Researching the Legal Web 2nd edition

By Nick Holmes on November 25, 1999
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Researching the Legal Web: a guide to legal resources on the internet

By Nick Holmes and Delia Venables
Published by Butterworths, November 1999, 228pp

In 1999 this was the ‘must have’ book for those using, or wanting to know about, the UK legal web. It references around 1,000 sites then of real practical value to the online lawyer. Liberally illustrated with screenshots.

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Structure and Content of the Book
  • Concepts and Jargon
  • Accessing the Websites
  • The Authors’ Websites

Chapter 2: Who’s on the Legal Web

  • Government
  • Development of the Lord Chancellor’s Department Website by Mike Wicksteed
  • Parliaments
  • The Courts
  • Professional Bodies
  • Firms of Solicitors
  • Law Firm Groups
  • Barristers
  • Associations of Individual Lawyers

Chapter 3: What’s on the Legal Web

  • Legislation
  • Cases
  • Court Practice and Procedures
  • Forms
  • Other Official Documents and Information
  • Information Age Government
  • Online Journals and Legal Newspapers
  • Newsletters by Email
  • Legal Software and Information Technology Suppliers
  • Expert Witnesses
  • Jobs Online

Chapter 4: Law Publishers on the Web

  • General Law Publishers and Law Reporting Services
  • Legal Research on the Internet by James Behrens
  • Publishers in Particular Areas of Law
  • Other Publisher Websites

Chapter 5: Legal Resources by Topic

  • Topics A-Z

Chapter 6: Finding things on the Web

  • Search Engines
  • Portals

Chapter 7: Purchasing things on the Web

  • Buying Goods
  • Buying Software and Information

Chapter 8: Lawyers Doing Business on the Web

  • Marketing for Solicitors
  • Legal Transactions on the Web
  • Getting Business from the Web – Practical Experience by Michael D Kaye
  • Legal e-commerce by Neil Cameron
  • Marketing for Barristers
  • Benefits for Barristers of a Good Website by Tim Lamb QC and Charles Dougherty

Chapter 9: Intranets, Knowledge Management and Extranets

  • Introduction
  • The Intranet at Bevan Ashford by Mike Robinson and Heather Robinson

Chapter 10: Legal Education on the Web

  • Law Schools and Course Providers
  • Delivering Legal Courses via the Web by Michael Semple Piggot
  • Resources for Law Students
  • Careers, Training Contracts and Pupillages
  • Organisations Providing Courses for CPD

Chapter 11: Scotland

  • Scottish Legal Resources – Cyber Hame by David Flint

Chapter 12: Ireland

Chapter 13: International Legal Resources

  • Europe
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Finding More International Resources

Preface

When we wrote the first edition of this book, over the summer of 1997, there was already an enormous amount of information available on the web for lawyers. The last two years have seen this multiply many times, both in variety and quantity, and what was then a useful but limited information resource is now at the very centre of modern legal research and practice.

The law publishers, in 1997, were concerned that they should be present on the web with at least some part of their published resources. Now, they are only too aware that any publisher who does not provide the vast majority of its available material on the web will very soon be dead. Indeed, the question in the board rooms must surely have shifted from ‘Should we put material onto the web?’ to ‘Should we still publish material in hard copy form?’ Similarly, librarians in legal firms will no longer be asking ‘Do we need to provide web access to these materials as well as buying the books?’ but ‘Which resources are better provided online (and possibly on the firm’s intranet) rather than in book or journal form?’

In Government departments the question ‘How can we justify the resources needed to provide a web presence?’ will have changed to ‘How can we satisfy the Prime Minister’s instruction that 25% of the government’s interaction with the citizen should be carried out on the web by 2002?’

Amongst firms of solicitors, the argument has shifted from ‘Should we take any notice of this thing called the web?’ to ‘If we do not work out how to provide at least some of our legal services on the web, we will lose a serious amount of our business?’ Furthermore, many legal advisors, at least those who deal in cutting edge cases, cannot now afford to say ‘I know my way round the printed resources better than the online ones?’ as they must ask themselves ‘Will we be found negligent if we do not know what happened in the courts yesterday?’

