Bringing Granular Search to Scholar

Cool new functionality available now in Google Scholar – you can  search within citations to an article! This is particularly helpful for sorting and sifting through the citations to particularly popular piece, like the example in the Google Scholar Blog article announcing the feature: Einstein’s famous paper Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?. When you see the “Cited By ##”  in the search results in your Scholar search, click on it and you will get a new search box:

This allows you to actually search within the articles listed in the citation results so that you can get to the subsequent treatment you are looking for.

What does this mean for lawyers? After pulling up the U.S. Supreme Court Opinion in Meritor Savings Bank, FSB  v. Vinson (link here), I searched within the citations to find “same gender discrimination” and cut my list of citations from 7,258 to 30.

Take THAT, Westlaw and Lexis! Read more on this awesome research tool at the Google Scholar Blog (link here).

Google Now Sending Scholar To You Via Email Alerts

Google Scholar made a big splash a few months back when it rolled out case law and law journals as an option within its Advanced Search function. People “buzzed” around the new service, wondering if it would be the big “Wexis” killer with its free format. While it has taken some pot-shots in the comparison tests, Scholar is still a more than viable means of securing legal information and is getting better by the day.

Google has taken another giant step closer to besting the big guys with its roll-out of free Alerts for Google Scholar results. Activating an Alert is as simple as running a search and following a few simple steps. After getting positive results, look for the envelope icon on the upper left corner of the page. Click the icon, select the number of entries you wish displayed and that is pretty much it. Alerts work for traditional Scholar results and, most importantly, legal cases and journals!

Alerts will bring you new material as it is entered into the database based on your search query and parameters. Advanced searching is available for Alerts to the same extent available in a regular search.  While you cannot limit your Alert to results from a smaller subset of sources, you can limit Alerts by author’s name or part of a name or from pre-built “collections” listed on the Advanced Search page.

While only available via email for now, Google likely won’t stop at that delivery source. As with traditional Google search alerts, I expect RSS feeds will be coming down the road.

I am unaware of how frequently Google updates its information or the length of the time span between information creation and entry into the Google Scholar system. One of the benefits of paid services is the quick turnaround time on data entry. Of course, speed is an issue with respect to discoverying new case law on a particular question. But, as a supplemental means of securing FREE notifications on legal searches as they happen on issues that do not require up-to-the-minute updates, it seems to me to be  impossible to beat Google’s combination of price and service!

Kudos, Google, to further tilting the legal research playing field in your direction!

Hat tip to Resource Shelf.

And Something New From Fastcase: A Free iPhone App

Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites carried this post (link here) on Fastcase’s new iPhone application. What’s so special about it? Well, for one, free case law and statutes. Or is that two? Bob indicates that FastCase offers the largest, free, law library on the iPhone.  He does a comprehensive review of a pre-release version of what he describes as a fast and easy-to-use tool at the link above, complete with screenshots. I recommend you hit the link for the details – I haven’t my own copy yet to play with. However, this paragraph bears repeating:

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.

How cool is that? I really can’t wait for this one to release.

Google + iPhone = Free Legal Research!

iPhone user? Lawyer? Or simply interested in the law? Remember last week’s Studio post about Google Scholar’s Advanced Search and legal authorities?

Run, don’t walk, to Jeff Richardson’s great post at iPhone J.D. about using Google Scholar on your iPhone to track down free legal resources. Richardson discusses how to access, set up a bookmark to Scholar search for a specific jurisdiction and other tips, with screenshots and examples of how the results will appear. Check out his take on the new Wexis killer and take Scholar out for a legal spin.

More Free Case Law, A La Google

You may remember a while back a post here in the Studio about legal reporter and article results in Google Book Search. You can also pull case law results from Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search. As can be seen from the search page, results cull legal opinions from federal and state courts and legal journals.

Maybe you don’t know what Google Scholar is? From the site:

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research.

Features of Google Scholar

  • Search diverse sources from one convenient place
  • Find papers, abstracts and citations
  • Locate the complete paper through your library or on the web
  • Learn about key papers in any area of research

There are date restrictions on the case law. While the Supreme Court material goes back to the 1700′s, federal and state case law begins in the 20th century.

