Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.
Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University’s Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.
Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.
The Web, often viewed as the repository of “everything,” has not yet caught up with sophisticated legal researchers. But it can and does provide a cost effective alternative to traditional document delivery services. The Web continues to be a better retrieval than search tool for legal researchers with cites to specific materials. Recent full-text law review, journal and newsletter articles are available, often without charge, if you know where to look. We frequently find ourselves attempting to locate law review or legal articles on the Internet. Such a search is often a two step process: identify an article in an index source or via a tables of contents service, then locate the article in full-text.
Several legal meta-sites provide links to law reviews and journals – from tables of contents services to full text coverage. Keep in mind that full-text law review coverage is limited on the web. For instance, the Tarlton Law Library, provides a table of contents database which includes more than 750 law reviews and legal publications. This database is keyword searchable and updated daily. Full-text of these materials can be obtained for a fee from the Tarlton Law Library document delivery service or materials may be available from the sources below.
To find a listing of full-text law reviews available on the Web, try LawJournals on the Net. Additional law review website links include U.S.C.’s useful site which lists journals and indicates Web availability – full text, abstract, or table of contents. Washlaw provides descriptive listings of many journals including a number of foreign publications. Findlaw’s “Law Reviews” gives users an option to search the text of law review articles as well as request e-mail notification of new tables of contents from selected law reviews. You can also find links to law reviews and journals with at “web presence” at Jurist.
Both Westlaw® and Lexis® offer full-text retrieval of documents such as law review articles, cases and statutes by citation, with payment by credit card, in an effort to broaden their client base. Lexisone charges $9.00 to retrieve and print an article. A similar Westdoc® search costs $10.00. The advantage to using these services is familiarity with search techniques and a “one-stop” shop as well as the coverage provided.
While law review coverage may be sparse, the web has facilitated access to law firm client newsletters so often requested by attorneys. Few sites compile or index law firm newsletter articles. Law Firm Central has “briefing papers” by its sponsoring firms categorized by subject at http://www10.law.com . Law firms are continually urged to provide clients and their other website visitors with the added value of newsletters and articles but the nagging fear remains that many of these newsletters are not being caught by the large search engines. General search engines using the firm and newsletter name or subject may be moderately successful in locating a specific newsletter. Searching the law firm’s website may be more successful. For example, using Findlaw you can select “Law Firms & Lawyers” and search the firm website for the material. You may also search Findlaw by legal subject and jump to Publications: Journals, Newsletters and Articles for that subject. Links to law firm newsletters as well as a wide variety of sources including state produced brochures, bar journal articles are often provided in this category. A list of Findlaw’s own electronic subscription newsletters may be accessed at http://www.findlaw.com/lists/announcesubscribe.html.
For more popular literature, both legal and general, try Magportal. Legal materials are included in “Society, Politics & Culture” — “law.” Magportal offers some helpful clues by categorizing articles into subject areas but you are able to conduct keyword searches and mark your finds for retrieval later. Findarticles.com claims access to articles in more that 300 “reputable magazines and journals” if you are seeking general information. If you are looking for a web site to help not only with legal articles, but also with assistance linking you to any number of helpful legal sites, you may want to bookmark LawyerExpress. This site, like its sister, CEOExpress, provides links of use to practitioners or business persons on one page. LawyerExpress provides links to selected law reviews, numerous legal news sites and many other sites of interest for lawyers.