In the commercial world, there are serious signs of overheating in the stock exchange where internet stocks go up – and sometimes come down – with alarming speed. The term ‘e-commerce’ probably appears more often in the financial pages than any other.

Against this background, therefore, we have attempted to bring together the most important legal resources, both research and practice-based, as well as many examples illustrating how lawyers are using the web to develop their practice. We hope that this volume will assist the lawyer both in the daily grind and in planning for the future.

We are indebted to our guest authors who have covered several topics in a way which we ourselves could not have done. These include a description of, respectively, Scottish and Irish legal resources on the web, a detailed review of legal research services on the web, a description of how the Lord Chancellor’s Department website is developing, legal education on the web and several case studies of how firms and chambers are marketing themselves, or providing legal services, on the web.

Nick Holmes
Delia Venables
30 September 1999

Society for Computers and Law magazine:
review of the first edition by Laurence Eastham

The reason this is a very good book, and a very valuable resource, is that the diligent research on the Web which would match the knowledge to be gained from the book would take a very long time and would create a very large phone bill. Even then you would be lucky to have evaluated sites in the same sober and sensible way or to have the benefit of the opinions of others with greater expertise developed over a long period. You would be even luckier if, given the amount of time you would have to spend online, you were not frustrated by some technological or other hitch (such as divorce). . . .

The authors are very widely known as experts on the Web. Nick Holmes founded infolaw, providers of electronic publishing services to legal publishers and lawyers. He has kept riding the wave of interest and advances in electronic publishing for a number of years and is an oft-quoted authority. Delia Venables will be familiar to readers of these pages for her many practical and sage articles on aspects of the use of IT in legal practice, but the Internet is very definitely her special strength. I was recently a party to a conversation where the term ‘a Delia’ was used to represent someone with expertise in the area and the ability to communicate that expertise to those much less experienced – rather as a Hoover is used to describe any vacuum cleaner.

The book is concerned to describe what is available on the Web and how to get to it. It makes liberal use of screenshots and extracted material but it is the quality of the commentary and the numerous guest articles which is its greatest asset. The best compliment I can pay the guest articles is that I would have been delighted to have published every one of them. I found the insight into the way in which the contributors used the Web very helpful.

If you are venturing out onto the Web with a view to serious research for the first time, this book is an indispensable guide – it will teach you more than I had learned in many hours of Web-based searching. If you have tried research on the Web, but have given up in frustration, then try again after reading the book. If, like me, you are quite an experienced user of the Web but no expert, you are going to find an awful lot of good solid advice and I guarantee that you will be visiting a site that you had previously overlooked or which you suddenly realise has more potential than you thought. If you are a real expert on legal research on the Web, you have probably written a guest article and got a copy already. —

Above all this book will save you time and increase your knowledge. That is enough of a reason to buy it, but the glory of this increase in knowledge will be that it is exponential; you can use that to access the vast array of information on the Web.

What our readers said

“The reason this is a very good book, and a very valuable resource, is that the diligent research on the Web which would match the knowledge to be gained from the book would take a very long time and would create a very large phone bill. Even then you would be lucky to have evaluated sites in the same sober and sensible way or to have the benefit of the opinions of others with greater expertise developed over a long period. …

Above all this book will save you time and increase your knowledge. That is enough of a reason to buy it, but the glory of this increase in knowledge will be that it is exponential; you can use that to access the vast array of information on the Web.”

Laurence Eastham, legal writer and editor, in Computers & Law Magazine.

“. . . highly informative, providing critical and impartial reviews, complete with screenshots of major legal websites. . . . This is a useful and well-researched book which I would have little hesitation in recommending. For people wanting to use the Web for legal research, but without the time to search for sites, it will be a highly useful, and time-saving resource. The . . . integration with the authors’ websites means that even if the addresses change, the book should still be valid”

Simon Speight in the Journal of Information, Law & Technology

“There are many publications explaining how organisations can reap commercial benefit from publishing their own web pages, but yours was the only one I could find which concentrated on how a particular industry could use information stored on the internet for commercial benefit and to make working life easier.”

Cable London Business

“Very well written, it . . . will fast become the lawyers’ first, and possibly last, reference point.”

Legal Executive Journal