More free and legal here in the Studio.

Hat tip to BeSpacific.

Will Big Two Soon Become Big Three? Bloomberg Law

Here is a legal research announcement of note: Bloomberg has announced a new search service called Bloomberg Law.

Billed as an all-in-one legal research and news content platform, Bloomberg promises a service that is fully customizeable and, “gasp” user-friendly. Even more interesting is the claim that Bloomberg Law is the “first and only real-time research system for the 21st century legal practice.” The single search engine taps legal, news and company information from one location. It also offers an aggregation of content under the heading “Points of Law” – combining lead cases with subsequent related cases and statutes, regulations and rules by topic. “Law Reports” appear to be another content aggregator, focused on current events connected to source documents, legal expert opinions, and related financial and curent news, legal and regulatory opinions. “Law Digest” offer legal taxonomies by topic, with relevant legal content and analysis, with links to primary sources and the ability to set alerts for updates. “Dockets” are what they sound like – unlimited searchable access to case dockets, with the added bonus of real time access, often before formal publication. Finally, what legal research service could effectively function without its citation checker? Of course, Bloomberg Law offers “Citator” to “conduct issue-based research and validate your cases.” The pluses to “Citator” are  inclusion of case extracts pertinent to the cited point of law and side-by-side comparison features.

Full text database search. Alert functionality. Analytical reports. Litigation research tools. Competitive intelligence profiles. Westlaw and Lexis, I would be scared. Although the features definitely speak to business researchers more than traditional legal researchers and lawyers, it certainly sounds like Bloomberg Law is gearing up to provide legal research for the 21st Century.

Check out this PDF with details via Above The Law.

I am going to contact them and see if I can’t get a preview so that I can report back here on what BL is all about. Wish me luck!

Can Legal Information Be Semanticized?

You may have noticed that it has been unusually quite in the Studio over the past week. Extreme travel and excessive work have taken their toll on my blogging output. However, it is time, once again, to buckle down and plumb the depths of law, technology and cutting-edge research and writing tools.

Absence apparently makes the heart grow fonder, as my reader greeted me with an interesting article over at Law.com by Dr. Adam Zachary Wyner on legal ontologies and how they may “spin a semantic web”.  I have heard it said before that legal information is too broad and deep and resistant to organization to be put under the semantic knife, or more aptly “blanket.”  I was heartened to see that Dr. Wyner disagreed (sort of) with this position.

First, I commend Dr. Wyner on providing an excellent explanation of what ontologies, knowledge management and taxonomies are and how they interrelate. I learned a few new concepts reading through his summary.

Next, the problem for those of us anxiously awaiting semantic treatment for case and statutory law is indeed that there is little consistency in how these materials are presented, the wide variety of search need to be satisfied and the sheer volume of material produced on a yearly basis. Dr. Wyner sees this conundrum as well. Coupled with the fact that most text marking, the process by which information is overlaid so that a computer can “read” and calcaulate an answer to a semantic search, would have to be performed by humans in the legal arena, it appears that the desired result may be somewhat of an impossible dream.

However, Dr. Wyner correctly points out that there are some categories of information that are clearly defined across cases and statutes that could certainly be marked for organization. For example, in the case law context, case headings, party information, result, even statements of issues can be tagged, organized and converted to computer-readable form. Dr. Wyner even suggests means for treating the information: through Semantic MediaWikis, as a learning tool for researchers and law students, and through treatment by large scale publishers and government agencies and courts prior to publication. Dr. Wyner sounds as enthusiastic as I feel about the possibilities of incorporating this layer of information and what such treatment could bring to the legal researcher’s table.

I am relunctant to get too excited about the Big Two jumping onto the semantic bandwagon and spearheading the effort to “semanticize” the vast amounts of legal information in their stables. After all, where is their incentive? Nonetheless, I can’t help but smile a bit at Dr. Wyner’s excited undertone and the thought that bringing cases and statutes into the 21st century may not be as impossible a dream as Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

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