Crowdsourcing Legal Research with Casetext and Mootus

One of the more interesting ideas discussed at ABA TECHSHOW was the concept of crowdsourcing legal research using Casetext or Mootus:

“On Casetext, judicial opinions and statutes are annotated with analysis by prominent law professors and attorneys at leading firms, giving you unique insight. And everything is 100% free.”

Mootus “…helps law students and lawyers at all levels build reputation and knowledge through competitive, collaborative legal argument.

Okay … but what is it exactly?

Here are three quick answers curated from the 2014 ABA TECHSHOW:

  • Crowdsourcing: people contribute to a common project. Social curation: filtering info for others – e.g. Twitter. @lisasolomon
  • Mootus: crowdsourcing (offers) answers to legal questions. Users vote up/down contributions (also a Casetext feature). @lisasolomon
  • Crowdsourced annotations, links to blog posts and commentary big benefit of @casetext approach to legal research. @RealSheree

It turns out that crowdsourcing isn’t exactly new.  Bob Ambrogi first wrote about it in 2010 for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin.  See “Crowdsourcing the Law: Trends and Other Innovations.”  

Here is Bob’s more recent take on Casetext, which I recommend you read if you are at all interested in this approach to research. In a very rudimentary way, think of it as Fastcase + Wikipedia together in one place.  Here is a snippet from Bob’s post:

“But what makes the site unique is the ability of its users to add descriptions and annotations to the cases. When you view a case, the screen is divided in half. On the left side, what you first see is a section of “Quick Facts” about the case — its holding, citation, court, judges, docket number and the like. After that comes a section called “Case Wiki” with a more narrative description of the case. Following those two sections comes the case itself.

Both of those first two sections — Quick Facts and Case Wiki — are fully editable by registered users. Simply click the “edit” button and revise or supplement any of the text. Click the “revisions” button to see the full history of edits by all users.

Similarly, the right side of the screen contains sections for “tags,” “cases,” “sources,” “analysis,” and “record.” Users can create and edit any of these items.”

Thank you Bob Ambrogi!



The Year in Review – Useful Tips You May Have Missed

Thank you readers!  I hope this has been a fruitful year for you.  Just in case you missed a tip or two, here is a list of 2012 blog posts for your perusal:













All Rights Reserved 2012 Beverly Michaelis

25 Law Practice Tips from Twitter

If you follow this blog, then you know I’m a fan of Twitter – in part because it is a great source for law practice and technology tips.  Consider these 25 recent tweets in the areas of organization, financial management, marketing, security, and iPhone/iPad tips:


  • Are you an e-hoarder? Here’s how to tell. (So true!) (RT @NetworkWorld)
  • Protect yourself from e-mail overload: #smallbiz #organization #business (RT @bettybudget)
  • Organizing your workspace based on function zones #organization (Good tips from The Unclutterer) (RT @rocketmatter)
  • 17 Best Tools and Apps for Building New Habits and Goals. #SPU Do you use any? (RT @SoloPracticeU)

Financial Management

  • What lawyers need to know about 1099s and other tax compliance issues: Wash St Bar News, p. 32: (from @OreLawPracMgmt)
  • “The sky still hasn’t fallen on the hourly rate model” | Daily Report (RT @AdvertisingLaw)
  • Can I Double My Fee if the Client Doesn’t Pay? @OreLawPracMgmt)
  • Don’t Leave Receivables in Limbo (unless you want to go out of business) (RT @Law_Practice)
  • In some sense, all lawyers are sole practitioners. Why *you* should build a portable book of business, (from @OreLawPracMgmt)
  • Check Scams Continue to Plague Oregon Lawyers, @OreLawPracMgmt)


  • Cross-Selling, Up-Selling, and Communication Increase Revenue (RT @lawyerist)
  • How to promote your law blog – RLHB (RT @jaredcorreia RT @rodneydowell RT @kevinokeefe)
  • Myrland Marketing Moment: Not happy others aren’t commenting on your Social Media? How often do you comment? (RT @NancyMyrland)
  • Online Marketing Strategies for Small Budgets – @attnyatwork (RT @rocketmatter)


  • Are Passwords the Weak Link in Your Firm’s Security Chain? (RT @ltrc RT @jaredcorreia RT @erikmazzone)
  • The State of Mobile App Security [TCTV] | @scoopit… (RT @deboraplehn)
  • Please Rob Me! Posting Location Data on Facebook (from @OreLawPracMgmt)
  • Are You Safe & Secure On The Web? (RT @rocketmatter RT @nikiblack: via @advocatesstudio)
  • What Lawyers Should Know About Cloud Computing Security (RT @PhilNugent RT @sfinnovation)

iPad and iPhone Tips

Social media offers a virtual means to share, exchange, engage, and learn.  Consider getting involved today!

