Internet Research Tips

Internet Research Tips by David Whelan The Cincinnati Bar Association held a law practice management and technology seminar geared to solos and small firms in September. It was a great opportunity to share some Internet research tips with CBA members and learn from colleagues who presented on a variety of topics including e-discovery and mobile technology.

I focused my hour primarily on search, and how to use it to find information that otherwise might be difficult to locate.  The presentation was oriented for Ohio lawyers but the techniques work in many environments.  I caught a Road Warrior presentation by Brett Burney and Catherine Reach, two stars of the legal technology world. 

Watching and learning from them reminded me how important it is to step out of your regular area of knowledge / expertise and listen to others.  What at first can seem either irrelevant or tangential to your own needs can often end up being analogous or directly applicable.  Brett and Catherine are never irrelevant but I’m not much of a road warrior any more, nor do I have any aspiration to do that.  There were still plenty of nuggets that could work for anyone who was thinking about how to use mobile technology better.

For me, that mostly revolves around how to get more done with my Palm T|X.  I’m cell phone-avoidant and I have not adopted a Blackberry or similar device.  But I know I’ve got to figure out how to welcome EVDO into my life and take advantage of the non-WiFi wireless networks that can extend a professional’s reach while out of the office.

Not that this post has anything to do with what I talked about.  Internet research encompasses a lot of things:  deep Web databases that are not indexed by the leading engines, the sheer mass of results that a generic search can retrieve, the weakness of content providers’ own search tools.  I don’t believe most lawyers have the time to really hone this skill – much of their research is done in proprietary databases.  Nor will many of them have access to a law librarian to assist them.  It will be interesting to see how, as the costs of proprietary databases continues to increase, lawyers adapt the many free, reliable and official online alternatives to counteract their increasing overhead costs.  If only someone could figure out how to create a free citator that was half as good as Shepards!

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David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.