I had a short post last week about some of the strange content discrepancies you can find on the regional sites powered by LexisNexis and Westlaw. In the meantime, the Findlaw UK site has debuted so I decided to take a look and see how it was different from its US and Australian brethren.
I won’t pretend to have spent much time on it but all the content I did look at (particularly in the real estate (conveyancing) area) was either sourced to freely available government content or was unsourced. At least with the other sites, you had identifiable content owners so you could get a sense of the reliability of the information. Compare this Advice for First Time Buyers with its original at Direct.gov.uk. The former is really just a cut and paste of text, while the latter, original, has additional cross-linking so that a reader who gets there might be able to click through to other Directgov content. Even in the Ask a Question forums, you find that Findlaw staff are asking AND answering the questions. I appreciate that new Web sites, particularly those developed primarily as marketing resources, need content, but this seems to take it a bit far. When you click on contributor names, there is no information about what their qualifications are to answer the questions. Legal researchers interested in UK legal issues would be better off going directly the Direct.gov.uk site, where there appears to be far more content and you are not one step removed from the publisher.
These sorts of sites can make Internet legal research much more difficult, since they are likely to be optimized to appear higher in search engines or else why would they be marketing sites? But if their content is dated, or sourced from reliable sites and then not kept current with the original site, it means that you start to have unnecessary noise in legal research, particularly for non-lawyers researching on their own. Legal research is enough of a bramble without adding confusing, duplicated and potentially dated content.