law school, and you’re not likely to find a CLE on it. But the lesson these two cases illustrate can prevent you from making the most common mistake lawyers make.

And learning that lesson will help you win more cases.…

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[N]eedless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — ‘The horror! The horror!’ — and am tempted to end there.

— Judge Richard Posner, in a scathing Yale Law Journal review of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.).

(For additional discussion and funny excerpts, see Paul Horwitz, Ilya Somin, and Eugene Volokh.)

Although no accredited law school offered night classes, public interest did not require granting of accreditation to law school offering night classes, absent a sound operation, because there was no compelling need for additional law graduates.

Matter of Laclede School of Law, 700 S.W.2d 81 (Mo. 1985) (via Westlaw Headnote of the Day).

Over the next year, LexisNexis is rolling out a completely redesigned research platform, and guess who they’re starting with? From the press release that came out Tuesday:

LexisNexis… today announced the launch of Lexis® Advance for Solos – the first in a series of releases of new Lexis® Advance online legal research tools. Created through close collaboration with solo practice lawyers to meet their unique requirements, Lexis Advance for Solos is the first online legal research solution built specifically for solo attorneys…

That’s right. They’re starting with solos. Maybe we don’t need to worry so much about advancing the small firm agenda after all? Perhaps, but I suspect that the real answer is that solos represent the market where Lexis has the most to gain.

But, let’s not quibble over why it’s here. It’s here, and I got a sneak preview of the new product Monday morning. Said “peek” was actually a LexisNexis-led tour via Microsoft’s Live Meeting, so read this with the caveat that I didn’t have a chance to truly kick the tires.

Dubbed Lexis® Advance for Solos, the product went live for purchase on Monday, October 4, and is available only for one and two lawyer outfits. Future segments of the new Lexis Advance platform, including those specifically for Biglaw and even for paralegals, will roll out over the course of the next year, but who cares? Solos have the floor!

My thoughts on the new product, sample screen shots, and pricing, after the break…

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It’s almost as if Westlaw (Thomson Reuters) had a crystal ball before this year’s LegalTech. From the get-go, they brought out the razzle dazzle in announcing their new WestlawNext. Before you could even enter the exhibit hall, they had music, giant television screens, and people running around with MacBook Airs showing off their new product. Hello smoke, meet mirrors.
However, all the fanfare failed to temper LexisNexis’s big announcement: a legal research partnership with Microsoft. From the ABA Journal

The competition for your legal research dollars just got a little more intense today as LexisNexis unveiled at LegalTech in New York its newest offering: a partnership with Microsoft.
Lexis will now be integrated into Microsoft Office products, allowing users to do legal and general research directly while working in Microsoft Word, Outlook and SharePoint. Users, who must have a Lexis subscription, need only click on a Lexis tab in the ribbon of utilities available in Microsoft Office 2007 and the forthcoming 2010 version to start researching, Shepardizing cases or even gathering information from Bing or Google search engines. There is no need to navigate separately to the Web and log on to Lexis or a search engine.

So the salvos here at LegalTech have been launched. Will Westlaw have to “Google-ize” themselves as well, or (dare I say) “Twitterize”? Let’s not forget about Bloomberg’s entry into the fray with BLAW. Who knows, maybe they will attempt legal research on Foursquare. Kidding, kidding.
One thing is for certain, the battle continues…

Bloomberg Law BloombergLaw Lexis Westlaw rival.jpg.pngIt’s been a long time coming, but Bloomberg is finally ready to unveil its new legal research tool. It will compete with Lexis and Westlaw for the hearts and minds of law students and junior associates across the land.
Bloomberg Law will have its launch party at the end of the month at the west side offices of Willkie Farr.
It is way too early to tell if Bloomberg Law will truly offer an innovation in case law research. But we already know the company has put a metric ton of money into the product.
And we know that they’ve been hiring former attorneys for at least two years. I found out about the Bloomberg Law project way back in early 2007, when I was freelancing and looking for work (I declined to follow up on the opportunity). More recently, if you know a New York attorney who was laid off at the end of 2008 who didn’t interview with Bloomberg, then you know a New York attorney that wasn’t really trying that hard to get a job.
Click here (PDF) to check out Bloomberg Law’s initial offerings.
We’ve learned how to Shepardize, we’ve learned how to KeyCite, will we all soon learn how to Citator?

Puerto Rico law Westlaw boycott.JPGLife happens fast. This morning we reported that Thomson Reuters had revoked free printer access to law schools in Puerto Rico.
It seems that the policy has now been reversed. A message from University of Puerto Rico law professor José Julián Álvarez González, after the jump.

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Puerto Rico law Westlaw boycott.JPGUpdate (4:15): After this post went was published, Thomson Reuters reversed course and reinstated the free printer access to Puerto Rican law schools. Click here for our coverage.
Thomson Reuters owns Westlaw and is one of the two major gatekeepers to legal research in the modern world. Recently, the company made an economic decision that some claim unfairly impacts law students in Puerto Rico. A tipster reports:

It seems Westlaw has decided to cut their free printer service to the four Puerto Rico Law schools for economic reasons, while keeping the service in all US law schools.

Why would Westlaw only discontinue free printer access to Puerto Rican law students? One Westlaw user wrote to Thompson Reuters, asking the company to reconsider its decision. But he also seems to have figured out why Westlaw made this decision.

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