LexisNexis / Lexis-Nexis

Where would lawyers be without open (and absurdly expensive) access to Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis for legal research? They’d have to trudge down to the closest law library and read real books made of paper. They’d have to head over to the courthouse and pull actual files with non-electronic documents inside of them. In a time where legal texts are used solely for decorative bookshelf purposes, that is just too much to ask.

But that is the behavior that two lawyers would expect of their professional colleagues. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, they claim that the legal database providers have been engaging in “unabashed wholesale copying of thousands of copyright-protected works created by, and owned by, the attorneys and law firms who authored them.”

Do they have any chance of winning their class action copyright suit?

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Casey Anthony is pissed.

* And now another reason for lawyers to hate other lawyers (even more than they already do): Westlaw and LexisNexis are being sued for copyright infringement for selling access to publicly filed legal documents. [WSJ Law Blog]

* MGA Entertainment’s antitrust suit against Mattel has been dismissed. In celebration, attorneys from Quinn Emanuel will buy themselves hot pink convertibles while singing that “Barbie Girl” song. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Yesterday in the Golinski case, a federal judge ruled that the definition of marriage under DOMA is unconstitutional. Come on, even a Bush II appointee knows what’s up. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* After finally realizing that he was a lawyer and not an agent — and that his most infamous client wasn’t worth as much as he thought — Jose Baez dropped Casey Anthony like a bad habit. [Miami Herald]

* Former University of Virginia lax player George W. Huguely V was found guilty of second degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love. UVA students are instructed to pop their collars at half-staff. [Bloomberg]

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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'How do I get these stupid marks to disappear from my document?'

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about some über expensive and embarrassing examples of lawyers making technological mistakes.

Those stories involved sexily scandalous blunders, but they were relatively extreme scenarios. (If turning over thousands of privileged documents happens regularly at your firm, may God help you.)

More frequently, firm employees deal with little technological snafus that are just annoying, pointless, and a waste of time. In a world where attorneys might literally be working themselves to death, every second of the day counts. It’s when people can’t handle mundane, seriously easy computer tasks that daily tasks become inefficient and infuriating.

Keep reading for some true stories of the technologically challenged….

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Daniel de Juan, a sales engineer from Mitratech, summed up perfectly what LegalTech was like for me this year: “Being at LegalTech is almost like being at a casino, in the sense that you lose all track of time.”

Two years ago, I found the conference to be pretty intimidating, and that was when the conference was much smaller due to the weak economy. Last year, LegalTech New York was much bigger, and I found it slightly overwhelming. This year, due to some bad planning on my part, I came home from LegalTech utterly exhausted.

It seems I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. After a quick search on the Internet, I have seen only a few things written up about the conference, so I’m guessing many people went through the same experience. (For example, I spoke with members of The Posse List on the first night, and they told me that they were gearing up to do 36 interviews during the two and a half day conference — so it must have been a whirlwind for them as well.)

That said, here are some musings from my adventure last week….

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Above the Law’s coverage of small law firms is about to ramp up. We will soon be announcing our two new writers on the small firm beat.

(If you responded to our open call for new columnists, we thank you for your interest. We received a slew of excellent applications, which made the selection process very difficult.)

Also on the topic of small firms, I recently had the pleasure of judging the LexisNexis Ultimate Law Firm Marketing Makeover contest, open to solo practitioners and small law firms across the country. I was joined on the judging panel by legal marketing guru Larry Bodine; Carolyn Elefant, of MyShingle.com; and David Palmieri and Carol Eversen, both vice presidents at LexisNexis.

So who won the grand prize — a suite of LexisNexis law firm marketing services, valued at $50,000?

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To borrow a line from Sharon Nichols, I judge you when you have a poor website.

Like it or not, we live in a superficial world where your website is judged on a daily basis — and not just by me. Friends, colleagues, potential employees and most importantly potentially paying clients are all looking at you — watching, judging.

Of course, there’s the old adage that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but do you know why that’s an old adage? Because we all judge books by their cover, and by “book” I mean “your law firm.” But fear not, you of the static, monochromatic firm website that still lists now-departed associates. Your salvation lies in the hands of your beloved managing editor, David Lat — at least partially….

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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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google.jpgLast week Google engineer Anurag Acharya sent a shot across the bow of the multi-million dollar legal publishing business. “Starting today,” he wrote on the Google blog, people will be able to use Google Scholar to “find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts.” And in typical Google fashion, these searches will be intuitive and simple. “You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in,” he wrote.
That sounds familiar…. That sounds like a service law firms pay bajillions of dollars for every year. There’s been some speculation across the Web that Google Scholar’s new offering is a red flag for LexisNexis and Westlaw.
Robert Ambrogi of Legal Blog Watch writes:

Inevitably, Google’s announcement leads to another round of predictions that 2012 has arrived for Westlaw and LexisNexis. Scott Greenfield wonders whether the news signals the end of the duopoly. Social Media Law Student says this could fast become the preferred tool for “law students and lawyers of the younger generation (and tech-savvy elders as well).” But Carolyn Elefant says Google is unlikely to replace Wexis for some time to come. “Even as free services launch, the premium legal services still continue to improve,” she writes. “So the gap still remains between legal research haves and have-nots.”

We checked in with LexisNexis and Westlaw. They aren’t citing any fear. After the jump, get their reactions and take our poll about your plans for Google legal scholar.

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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?

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