Among the new Web sites launched in recent months are ones to help lawyers get noticed, keep informed, manage contracts and get research help. Here is a round-up of recent sites.
Give content, get noticed. That is the premise behind JD Supra, a new site that is part legal networking, part lawyer directory, part document repository and part legal research service. The basic idea is that lawyers use the site to post court filings, favorable decisions, jury verdicts and articles they have written. They can also set up free profiles of themselves and their firms. Their profiles will link to the documents they have contributed and their documents will link back to their profiles.
The plan is that this database of contributions will become a resource for other lawyers, consumers and the news media. Lawyers will use it for research, consumers will use it to find lawyers who have worked on cases similar to theirs, and reporters will use it to get information about new court filings and opinions and to find sources. It will be free for lawyers to create listings and post documents. For a fee, lawyers will be able to enhance their profiles with additional features, such as hyperlinks to blogs and Web sites.
As of this writing, JD Supra remains in a preview mode and is scheduled to launch sometime in December. The founder, Aviva Cuyler, is a San Francisco business lawyer who says the idea came to her while working late one night on a brief.
The idea is good, but the key to the site’s success will be in whether lawyers contribute — and particularly whether they contribute pleadings and briefs. We can find court decisions and articles elsewhere, but useful and relevant court filings remain harder to find. To have these readily available and easily searchable would be a boon.
Now you see it. Over the summer, The ABA Journal unveiled a head-to-toe redesign of its Web site. The biggest news in the redesign is that the magazine’s entire site and all of its content are now open to the public, without regard to ABA membership. That opens a valuable resource that had hitherto been behind locked doors. The site added back issues through 2005 and was slated to include even earlier years. The site supplements the print magazine with court opinions, interview transcripts and other materials.
In addition to the magazine, the new site includes two other notable features. The first, Law News Now, is a continuously updated feed of the day’s legal news stories, selected by staff editors. These stories are also sorted by topic and state for readers wanting more focused news. Second is the Blawg Directory, an index of more than 1,000 blogs written by lawyers, law professors and law students. The index identifies each blog’s author and focus and includes excerpts from its 10 latest posts.
Law for citizen journalists. In this age in which everyone is potentially a journalist, the Citizen Media Law Project is a Web site to teach every citizen journalist the fundamentals of media law. A joint project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Center for Citizen Media, CMLP is in the process of creating a legal guide that will cover a variety of topics relevant to citizen media, including defamation, news gathering, access to places and documents, and intellectual property. The site will also house a database of legal threats against citizen journalists, with full-text pleadings, subpoenas and other documents. CMLP plans to establish a pro bono referral list of lawyers and legal clinics to defend cases against citizen journalists.
Manage contracts. Tractis is a new Web 2.0-style service, still in beta testing as of this writing, that promises to help users manage contracts throughout their lifecycles, from negotiation and execution all the way to dispute resolution. Developed by a Spanish company, Negonation, the site provides a library of contract templates that parties to a negotiation can adopt and customize.
Controls allow the user to create negotiation groups by inviting others to participate and setting their permission levels for viewing and modifying documents. The site maintains a history of all versions and allows commenting and chats related to each contract. Updates can be monitored through alerts sent via e-mail, RSS and text messaging. Eventually, the service will add online conflict resolution, microinsurance and other services, it says. The site offers a tour of its features and a blog to track its development.
YouTube for legal documents. One blogger called docstoc, the YouTube of legal documents. As YouTube does for videos, docstoc allows users to upload and share professional documents. Documents are categorized as legal, business, financial, technological, educational or creative. The collection is searchable via text and tags. Once you find a document, you can download it, e-mail it, link to it or even embed it in a Web page. If the document you need is not on docstoc, file a request and you will be notified when it is.
Linking lawyers, students. Launched by the American Constitution Society, ACS ResearchLink is home base for a project that links the research needs of legal practitioners with law students who perform the research for credit. The idea is that practitioners submit topics they need researched, law students select from among those topics to perform the research under faculty supervision for academic credit, and the resulting papers are provided to the practitioner and also added to a searchable online library.
Federal court audio online. In August, two federal courts began posting audio recordings of courtroom proceedings online, and three others were slated to follow suit. Audio recordings of proceedings in the U.S. District Court in Nebraska and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina are now available through Pacer, at a cost of 16 cents — 8 cents for accessing the docket sheet and another 8 cents for selecting the audio file. Three other courts scheduled to join this pilot project are the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and bankruptcy courts in Maine and Alabama’s Northern District.
Lefty lawyers. The National Lawyers Guild, the organization of politically left-of-center lawyers, law students and others in the legal field, has launched a new Web site and with it a new NLG Press Blog. The blog is intended to make it easier for members of the media and anyone else interested in the NLG to keep up with its news releases.
Find pro bono work. A new resource, the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide, was created to help lawyers find opportunities for pro bono work within their communities. A joint project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and ProBono.net, the guide indexes links to organizations and Web sites that list pro bono opportunities in each state.