The Best Legal Research Tools are Free: In Brief

When is the last time you used the PLF publication In Brief as a resource in your practice?  Did you know that In Brief addresses 23 areas of practice plus civil procedure, cases of note, malpractice traps, and practice management tips?

Our archive of informative articles is fully searchable online and free to all Oregon lawyers.  Login to > In Brief or check out our Index of Articles.

Free CLE for Oregon Legal Assistants

On October 11 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the Oregon State Bar will host a FREE CLE for legal assistants.  Topics include:

  • Information about regulatory deadlines
  • MCLE compliance
  • Features of the OSB Web site
  • How to use BarBooks
  • Fastcase legal research
  • How to update communication preferences or address information

Essentially – everything you ever wanted to know about the Oregon State Bar and using the OSB Web site.

If you are a legal secretary, paralegal, office manager, or fulfill another support role in a law firm, please consider attending this event.  The program will be held at the bar center in Tigard.

How to RSVP for the FREE CLE:

Send an email to indicating your interest in attending “OSB for Legal Assistants.”  If you are RSVPing for multiple attendees, be sure to give a full head count and provide a list of names.  This program is not MCLE accredited, but “DOOR PRIZES … WILL BE PROVIDED FOR A FEW LUCKY ATTENDEES.”

Please help spread the word and RSVP early as space for this event is likely to go quickly!

Make Working with BarBooks a Breeze!

Have you taken advantage of the latest improvement available in BarBooks™?  If you’re like me, and you’ve never cared for the HTML approach to OSB Legal Publications, then you’ll love this upgrade.

Previously, BarBooks™ were only available online.  To access a legal publication, Oregon State Bar members had to login to the OSB site, then explore BarBooks™.  Publications could only be viewed a section at a time, which was incredibly tedious.  (Each chapter is made up of multiple sections – some are a few pages long, but most are only a paragraph or two.  This made for a lot of back and forth HTML navigation to read an entire chapter.)

While this navigation still exists, there is a newer, far superior approach that I highly recommend.  You may wish to use it for every book you regularly access.

Login to the bar Web site as before, choose Explore BarBooks™, select a book of interest.  Click Download this Book, then Save.

Browse to the desired location for saving the book.  Before you hit “Save” again, give the book a proper name.  (All book names are abbreviated.  Unless you rename it now, you may not recognize it later by the truncated version.)

Voila!  You have now created a PDF copy of the entire publication on your local hard drive.  You’ll never need to login again to access the book (unless it is updated.)  Better yet, by using Dropbox or a similar file sharing service, you can make the PDF available to all computers and devices where Dropbox is installed.

Your downloaded PDF will open automatically in “Bookmarks” view.  All bookmarks are hyperlinked.  Just click on the pertinent bookmark to go to the Table of Contents or chapter.  To do a basic search of the PDF in Acrobat, enter <ctrl> F and type your search terms in the pop-up box.

To do an advanced search, enter <ctrl><shift> F.

An advanced search allows you to better control search results by selecting Whole words only, Case-Sensitive, Include Bookmarks, or Include Comments. You may also search multiple PDFs.  How would this be helpful?  Imagine that you have downloaded several OSB legal publications and now you want to search across all the books you have saved as PDFs.  Enter <ctrl> <shift> F, select “All PDF Documents in.”  Enter the word or phrase you want to search for, and click Search.  (This works for PDFs you’ve saved in Dropbox too – just click on the down arrow next to “My Documents” and select “Browse for location…,” then navigate to where your Dropbox folder sits on your hard drive.)

Talk about convenience and flexibility!  I love the download to PDF option.  The ability to search several books simultaneously is a powerful, time-saving tool.  If you are an Acrobat X user, you can even save your search results for future use.  Happy researching!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

The Best of ABA TECHSHOW 2011

Whew!  ABA TECHSHOW is in the record books for another year.  I enjoyed the Keynote and EXPO – always good to see product demonstrations and meet new vendors. And the weather was a welcome break for those of us who have yet to experience spring.  As always, there is much to enjoy in Chicago by way of art, architecture, and museums. All In all, it was a perfect Silver Jubilee. 

