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

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 scr.im.  This free tool keeps your e-mail address invisible and stops spam bots dead in their tracks.

Collaboration

  • 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.)

eSignatures

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 Ge.tt 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.

Humor

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

Money

Online Annotation and Bookmarking

Outlook

  • 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.> 

PDF

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.

Scheduling

Security

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.

Travel

  • 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

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