Are you still excited about the Internet? You should be.
By Erik J. Heels
First published 5/1/1996; L.A. Daily Journal, “CyberLawyer” section; publisher: L.A. Daily Journal Corporation
If 1994 was the year of the Internet, and if 1995 was the this-time-we-really-mean-it year of the Internet, then 1996 is the year of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately. The hype of the past two years has worn off, but the incredible growth of the Internet continues. Are you still excited about the Internet? You should be. Most new major technologies (electricity, telephone, television, fax) took about 10 years to be embraced by a majority of US residents. The Internet is being adopted at twice that rate. Yes, 1996 will be a telling year for the Internet as companies attempt to get your attention without the benefit of media hype. For legal professionals, the message appears to have been received loud and clear. Of the top 100 law firms in the country, 93 have registered domain names, and about a third of those have their own Web sites. And with good reason. Your clients and potential clients are there, your colleagues are there, law-related resources are there, and cost-effective Internet solutions are available. This article summarizes who and what you’ll find on the Internet.
Back in 1992, I started compiling my book “The Legal List, Law-Related Resources on the Internet and Elsewhere,” the seventh edition of which is now published in paper and on the Web by Lawyers Cooperative Publishing (http://www.lcp.com/The-Legal-List). The bad news is that the Internet is growing so rapidly that it is becoming increasingly difficult for authors to compile (and for paper publishers to cost-effectively publish) such compilations. The good news is that big-name legal publishers are making their way to the Internet with compilations of their own. For example, on June 1, 1996, Martindale-Hubbell (http://www.martindale.com) will put its directory of 900,000 lawyers on the Internet, giving every lawyer in American a de facto presence — or home page — on the Internet. Martindale-Hubbell, already THE name in paper-based lawyer directories, will soon be THE name in Internet-based lawyer directories. Did I mention that 1996 will be a telling year for the Internet?
The Internet is being used today by legal professionals to supplement other forms of legal research. And while it’s true that there is a great deal of information that is not there, more and more information is being published on the Internet every day.
On the federal site, you can find the US Code (http://law.house.gov/usc.htm), pending legislation (http://thomas.loc.gov), the Code of Federal Regulations (http://law.house.gov/4.htm), and the Federal Register (http://thorplus.lib.purdue.edu/gpo/). These sites are all free, and many of them are searchable.
Business and financial resources are also available. Some examples include the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval) database (http://www.sec.gov/edgarhp.htm), which contains searchable 10K and 10Q filings. InterQuote (http://www.interquote.com/cgi-bin/search) provides a searchable database of stock market symbols and company names. And PC Quote, Inc., offers stock market quotes (http://www.pcquote.com/index.html) online.
On the state level, you’ll find much of the same information, especially in high-tech states such as California. The California Code (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html) and legislation (http://www.sen.ca.gov/www/leginfo/SearchText.html) are online and searchable. Case law (9th Circuit, California Supreme Court, and Courts of Appeal) is available from CalLaw (http://www.callaw.com), a Web site run by “The Recorder.” The National Conference of State Legislatures (http://www.ncsl.org) lists many state legislative Web sites, and most ABA-accredited law schools are also on the Net (http://www.usc.edu/dept/law-lib/librarys/locators.html).
Still not convinced? The Internet has a wealth of secondary law. Many law firms are publishing articles online, such as one published by Frank A. Lattal, of Connell, Foley & Geiser entitled “Ex Parte Interviews of Employees and Former Employees: Balancing Ethics and the Unfettered Discovery of Facts” (http://www.cfg-lawfirm.com/lattal.html). Law journal articles and papers to which the authors have retained copyright can gain second life on the Internet. In fact, there are already many law journals on the Net (http://lawlib.wuacc.edu/washlaw/lawjournal/lawjournal.html). One of those journals is JOLT, the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology (http://www.urich.edu/~jolt/). Edited by Richard P. Klau, a third-year student at the University of Richmond School of Law, JOLT was the first law journal published exclusively online (the Internet, Lexis-Nexis, and Westlaw). JOLT is an excellent example of how the Internet is changing legal research and legal publishing as many now know it.
In addition to Web sites, there are many e-mail-based and Usenet-based discussion groups related to law. “Law Lists” (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/lawlists/info.html) is the best compilation of law-related electronic mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups. It is maintained by Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago (email@example.com). It is also searchable (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/law-lists).
Of course, not all Internet info is law-related. You can also make plane reservations (http://www.itn.net), find people’s phone numbers (http://www.switchboard.com), and check the HTML from your Web site with Doctor HTML (http://imagiware.com/RxHTML.cgi). And Internet search engines (Web sites that either manually or automatically compile searchable databases of Web pages) such as Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), Lycos (http://www.lycos.com) and Alta Vista (http://altavista.digital.com) make finding information easier. Of those three, newcomer Alta Vista (from Digital Equipment Corporation) has the most powerful search language, but it is still not nearly as developed as the Lexis-Nexis (http://www.lexis-nexis.com) search language. One of the nice features of Alta Vista is the ability to run an advanced query of the form “link:http://www.compuserve.com/ AND NOT url:http://www.compuserve.com/” (displaying the results “as a count only”) which tells you how many Web sites — excluding the site in questions — link to a particular Web site. This gives the Internet user an instant read on the popularity of a particular Web site. In case you’re wondering, CompuServe is linked to by 8,565 other Web sites, America Online (http://ww.aol.com) by 2,857, Prodigy (http://www.prodigy.com) by 1,915. By comparison, Yahoo is linked to by 254,215 other sites, Lycos by 24,838, Alta Vista by 6,668. And I think Yahoo’s going public in 1996 (a telling year).
Finally, one of the best ways to deal with Internet information overload is to use one of the many law-related Internet sites. One such site — and one that is particularly strong in compiling California law-related information — is The Practicing Attorney’s Home Page (http://www.legalethics.com/pa/main.html). All of the links mentioned in this article can be found at that searchable Web site, which is run by San Francisco-based Internet Legal Services (phone: 415-647-8695, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). That site is run by Peter R. Krakaur, Esq., a University of Virginia School of Law graduate who practiced with Beveridge & Diamond and with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison before forming Internet Legal Services.
It’s 1996. If you’re still asking your partners “What has the Net done for me lately?”, perhaps this article will convince you to start asking “What could the Net do for me now?”