If you were following along, I live-tweeted these sessions:

Just click the links above to access my “Live Tweet Review” from each of these presentations – sans the hash tags, Twitter feed clutter, and occasional typo.

Hey – I sent well over 100 tweets using my iPhone with 3GS, not bad for a butterfingers – and you got to stalk (I mean follow) my whereabouts on Foursquare.

But what I really want to do now is share my favorite tips from 60 x 2, otherwise known as “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” and “60 Tips in 60 Minutes.”  So without further ado:

All Things iPad

  • Take notes on your iPad using a handwriting app. Try PenUltimate ($1.99) – choose from three different pens, writes in color, uses photorealistic paper, saves notes to PDF.
  • Looking for a killer iPad case and keyboard?  I know I want this leather iPad case from Brookstone with Bluetooth keyboard.
  • Want to view, edit, and sign PDFs on your iPad?  Try the ultra-cool SignMyPad for $3.99.  Visiting a client outside the office?  Capture signatures on fee agreements with SignMyPad, and then e-mail the signed contract to yourself and the client.
  • Just bought the new iPad2 and still learning how to use it?  Subscribe by e-mail or RSS to Josh Barrett’s Tablet Legal blog and learn all there is to know.  (Another favorite of mine: iPhone J.D.)

Automate Certified Mailings

Can the Spam

  • Everybody hates spam (junk e-mail that is, not the food).  One way to nip it in the bud is to use a free, disposable e-mail address.  Give it to vendors or use it for sites that require an e-mail registration when you don’t wish to provide your “real” e-mail address.  Spamgourmet was recommended at TECHSHOW.  Alternatively, if you want to keep your “real” e-mail address, but mask it from spammers try  This free tool keeps your e-mail address invisible and stops spam bots dead in their tracks.


  • Looking for a way to better collaborate with in-house counsel?  It’s Legal OnRamp to the rescue.
  • Start using Web conferencing services like GoToMeeting (or my favorite: WebEx which supports audio over VoIP, toll, or toll-free numbers, video conferencing, desktop sharing, recording and collaboration over a secure connection.)  For what purpose you ask?  There are many, but one suggested at TECHSHOW – use Web conferencing to meet with your experts before they put pen to paper and write reports.

Download Online Videos

  • Download online videos to store locally on your computer with Zamzar or KeepVid. (Without these services, you can’t pull content down from You Tube.)

eFax Services

  • Want fax capability without the hassle and expense of maintaining a separate machine?  Use an eFax service like EasyLink or Fax2Mail. Send and receive faxes as PDFs, view faxes as e-mail attachments, accessible anywhere, keep your personal fax number if desired. (My suggestion:  Compare eFax services here.)


File Sharing and Sending

  • Dropbox was all over TECHSHOW.  It was mentioned at almost every session I attended.  If you’ve been living in an undisclosed location recently and don’t know what all the hub-bub is, here’s the scoop: Dropbox is a simple, easy, FAST way to store, sync, and share files online.  Initial storage of 2GB is free.  Get more by referring others or buy storage to suit your needs.  I’m a huge fan.  I have Dropbox on three desktops, my iPhone, and my husband’s iPad. In fact, I just used it to transfer and share my TECHSHOW photos taken with my iPhone.  A great way to collaborate, work on documents remotely or share documents with clients and others.  Want another file sharing option?  Try or SkyDrive.
  • If you don’t want to use Dropbox and wish to send a large file directly to a client, then you’ll need a file sharing service.  Consider the tried-and-true YouSendIt.  (I recommend you also take a look at the newer kid on the block: SendNow from Adobe.)
  • Use FileGenius to offer clients file transfer capability on your Web site without setting up an Extranet.  Sign up for the service, set up a link on your Web site, then send the link to your clients.  All they have to do is click and enter a username and password.  Once clients are on your site, they can view and transfer documents.  Starts at $159/month for 20GB of file space.  Free trial available.


Keeping Up with Technology

Legal Research, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Articles and More

Marketing and Web Sites

  • Ever wish there was You Tube for the legal profession?  There is.  It’s called Legal Tube.
  • Analyze your Web site at no charge with Webmastercoffee and fix what doesn’t work.

