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No. 17, February 2001  

Internet Software Research Sites

Attorneys have long done legal research into case law using services such as Lexis and Westlaw, and more recently the Internet (if only you know where to look). As dot-com services for the legal community mushroomed, lawyers expanded their use of the Internet to include job searches, hiring, finding specialized services such as expert witnesses or court reporters, and as a way to keep up to date on legal developments. Today, having its own web site is increasingly a requirement for a law firm.

Parallel to the shakeout in other dot-com services, legal services on the web are undergoing massive shakeouts and restructuring, as well as expansion. Many ASPs (Application Service Providers) will certainly also fail, and the survivors are likely to be sponsored by or absorbed into major existing companies and services, such as Lexis, West or Elite. West has just acquired findlaw.com and may fuse it with lawoffice.com. Lexis has announced a series of "partnerships" with other vendors, such as the case management program Time Matters. Many other sites offer services, but very little in the way of technology information, not to mention advice. 

This article focuses on sites available to attorneys looking for legal software that will fit their firm's specific needs, be it Trusts & Estates, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, or other areas.

To start, you need to find a list of what software is available. A number of sites provide lists of software in general areas such as case management, as well as for specific practice areas. These include findlaw.com, listings on the American Bar Association site and others listed in the table on page 2. The lists are a haystack: you must then find the needle. Findlaw lists 78 programs under "Case Management." In some cases the lists are easy to pare down, for example in family law where many of the 22 programs listed are state-specific, but in most cases you are on your own. These sites generally provide a link to the vendor of the specific software. This is a good start and a general impression can be gleaned from vendor sites, e.g. pricing and general target audience (is a program tailored for P.I. firms, large firms, etc.). But you need a more detailed evaluation: no vendor is going to tell you what the shortcomings of their product are. So what you need is reviews.

There are four sources of reviews: online reviews, listservs, print media and consultants.

Online Reviews

Ziff Davis (www.zdnet.com) maintains an archive of reviews, but these are more for general software and hardware, and contain almost no reviews of legal-specific products. However, if you need a new scanner, color printer, etc. this is a good place to start.

The ongoing Internet services shakeout is rapidly putting an end to "free" services and many sites are resorting to subscription-only access to online reviews. One of the best sites, the Law Office Computing archive, is now accessible only using a password contained in the print copy of the magazine, and the password is changed with every issue. In short, you must subscribe to the print media in order to access the online source. Many ABA resources are "members only." Other sites require that you register with the site, and even if registration does not cost money it is likely to result in a sharp increase in your junk e-mail since the registration lists are routinely sold to other vendors (don't believe the disclaimers: it will happen).

A new service, www.lawcommerce.com, says it will offer reviews and articles concerning a short list of "premier" legal software, This site was launched at the end of January with the backing of a number of major law firms, but it remains to be seen how it will develop.

Print Media

The three major magazines that are sources for substantive information are Law Office Computing, Law Technology News (part of the American Lawyer group), and the ABA's Law Practice Management magazine (see page 2 for subscription information). 

Listservs

Listservs and discussion groups can be an invaluable source of information. This is an easy way to get questions and information relatively rapidly, that is, anywhere from within a few hours to a week or two. In addition, you will be getting the views of practicing attorneys and legal consultants so the results are more focussed. The best of the general listservs is technolawyer.com. Practice-specific discussion groups can be found starting from the ABA site or Hieros Gamos.

Consultants

Unless you are specifically interested in technology per se, your best bet is to find a consultant you can trust and ask him to spend an hour or two every six months going over new programs and services that may fit your practice. Naturally, this does not commit you to actually purchasing anything, but it can give you a better idea of what other firms are doing and what options are available to you. As one client once said to me, "Every piece of software I don't own is a potential threat to my business," because it may enable other firms to gain a competitive advantage for their practice offerings
 
Some Internet Sources for Lawyers
 

Attorney Services

There are a number of services that let you locate an attorney (in another juristiction or with a specialized practice, for example), expert witnesses, court reporters, etc. These include: http://www.law.comhttp://www.attorney.com, http://www.jdfinder.com, and http://www.lawoffice.com. . Other major sites include:

http://www.hg.org/hg.html . Hieros Gamos. Lives up to its claim to be the "Comprehensive Legal and Government Portal. Includes information on 200 practice areas and 400 discussion groups.

http://www.abanet.org . The ABA web site. Lists ABA services and publications.

http://www.llrx.com. Web-based legal news publication. 

 

Lists of Software

http://www.findlaw.com. Links to other services. Lists a variety of technology information and general practice software as well as for 24 specific practice areas. Access directly at http://tech.lp.findlaw.com

http://www.lawyerware.com. More limited listing of sites. Indicates demo versions available and platform compatibility.

http://www.legalresourcelinks.com. Selected list of most popular software in additional to other legal services.

http://www.yahoo.com/law. Variety of categories, but limited listing of specific practice areas. Oriented toward general public.

http://www.zdnet.com. Non legal-specific software and hardware reviews.

Listservs

http://www.technolawyer.com. This is a moderated site, so the discussion is more structured (and there may be delays in having your post appear). The "technolawyer" column in Law Office Computing is derived from posts to this listserv.

http://www.abanet.org/lpm. Lists a variety of electronic forums and magazines. Subscribe to monthly "lawpractice.news"

http://mail.abanet.org/archives/lawtech.html. Much higher volume, unmediated discussion listx. 

http://www.hg.org/hg.html. Hieros Gamos. 400 specific practice area discussion groups of varying usefulness.
 

Print media

Law Technology News. See http://www.lawtechnews.com. Email to circ@amlaw.com for subscription information.

Law Office Computing. http://www.lawofficecomputing.com for subscription info. Virtually the only site that has product reviews. However, you must subscribe to the print media to be able to access the site (the password is listed in the magazine and changed monthly)

ABA Law Practice Management. Various publications. See http://www.abanet.org/lpm. See John Heckman's article on Reveal Codes at http://www.abanet.org/lpm/newsarticle11093_front.shtml.
 

WordPerfect Information

http://www.corel.com/support/index.htmand

http://venus.corel.com/kbsearch are the official Corel sites for technical information. Searchable.

http://www.wpwin.com. Site sponsored by Gordon McComb. Aside from the Corel discussion groups, the best place to get WordPerfect questions answered.

http://www.consultwebs.com/wpsoftware.htm. Substantial listings on Word vs. WordPerfect issues.

Microsoft Word Information

http://support.microsoft.com/support takes you directly to the knowledge base. But you have to register & provide personal information (e-mail address & registration number).

http://www.wopr.com. Site operated by Woody Leonhard & Co. The best overall site to find solutions for what bugs you about Microsoft products. Newsletters on specific topics (Word, Outlook, Excel, etc.) reach a total of 400,000 users.

http://www.primeconsulting.com/annoyances/index.htm . The site for the "Microsoft Annoyances" series of books. Also has an index of past issues and news


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No.21 April 2002
Future of Case Management Programs
No.20 October 2001
Disaster Recovery Small and Medium Firms
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