Canada-specific legal apps are still quite thin on the ground, although the publishers are now more active in releasing updates. This is still primarily for iPad users. Here’s a rundown:
- Case Law. First to market was LexisNexis Quicklaw (iOS) and that’s pretty much all there is. No Westlaw Canada app, nor one from CanLII. Garry Wise has created an iOS app called WiseLII that will search CanLII. The Law Society of Upper Canada and LexisNexis have an Ontario Reports app which gives access to back issues as well as a handful of cases each week (iOS or Android).
- E-books. Thomson Reuters Carswell is delivering e-books through its Thomson Reuters Proview tool (iOS or Android). LexisNexis sells its books for any e-book reader (iOS, Blackberry, Android). Kindle isn’t listed but you might try using Calibre to convert the LexisNexis epub format to a mobi file, which is Kindle friendly. Irwin Law has an online e-book library (Web-based) but you can also download a free app (iOS) for any books you own.
- Law Journals. If you aren’t getting your law journals as PDFs (like the free content on SSRN’s Legal Scholarship Network), you can try the HeinOnline app for everything else (iOS). Law Society members in Ontario and British Columbia have free access through their dues (Canada), as do lawyers in a variety of U.S. jurisdictions through their local law library or bar (Social Law, Jenkins, Hamilton County (OH), NY City Bar, etc.).
There are a variety of e-books, law-related podcasts, and magazines available from the iTunes store. Other publishers, like Emond Montgomery, also have e-books (iOS or Kobo).
All of which assumes you need an app. If you are on a tablet, you can probably just surf to the site to do your research. Sites like CanLII in particular are sufficiently simple in design that they work fine on Safari on the iPad or Firefox on an Android tablet. Irwin’s Canadian Online Legal Dictionary, a free Web site, is also tablet accessible – I wouldn’t say friendly, since the navigation requires a smaller finger or a stylus – as a Web site.
[Disclaimers: my employer is one of the major funders of CanLII, since Ontario's lawyer dues are used, in part, to pay for the free resource. The book that started this blog is a Thomson Reuters Canada Law Book product. But you already knew that!]
The deep Web contains a significant amount of information that you cannot reach with typical Web search engines. The emergence of Proquest‘s Udini search enables to you retrieve content from their databases: 150 million articles from 12,000 journals according to the promotional content on the Web site. The site represents the best of online search, where everything but the search box has been stripped away. It is nice to not have the typical glut of information (even the so-called bento box approach) to orient to before getting to the search box.
Unfortunately, there is not much to suggest this is a resource most lawyers need to add to their toolkit. A quick perusal of their legal information shows that it is weaker even than the typical law journal content available in Westlaw or LexisNexis. Google Scholar results that surface links to Heinonline, or better, a search on HeinOnline itself, is likely to bring far more comprehensive coverage of legal information than Udini.
Some of the content retrieved by Udini shows that it can be purchased but it is already available for free on the Web. Compare these two, for example. You can purchase a full version from Proquest of Moving in the Cloud from the ABA Journal, June 2011, for $3.99.* Or you could download it for free from the ABA Journal itself. Where Proquest will add value is in the older content that is not available on the Web.
Yes, Udini provides a comprehensive search option and yes, it offers some additional research management tools within its site. This might be an incentive if you are not already using a service like Evernote or Microsoft’s Onenote. Like those programs, Udini allows for capturing content outside of the Proquest content online. This will make it useful outside of the legal profession but is unlikely, without more compelling content, to make it a service that many lawyers or law librarians would use on a regular basis.
* Something’s funky about this one. If you see the bottom of this preview, the metadata suggests the publisher is the Water Alternatives Association. I’m pretty sure this isn’t right.
HeinOnline has released an updated mobile app for iPhone and iPad users who access their fee-based law journal and legal commentary databases. Many law libraries are providing access to HeinOnline for free if you’re in their space. The Massachusetts trial libraries have a great post on how to set up to use their subscription. If you’ve got your own access or remote access through your library – like members of the Law Society of Upper Canada or the Social Law Library or lawyers in British Columbia – you can use the app to login remotely for access to journals from your tablet or phone as well as from your PC.
HeinOnline 2012 Mobile iPhone and iPad app screenshot
There are a number of citation tools available for online legal researchers but none of them are particularly good at handling the U.S. citation format known as “The Bluebook”, a fond name for the blue cover of The Uniform System of Citation. Two Web browser extensions, one for Mozilla Firefox and one for Google Chrome, offer a step forward and it may be that support for the Bluebook will be more common for legal researchers. Continue reading
When it comes to online search, I stick pretty close to Google unless I am doing something unusual. A deep Web search service called Biznar came onto my radar recently and I thought I would try it out.
