The estimable Mel Scott (who runs a great podcast) asks an interesting question:

   What’s the most important thing a lawyer should know when starting a new job?

My tip? Don’t spend all your time sucking up to supervisors & the highest people on your entity’s organization charts. Many times the most valuable people to know are on a lower level:

  1. When I was a teacher before becoming a lawyer, I always made it a point to get in good with the school’s janitor. This served me well.
  2. When I was a junior lawyer in civil service jobs I made it a point to get in good with key secretaries. This served me even better.
  3. When I became a wiser lawyer I made it a point to get to know the lower level de facto key movers and shakers in lower positions on the organization chart, the ones who knew where the bodies were buried and knew how to get things done. This served me best of all.

In brief, I always prioritized developing strong relationships with non-supervisors who could benefit me and help me accomplish things that would benefit the organization. This admittedly idiosyncratic approach to legal work in civil service legal jobs worked for me because it complemented my personality:

It’s hard for me to try to get ahead by sucking up to supervisors. Taking the contrary approach of developing lateral relationships works better for me:

  • Developing a good relationship with the school janitor helped me because it made any requests I made for assistance his top priority. Spending time making him my buddy gave me much more benefit than I would have gained by sucking up to supervisors.
  • Developing a good relationship with key secretaries, becoming friends with them, helped me in multiple ways. For example, more than once I found that when I had blown a deadline or made some other mistake my supervisor’s secretary would try to protect me by downplaying or making excuses for my error. I found this quite amazing. It benefitted me more in the long run than sucking up to supervisors would have done.
  • Finally, getting to know the key movers and shakers who did not rank high on the organization enabled me to get more accomplished. This let me help our organization’s mission, especially when I worked for civil service supervisors more interested in high performance appraisals than in creating the benefits their organization was supposed to provide.

The Bottom Line

I found that knowing who to know provided me giant benefits, especially when working in public service jobs, including the civil service. For years I thought this approach was something I had stumbled upon myself, something that worked for me, but would not work for others.

Only later did I discover that academics had provided a theoretical basis for my approach. It was something that would work for anyone savvy enough to understand it. A book from the Harvard Project on Negotiation, Getting It Done: How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge, helped me understand what I was doing and why it worked. These lessons would help many lawyers–especially those in civil service jobs who find their supervisors lacking.

More on this later.




Unsurprisingly, Conrad Saam, always the curmudgeon, reports that he was the sole contrarian in a recent panel on social media marketing for lawyers. Not drinking the Kool-Aid, right, Conrad?

While every law firm should have a business-card type presence on all major social media forums, social media is generally not a promising direct-to-consumer marketing channel for lawyers. Social media marketing can be good for lawyers, but only a few stand to gain major benefits. This becomes clear when you evaluate the few success stories & ask how many lawyers could follow a comparable trail.

Would somebody like Amy Griggs, a partner in Washington, DC firm Regan Zambri Long, PLLC?, be in this category? Maybe. Her LinkedIn feed is promising, but the jury’s still out.

Own The Map Book Cover
Own the Map

Own the Map: Marketing Your Law Firm’s Address, Saam‘s new book on marketing for lawyers, convincingly explains why most lawyers should not expect giant benefits from marketing via social media. It’s available from Amazon or the ABA.


Apple has released security updates for a serious security issue. Hackers are actively exploiting a newly discovered vulnerability in iOS/iPadOS 14 and macOS Big Sur. Each should be upgraded immediately to the latest version:

  • iPhones: iOS 14.7.1 or higher.
  • iPadOS: 14.7.1 or higher.
  • MacOS: macOS 11.5.1 or newer. has background information and easy updating instructions.

Let’s be careful out there.


Immigration lawyer innovator/disruptor Roman Zelichenko shared an instructive story via LinkedIn about a real estate lawyer who failed to meet his expectations.

When Zelichenko complained about the low quality of service the lawyer replied:

I don’t know what you mean by “service provider.” I’m a lawyer. I do my job, you get your house, you pay me, and we part ways. Believe me, I won’t lose any sleep over this.

