Crowdsourcing the Law? Apparently You Can, With Jurify

Seems a blasphemous concept, but how about getting top-tier legal resources from the finest legal minds for free? Jurify is looking to secure content from the best and the brightest lawyers to include on their site, offering in exchange recognition via direct attribution and inclusion on top ten lists by category. They are soliciting information from lawyers, double-checking its accuracy with other lawyers, and then offering the content to still more lawyers and the public at large for free or cheap. Up the Revolution!

Jurify’s brand new, slickly designed site, is the brainchild of law grads / lawyers Eric and Nicole Lopez who hope to change the way people access legal resources. They are so hip, they look like they are even using Instagram photos on their about page! So, what kind of content are we talking about here? Really anything – memos, blog posts, client alerts, white papers, videos, cases, articles, websites, news stories, training materials, sample briefs, sample forms, whatever. All tagged and searchable, with the ability to rate and comment on the content and awarded with Credibility Scores. What’s that? The Credibility Score measures a legal member’s level of engagement with a specific subject, generated via a proprietary algorithm. The algorithm factors include the type, quantity and quality of contributions, professional background and achievements. If you contribute quality content, the site promises to include you in lists that showcase your brainpower, presumably encouraging the public to choose you for more in-depth analysis. Oh, and you can even earn achievements, like little Foursquare badges. I want the Learned Hand badge – I have ALWAYS loved his name!

From their site:

Jurify is the home for top-tier attorneys and blue chip executives involved with the law. Created by experienced lawyers from global law firms who grew tired of the cloistered and outdated way law was practiced, Jurify is an invitation-only platform that channels the collective genius of the best attorneys worldwide to deliver high-quality legal resources in mere seconds.

Our content is contributed by carefully-screened attorney members who share without pay. These lawyers are rewarded withrecognition through direct attribution as well as placement in our practice-specific “Top Attorneys” lists. They also earn Achievements designed to showcase their accomplishments and provide additional validation to discriminating clients and employers in search of the best the legal world has to offer.

The site promises the mindware of the most accomplished practitioners, and invites viewer attorneys to apply for free membership, as inclusion in the site is invite only. I imagine they are pretty hungry for applicants right now – as it appears obvious the success of Jurify will depend heavily on getting quality material from a lot of quality contributors. While it may not be as attractive to busy lawyers already earning a decent living and finding it difficulty to piece two minutes together, I see it as a potential marketing tool for newer lawyers interested in getting their name out there. Which cuts against the promise of crowdsourced experience, but let’s overlook that small hiccup for the moment. There is also, as expected, a rather lengthy terms and conditions I recommend reading closely.

Jurify is indeed a novel concept. Can it take hold? In a world driven by social media, achievements and on-line recognition and promotion, maybe it could. I hope it does. Better access to legal help isn’t such a bad thing, is it? Check out their promotional video below and stop by their site. Let me know what you think – this is definitely a conversation-starter.

Shop For a New Lawyer By Video Chat, via LawZam

 

Back when online video chat was just starting to break, with apps like Seesmic and 6Rounds, and later with Google+ Hangouts and even mobile Facetime on iOS (and now on OSX), I recall discussion in the legal community about the utility of such applications for legal professionals, and questioning whether video chat could be useful at all. As someone who is always looking for a way to find the fit for new tech, I firmly believed that such applications could serve a useful professional purpose.

Enter, LawZam. I heard about it over at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog and, frankly, I am intrigued. Bob quotes founder Claudio Dunkelman who describes his site as “speed dating for the legal world.” As long as we are not talking about “Chatroulette for the Legal Profession”, this is an eyebrow-raising, but not altogether inappropriate mash-up of concepts, LawZam offers a platform for video consultations and two-way chat between lawyer and potential client. If a match is not made, then the client can initiate chats with other attorneys until he or she achieves the right fit. All this with no cost to attorneys or clients – revenues will come from advertising and an as yet undisclosed premium service.

 

The site allows the consumer to “ask a lawyer”, “post a job” or submit a query to “review my case” and promises that the consumer will receive a response from an attorney within minutes. You can also search for lawyers by area of law, location or name. Right now, the front page shows available lawyers from California and Florida, with a bit of detail about the lawyer and/or firm. I dug a bit deeper and found some lawyers from Texas and New York as well.

