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!]
This resource was new to me although the site hosting it isn’t. Carl Malamud’s Public.Resource.Org is a well-known source for government documents. I didn’t realize he was also hosting an archive of IRS Form 990s from thousands of U.S. non-profits and other organizations who have to file a return if though they are exempt from paying taxes.
In fact, I couldn’t find it on the main Web site but you can browse the Bulk portion by going directly to the top URL: https://bulk.resource.org/. Some of the other content hasn’t been updated in the last year, although that may reflect the actual government publication schedule. There are U.S. state public safety regulations (administrative codes dealing with things like elevator installation, etc.) and patent and trademark databases. Once you’ve found a directory that has content you’re interested in, consider using a site delimiter in Google to search it. For example, if I want to find Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) groups, I might search Google using:
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) have partnered to make federal judicial opinions available. I posted on this when it was announced.
The result is a terrific, easy to search site that relieves the need for work-arounds to find court opinions. The appellate decisions have been easily available for some time. The benefit that this new resource offers, in my mind, is making the federal trial court opinions accessible. In the past, a researcher looking for free case law from the federal courts would have had to visit each of the district court sites and relied on the very uneven availability of each court or judge making their decisions available.
Here is a sample search of the Ohio federal district, or trial, courts. The search facets for further narrowing the results appear on the left. Some of the facets are rather useless – if you search in the Ohio Southern District, you get the facet for the Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the location. But since the court is in the 6th Circuit Appellate district and in Ohio, there’s not much help there since all decisions should already fall into those facets. But it’s nice to know there are ways to narrow the results further, by persons and organizations mentioned in the opinions.
Pro tip: you can quickly get to a US federal court by using their very sensible Web site name designations. All appeals courts are at www.caN.uscourts.gov, where the N is their number. For example, http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov is the 6th Circuit. District courts are identified by their two letter state and their name. So the Southern District (SD) of Ohio (OH) is http://www.ohsd.uscourts.gov. Montana only has one court, so it is http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov. You get the picture. It can be faster than trying to search for the site or going to USCourts.gov and trying to find it.
Public records are a wealth of information about clients, opponents, and other parties related to cases. They can unearth information about properties and corporations that can be helpful in building a case and creating a litigation strategy. United States researchers have some of the most extensive access to this sort of information. The Legal Skills Prof blog highlighted a story from Law Technology News on TLO, an online service that has reports starting at US$1. If you are doing public records research and the free services aren’t getting you anywhere, this looks like an excellent option.
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.
LexisNexis has dropped the free case law resource – formerly known as LexisOne – and is now funnelling users to paid options only. When I saw the announcement on Twitter, it was a disappointment. As far as U.S. case law goes, LexisOne was unique in enabling some of the segments – search by counsel, by judge’s name – that you could get within the paid database.
RT @: RT @ We've updated our post on the demise of lexisONE http://t.co/g44Dnccl ... free case law RIP
This was not that surprising, since they had recently shifted the free case law from a relatively easy to reach location on Lexisone.com to a new community site. Since that lasted for only 2 months, this elimination of access was probably planned. It may also mean that LexisOne as a case law service wasn’t that popular, although it may also just be the next shift away from any flexibility in access beyond a subscription.
It seems a relatively feeble decision. Free U.S. case law is abundantly available. State and Federal appellate courts have a substantial amount of recent, free law on their own sites. Google Scholar maintains a database of US case law that is getting regular improvements (citation relationships, pagination). Despite the continuing lack of information about where the data comes from, it appears to be entirely reliable.
There is also the venerable Public Library of Law, which, like LexisOne did, relies on a fee-based service. Fastcase.com powers the PLOL and content you retrieve in your searches comes from the same database.
Access to Google, the Public Library of Law, and the courts are more than enough of an option to the departed LexisOne. Free case law needs to be easy to access – not behind marketing sign-ins and other functionality – so the disappearance of LexisNexis’ free content was probably inevitable.
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