California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - MAY 1999
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - May 1999
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News
Lending compassion to a difficult situation
Legal specialist exam set Aug. 29
Board to meet June 25-26
Domestic violence group seeking volunteers
Northern California legal services board to fill five vacancies
Court statistics report now available on CD
For Y2K advice, link through bar's web site
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Trials Digest
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Opinion
Hear the cries this time
A single letter, a big increase
Train time at the ABA
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From the President - Door to justice must be open
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Letters to the Editor
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Legal Tech - Litigation library great for attorneys out of office
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New Products & Services
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MCLE Self-Study
The Disabled Practitioner
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - What to do when a client goes missing
Attorney charged with exposing clients to deportation
Attorney Discipline
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Public Comment

LEGAL TECH

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Litigation library great for attorneys out of office

Part of the appeal lies in wealth of materials available; part, too, is affordability, ability to complete forms online and then e-mail them

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By DANA SHULTZ
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Dana ShultzCalifornia 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.

Underlying technology

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 benefit.

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.

Minor drawbacks

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 quality control.

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 Libraries (www.netlawlibraries.com).

Final note

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 dhshultz@ds-a.com and on the web at www.ds-a.com.