A Hodgepodge of Legal Web Sites
By Robert J. Ambrogi
BETWEEN my e-mail inbox and my browser's bookmarks list, I accumulate all sorts of new and newlydiscovered Web sites. Some are about the law, some are of interest to lawyers, and some are simply interesting. Every so often, I go through and play catch-up, reviewing the sites that have not yet found their way into this column. What follows, then, is a hodgepodge of places I have come across in recent months.
* When I first visited www.lawperiscope.com, a site that profiles the nation's 300 largest firms using the firms' own Web sites, I was not impressed. Heck, I thought, anyone could pull together a bunch of links to someone else's site.
Then one day I found myself at one of those large firm sites, trying to navigate my way to a particular piece of information, without success. I remembered LawPeriscope, and a few clicks later, I found what I was looking for. I have used it routinely ever since.
The key is LawPeriscope's profiles -- outlines of each firm that take the information on the firm's own site and organize it under a simple and uniform structure. For each firm, LawPeriscope lists offices, practice areas, attorneys, representative clients, seminars and events, publications and resources, and other features, linking directly to the full information wherever it resides on the firm's own site. The result is a well organized resource, easy to use and worth a try.
* In-house counsel are the users Martindale-Hubbell hopes to attract to its new site, corporate.martindale.com, launched Oct. 15. Entirely free after registration, it features a glorified version of the Lawyer Locator, where users can add private notes to lawyers' listings. The site includes access to the Law Digest, summarizing the laws of all 50 states and 80 foreign countries. Also here are databases of ADR providers and expert witnesses.
* The official handbook of the federal government, the United States Government Manual, is an in-depth guide to the organization and staffing of Congress, the courts and the executive branch. It also covers quasi-official entities, international organizations, boards, commissions and committees. The 2001-2002 edition, published in September, can be searched in its entirety or browsed chapter-by-chapter in either PDF or plain-text format.
* In the popular view, lawyers are fighters. But proponents of "preventive law" believe they should also be designers and problem solvers, helping clients avoid problems that could otherwise lead to litigation. Such is the focus of the new Web site of the National Center for Preventive Law at California Western School of Law. Through essays and other materials, it aims to teach lawyers to operate as it puts it "in a fast forward rather than rewind mode."
* Looking for a site to send your clients to for answers to routine legal questions? Launched last August, ABALawInfo is the American Bar Association's legal portal for consumers. Using materials prepared by ABA sections as well as links to external sources, the site provides overviews of the law in the areas of family, home, work, finance, buying and selling and criminal justice. It includes guides to finding a lawyer and to legal self-help.
* To serve process upon a company, you first must identify its resident agent the entity it has designated as its representative in the state. Most states now have Web sites where you can search for resident agents, but finding these sites can be a chore in itself. Resident Agent Information from Maryland lawyer Terry Berger, is a no-nonsense guide to finding this information online, covering all U.S. states, territories and possessions.
* Campaign contributions by plaintiffs' lawyers surpassed $ 1.4 billion last year, according to Tracking the Trial Lawyers. Using information reported to the Federal Election Commission since 1997, the American Tort Reform Foundation compiled this database profiling some 6,000 of the plaintiff bar's most generous contributors. The data, updated quarterly, is current through Sept. 1. Search it by lawyer, firm, recipient or amount.
* For a helping of 'Net nostalgia, set the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody, to the early days of the World Wide Web.
The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, lets you see the Web as it is no longer. It contains more than 10 billion Web pages archived since 1996. Type in an address and be transported back in time. Great fun. But, for lawyers, also of real value, whether to research prior uses, unearth evidence or compile a history.
* If, rather than back in time, you prefer to travel beneath the surface of the Web, to its vast underside of databases and digital archives unseen by traditional search engines, visit The Invisible Web.
This directory, from the authors of the book, The Invisible Web, is a guide to some of the best of these resources. From here, lawyers can find links to patents, land records, corporate filings, marriage registries, professional licenses and much more. Most sites listed are free.
* Terrorism Law & Policy is the focus of this latest addition to Jurist: The Legal Education Network, a wide-ranging, legal education portal. This new section draws together links to Web sources for counter-terrorism laws and policies worldwide, as well as to terrorism-related trial documents, news and general information. Adding perspective to it all is commentary contributed by law professors from throughout the U.S.
* By executive order Oct. 8, President Bush created the Office of Homeland Security and named former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge its director. Now the office has a Web site -- actually a section of the White House site -- where you can read the executive order and follow the office as it gets to work.
Here you will find briefing transcripts, press releases, fact sheets and speeches, alongside "Tips to Protect Against Terrorism" and links to related government information.
* We end this tour at what, in my opinion, is the most useful site for lawyers. It is not a legal one. It is the search engine Google, which in December secured its spot as the best search site with the announcement that it now indexes three billion Web documents.
Its closest competitor indexes barely more than one-fifth that many. Plus, Google now has a complete archive of Usenet discussions, going back to 1981, the year Usenet began. Research most anyone or anything here.
Robert J. Ambrogi is author of The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Web Sites, available through LawCatalog.com.