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FindLaw’s New Case Summaries Through RSS Feeds
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Posted On October 13, 2008
Time was you had to go to FindLaw (www.findlaw.com) to find out about the law. Now FindLaw comes to you! Last week FindLaw announced "up-to-the-minute" court opinions and case summaries available through RSS feeds. The summaries are written by attorney-editors at the Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters of FindLaw, tagged by jurisdiction and law topic, and then fed into an RSS (really simple syndication) feed that automatically sends updates to subscribers. FindLaw uses the SmartFeed technology from FeedBurner (www.feedburner.com). SmartFeed is compatible with every feed reader—even mobile platforms. It enables users to aggregate their customized FindLaw feeds in one place. (For more information on feeds, go to www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?answer=79408.) To view all the FindLaw RSS feeds, including the new Case Summary RSS feeds now available, go to http://findlaw.com/RSS-index.

How fast is up-to-the-minute? Same day, usually within hours of the release of the opinion! Considering the manpower needed to just assemble the cases uploaded each day from 23 jurisdictions, to have summaries within hours sounds Herculean. Archives of summaries written since September 2000 appear at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casesummary/index.html.

The following is a list of the legal topics covered at FindLaw:

  • Bankruptcy Law Case Summaries
  • Civil Procedure Case Summaries
  • Class Action Case Summaries
  • Constitutional Law Case Summaries
  • Contract Law Case Summaries
  • Criminal Law & Procedure Case Summaries
  • Environmental Law Case Summaries
  • Legal Ethics Case Summaries Family Law Case Summaries
  • Immigration Law Case Summaries
  • Injury & Tort Law Case Summaries
  • Insurance Law Case Summaries
  • Intellectual Property Law Case Summaries
  • Labor & Employment Law Case Summaries
  • Patent Law Case Summaries
  • Tax Law Case Summaries

FindLaw will be adding more RSS feeds topics that are appealing to both consumers and legal professionals as determined by user demand. So start sending those cards and letters for new topics from the consumer side of FindLaw, as well as the legal professional side (http://lp.findlaw.com). Just off the top, possible topics might include accidents, dangerous products, education law, and elder law and aging, as well as lemon laws. Don’t be afraid to suggest entirely new topics as well.

Coverage

The 23 jurisdictions covered to date are as follows:

  • Federal Courts, including Circuit Courts
    1. United States Supreme Court
    2. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
    3. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
    4. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
    5. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
    6. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
    7. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
    8. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
    9. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
    10. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
    11. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
    12. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
    13. Federal Circuit
    14. D.C. Circuit
  • Selected State Courts
    1. California Courts—Supreme Court of California; California Appellate Districts
    2. Delaware Courts—Supreme Court of Delaware
    3. Florida Courts—Supreme Court of Florida
    4. Illinois Courts—Supreme Court of Illinois; Illinois Appellate Courts
    5. New York Courts—New York Court of Appeals
    6. Texas Courts—Supreme Court of Texas; Texas Criminal Court of Appeals

What Can You Do With the Feeds?

If you are interested in a particular field of law, you may want to get these types of blow-by-blow summaries with links to brand new cases as soon as possible. With this service you can beat the local legal newspaper’s coverage! If you practice law or live in one of the states covered, you might also want a feed on your own Supreme Court and courts of appeal to see if any new cases might impact you or a client. If you have a news publication, current awareness, or legal blog covered by one of the FindLaw legal topics, you might want to forward FindLaw case summaries to your readers. If you are a lawyer, you might want to add the summaries to your firm’s website for personal marketing purposes.

The FindLaw folks are fine with this. They even explain how to use all kinds of FindLaw content to market a practice (see http://lp.FindLaw.com/law-practice-management and/or www.lawyermarketing.com). Just make sure to give FindLaw credit for the summaries that you add to your site and link to the cases on FindLaw, as in the original. To see examples of how the feeds have already been incorporated into blogs, check out www.criminallawlibraryblog.com (attribution to FindLaw, but it is missing the links to FindLaw for the full text of cases), www.criminal-defense-blog.com (although access to the full text of the summaries was not working the day I visited), http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law (attribution and working links to FindLaw are both present), www.scotusblog.com (contains a link to FindLaw S. Ct., which links to FindLaw’s subscription link for Supreme Court summaries), and the Environmental Law blog summaries (http://organomic.newsbeet.com/story/Findlaw-Environmental-Law-Case-Summaries-1).

Clearly, in less than a week, the FindLaw Summaries have begun filtering out to consumers and special interest groups.

What’s Next?

More topics, especially consumer issues are coming. Hopefully, the future will also provide for new RSS feeds alerting users to new legislation, particularly in areas such as bankruptcy, immigration, intellectual property, patent, and tax topics, which are exclusively federal by preemption. In these areas, FindLaw would only have to track Congress. Ideally, even mixed-state and federal law topic areas (such as class action, criminal law and procedure, and environmental) would receive legislative summaries or alerts. Maybe, in time, even the primarily state issues of civil procedure, legal ethics, family law, and insurance topics will be covered—at least in the state jurisdictions already covered.

In conclusion, I believe that FindLaw has come up with a service that will bring its value to the attention of many who have never heard of it before, through posting and reposting of FindLaw case summaries on specialized blogs, newsletters, and law firm websites. Each of these new RSS readers will be obliged to register for free on FindLaw to read the linked judicial opinions. Watch FindLaw grow.



Carol Ebbinghouse is law library director at the California 2nd District Court of Appeals and the "Sidebar" legal columnist for Searcher magazine.

Email Carol Ebbinghouse
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