litigators now have access to a comprehensive research library on the World Wide Web. But
before I tell you more, it's disclosure time.
American LegalNet (www.americanlegalnet.com) is one of my clients.
While I received fees from the company for providing consulting services, I did not
receive a fee for writing or placing this article. I am writing it because American
LegalNet offers litigators something special.
Part of American LegalNet's appeal lies in the wealth of materials that are available.
These include all Judicial Council and county forms; the rules of all state and federal
courts in California; extensive collections of state and federal cases; California Codes;
jury instructions and more.
However, it is the underlying technology that really makes the service special. First,
American LegalNet uses Folio LivePublish for searching and displaying materials. The
search screen is intuitive yet powerful. Results appear quickly and documents can be
navigated easily. Much information appears on each screen, but it is presented clearly.
Users can search all data bases at once with a single query.
Second, users can fill out forms online and print the completed forms. Competing online
services provide forms in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. These forms must be printed out,
then completed in a separate step (e.g., using a typewriter).
Finally, completed Judicial Council forms can be digitally signed and submitted via
e-mail. (American LegalNet says this capability will be added to county forms shortly.) As
courts start moving toward electronic filing, these features will provide a significant
The service should be particularly attractive to litigators who are out of the office a
lot. They can use research materials and complete court forms anywhere they can find the
Web - at home, in a hotel room or at a cyber café.
American LegalNet is affordable. The one-time software license fee is $25. A $39
monthly fee buys unlimited usage. The monthly fee drops to $29 with a six-month commitment
and $19 with a one-year commitment.
As one might expect from a fairly new service, there are some problems, though none is
too severe. Occasional data formatting inconsistencies suggest the need for a bit more
Most significant, American LegalNet's proprietary browser plugin must be downloaded if
you want digital signatures and electronic filing. At dial-up speed, the download took
longer than one-half hour. Fortun-ately, this is a one-time operation.
I believe that American LegalNet is the best Website designed specifically for
California litigators. If you would like to do some comparison shopping, check out
Jurisearch (www.jurisearch.com) and Netlaw
To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I have discussed a client at
length in this column. If you have an opinion about this practice, please let me know how
you feel via e-mail.
Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer,
certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He
may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and
on the web at www.ds-a.com.