Google Scholar – Finding the Laws That Govern Us – A Challenge for Lexis and Westlaw

After several years in Beta, Google Scholar has been launched.  For years, “web-based” services have been nipping at the heels of Lexis Legal Research and Westlaw Legal Research.  Several states have put their case law and statutes on line; so have the federal government.  Some ventures have tried to harness the “free databases” and build usable front end search module.  The result has been a patchwork of “data”, sufficient for the “common man” but lacking in depth, scope and comprehensiveness to be used by attorneys.  There was always the risk of missing the latest slip opinion, amendment, or missing the back information about the statutory and regulatory enactments.

With the release of Google Scholar, a new and very well funded player has entered the arena:  Google.  Armed with billions of dollars and a mission to “do good” while also making money, Google has brought its vaunted search engine to the area of law and statutes.  Read the quoted release below and check it out. The search engine options are still fairly limited, but the scope of the database is enormous.

As many of us recall from our civics lessons in school, the United States is a common law country. That means when judges issue opinions in legal cases, they often establish precedents that will guide the rulings of other judges in similar cases and jurisdictions. Over time, these legal opinions build, refine and clarify the laws that govern our land. For average citizens, however, it can be difficult to find or even read these landmark opinions. We think that’s a problem: Laws that you don’t know about, you can’t follow — or make effective arguments to change.

Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the “Legal opinions and journals” radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptablity of “separate but equal” facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.

We think this addition to Google Scholar will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all. To understand how an opinion has influenced other decisions, you can explore citing and related cases using the Cited by and Related articles links on search result pages. As you read an opinion, you can follow citations to the opinions to which it refers. You can also see how individual cases have been quoted or discussed in other opinions and in articles from law journals. Browse these by clicking on the “How Cited” link next to the case title. See, for example, the frequent citations for Roe v. Wade, for Miranda v. Arizona (the source of the famous Miranda warning) or for Terry v. Ohio (a case which helped to establish acceptable grounds for an investigative stop by a police officer).

As we worked to build this feature, we were struck by how readable and accessible these opinions are. Court opinions don’t just describe a decision but also present the reasons that support the decision. In doing so, they explain the intricacies of law in the context of real-life situations. And they often do it in language that is surprisingly straightforward, even for those of us outside the legal profession. In many cases, judges have gone quite a bit out of their way to make complex legal issues easy to follow. For example, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court justices present a fascinating and easy-to-follow debate on the legality of internment of natural born citizens based on their ancestry. And in United States v. Ramirez-Lopez, Judge Kozinski, in his dissent, illustrates the key issue of the case using an imagined good-news/bad-news dialogue between the defendant and his attorney.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Join me on and add your comments to the Virtual Lawyer Group.  BTW:  The URL is

A Fresh Start for HotDocs

This week LexisNexis divested itself of the HotDocs software group.  It sold the assets the group to Capsoft UK.  In a post on LinkedIn, titled “Capsoft Buys HotDocs Software Business from LexisNexis,” Loretta Rupert, Senior Director of Community Management wrote:

LexisNexis is divesting HotDocs to its leading global distributor Capsoft. This divestiture is in keeping with the LexisNexis strategy to provide a family of complementary products in the legal market. HotDocs is a very popular product with many satisfied customers but no longer fits with the Practice Management product line. The sale to Capsoft allows HotDocs customers to benefit from continued support and product development to meet their evolving needs.

Capsoft is the largest distributor of HotDocs software globally and has over 13 years experience with the technology. As LexisNexis continues to transform its lineup of offerings to focus on the company’s core competencies, Capsoft is singularly equipped to maintain and enhance HotDocs software and support for you.

LexisNexis is retaining its Hot Docs Automated Forms business that utilizes HotDocs Player and unique LexisNexis content. To do this, LexisNexis is licensing HotDocs software to support Automated Forms and to resell the HotDocs software in certain markets.

The official Press Release is quoted in full below: Official Releae

EDINBURGH, Scotland & NEW YORK, Nov 17, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) —-Capsoft, a leading international provider of document automation software and services, and LexisNexis, a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions, today announced the sale of the HotDocs(R) software business to Capsoft. Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

Through retention of its Automated Forms group, LexisNexis will continue to provide HotDocs-enabled forms and precedents with solutions such as Lexis(R)PSL, LexisONE(R),, Lexis(R)Library, LexisNexis Total Practice Advantage(TM), and other LexisNexis(R) Automated Forms sets.

Law firms, banks, insurance companies, government agencies and other large businesses use HotDocs document assembly software to quickly and efficiently generate customized documents such as contracts, sales proposals, government and court forms, legal documents, loan applications and medical forms. The technology streamlines these processes to deliver faster document creation, lower costs, improved document accuracy and a valuable knowledge base of an organization’s most critical documents.

Over the past 13 years, Capsoft has been distributing and implementing HotDocs software in some of the largest law firms and financial institutions in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific Rim.

Russell Shepherd, CEO of Capsoft, said, “For Capsoft, this is a natural progression and one that I am very excited about. As an established distributor of HotDocs, we know the product inside and out and are extremely well placed to invest in the continuous development of both the software and the support offered to new and existing customers across the world. I look forward to enhancing our longstanding relationship with LexisNexis through the ongoing provision of HotDocs software.”

“As LexisNexis continues to transform its portfolio of offerings, we believe that Capsoft—as the largest distributor of HotDocs software globally—is singularly equipped to maintain and enhance HotDocs software and support for that product’s customer base,” said Alison Manchester, vice president of content management services at LexisNexis.

About LexisNexis(R) LexisNexis(R) ( is a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions designed specifically for professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting and academic markets. LexisNexis originally pioneered online information with its Lexis(R) and Nexis(R) services. A member of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: ENL)(NYSE: RUK) (, LexisNexis serves customers in more than 100 countries with 18,000 employees worldwide.

About Capsoft Capsoft is a privately held company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The business was formed in 1996 to provide document automation services to large corporations and law firms. Capsoft now provides software and services to hundreds of law firms across the globe, and provides business critical software and services to many large corporations, including some of the largest banks in the world.

SOURCE: LexisNexis