Miscellaneous Good Stuff


Online Annotation and Bookmarking


  • Are you an Outlook user?  Do you ever wish you could streamline saving attachments to your hard drive?  Try EZDetach from Techhit. This Outlook addin allows you to save attachments from one or more messages (or folders) with a single mouse click.  $39.95 with 30 day risk-free trial.  While you’re at the Techhit site, be sure to take a look at their entire suite of Outlook utilities.  I couldn’t live without SimplyFile, the intelligent filing assistant.  And unlike other Outlook addins, I haven’t experienced major program conflicts requiring me to abandon or uninstall the product.
  • Wish you could bypass the Recycle Bin and permanently delete Outlook e-mail?  Use <Shift> <Delete.> 


Presentations: Beyond PowerPoint

  • Need to create a presentation?  No one wants to “read” your slides.  Ditch the text and get creative with tips and video blog posts from Presentation Zen.
  • Maybe you’ve got the “Zen” of it down, but you’re looking for a cloud-based presentation tool?  If so, try 280 Slides or Prezi.



Social Networking

  • Social networking eating up too much of your time?  Turn it off for a while with Anti-Social (Mac users only) or Freedom (supports Windows and Mac.)
  • What are they saying about you in the cloud?  What did you post?  Find out using social search engine greplin.  (Register for free, premium accounts available.)

Smart Tricks

Summarize and Examine Text

  • Condense, examine, combine, and summarize text quickly with Topicmarks.  Sort of a “crib notes” for readers.  Receive your summary by e-mail.  Easily set parameters to control summary length.  Accounts are free.


  • Tired of Expedia or Orbitz? Get hip with Hipmunk.  Rated as “fantastic and surprisingly usable” by Lifehacker. Hipmunk has a helpful blog with travel tips, news, and insights as well as a “Pedestrian’s Guide to the USA.”  If you’re an iPhone user, check out the app.
  • If you are a frequent traveler, then you also may want to know about MedjetAssist – medical evacuation from (almost) anywhere in the world.  Recommended this year and previously at TECHSHOW, it can literally be a lifesaver.

 Voice to E-Mail and Call Recording

Windows 7

  • Help! Windows 7 no longer shows me the full path of the current folder and file in the address bar! No worries, the solution is just a mouse click away!  Right click any part of the address bar and choose Edit Address.  Copy and paste the path as desired.
  • Still trying to wrap your head around the many features of Windows 7?  PC World offers Windows 7: A Complete Survival Guide.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been to the ABA TECHSHOW before, I hope you come sometime.  Save the date for next year: March 29-31, 2012.  Register early and take advantage of the Professional Liability Fund program promoter code to save money.  (Details will be posted on the News page of our Web site at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012.)  Meanwhile, enjoy this glimpse of Chicago.  Hope to see you there in 2012!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

How to Set Up a Conflict System in Outlook

Using Outlook for conflict tracking may not be the most ideal solution, but for many lawyers starting out on a shoestring, it’s a way to make do.  

More likely than not, you already own the program.  And as Tom Peterson used to say, “Free is a very good price” when you have little or no capital to launch your practice. 

Here’s How it Works

Create a new contact card in Outlook for every client/matter.  Enter the client’s name, address, and other contact information.  Use the Notes field to enter:

  • Conflict names and relationships
  • File number (if used)
  • Date file opened
  • Description of case

When you close a matter, enter:

  • Closed file number
  • Date file closed
  • Date of destruction (when destroyed)


If you are a novice or favor simplicity, keep all clients – former and current – in one contact list.  This allows for easy searching, which is the key to any conflict database.  If you are more adept with Outlook, you can use categories to identify area of practice, responsible attorney in a multi-lawyer firm, and current/former client status.  (Another option is to create separate contact lists for current and former clients.)

To search for conflicts in Outlook, navigate to the appropriate contact folder.  In the Search Contacts box, enter the name you wish to search for:

Outlook will search through the first tab of every contact card in your list, including the Notes field.  If a match is found, Outlook automatically displays the card(s) which match the search term. 

