A wealth of information at your finger tips.
by Patricia Jordan
In today’s competitive market, conducting cost-effective legal research online is essential for lawyers. Effectively using online tools and technology to find a decision or legal information in a timely manner is paramount. If you are unfamiliar with the area of law or topic you are researching, then you may consider beginning with the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED) on Westlaw Canada, or Halsbury’s Laws of Canada on Quicklaw, to provide an overview of the topic and references to journal articles and primary sources. Much of your case law and statutory research can be done on CanLII, a free online resource funded by Canadian law societies.
Legal search engines, blogs and wikis are other information tools that are gaining prominence in Internet research. Wikis are collaboratively created websites, where users can generate and edit content. While legal wikis can provide a good starting point for legal research, care should be taken in checking accuracy against other sources. Further, courts are unlikely to recognize information compiled by anonymous users without a peer review or other forms of quality assurances as authoritative.
A good example of a Canadian legal wiki is legaltree.ca. It publishes resources and literature that are contributed by lawyers in the Canadian legal community. The site has search options for resources by subject area, articles and news columns, including thousands of secondary sources for books and websites on all areas of Canadian law. Another option is to search online databases like WorldCat.org and HeinOnline.org. HeinOnline’s content spans multiple library collections with more than 40 million pages of research material that is available to subscribers in more than 180 countries. Blogs that focus on a particular area are also useful sources for current information on specialized topics. Many blogs offer RSS feeds that notify you of new postings. A list of Canadian law blogs is available on the Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch (CBABC) website at cba.org/bc in “Public and Media” under “Legal Links and Blogs.”
The “Best Guide to Canadian Legal Research” at legalresearch.org, created by Catherine Best of Boughton Law Corporation, is a comprehensive, well presented website. It has been freely available online since 1998. I asked Catherine what prompted her to create this top Canadian legal research website.
“My goal was two-fold. I wanted to introduce students to a process for research that incorporated commentary and analysis. Many students go directly to full text case law and neglect other research tools. I also wanted to give lawyers tools to help them use electronic sources effectively. A little knowledge of how a product works can dramatically improve search results.”
Listservs are another option for sourcing legal information. The CBABC offers its Section members several listservs that serve as a vehicle for communication respecting professional interests, including matters of law, practice and procedure, and legislative developments. CBABC listservs allow Section members to communicate with hundreds of other participating lawyers via email. For information on how you can subscribe to your Section’s listserv see “Practice Resources” at cba.org/bc.
Site du Jour
The “Best Guide to Canadian Legal Research” website offers tips on how to develop a search strategy, search case law, conduct legislative research, keep current and much more. There is an emphasis on electronic sources, including links to leading sites, guides to electronic research, and comparisons between electronic research tools.
Patricia Jordan is the CBABC Web Manager. She welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions. Tel: 604-646-7861; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; visit: www.cba.org/bc.
This article was published in the October 2009 issue of BarTalk. © 2009 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.