Dinosaur? Maybe. One thing is certain: This is not someone I want working for me–or with me.

Posted in our “Off the Clock” category:

Everybody’s got heroes, somebody who taught him things and helped them develop as a person. One of my biggest heroes was Gene Siler, a Navy veteran and conservative Republican. Richard Nixon appointed him as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Gerald Ford made him a District Court Judge and George H. Bush later selected him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

I was proud to work for him as a law clerk in my first job out of law school. I admired him for many reasons, but especially because he treated everybody the same, regardless of whether they were poor or a big shot. Very refreshing, in a society that is rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

If anything, Gene Siler was  tougher on the big shots who had committed crimes. More than once I heard him tell some politician or wealthy criminal: “You were in a position of trust and you abused it. You’re gonna have to do some prison time.”

I often wonder what he would say if some of the wealthy politicians or billionaires who plague our nation today had to appear in front of him for sentencing.

God bless you, Gene Siler.

Advocating for change can be difficult. My 1995 experience at the National Archives and Records Administration illustrates a few lessons:

Innovation In A Change-Resistant Organization: A Story

In 1995 few federal agencies had robust Internet presences. Most had none at all.

As a lawyer with the National Archives and Records Administration my duties did not include technical matters. Despite this in my own personal life I had some ideas of the exciting things that were happening with the Internet, and I recognized the enormous potential to improve organizational effectiveness. I drafted some white papers explaining email, the Worldwide Web, and various other Internet features and providing advice on how to implement them in the federal environment.

This was not part of my job. I was just a lawyer. I had no IT duties. I had learned about the Internet on my own time, more or less as a hobby. I was no great tech wizard, but I knew enough to understand the basics of how the Internet worked and have an idea of some of the ways it would change the world.

With some trepidation, I gave the white papers to my supervisor. He laughed.

He thought the Internet was just a fad, something that would go away soon. He was not stupid, quite the contrary. However, his attitude was consistent with the thinking of many, probably most federal managers at the time. He wanted nothing to so with something as frivolous as “surfing the web.”

I didn’t let it drop there. I was too low in the bureaucratic pecking order to know anyone as august as June Gibbs Brown, the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services. As that time she was Chair of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, an interagency working group. I forwarded a copy of the material to her office.

She loved it and asked if I could present the ideas at a PCIE meeting. At that point my supervisor had a 180 degree change in attitude. Once he learned that a higher ranking official believed the ideas were valuable, he decided he would champion them. He insisted on attending the PCIE meeting to present the white papers himself.

At the request of June Gibbs Brown, I revised the white papers to format them as an article for the Journal of Public Inquiry, a new publication for Inspectors General throughout the federal government. The resulting article, Adventures in Cyberspace: An Inspector General’s Guide to the Internet is available at this website. It is also archived at the website.

This was one of the first published articles to make the case for federal government use of the Internet in a systematic way. It’s kind of fun to see how things have changed: Compuserve, anyone?

Lessons Learned

Lessons for Innovation Champions:

  • Be stubborn. Don’t be discouraged if there is opposition to new ideas, even if others ridicule the ideas. This is not an aberration. It is normal.
  • If lower level managers are unreceptive, seek out higher level audiences.

Lesson for Managers:

  • Be alert for good ideas coming from unexpected sources. Your IT staff is not the only–nor even always the best source of IT advice.

Fighting for innovation will not always make you popular in your organization, but success in improving organizational efficiency is one of the biggest satisfactions you can have.

Part I: Who Is Carole Levitt?

Jerry Lawson: I’m pleased to talk today with Carole Levitt, one of the country’s premier experts on Internet research, both legal and investigative. Her most recent book, coauthored with Judy Davis, is the second edition of her treatise Internet Legal Research on a Budget. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Carole Levitt: Glad to be here.

[JL]: How did you begin working with the Internet?

