2020 in the Rearview

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

COVID, wildfires, court operations, and closures dominated headlines and our lives. So did the tech world, the hard work of staying productive, and not letting the stress of it all get to us.

Hopefully you found some useful posts in 2020. If you’ve been battling procrastination, there is help. If you need to jump start your marketing, I did a four part series in July. If collecting fees has been … challenging … I have a few suggestions. Here’s a recap of substantive topics covered in the past twelve months. And here’s to 2021!


COVID Generally

COVID and Marketing

Reopening Your Firm

WFH (Working from Home)


Motivation and Productivity

Oregon Wildfires


Well Being



Fees and Finances


Client Service


All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Westlaw’s New Search Tool – The Carat ^

From our friend The Researching Paralegal, a great legal research tip!

Westlaw has added an important search term, the carat (^) (shift 6 on your keyboard). This allows you to put more emphasis on a search term. To use it, place the carat symbol right behind the term you want emphasized.

Here is a further explanation from Cleveland Marshall College of Law Library Blog:

You can use the caret in the main search box or in Search Within Results. An example of a search is:

liability /p (park^ or recreation or camp!)

This would place the emphasis on the term “park” and your results will be somewhat different if you run the search with or without the caret.

You can read more about Search Term Emphasis in the Search Tips document that you’ll find linked to the right of the main search box in Westlaw.

Find the caret symbol above the 6 key on a standard qwerty keyboard. Not to be confused with the carrot.

As The Researching Paralegal reminds us – If you need a refresher on Westlaw Edge, check this out:

Westlaw’s Guide to Law Review Research.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

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 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 www.osbplf.org > In Brief or check out our Index of Articles.

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