To Learn More

There is more to learn about the process of using Outlook for conflict checking.  Click here for complete instructions on how to set up a conflict system in Outlook 2007.  If you are using an older version of Outlook, contact me and I’ll be happy to send you directions for the version you are using.  I also recommend downloading the PLF’s Conflict of Interest Systems-Procedures.  (Select Practice Aids and Forms, then Conflicts of Interest.)  To become an Outlook 2007 power user, order the free DVD, “Microsoft Outlook 2007 Tips,” on the PLF Web site.  (Select Programs on CD/DVD.)

What is the Downside?

Although I’m an Outlook fan, I readily admit there are downsides to using Outlook for conflict tracking.  First, it isn’t the most elegant solution for lawyers who represent clients with multiple matters.  Without enhancements, the program isn’t designed to relate multiple cases or projects to a specific person.  Secondly, Outlook doesn’t readily produce a report to print and place in your file.  There is a workaround of sorts for this issue, which I describe in my instructions.  (See the “Advanced Find” directions.)  You can also use the Request for Conflict Search and System Entry, which is a form included in the Conflict of Interest Systems-Procedures posted on our Web site.  (Select Practice Aids and Forms, then Conflicts of Interest.)

What is the Upside?

If you own Outlook, have no money to spend on software, and aren’t a computer geek, you can get by using Outlook for conflict tracking.  It’s user-friendly and doesn’t require any special effort to get started.  More significantly, it’s quite forgiving:  You can be completely inconsistent when entering conflict information in the Notes field and the search funtion in Outlook will still work.  When you are able to move up to something more sophisticated, Outlook makes it easy to export data with the File Import/Export Wizard.   

You can also enhance Outlook to make it operate more like practice management software.  Practice management software is by far the best way to track conflicts and all the other information related to your clients and their files.  Take a look at Credenza, an Outlook Add-On available for $9.95 per month.  Credenza adds more functionality to Outlook, enabling you to relate multiple files and projects to one client.  More importantly for this post, Credenza can also run a conflict search and print search results:

Because it searches through contact cards, files, phone logs, and e-mails, the conflict check is more thorough.

A free trial of Credenza is available hereRead more about this program at the Mass LOMAP blog maintained by my colleagues Jared Correia and Rodney Dowell.

Practice Tip:  Conflict data accumulates throughout your career as a lawyer.  You must be able to search against an accurate list of former clients and related parties so long as you are engaged in the practice of law.  If you are an associate, Assistant District Attorney, Public Defender, or providing legal services in some other capacity, keep your own conflict list.  Do not rely on your employer to accurately track each file you work on.

Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis

Fastcase Offers iPhone App

Fastcase, the free online law library offered to Oregon State Bar members, will soon offer a free iPhone app.  Bob Ambrogi of LawSites and the Legal Blog Watch was given an exclusive preview:

“The legal research service Fastcase is preparing to launch an application that will let users research cases and statutes on their iPhones, all for free. The app is awaiting final approval from Apple before it will be available in the App Store.

The app provides access to the largest free law library available on the iPhone. When you arrive at the main menu, you can select to perform one of three tasks: search caselaw, search statutes or browse statutes.

Cases are displayed in a crisp, readable, Times Roman font. The font can be adjusted to display in three different sizes. Cases include pagination and search terms are highlighted. Internal citations are hyperlinked.

As I noted at the outset, the app will be free to download and searching the Fastcase library using the app will also be free. First-time users will be required to register, but there will be no cost. Current Fastcase subscribers will be able to use their existing log-on and password.”

As fellow practice management advisor Jim Calloway pointed out, “This is pretty huge news….With iPhone copy and paste, you can e-mail the full text of cases to yourself instantly.”

An overview of Fastcase features can be found here.  Read about second level citation analysis here.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2010

Fastcase: How to Analyze Cites

In my September 22 post, I previewed Fastcase, the free online law library offered as a benefit to all Oregon State Bar members. 

Today, Fastcase tweeted their new blog post:  Fastcase’s Hidden Gem – A Second Level of Citation Analysis

First level citation analysis in Fastcase occurs behind the scenes:

“Every time you perform a search, Fastcase automatically analyzes how many times each case in your search results has been cited by other cases in the Fastcase database. This first-level citation analysis is available under the heading “Entire Database” on the results page.”

Second level citation analysis is a search within results that “drastically reduces the false positives that can result from the first level of citation analysis.”  

For tips on how to sort and search within results, check out the new Fastcase blog post.  A complete User Guide and Tutorials are available on the OSB Web site.  You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of the Fastcase blog.