[CL]: I began using the Internet in the early to mid-1990s when I was a law firm librarian in Los Angeles. At one of my firms, which had 100 lawyers, I was the only person who even had access to the Internet. That meant that everyone had to ask me to do their Internet research. By early January 1999, it occurred to me that the Internet was becoming increasingly important to lawyers and that they needed to learn how to use it on their own. In between my Masters in Library Science, twenty-years of experience as a law librarian, my law degree, and as a formerly practicing lawyer and legal research professor, I decided I’d be the perfect person to teach them. So, I came up with the idea of Internet for Lawyers, a CLE company focused on teaching legal, business and investigative Internet research. It took me about six months to figure out how to start a business, beginning with learning how to write a business plan. I had the help of a wonderful SBA consultant (who worked with me for free).

[JL]: I used to work at SBA and I’m glad to see that in this case they did what they are supposed to do, help entrepreneurs who have a good idea.

[CL]: It helped. It then took me a month to write my first seminar book, which was 78 pages. (It eventually became a full-length book, The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet, which is now in its 14th Edition at 543 pages long.)

[JL]:14 editions! That’s a perennial, right? Obviously, many people want to hear what you have to say.

[CL]: We’ve always had strong response to the books. We wanted to supplement the books with high quality presentations. Actually, Jerry, I wrote the book for the first seminar that I gave. It never occurred to me to sell it as a stand-alone book until my partner, Mark Rosch, came up with the idea to sell it on Amazon. It took me a month to learn PowerPoint to create a slide deck for my first seminar! I finally gave my first Internet research seminar eleven months after first envisioning my business.

[JL]: What are the most valuable things this experience has taught you?

[CL]: I learned a lot of valuable things in the first year or two of creating and building Internet For Lawyers. First, I learned that there are so many people available to help you. For example, I wouldn’t have even known about the usefulness of the Internet for legal research if it wasn’t for fellow law librarian Cindy Chick, who taught me (and many Los Angeles law librarians) how to use the Internet back in the early to mid-1990s.  I couldn’t have even created a PowerPoint presentation without the help of my husband, who taught me how to use PowerPoint. But, neither of us knew how to grab a screenshot of a website to paste into a PowerPoint slide or a document. Once again, Cindy Chick to the rescue. She showed me how (alt print screen).

Second, although it took a long time to get the business off the ground, I learned that all the preparation work was worth it because I was extremely confident of my knowledge when I gave that first seminar in 1999. I wasn’t at all nervous even though I had never before given a CLE seminar to lawyers. (I had taught legal research and writing at Pepperdine Law School, but teaching lawyers is very different from teaching law students.) I realized right away that lawyers were more motivated to learn than law students and that they also liked to have fun at the same time, so I quickly integrated humor into the seminars by using humorous research scenarios (mostly true ones)

Third, I also learned to never allow anyone to assign a co-speaker to me. The lawyer assigned to me in my 1999 seminar knew very little about the Internet. I felt like it was a poor reflection on me and that it was unfair to the attendees.

[JL]: I’ve had similar experiences. Not fun.

[CL]: Tell me about it. After that, I insisted on choosing my own co-speaker and the person was always someone like me—someone who had gone to library school and law school and was working as a law librarian, and in some cases had also practiced law.

Finally, I also learned that you have to be ready to shift away from your business plan if you realize it’s not realistic. My business plan was to provide individual, one-on-one training to lawyers on how to use the Internet. After giving my first seminar to a large group, I realized that was the way to go.

[JL]: I remember awarding your business the “Netlawtools MVP” award years ago. The citation read:

Internet for Lawyers is Carole Levitt’s promising new California-based site: “Sole mission is to teach attorneys, paralegals, law librarians, law firm administrators, law firm marketing departments and lawyers to effectively gather information online, through individual, one-on-one training and seminars.

Pretty fair summary of what you were doing then, right?

[CL] Well, as I mentioned earlier, I had already shifted away from my 1999 business plan of one-on-one training because I realized it was not realistic.

[JL]: You have won quite a few awards, right?

[CL]: I’ve been pleased to receive a few: The California State Bar gave me their Lifetime Achievement Award. The ABA Law gave me the Practice Division Bestseller Award for The Lawyers Guide To Fact Finding On The Internet. I received the 2013 “Fastcase 50” award, recognizing “50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.” In 2012, I was inducted into the College of Law Practice Management, an honorary legal technology association and in 2015, I was elected to the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech.

