Monthly Archives: July 2009

Decrypting Findlaw’s Interface Makeover

Findlaw has long been a useful portal to free legal resources on the Web, and its US Supreme Court archive is one of its best features. It was purchased a few years ago by Thomson Reuters and, while access remains free, the interface grows evermore Westian, which means that the summer generally brings an interface update that displaces or disguises the access points that we’ve come to know and love. The site defaults to the public interface and formerly sported a tab “For Legal Professionals.” That tab has dried up, so be on the lookout for a line of tiny print in the upper right and lower left of the screen that reads, “Visit our professional site.”   The interface has changed there, too, but once you’re through the link you will have a much easier time getting your bearings and getting to the features and functions for which Findlaw is justly famous.

(RKM)

South Carolina Access to Justice Website

South Carolina Access to Justice recently launched its new website at www.scatj.org. The S.C. Access to Justice Commission was formed in 2007 to address the need to expand access to civil legal representation for people of low income and modest means in South Carolina. The Commission’s Executive Director, Robin Wheeler, regularly posts to the SC Access to Justice Weblog. They are also on Twitter and Facebook.  (Post-TC)

Bing!

Microsoft and Yahoo have teamed up to challenge the search engine giant Google.  Their  recently unveiled search engine, Bing, hopes to chip away at Google’s dominant market share.  I have to admit that Bing’s home page is prettier than Google’s, but is that enough?  I did a very simple comparison test and here are my preliminary findings.  I did a simple search for “health care reform” on both Google and Bing.  Google returned  approximately 21 million hits.  Bing returned an astounding 83 million hits (give or take a hundred thou).  At one level, that is impressive, but who on earth is ever going to check out 21 million hits, much less 83 million!  Not anyone. [“According to a recent study from iProspect, three-quarters of Internet users use search engines. However, 16 percent of Internet users only look at the first few search results, while 32 percent will read through to the bottom of the first page.” http://www.resourceshelf.com/2002/11/18/search-habits-of-web-searchers/]  A third only read to the bottom of the page.  That’s between 10 to 25 results.  Out of 21 million.  So, Bing produced 61,999,975 more results that I won’t read than Google.

They both offer advanced search capability.  Here, I think Google has a definite advantage.  Both advanced search options allow one to limit searches by language, country of origin, and domain.  But Google allows limiting by location of search terms (anywhere in the page, in the title, in the links to the page, etc.), by time span (past 24 hours, past week, past month, etc.), and by document type (PDF, Word document, rich text file, to name a few).  Using those Google advanced search limits (my search phrase in the title, items posted in the last week, in english, in the U.S.) pared my results down to 73,600 hits.  Still far too many to check out completely, but a substantial reduction.  Adding a document type (PDF) to the search brought the results down to a very manageable 30 hits.

Bottom line:  they are very similar and both work reasonably well.  Google is more robust, in terms of advanced search capabilities, so as a hard core researcher, I’d choose Google when I needed a general, non-proprietary search engine.  Bing seems more suited to casual, non-work related websurfing.   (PRM)

Website of the Week

Tom Mighell has always been active in providing internet web site, information, and blogs. He has now started Tom Mighell Linkstream, http://linkstream.inter-alia.net/  a collection of links on legal technology, e-Discovery, social media, and the Internet. It is published every day and is always a good site for legal news, blawgs, and legal information. Check it out or add it to your favorite. An RSS feed is also available.  (Post- David)

Where Have All the Law Librarians Gone?

If the law librarians seem a little scarce next week, it’s because several of us have gone to Washington D.C. for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting and Conference. We go every July to a different location to learn about current issues in law librarianship and new and improved legal resources and databases; and to share teaching strategies and tips with our colleagues.

The theme for this year is 2.0 Innovate. The keynote speaker is Jonathan Zittrain, Internet Cyberlaw scholar and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Needless to say, we will return mid-week, maybe a little tired from meetings and traveling, but refreshed and inspired and ready to begin the new school year. (Post-TC)

Legal Tweets!

If you are  registered with Twitter, the following two websites list a number of law related feeds that you might want to sign up for.  The first site – http://scoop.jdsupra.com/2008/10/articles/another-category/legal-news-feeds-on-twitter/ – lists Twitter accounts that automatically stream links to articles, alerts, and news on legal subjects. The second site – http://www.onlinebestcolleges.com/blog/2009/top-100-twitter-feeds-for-law-students/ – lists Twitter feeds aimed at law students.  “These Tweeters are in the same boat as you, sharing their experiences in law school as well as advice and guidance on law issues and much more.”  In case you just don’t have enough law related news and conversation in your life now. (PRM)

New Westlaw Account Manager

We are saddened to bid farewell to our excellent Westlaw account manager, Kim Wolenberg,who has taken a different position with the company. Our new account manager is Hollye Clark. We hope to meet Hollye in person in the near future, but if you need her help you can contact her at hollye.clark@thomsonreuters.com.

(Post by Rebekah)

New Look for Westlaw

It’s that time of year again: the Summer of R&D. All of our online sites are doing the usual maintenance and enhancement. So far, Westlaw is showing the greatest effect; the interface has changed radically in appearance. Not to worry, though; the differences are cosmetic only. Although it may have changed colors or changed fonts, the basic functionality hasn’t changed. All the features and functions should be where you last left them and should work just the same.

(Post by Rebekah)

West Headnote of the Day

We librarians continuously talk about topics and key numbers as they relate to finding cases by subject using the West Key Number System®. Students, however, seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept; particularly when Westlaw adds the number assigned to the topic at the beginning of the topic and key number in the headnotes of cases online. Recently I ran across what West calls a “diversion” —the West Headnote of the Day. They caution that the point of law may no longer be good law, but I look forward to the cartoon-like drawings accompanying the headnotes every day. Plus, it’s a fun way for students to familiarize themselves with the West Key Number System®. To view the Headnote of the Day or browse the archive, or receive your daily diversion, go to http://westapps.west.thomson.com/WestHeadnote/default.asp.  (Post-TC)