“Deep Web” typically means database driven content that is inaccessible to the average (Google, Bing) search index spiders. It can mean things like law journals in HeinOnline or case law in LexisNexis or Westlaw. Deep Web tools will have permission or some ability to access the contents of those systems, sometimes providing you with access to the content from the Web rather than through a subscription.
Biznar has a couple of things going for it that make it worth adding to your legal research toolkit. First, it actually has law-related sources, so you are likely to get relevant legal information. It is also great for business and other resources, but you can get that elsewhere.
The search results come back in clusters, so you can quickly do filtering based on author, publication, date, and so on. This faceted search is familiar to anyone who shops online but I haven’t seen it really work well on Web search yet.
The clincher for me is that Biznar plays to my research laziness. You can save a search as an alert and it will mail you updated matches to it. You can also save your search as an RSS feed, so if you are watching a topic – or a client or an opponent – you can get constant updates.
A link near the top, below the search box, shows collection status, which tells you what Biznar successfully searched. This helps you see if there were any errors, but also gives you a quick peek at your source list. Government sites are US focused, but you will see HeinOnline content returned through Google Scholar, as well as practice area specific results like EDGAR information. The advanced search allows you to pre-specify your sources, so you can limit a search to whole cluster, like Government, or drill down to specifics. Even searching a single site with Biznar may be better than searching the site itself, if you can set up an alert to monitor future changes.
Looking for law journal or related articles online but want to have some help organizing them? You may already be using Zotero, which I discuss in the text or CiteULike, which I posted about earlier. Here is another promising tool for finding and managing research papers you locate online.
Mendeley Research Networks goes beyond a storage add-on, though. You can use their search tool to locate papers based on keyword or browse down through a variety of topics, including law, to see what is available. Since Mendeley is indexing information from all over, you can dig up a wide selection of content.
Two things I particularly liked about Mendeley. First, it is tapping into paid sites so that I could read an abstract for a paper from Irwin Law, for example, even though I couldn’t actually access it. Second, it has links to the home site, and so I was able to follow up on an Australian paper written about Canadian copyright law in one click. Since it indicates the source, you can copy and paste citations into your public library’s remote access databases (like Ebscohost) and retrieve the document.
The Mendeley team appears to have spent a lot of time on the clean interface, which is pretty intuitive although the research papers menu doesn’t jump out at you as the location from which to search. It’s also fast at retrieving matching results.
You can add the paper to your free online Mendeley account, like CiteULike, but there is also a free stand-alone application you can download and install on Windows or Macintosh. There are is also one-click sharing, so that you can send it to your Facebook page, e-mail it to a colleague, or add it to your Google Bookmarks.
There are a number of bookmarking and citation tools I mention in the text, which have a variety of uses, from managing Web sites to articles, to images. One that isn’t that flexible, but that you might still want to consider, is CiteULike. It was developed to be a limited tool, focusing on storing citation information about peer-reviewed journals. If you attempt to add an article from a newspaper or other source, it will not be able to save it for you.
It is quite handy when you are finding law journal articles that come with prepared citation information. One of my favorite sites for scholarly legal articles is the Social Science Research Network, of which the Legal Scholarship Network is a subpart. You can find emerging work from academics across North America, as well as published articles from well-known law reviews. You can combine SSRN, your Web browser, and CiteULike for easy management of these citations.
Citeulike is well developed enough in the academic world that there are now multiple browser extensions for it. Google Chrome users have the CiteULike Web Importer, and Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer users can add the Post to CiteULike bookmarklet to their toolbar. When you search SSRN and find a relevant article, you can click on your new icon and insert the relevant citation information into CiteULike.
The downside is that it is pretty particular. Say you retrieve a law journal article from a fee-based database like Cengage Learning databases licensed by Knowledge Ontario. Even when I selected full text and peer-reviewed and selected an article that had citation information at the bottom, it was unable to grab it.
An upside to CiteULike is that, when it can find the information, it creates a pretty detailed record. Law students, academics, and lawyers dealing with a lot of law journal information may find this useful. Another is that CiteULike is is a social environment, so that you can see what other participants are saving to their account and interact with researchers following a similar path. This is less useful for lawyers, perhaps, but might be a good reason to use CiteULike if you are following up on an issue and want to see who else might know more about it.