[JL]: Nice list. I guess your mantle must be pretty crowded! By the way, what advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?

[CL]: Assess your skills and passions and look for someone who has similar skills and passions who you can follow via their blog, website, podcast, YouTube channel, etc.  To find some likely candidates to follow, do a keyword search on your topic using Lexblog or Justia’s Blawgsearch to identify the key people who are blogging in your area of interest. Once you’ve identified the key people and followed them for awhile, try to meet them—virtually or in-person. Ask them how they got involved in legal tech and see if they would be willing to give you tips or introduce you to other like-minded legal techies.

[JL]: How did you find the right legal tech people?

[CL]: For me, I found a website that aligned with my interest and passion, which was Internet legal research. I assume I did a web search for “legal research” back in 1999. I remember being completely blown away the day I “found” Findlaw. I immediately contacted the co-founders, Tim Stanley and Stacy Stern, because I just HAD to meet them. I was living in L.A. and they were in the Bay area. Tim and Stacy were the pioneers in creating a website for free Internet legal research resources. I learned so much from them and their site. (They eventually sold the site to Westlaw and then co-founded another of my favorite sites, Justia.) I later met Sabrina Pacifici, who founded and is still the solo editor and publisher of LLRX. I read everything on LLRX to learn more about Internet Research and offered to write for the site. That way I began to get my own following and find a national audience.

[JL]: Did you find it useful to attend legal tech conferences to meet key legal tech people?

[CL]: Yes. That was my next step. I attended Legal Tech conferences to watch some of the key people in action and to get to know them and also the legal tech conferences organizers, such as Ross Kodner, a legal technologist who helped conference organizers bring in speakers, and Monica Bay, who was editor-in-chief of ALM’s Law Technology News. I eventually began co-speaking with some of the people I had been following (virtually and in-person). Some of the legal tech conferences I used to attend have faded away, so now I only attend (and recommend) the ABA TechShow. I also hear that Clio puts on an excellent legal tech conference.

[JL]: You mentioned you offered to write for LLRX so you could become known. Did you write for anyone else?

[CL]: After meeting Monica Bay at ALM’s conference, I offered to write for Law Technology News and she accepted a few of my pieces. I also wormed my way into writing for the Los Angeles County Bar’s Los Angeles Lawyer magazine as their “Computer Counselor.” The editor-in-chief doubted I’d be able to come up with a monthly column, telling me I’d run out of ideas about the Internet in no time. How wrong he was. All of that writing led to the author of the first edition of The Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet, published by the ABA Law Practice Division asking me to become his co-author for the second edition. That led to 7 more books.

[JL]: Just curious: What is your go-to social media platform and why?

[CL]: Facebook. I began using it to teach lawyers how to find evidence on someone’s profile and I still use if for that. But, then I started getting Friend requests and begrudgingly accepted them. Soon, I realized it was a great place for me to keep a travel diary, of sorts, with photos.

[JL] I really like your Facebook feed. Lots of great travelogue-type photos.

[CL]: We have been traveling all over the U.S. since 1999 presenting seminars (13 times to Alaska and a few times to Hawaii) and sometimes it’s hard to recall where we’ve been. Now I have Facebook to remind me, especially when it pops up Memories every day. My friends and family also began counting on me to show them the country, through my photos and comments.

Part II: What’s New With Carole?


Internet Legal Research on a Budget
Internet Legal Research on a Budget

[JL]: I guess the biggest news with you is your newest book, the Second Edition, Internet Legal Research on a Budget. I enjoyed your book and have already used tips from it. I received an ebook review copy, but decided to buy a paper copy as well.

[CL]: Glad to hear from another satisfied customer!

[JL]: At $99.95, just $67 for ABA members my impression is that this book is the best investment lawyers who want to improve their legal research skills could make. How can people get a copy?

[CL]: It’s available at

[JL]: If you had to distill the message of your book to one or two sentences, what would you say?

