We all knew this day was coming. And on November 16, 2009, it did.
Google Scholar is publishing legal caselaw. http://www.scotxblog.com/news-and-links/google-wades-into-free-legal-research-for-texas-too/ That’s right: Google’s in the legal publishing game. The Law. Free. Online.
Here’s a post from Rick Klau, a member of the Google team, that just destroyed Westlaw and Lexis. http://tins.rklau.com/2009/11/us-caselaw-in-google-scholar.html His report includes lots of commentary on the importance of Google freeing “the law” from proprietary organizations that have made money for decades on the product of judges and courts, which are public institutions. And here’s the popular Ernie the Attorney, with a smart take on what Google has accomplished. http://www.ernietheattorney.net/ernie_the_attorney/2009/11/google-now-helps-with-legal-research.html
The law belongs to us all, and it may truly now be free. Thrilling.
Google engineer Anurag Acharya led the effort. He was motivated by making the law accessible to all http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7017021931?Need%20Legal%20Information?%20There’s%20A%20Cite%20For%20That.
Not surprisingly, the legal establishment is not quite as delirious. Here’s the post by Robert Ambrogi, who has become the arbiter of the ever colliding worlds of law and the Internet http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2009/11/the-google-gorilla-enters-the-research-game.html. And here, Carolyn Elefant weighs in with her thoughtful view of its impact http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2009/11/the-google-gorilla-enters-the-research-game.html. Monica Bay also offers a smart take, including canned releases from LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters http://commonscold.typepad.com/commonscold/2009/11/google-scholar-posts-cases-.html .
“Free case law is not new to the Internet and is included on some of our own sites like lexisONE, LexisWeb and lawyers.com. However, our legal customers generally require more than raw, unfiltered content to inform their business decisions. They look to LexisNexis to find needles in the ever-growing information haystack, not the haystack itself.
Not only do we provide the most complete portfolio of public and proprietary legal content, but LexisNexis enables legal professionals to conduct their research more efficiently, effectively, and with the assurance of accuracy. The LexisNexis legal research service provides critical analysis and commentary such as Mathew Bender, citation analysis like Shepard’s, deep online linkages built over time to relevant content, and unique functionality such as pinpoint searching by topic or by complex legal phrases.
Our goal is to deliver relevant, reliable results that enable our customers to make informed decisions faster.”
From Thomson Reuters:
“Google has shared with us their plans to expand Google Scholar to include the search of publicly available caselaw and some legal journals. We believe that government-authored information should be accessible to the public, and Google joins existing sites such as FindLaw, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School and scores of others as sites that offer this information free of charge.
Our customers rely on us for very specialized information and legal insight, and use Westlaw to find exactly the right answer on very specific points of law.”
It’s certainly true that practitioners will not readily abandon the tried and true, and that the fulsomeness of the LexisNexis and Thomson suites has a certain repellant value. Here’s an interesting take from the IT side: http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/2009/11/18/google-squeezes-lexisnexis-and-westlaw-hard/.
Expect lots of continuing discussion and development. But bottom line: the power of Google, free and the majesty of the law is a site to behold.
And now you don’t even need a password.
Here are links to some old interviews with Acharya: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=37309 and http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Now-Google-goes-scholarly/articleshow/929365.cms.
In the Times of India article, he noted, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”