Website Review: Legal Seeker

Legal Seeker is one in a product suite that includes WebWhacker, the popular off-line browsing program.

By Erik J. Heels

First published 6/8/1998; LegalResearcher.com; publisher: New York Law Publishing Company

Every once in a while it’s exciting to see the next generation of a concept you’ve used regularly. One example of this is Blue Squirrel’s “Legal Seeker” (http://www.bluesquirrel.com/seeker/legalseeker.html). Not a Web site but an Internet program, Legal Seeker is one in a product suite that includes WebWhacker, the popular off-line browsing program. The differences between a conventional search engine (like Excite, Lycos, AltaVista) and a search program (which runs locally on your computer) are subtle but significant.

Many professional researchers have often complained of the relatively basic options available with search engines – and it is these limitations that keep search engines from being as useful as possible.

Search engine detractors may no longer have anything to worry about. I admit to being skeptical about the usefulness of a product like Legal Seeker – after all, if all it does is search other search engines, couldn’t I just do this myself? After using Legal Seeker, I have concluded that I could definitely not do what Legal Seeker does.

Legal Seeker will be familiar to anyone who has used other research tools – search engines, CD-ROMs, online research services – the program is just a search dialogue box. In entering a search, you have the option of ordering results by “Instant Find” (which simply eliminates duplicate results from various search engines), “Clean Find” (checks sites for dead links as well as duplicates), and “Filter Find” (which indexes results for easier sorting).

Which search engines does Legal Seeker query? More than I’ve ever used, that’s for sure. While I generally restrict my Web searching to AltaVista, Excite, and Yahoo!, Legal Seeker allows me to search everything else without sacrificing time. Search engines are grouped by topic – in addition to general search engines, there are specialty engines which can be selected or restricted. Filters can also be applied preemptively – so that phrases, filenames, etc. will automatically remove those results from the search results provided by Legal Seeker.

Most impressive is Legal Seeker’s query language. More sophisticated than most search engines, Legal Seeker allows for proximity searches, word relations (i.e., certain words/phrases within a particular number of words of other terms), and other advanced approaches to legal research. Most importantly, using Legal Seeker allows you to standardize your search – no longer will you have to remember that AltaVista requires input in a form different from Lycos or Excite.

Aside from the program itself are other nice features. The most impressive feature is “Find Fast”, a small program that runs in the Windows95 system tray.

While doing work – in any Windows95 application – simply highlight the text that you want as a search term. For example, let’s say you’re working on a brief and realize that you need more information about a term you’ve just run across. Drag the cursor across the search term, click on the blue squirrel icon in the system tray, and the rest happens in the background. The search will be conducted normally and you’ll see the results, grouped by relevance. It’s exactly the kind of useful integration of the Internet that will prove to others how important the Internet can be in daily practice.

Hats off to Blue Squirrel – this is a tool that every Legal Researcher ought to have on their computer. The time it will save and the comprehensive nature of the searches will inject a level of certainty and efficiency into Web searches that was impossible before this.

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