Regional Differences Between Free Legal Sites

The 3 global legal publishers (Reed Elsevier LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters Westlaw, Wolters Kluwer) often have regional sites that provide legal information.  It is surprising, though, the differences in quality of content, layout, and information available.  I recently happened upon Findlaw Australia, a Thomson Reuter’s property.  You can find information about lawyers there, as well as some recent articles posted by, one assumes, the lawyers whose names are attached.  But if you click on one of the Learn About the Law topics on the home page, you end up with a list of very dated content (in the case of Conveyancing, articles written in 2001).  It’s surprising to find that sort of currency issue with content on a major publisher’s Web property.

Contrast it to Findlaw.com, the US version, which does a better job of segmenting the layman from the professional, and provides much more current content.  If I follow the link about Learn About the Law to real estate, buying a home, I find an article giving an overview by a lawyer, dated 2007, and indicating it comes from the well-known public law publisher, Nolo.  Whether you’re in law practice or just trying to learn about a different area of law, you need to be careful even on major publisher’s Web sites to ensure that freely accessible content is current and attributable.

LexisNexis Canada recently announced an updated look for its online lawyers directory at http://www.canadian-lawyers.ca.  Like the regional Findlaw sites, the LexisNexis Lawyers.com sites have legal information for the public as well as resources (including marketing tools) for lawyers.   The legal content on the site is specific to Canada, but the law directory content appears to be the same as you would find if you searched for a Canadian lawyer at LexisNexis’ main, U.S.-based directory site, Martindale.com.  In fact, if you search from the newly revamped site, the URL changes slightly to yet another LexisNexis Web property, http://canada.lawyers.com and the content is identical to that on Martindale.

These sites can be useful resources for either finding a lawyer or finding an article on a research topic, but it shows that, even with leading legal publishers, you need to be aware of the currency of the content on the sites.  It also highlights that you might want to look outside your geographic area to get a more powerful, deeper versions of finding tools that are regional.

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