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.
Older versions of Windows came with a free e-mail client called Outlook Express. It caused continual confusion in the legal profession, with lawyers thinking they were using the high-powered Microsoft Outlook when in fact they were using the substandard Express product. Outlook Express wasn’t bad but it was not in any way comparable to Outlook’s rich features.
The e-mail landscape has changed significantly over the years, with many lawyers dropping their e-mail clients to go entirely to the Web. They log in to Windows Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or Google Mail and their entire interaction is online. Some will also use alternative e-mail products, like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or Apple’s Mail.
Windows users who are looking for a simple e-mail application should look at Windows Live Mail. The interface is a huge improvement over Outlook Express and has the ability to handle more, and non-Microsoft, mail accounts than the older product did.
Windows Live Mail is a consumer-oriented download, so you will be prompted to load a bunch of other dreck – instant messaging, photo tools, etc. – that you do not necessarily need for your practice. Microsoft has followed other e-mail programs so that e-mail account setup is turnkey for major providers. For example, if you type in your Google Mail username and password, Windows Live Mail will automatically configure the server settings you need to access your mail. You can finally forget about what IMAP means or where your SMTP server is!
It supports other e-mail providers as well, although you may find that it does not support their authentication. For example, I use an e-mail server that requires a particular method of secure authentication (STARTTLS). Windows Live Mail was unable to talk to this server, although it supports secure authentication using SSL.
It is still not Microsoft Outlook. But if you are looking for an easy to use, light e-mail application, Windows Live Mail is a nice, free option. Thunderbird and Zimbra have more power but they may be more complicated than you need.
Microsoft Outlook remains the most popular e-mail software used in law firms. The growth in Web-based e-mail used and the continued curiosity of lawyers in using cloud systems means that there is a greater chance that Outlook will not be on a lawyer’s PC. Zimbra is a great, free alternative. Originally a Yahoo! product, it was sold in 2010 to VMWare, which is a leading virtualization software company. They also offer an open source e-mail server called Zimbra.
IMAP & Backup
There are a number of things to like about Zimbra in addition to the price. Since it supports IMAP and POP, you can use Zimbra with a Google Mail account or one from your ISP. This is pretty common among e-mail applications, including Postbox Express and Thunderbird.
However, Zimbra has a particular function that seems unique which is that it will do a regular backup of these IMAP e-mail accounts, not just for offline use but for business continuity purposes. This may make lawyers who are cautious about using the cloud feel less at its mercy.
Social Media Support
Another unusual feature is the built in social media support. While you can add RSS feeds from Twitter to your Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird programs, Zimbra has a social tab. You can add your Twitter and Facebook accounts to the software and it will show your message streams on this tab. If you use Twitter like I do, as a research tool rather than an interaction point, having this information within your e-mail software may make you more productive.
Another feature common to Zimbra and Outlook is the ability to look at messages across different folders and mail accounts. For example, if you have both your ISP and Google Mail accounts in Zimbra, you can quickly see all unread messages in either account, in any folder. This cuts down the need to go into each e-mail account and look for messages that you have filtered out of your inbox.
One aspect of Zimbra that I found a bit troubling was that it seemed slow. Admittedly, I was testing it on a netbook with 2GB of RAM and Windows 7 but I would have expected it to be a bit faster. If your work computer is a bit older or underpowered, you may want to test Zimbra for awhile to see if it meets your needs.