Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New online law library looks more useful to lawyers than laymen, a new site, is stocking a free, virtual law library by persuading lawyers to do something highly unusual: to post examples of their legal work online for use by one and all, no strings attached. Many of the documents are articles and newsletters that can be understood by ordinary mortals who want more background on a legal issue, or who would like to find lawyers with expertise in a particular area.

It works like this: Lawyers who contribute to JD Supra dip into their hard drives for articles, court papers, legal briefs and other tidbits of their craft. They upload the documents, as well as a profile of themselves that is linked to each document. Site visitors who have a legal problem and are thinking about finding a lawyer can use an easily searchable database to look up, say, “trademark infringement,” find related documents and, if they like the author’s experience and approach, perhaps click on his or her profile.

Contributing lawyers get publicity and credit for the socially useful act of adding to a public database, and visitors get free information, said Aviva Cuyler, a former litigator in Marshall, Calif., who founded the business. “People will still need attorneys,” Ms. Cuyler said. “We are not encouraging people to do it themselves, but to find the right people to help them.”

I performed a general search on the term "copyright" and came up with a number of documents. However, the type of documents listed did not appear to be particularly useful to the average person without a legal background since they are formal motions without concise summaries to aid in the understanding of all of the verbose legalese they contain. Many appear to be motions to amend original motions to add other parties to legal actions filed by someone else. These types of documents contain little useful information about a particular issue and their presence just adds a lot of chaff to sift through looking for something useful (if you are not a lawyer looking for boilerplate).

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