Surfing the ‘net--legal resources online

This year, I decided to write my annual article1 on doing legal research on the Internet. I have access to the ‘net and I have the test version of Internet Law Library and my malpractice carrier sent me Counsel Connect and Lawyers Legal Research Online, so I figured I had a good start. At least I thought I did. I sat down at my computer the Saturday before the article was due in Carson City to load Counsel Connect (I got it quite some time ago, but between the legislative session and PLD2, I just haven’t had time to load it). I loaded it. It loaded and then I got to the part where it asked for a password. I looked through the documentation which said that the password would be on the box with the disks. What box. My disks came in a folder with the documentation. Maybe I got clever and put it with my other passwords and user access codes! No such luck. Maybe I put it in my Rolodex. No such luck. Maybe I had a file made for Counsel Connect. No such luck. Maybe I can call the support staff. Sorry, they closed one hour ago.

On Monday night, I got an insight. Maybe its in the file with my malpractice policy. Tuesday morning, 7:00 a.m., no such luck. At least this time Counsel Connect was open. I should have the password by Friday and the new software by Monday. The article is due on Friday, maybe I can stall Gail for one or two days.

I did get lucky and find the disk for LLR OnLine. I start loading it. It’s a DOS disk. I didn’t know there was still DOS software. The instructions say that if it loads correctly, the modem will automatically initialize. It didn’t. The instructions say that, “the most common item needing attention will be the Comm Port--make sure the settings reflect the correct modem port.” I try all four modem ports. No contact. Well, since Counsel Connect is going to e-mail my new password, maybe I can talk to the LLR OnLine people by e-mail. I’ll check their website (http://www.llr.com) for an e-mail address or feedback section. I go online. I try and I try and I try and I cannot connect. I’ll try later.

The reason that I’m going through all this is to evaluate the systems that are available for online research. Searching the Internet, even as a person who is experienced at developing boolean queries (think of a Westlaw or Lexis search--those are boolean queries), can lead to a large number of misses. The systems that I want to evaluate are actually hubs which allow quicker and neater access to specialized areas of the law. For example, Internet Law Library allows access to the Westlaw Legal Directory. If you need an attorney in the middle of nowhere Louisiana (one of the guys I share space with did), you can find names quickly. You can also access various codes, cases and treatises without having to know the specific site address (e.g., http://www.whatever). For example, Gerald Blanchard, author of “Lender Liability: Law, Practice and Prevention” maintains a website containing an overview of lender liability law, a Hot Topic list and links to other pages. The one area that Internet Law Library is deficient in is personal injury information. There is information scattered throughout other subheadings, such as the Index to U.S. EPA Test Methods is contained in the Environmental Law category. But there’s always ATLA (http://www.atlanet.org) which can link a user to other sites.

ATLA reports that the ‘Lectric Law Library (http://www. lectlaw.com)was rated CNN’s Best Legal Resource site. But you wouldn’t know about it, unless you read the ATLA Advocate. The ‘Lectric Law Library has a straight-forward presentation of its information and it is cookie-free3. Start with the tour of the library. A caution to those who have no sense of humor--you will not be amused. The library itself is well organized and appears to be well-stocked. Many of the files are zipped and you must be able to unzip them (a function of your navigation system) before you can read them.

ATLA also lists several other sites of interest. Hiero Gamos (www.hg.org) is a site that is excessively well organized. The listings and topics are extensive and organized in a three-tiered hierarchy. There is one odd component. If you wish to return to the home page4, then hit the return bar. If you wish to step back a screen, then hit the right mouse key. I went searching under Torts to see what they had and the one article I wanted to read was moved by AOL and the link had not yet been updated, but I’m certain that is not indicative of Hieros Gamos. ATLA lists Lawmall on its source list. I’m not impressed.

On Thursday, I finally got in touch with LLR. It is now Versus Law. Its home page, titled V5, is well laid out. The site is easy to navigate and is quick loading. I still haven’t gotten my Counsel Connect e-mail.6

The sites that will be of most interest to Nevada Lawyers are the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau’s site, the Clark County site and, of course, NTLA’s site. The LCB’s site (www.leg.state.nv.us) provides an easy was to track bills during those interminable legislative sessions. It also provides a link to Nevada Revised Statutes. Let’s see if the website is updated before the Michie version arrives to see if it is really worthwhile. The Clark County site (www.co.clark.nv.us) allows quick access to real property information which makes it easier to determine who held title to a property at what time. The documents themselves are not online and the exact nature of the title may not be online, but it streamlines the process so a runner can be given instructions to obtain a particular document based on recording date and time obtained online. It looks like business licensing information will be online at some time in the future. The heavens only know when the Clark County Clerk will be online for more than basic information.

No article in the Advocate about technology would be complete without a reference to the NTLA Website. Located at www.ntla.org, it provides information about the organization and the benefits for members. As with ATLA, there is a section set aside for members only. Members received their access codes upon payment of their 1997/98 dues. Also included in the site is the “Cool Spots” section which highlights new websites of interest to NTLA members.

The primary point to keep in mind is that the Internet is called the World Wide Web for a reason, it is a set of interconnected links of information. Despite all the talk about an information superhighway, the Internet is anything but linear like a highway. On the Internet, there are many ways to get to the same place--sometimes it takes jumping through several links to get there, sometimes you can get there with only one or two stops. The sources listed assist in reducing the number of steps that it takes to find the needed information as well as the resultant frustration level which tends to rise the longer the search takes. It is, like any treasure hunt, worthwhile, not only for the treasure, but also for the experience. Happy Surfing.

1 Annual articles for the Advocate are required of NTLA Board Members.
2 Ask Tom Christensen what this is, he’ll be glad to enroll you.
3 Cookies are deposits left on your machine when you visit a website so the website will recognize you if and when you revisit the site. They allow the website operator to obtain information about you or your machine.
4 A home page is a starting point for viewing a website. Some are very dramatic (at one time Westwood Studios used a set of theater curtains [www.westwood.com]; interior decorators also do dramatic home pages). Other home pages a simply lists of what’s there.
5 Wasn’t that a Leon Uris book?
6 As of Monday, August 4, 1997, 10:00 am pacific, I still had not received my new password and user name, so I can’t review the site.