What E-Research Alternatives Are YOU Using?

Laura K. Justiss at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) – Dedman School of Law wants to know. Actually, Ms. Justiss already asked the question of several, admittedly mostly larger, law firm librarians in 2010 in an effort to get a handle on whether lower-tier, more esoteric research options were digging into the market share enjoyed by Westlaw or Lexis. Her results are available for  download here.

Ms. Justiss’ survey identified six areas tapped for research, including: primary source (case law & statutory) alternatives; court docket and direct case information; secondary sources for topical legal research and legal periodicals; financial, business and news sources; public records; and, non-legal law-related sources such as intellectual property databases.

While Westlaw and Lexis continue to reign, the results certainly are interesting, in that they definitely point to a degree of erosion in market share of the big two within larger firms. The results also are interesting in that they identify new alternatives and indicate they are gaining ground, such as relative newcomer Bloomberg Law. This suggests to me that attorneys, a group not normally known for their innovative thinking in the tech area, are opening their minds up to the possibility of new tools that might get the job done more efficiently than the old standbys. Flat fee arrangements are keeping the Big Two viable, but it is not clear that this strategy will always save their bacon.

Hit the jump above if you want more detail on the results, alternatives and the actual survey used.


Google SideWiki: Annotate Your Web

One of the highly touted benefits of WestlawNext is the ability to annotate your Westlaw search results. Did you know that you could do something similar, for free, on your Google search results? The tool is called Google SideWiki and it is brought by a toolbar that you can download here.

What exactly is Google Sidewiki? In a nutshell, taken from the intro page, the tool allows you to:

  • Publish helpful information
    about any web page right in your browser
  • Read insights in context
    from Sidewiki entries added by others
  • Share Sidewiki entries through
    Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and Google profiles
  • In other words, its a Wiki that engages the entire World Wide Web, or at least those running a compatible browser with the tool bar installed. Activate Google Sidewiki and you will see a sidebar containing a box in which you can add your own comments to a Web page. You can also read others’ insights on the same page.  A Sidewiki-equipped page looks like this:

    I love this service! While there are many uses for such a tool, I particularly appreciate that I can bookmark and annotate relevant search results, creating my own personal Web library of useful information and return to it as needed, without having to reinvent my intellectual wheel. And, if there are other entries on a particular result, I can see what others have said about the result, encouraging living discussion surrounding a particular topic. Of course, there are sharing options as well, so that you can keep your entire network informed of your valuable insights, if you so choose.

    I would like to put it out there to the Google Gods that a great extension of this tool would be to permit it to work with Google Scholar results. Then, I could create a library of my own, customized (and free) legal research, complete with notes on how particular legal opinions and articles fit into my practice area. Sounds too good to be true, right? Unfortunately, for the time being, it is. But maybe, just maybe, someone from Google will stumble on my plea and deliver.