Magazine article Information Today

CD Law: Washington Law on Disc

Magazine article Information Today

CD Law: Washington Law on Disc

Article excerpt

What do the Seattle and Spokane municipal codes have in common with the codes of Skagit, Snohomish, and Yakima counties (to name only a few)? Apart from sporting Native American names, the laws of these Washington-state governmental entities can all be found on a single CD-ROM, one of three CDs in a series named, appropriately enough, the CD Law series.

Washington-state lawyers not only have a variety of municipal and county codes available on a single CD, but also the Revised Code of Washington, the Washington Administrative Code, and several other important primary law materials. Among them are recent session laws with legislative history, the Washington State Register, Attorney General Opinions, the Rules of Court, and the Local Rules of Court, to name only a few.

And we haven't even begun to delve into the contents of the other two discs in the CD Law series, which cover Washington-state court decisions (past and present) and recent decisions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oh yes, and just to make it interesting, they've also included a copy of the U.S. Code. And all for the bargain-basement price of $1,495.

What makes all of this possible? CDROM technology, Personal Library Software, and the law of the land. The first two have been combined by CD Law, Inc. to produce a very powerful Washington-state primary-law product. The second is in the public domain.

The CD Law, Inc. staff's editorial efforts and the engine they've chosen to run their product all distinguish this particular CD-ROM primary-law title. The availability of state and federal statutory, judicial, and regulatory law explains why the CD-ROM market for primary law is the most competitive it has ever been. In Washington state there are a number of prominent CD-ROM publishers, including West, Michie, and LCP. These publishers have long published state codes and other primary-law materials. But today, the Washington-state CD-ROM primary-law product with the largest market share is the one produced by CD Law, Inc.

Serendipitous Research

Today there is no reason for any attorney in Washington state to perform legal research using books. Books are wonderful. Books are essential. And books are often the most elegant information technology available. But today, in Washington state, the attorney who does not at least take a look at the CD Law series is in jeopardy of diminishing the productivity of his or her practice. If you have never before opened up a CD-ROM product or performed computer-assisted legal research, products like the CD Law series are going to be difficult to absorb. But if you're at all computer literate, consider for starters the multiple ways the product can be searched.

If you load up the series' Decisions/RCW disc, you have at your fingertips the Supreme Court Decisions, volumes 25-129 Wn. 2d (1946-1996), Court of Appeals Decisions 1-82 Wn. App. (1969-1996), and the full text of the Revised Code of Washington. Not only are these at your fingertips but the web of ways in which they can be accessed and used brings to mind the terms heuristic and serendipitous.

Both of the preceding terms describe the sometimes curious path of research. If, as in most instances of case-law research, you begin with a fairly concrete search (e.g., "what constitutes doing business in Washington?"), it is often not the way you end up. Instead, your process of inquiry typically assumes an odd kind of browsing effect. Usually that browsing effect is lost when performing computerassisted research, but with the Decisions/RCW disc, the process of caselaw research can actually follow a serendipitous path. …

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