 

From LawZam’s about page:

LawZam is committed to increasing access to legal assistance by providing a platform for the public to receive free legal consultations by videoconference. Finding a lawyer can be a frustrating process for many people. LawZam seeks to address that problem by enabling people to find lawyers quickly, and conduct face-to-face video consultations with lawyers online.

Attorneys registered with our service do not charge fees for initial consultations, and users of our website have no obligation to hire the lawyers they meet. LawZam does not get involved or receive any fees from agreements between lawyers and clients. Simply put, LawZam is a venue for communication–not a law firm.

We hope to facilitate the communication of helpful information to people seeking legal assistance, so people can make informed decisions and protect their legal rights. If you have any questions or suggestions to improve our service, please feel free to contact us at support@lawzam.com.

 

There is also an extensive terms of use and privacy policy, along with repeated assurances that this is not a referral service and that no attorney client relationship is created via the video chatting interface. For those interested – attorneys and consumers – there is a registration link on the front page.

 

I have not actually tried the service out, so I cannot speak to the fit and feel of the experience, but I do very much like the idea. In keeping with our brave new economic world, in which consumers take it upon themselves to go online and “do the research” and are savvy enough not to commit without some understanding of the potential value, services like LawZam may be very beneficial to attorneys. Video chat offers a means for lawyers to get out in front of that process with an actual personal, moving presence — far more compelling than a static website, or even a tweet stream or Facebook page.  For those attorneys that speak better than they write – and I know you are out there – then LawZam might be the modern advertising answer for you.

Lots of Legal Interest Apps, All In One Place

I can’t say all, because there are a few legal research apps I know that aren’t included on the lists. Nonetheless, this is STILL a pretty cool tabbed table of (mostly) iPhone apps to help you lawyer on the run. The list (link here) was compiled by Vicki Steiner at the UCLA School of Law. There are 23 listed for legal research and news, ranging from free to very much paid (here’s looking at you West), some strictly legal and some merely informative. There are 7 listed for law school and bar exam study. There are 22 listed for productivity, many among my favorites, including Dragon Dictation and DropBox. There are 23 apps for fun, including one I hadn’t heard of, called WestlawNext Gavel (link here), which lets you bring the virtual hammer down on your own personal judgments. Special texted download via code from those wacky guys at West. Go figure.

I also really appreciate that Vicki includes links on the overview tab to various app stores and collections, including Android Market, Android Zoom, Apple Web Apps, Blackberry App World, Evernote Trunk, Facebook App Store, Ovi Store, Palm Apps, uQuery, and USA.gov Mobile Apps. If you can’t find it here, don’t bother.

Thanks for the hard work, Vicki!

Thinking About Law School? Check Out These Blogs!

A typical juris doctor diploma, here from Suff...
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A good lawyer understands the importance and value of due diligence. OnLine Courses has compiled a list of 100 blog posts they believe you should read before going to law school. Topics include: getting in; getting started; paying for school; getting a job; getting through law school; making the most of the education offered; getting the skinny from those who have gone before; test taking; and lawyers, the law, career paths and opportunities.

I guess calling this list cursory would be an understatement and calling it comprehensive would be overstating the obvious!

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Expand Your Legal Knowledge for Free with On-Line Courses

Nice resource for lawyers:  MentorCLE offers free on-line courses on legal subjects for Illinois lawyers. Included is this course on Persuasive Writing For Lawyers by Helen Gunnarsson. You can pay $19.95 to convert your time into an hour of CLE credit.

There is a list of a number of great presentations on the site here. Got 15 minutes and a cup of coffee? Why not learn something new? Great job, MentorCLE!

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More Legal Goodness from JD Supra – Law Centers

Image representing JD Supra as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Not content to merely offer a repository of free on-line legal documents benefiting both legal practitioners offering quality content and searchers seeking that content, JD Supra has just announced its new Law Centers. Law Centers are pages on the JD Supra site that organize and aggregate the uploaded documents by subject matter: business law; personal law; government law; and, law practice. Within these broad categories are narrower topics such as real estate and construction, immigration, bankruptcy and many other common legal subjects. The Centers will feature top news, recent articles and top contributors to the particular subject area. Searchers will find both the relevant documents and articles and blurbs highlighting the practitioners offering the documents and articles. Coming soon, you will be able to subscribe to a Law Center feed by RSS to keep track of what practitioners in a particular subject are are contributing.

Once again, JD Supra gives up the goods to lawyers and Web-izens interested in all things legal!

