Legal Research Products on the Web

By Elliott, Franki | Searcher, June 1998 | Go to article overview
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Legal Research Products on the Web

Elliott, Franki, Searcher

Franki Elliott, a former law librarian, is principal consultant, Information Research Services, Hudson Heights, Quebec, Canada. She specializes in Internet research and training focused on legal products. Other activities include association with Merlin Global, a business intelligence firm in Montreal. Her e-mail address is

Legal publishers are working nonstop to migrate their material to the Internet. Many products have already arrived built specifically for this platform. As usual, LEXIS-NEXIS has the broadest array of data and many Web packaging and delivery options. Most providers employ push technology to facilitate delivery. Quality products are emerging at competitive prices, and for some quality products, the price is free. Content has once again taken its rightful place in the information spectrum, topping all priority lists.

Legal publishers and database providers such as the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), Carswell, the West Group, CCH, and LEXIS-NEXIS are the major players. Federal and state (or provincial, for us Canadians) governments have gone into the game too, loading their statutory, case law, and regulatory material on the Internet. Disclaimers on legislative sites still state that information on the Internet is "not the official version." However searchers cannot overlook a Justice Department site as an excellent research resource. Government sites generally offer a bit more sluggish service in terms of functionality than those of commercial vendors, but if you know what you want, they are transparently easy to use.

Specific sites such as Strategis from Industry Canada offer full libraries of legal information, both domestic and international. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the UN, OECD, and EC, present formerly obscure data on their sites, e.g., international treaties, guidelines, proposals, and reports. As early users of the Internet, law schools made information available that opened access for all with generally well structured and frequently updated sites. Legal associations, local bars, and continuing legal education groups mount a variety of public access and proprietary information on the Internet. They also provide further link which are helpful, but often not as current as the offerings of universities an legal publishers. Law firms give away tidbits in reports and newsletters relate to their areas of expertise. Advocacy proponents, human rights activists, and environmentalists such as the Access to Justice Network, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace have gone onto the Internet. pushing the r ight of universal access to information to new levels Consolidated, self-contained research capsules and metasites help bring some order to the confusing abundance of legal information available on the Internet.

Let's look more closely at some 01 these players.


Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA)

BNA makes more than 45 of their current notification publications available in electronic format via Lotus Notes and the Web. Areas covered include business and legal, e-commerce, crime, bankruptcy, anti-trust, family law, environment and safety, health care, human resources and labor, international law, trade and tax.


Canada's national resource of information and legal interpretations for law, ax, and human resource professionals among others. TAXNET is their major product now running on the Internet.

West Publishing

The merger of the West Group companies -- Bancroft-Whitney, Clark Boardman Callaghan, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, WESTLAW, and West Publishing -- assembles the most respected legal tools into a powerful integrated research system.


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Legal Research Products on the Web


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