[CL]: The easiest way to answer that question is to quote the Forward: “With cost-conscious clients scrutinizing legal bills, lawyers cannot afford to only depend on fee-based resources the way they used to, especially if there are reliable free resources available. Our goal in writing the second edition of this book is the same goal we had when we wrote the first edition: to point lawyers to useful and reliable free (and low cost) Internet legal research resources and to explain how to use them effectively so they can become more satisfied using these resources. In other words, our goal is to help you save time and money and avoid frustration in your legal research quest.

[JL]: Carole, this is not your first book, right?

[CL]: I’ve also written 7 other books for the ABA LPD and 14 editions of The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet, which is my self-published seminar book, all of which I co-authored with my favorite CLE seminar speaking partner, Mark Rosch, who just happens to be my husband!

Part III: Tips from Carole Levitt

[JL]: What do you consider to be the most significant changes since you began working in the legal tech space?

[CL]: The Internet was the most significant change to legal tech and not just for research but for everything, from advertising your firm through a website, to communicating with clients and colleagues via email, booking flights, taking photos, texting, etc. And, now with the pandemic, the Internet, and the second most significant change in legal tech, cloud computing, have made it possible to work from home and carry on the business of running our law offices and the court system.  We can conduct video meetings with clients and colleagues, take depositions, hold hearings, etc., thanks to Zoom and other sites like it.

[JL]: What are the most important things you could share with others who might want to emulate you?

[CL]: To emulate me? Well, my Internet For Lawyers in-person CLE speaking business is for sale and so is my Cybersleuth book, so to truly emulate me, it would help to have a Masters in Library Science (or whatever they’re calling it now…Information Science?) and a law degree. And, they’d need some speaking experience. Mine came from teaching law school and paralegal school. Finding a co-speaker would also be helpful because speaking all day by yourself is hard on the voice. It would be a really big help if their co-speaker was their spouse…that way you have company on the road and the clients get a two-for-one! If you know of someone, let me know. If you don’t want to emulate me exactly, but wanted to start a new legal tech business, identify a need that also aligns with your strengths and passions.

[JL]: You regularly teach CLE programs not just on legal and investigative research, right?

[CL]: That’s right. In our all-day program, we actually spend the entire morning on how to be a better Internet researcher. No lawyer I know has ever taken a course on how to research on the Internet and often, they will comment, “Where were you 20 years ago and why didn’t I learn this before today?” So, it might sound basic to you, but we do “begin at the beginning” before launching into teaching investigative research in the afternoon’s 3-hour session. I also teach social media research and social media research ethics.

As to legal research, I don’t usually teach that at our in-person seminars. Instead, I teach that topic on, a division of Internet For Lawyers, which my husband and I co-founded in 2015. My co-author Judy Davis and I offer a one-hour webinar based on our Internet Legal Research on a Budget book.

[JL]: Tell me a little more about CLE Webinars.

[CL]: offers both live and on-demand courses. “Only” about ten of the courses are mine, with the other courses taught by a variety of national speakers on a variety of topics (mostly law practice, technology, ethics, and bias, but also some substantive legal topics such as immigration law, contract drafting, and more).

[JL]: What factors should lawyers consider when selecting a legal research service? What to look for, what to avoid?

[CL]: It really depends on a lawyer’s budget and what type of law they practice. For the budget-minded, check out Casemaker or Fastcase, the legal research service that your bar association offers you for free. Every state bar offers one or the other (and some offer both, like Texas). Some local bars and some specialty bars also offer Casemaker or Fastcase for free. On January 1, 2021, Fastcase and Casemaker merged. I suspect it will take a few years for them to totally blend their services into one, so for now, lawyers will access one or the other. But, if I were an appellate lawyer or trial lawyer who had to write a plethora of briefs and memos and check citations to make sure I was citing good law,  I might prefer to use Lexis, Westlaw, or Bloomberg, because their citator services are easier (less labor intensive) to use than the other legal research services. Also, be sure to check out the coverage of each service, from date coverage (e.g., Does it go back far enough? Does it add cases daily?) to practice area (e.g., Does it cover the practice areas I practice in? Tax law? Tribal law?), to the types of resources I regularly consult (e.g., statutes, regulations, treatises, etc.) and not just case law (Google Scholar only covers case law, but it does offer free articles). Artificial intelligence is playing more and more of a role in legal research services (current services and some new services), so I think the landscape will continue to evolve as will the selection decisions.

