Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Personal archives for legal documents

Anne Eisenberg, Lawyers Open Their File Cabinets for a Web Resource, New York Times, April 27, 2008.

..., a new site, is stocking a free, virtual law library by persuading lawyers to do something highly unusual: to post examples of their legal work online for use by one and all, no strings attached. Many of the documents are articles and newsletters that can be understood by ordinary mortals who want more background on a legal issue, or who would like to find lawyers with expertise in a particular area.

It works like this: Lawyers who contribute to JD Supra dip into their hard drives for articles, court papers, legal briefs and other tidbits of their craft. They upload the documents, as well as a profile of themselves that is linked to each document. Site visitors who have a legal problem and are thinking about finding a lawyer can use an easily searchable database to look up, say, “trademark infringement,” find related documents and, if they like the author’s experience and approach, perhaps click on his or her profile.

Contributing lawyers get publicity and credit for the socially useful act of adding to a public database, and visitors get free information, said Aviva Cuyler, a former litigator in Marshall, Calif., who founded the business. “People will still need attorneys,” Ms. Cuyler said. “We are not encouraging people to do it themselves, but to find the right people to help them.”

The site opened at the end of February and has attracted about 200 contributors, including small, midsize and large firms, as well as academics and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Cato Institute. The basic service of posting documents and linked profiles is free to these contributors; the site charges $240 a year if contributors want to add links in their profiles to their e-mail addresses, Web sites and blogs. The site will also carry advertisements. ...

Other innovations in virtual law libraries are concerned with new search technology for legal information on the Web. Thomas Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego, is the co-creator of a search engine called PreCYdent, now in the beta, or testing, stage, that uses legal citations to find related information ...