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Focus on Outcome, Not Income

All right, I admit that my title isn’t quite accurate, but it does have  that alliterative quality that makes for a memorable catch-phrase. What I am refering to here is a thought-provoking post at Clinician’s With Not Enough To Do regarding a shift in the focus of higher education to stress “outcome” over “input.”  The author, Carolyn Grose, is a member of the “Future of Legal Education Task Force”, a force I am certain is paying close attention these days to the problem of helping crops of new attorneys hit the ground running as traditional legal jobs dry up.

The post excerpts a presentation to the William Mitchell College of Law outlining the Task Force’s progress to date on how to render legal education responsive to the needs of modern lawyers and their firms and clients. In keeping with the American Bar Association’s recent injunctions regarding accreditation, the Task Force opines that legal education needs to shift from “input” to “output.” “Input” is what students are taught. “Output” is what students know and can perform. This boils down to increasing the “practical wisdom” of students passing out of the third year and into the real world.

Seems a Herculean task. But a laudable goal without a doubt. In keeping with an “outcome”-driven approach, the Task Force suggests working backwards in designing the curriculum. The first step in this backward progress is identifying desired “outcomes” for law grads. The areas of proficiency deemed most important include: basic legal knowledge of core subject matter and legal systems, process and source of law; the skills of analysis, research, communication, and representation; and, professional conduct and judgment in the use of knowledge and skills.

None of these “outcomes” seem particularly earth-shattering: they track the same “outcomes” my school seemed interested in imparting 20 years ago. My question is:  What does the Task Force suggest regarding the degree of emphasis to be placed on each outcome? In other words, how much effort should be placed upon instruction in “core” subjects and how much should be focused on research, writing, analytics, organization and communication, both written and oral?

I believe the answer should lie, at least in part, in educators’ assessments of how easy it will be for a fresh attorney to glean the knowledge and skills after graduation. Emphasis should be placed on the knowledge and skills that are peculiar to the profession or more difficult to learn without academic guidance. Students cannot bank on the chance that they will find their personal “Yoda” who will help them use the “Force” to defeat the Dark Side; good mentors are few and far between in the real world. Who has time to help a new associate understand how to navigate a completely unfamiliar area of law and cogently explain his or her findings to a partner focused, now more than ever, on the elusive bottom line? When will the most prestigious law schools “buy” this “outcome”-based approach and drop the pretense that ivory-tower academics should win out over practical skills training – the nuts and bolts of the average lawyer’s every day practice ? Until there is a major shift in perceptions across academic institutions and the largest firms regarding what really matters in practice, there is unlikely to be widespread change regarding the nature of legal education.

Which brings me back around to my original point: the title of this post. Maybe it isn’t that far off the mark, after all.

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More Free Legal Resources

This time, the “free and available” is brought to you by the Warren E. Burger Library at the William Mitchell College of Law. The site offers a tabbed window with primary legal materials by jurisdiction, topical materials, materials targeted to students, faculty and administrators, attorneys and non-lawyers, general information and research materials and secondary legal research resources such as blogs, citation and research guides, forms, journals and law reviews and portals and even a little international schwag.

There is a lot of good material to pour through. Consider adding it to your bookmarks, tagged “free”, “legal”, “resources”, and “research.”

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Cheers To the Boston College Law Library …

High Five!
Image by Joachim S. Müller via Flickr

… for the kind mention of Advocate’s Studio in their Spring, 2009 newsletter! The newsletter contains an article about blawgs and legal bloggers, offering an overview of the subject matter of blogging, where to find blogs, what are the ethical issues and lots of other tidbits of good information. I feel particularly honored to have the Studio mentioned along with some most excellent examples of legal blogging, including Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Wayne Schiess’ Blog.LegalWriting.Net and Michelle Lore’s Minnesota Lawyer blog.

Blogging is becoming a primary means of communication across the strata of our profession. Students, attorneys, professionals, clients, academics and other “interested parties” are on even footing in the blawgosphere. Blogging and related social outposts in the Web 2.0 world remove artificial barriers separating levels of experience and position. Opening lines of communication through blogging holds the promise of harmonizing and democratizing our profession and assisting in bringing the practice into the twenty-first century. Much of this promise lies with law students – the true future of legal practice. Here’s hoping that these students embrace the new technologies, expand and improve the medium and assist us “older” folk in learning some new tricks in the process.

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