[JL]: Do you have any suggestions for teaching legal research to summer associates or other junior lawyers?

[CL]: My only suggestion is to also teach them about investigative and business research, which is something not taught in law school, but something they’ll need in the real world. If they have law librarians on staff, I assume they’ll teach some seminars. If they don’t, take CLE courses on this topic (even though they won’t yet need CLE, that’s the best place to learn). I’ve already mentioned my webinar company for that, but I’d also recommend checking out ABA Law Practice Division webinars and look for free company-sponsored webinars. Both Fastcase and Casemaker offer free webinars and many legal tech companies do too.

Part IV: What’s Next for Carole?

[JL]: You’re the type of person who is always working. What can we expect to see next from you?

[CL]: Ask me after the pandemic lifts.

[JL]: Looking forward, what does success look like for you?

The look on a seminar attendee’s face when you can tell that a light-bulb just went off in their brain and they finally understand something they’ve never been able to figure out. Whether it’s something as basic as learning that when you want to exclude a word from Google you must use a minus sign before the word (-lawyer) and not “NOT” to how to find something on the Internet you saw yesterday, last week, last month, etc. and now it has disappeared, and you need it for evidence (

Part IV: Five Questions

[JL]: The late James Lipton (hilariously parodied by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live) always closed each celebrity interview with the same ten questions, including “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” Here are my five questions:

  • If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

[CL]: I’d like to have the ability to erase poverty, violence, prejudice, bullying, and hatred. That would be magical. And, I’d increase access to education, require that everyone learn about their country’s constitution (and pass a test like I had to in 8th grade!) and learn about their country’s form of government, and finally, learn how to reason things out by researching both sides to an issue and not following blindly. That last one also involves knowing how to ascertain which Internet sites are reliable.

  • Which mentor influenced you the most?

Craig Ball. I used to co-speak with him at legal tech conferences. He was so knowledgeable about investigative research, yet he came across as down-to-earth and didn’t make the attendees feel stupid about the Internet. Most were in awe of it. Craig added humor to his seminars, which I also had done, but that encouraged me to keep it up. Craig coined the word “Cybersleuth” (at least he’s the first one I ever heard use that word) and when he left the world of cybersleuthing to enter the world of e-discovery (a much more lucrative choice than my choice of teaching CLE and writing books), I “borrowed” the word “Cybersleuth” (with his blessing) for my seminar and book titles.

  • What personal achievement gives you the most satisfaction?

Teaming up with my husband for the past 21 years to write books and give seminars and webinars without hurting our marriage! Mark’s not a lawyer, but he is a self-taught techie, so we make a good team. I met Mark one week before I began studying for the California Bar, so I think he’s a lawyer by osmosis.

  • What professional achievement gives you the most satisfaction?

Being able to hold an audience’s attention for an entire day when Mark Rosch and I conduct seminars and knowing that they each have a 500+ take-away (The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet) to help them with their future research.

  • Finally, what is your favorite movie and why do you like it?

I could never answer that question. Mark used to be an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles, which means I’ve seen many, many movies…too many to choose a favorite. I will say that my favorite genre of movies are documentaries (or movies that teach me something) and that I avoid action hero movies and science fiction movies. However, I do like animated movies.

[JL]: This has been a fun interview. I wish you all the best and look forward to talking with you about your next book!

This interview originally appeared at

“A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research” (West Academic Publishing, 2020) by Ann Walsh Long

Available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions, as well as directly from the publisher (paperback and ebook).

Ann Walsh Long has a message for lawyers:

Over the last five years, legal artificial intelligence tools such as data analytics and natural language processing have moved from science fiction to practical tools. Versions of these powerful tools are available in Fastcase, Judicata, Casetext, and sections of Lexis Advance, Westlaw Edge and Bloomberg.

