California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - APRIL 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - April 2001
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News / News Briefs
Bar foundation gives $50,000 grant to fund Conference of Delegates
Bar hit with $2.35 million fee demand in lawyer dues case
Bush administration ends ABA review of judicial candidates
Special publication in May Bar Journal
Davis appoints two public members to board of governors
George lauds five years of reform
2001 Annual Meeting will be held in Anaheim
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - FindLaw: Lawyers' home on the web
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Opinion
From the President - Butter a slice, not a full loaf
Is it wrong to copy a song?
Letters to the Editor
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Update on ethics
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MCLE Self-Study
Kids and the Law
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - 2 new rulings send litigators back to basics
Forgery, grand theft, fraud convictions lead to resignation
Attorney Discipline

LEGAL TECH

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FindLaw: Lawyers' home on the web

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By DANA SHULTZ
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Dana ShultzIf you need a no-cost place to call home while surfing the Web, look at FindLaw (www.findlaw.com). For more than five years, FindLaw has helped lawyers and support personnel conduct research, communicate and practice law. (It also offers legal information for business people and consumers.)

Here are some of FindLaw's most useful features for legal professionals.

Comprehensive Guide

FindLaw's core is a Yahoo!-like guide to legal information. Human-edited site listings cover more than 30 areas of legal practice and law office administration.

For example, under Intellectual Property Law, FindLaw has gathered resources, categorized links to IP sites on the web, and cross-referenced related portions of the FindLaw Guide, such as Copyright and Cyberspace Law.

FindLaw-gathered IP resources include an IP lawyer directory; summaries of IP law; links to online documents, briefs, articles and books; a huge cache of sample IP contracts (mostly taken, it appears, from SEC filings); and a message board.

Tech Center

The Legal Tech Center (tech.lp.findlaw.com) points to the websites of hundreds of hardware and software vendors, consultants and experts. In addition, FindLaw has links to mailing lists and other law office technology sites.

The message board may be the weakest aspect of the Legal Tech Center. When I last looked at it, the message board had only five discussion categories, and the quality of information posted was spotty.

Primary Research

FindLaw Cases and Codes (findlaw.com/casecode) is a collection of federal and state research materials. Some are at the FindLaw site itself; others are available via links to other sites on the web.

FindLaw also provides an extensive collection of federal and state court forms (forms.findlaw.com) plus e-mail delivery of legal news and daily or weekly opinion summaries (newsletters.findlaw.com).

In the spirit of fair play and providing complete information to users, FindLaw lists fee-based competitors to some of FindLaw's free services. For example, regarding California cases and codes, there are descriptions of and links to AccessLaw, American LegalNet, Law.com, Lexis.com, LOIS Law, Netlaw Libraries, VersusLaw and Westlaw.

Other Services

Office Services (office.findlaw.com) is a suite of web-based practice applications, including website hosting, document management, e-mail, fax and voice mail.

The Employment Center (jobs.findlaw.com) offers job placement services and a career center.

Of course, no service is perfect. FindLaw's rectilinear layout, limited font selection and dull colors cry out for a graphic design makeover.

(Perhaps FindLaw purposely subdues the content to attract users to ads that line the top and right side of every screen.)

Furthermore, when it comes to searching case law, fee-based sites require fewer steps and display text that is easier to browse. Nevertheless, FindLaw is a great place to begin looking for legal resources, and the price is right.

Dana Shultz is vice president and legal counsel for an international financial services organization, where he specializes in technology licensing and related transactions.  His e-mail address is dhshultz@ds-a.com.