Long’s book, “A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research,” contains good ideas for balancing quality, speed and expense, along with a wealth of other insights on improving online legal research.

AI and Data Analytics

These increasingly sophisticated tools can give lawyers who know how to use them large advantages. In an age when each year’s paper volumes containing U.S. District Court opinions take up a new 13.5 feet of linear shelf space, we need all the help we can get. The threshold problem has been that it has not been simple to learn how to use these new tools — especially for lawyers more than a few years away from law school.

How can AI and sophisticated data analytics help lawyers? It could be something as simple as automatically adding the synonym “physician” to your research request concerning “doctor.” It could be as useful as quickly obtaining a sophisticated analysis of jury verdicts and settlements in the relevant jurisdiction. It could be something as powerful as generating an extensive, easy-to-use analysis of the decision pattern of the judge who is hearing your case — one that takes into account the 98% of decisions that are not published.

Long analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of these tools and explains exactly how to use them.

Balancing Quality, Speed and Cost in Advanced Legal Research

As valuable as the book’s artificial intelligence sections are, I like another feature even more: the emphasis on considering the cost and speed of various automated legal reference tools. I’ve never been comfortable with two tacit assumptions that pervade much legal research instruction:

  1. The researcher will always have access to unlimited use of the most expensive resources.
  2. Every issue deserves the same amount of time as the critical issue in a Supreme Court case.

I’ve never met Ann Long, but she won my heart when she wrote “Legal research is costly in two ways: expense and time.”

Engineers joke about clients who insist “This project must have very quick completion, minimal expense and the highest quality.” The engineer’s punch line is, “Well, between quick, cheap and good, you can only have two.”

This concept is sometimes called “the triple constraint triangle.” Things can be quick and cheap. They can be quick and good. They can be cheap and good. They can’t be quick and cheap and good. Every day, in so many fields we juggle quality, speed and cost. Legal research is no different.

Legal ethics rules require our work products meet reasonable quality standards. They have to be “good.” This means that in the real world lawyers must weigh time against expense. Can you compile a legislative history using only free tools like the U.S. House of Representatives version of the U.S. Code? Sure, but it will take longer than using proprietary legal research tools. Long understands this.

A key feature of the book is the many charts analyzing research tools, first explaining why the resource is valuable (“good”) and then explaining how each is “cheap” or “fast.” Some of the best examples are charts on pages 53-57 analyzing the good, cheap and fast options for statutory research.

Serendipitous Benefits

One of the best things about this book is the author’s habit of almost casually dropping useful ideas that may be nothing new to good law librarians but will be welcome novelties to most practicing lawyers.

For example, absent this volume, I likely would not have learned about Ken Svengalis’ “Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual,” an excellent consumer guide that I wish I’d had in hand when negotiating with the “big three” online legal research services.

Long’s recommendation of the browser extension Pocket may give me even more long-range benefits. Many lawyers will find this utility for organizing web research results quite valuable.

This volume is one of many books in West Academic’s “Short and Happy Guide” series. A copy of the table of contents is available online.

Though originally intended for academic audiences, “A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research” is a valuable tool for lawyers, especially for nonexperts. It is the best $22 investment practicing lawyers are likely to find. Highly recommended.

About Ann Walsh Long 

Ann Walsh Long is a lawyer and former law librarian. She is the current Head of Research & Digital Collections and Assistant Professor of Law at the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law. Her work experience includes stints at some of the country’s largest law firms as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters library.

Other Views of This Book

This review originally appeared at Attorney At Work.

John Simek provided many good tips during his recent presentation at VSB Techshow (archived at Virginia State Bar CLE site, for those who did not catch live version) I was particularly pleased that he recommended Bruce Schneier as a top source of IT security advice. Schneier’s  blog is a consistent sources of valuable insights not readily available elsewhere.

Schneier’s Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World was published years ago it remains the single best IT security book I know. It’s biggest value is not specific products or services, nor techniques, but teaching people how to think about security.