Oregon State Bar Bulletin — APRIL 2011
Short Takes:
Four New Legal Sites
By Robert J. Ambrogi

Can a website make you a smarter litigator? Can the cloud enable you to manage your practice more effectively? Can the collective wisdom of the crowd help streamline patent reviews? Can a website help spread pro bono throughout the world?

Do I have answers to these questions? No. But the developers of four new websites believe they do. This month, we offer brief introductions to these four sites.

Web-based Practice Management
Sometime in the first quarter of 2011, LexisNexis will introduce the beta version of a web-based practice management application designed for smaller-firm lawyers called LexisNexis Firm Manager, www.myfirmmanager.com. The application has been in development and private beta for a number of months and Lexis is now preparing to open it to an invitation-only public beta.

Firm Manager is a browser-based practice-management tool. You can use it to manage all of your cases, contacts, appointments, meetings, tasks and messages. It features a “dashboard view” designed to let you see a quick overview of key information right from the home page and then easily navigate to sections that provide greater detail.

Because Firm Manager is web-based, you can access it from any computer at any location. Lexis is promising 99.9 percent uptime for Firm Manager, as well as world-class security for your data. Firm Manager can synchronize with Microsoft Outlook and will be optimized for use on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and iPad.

Lawyers will be able to sign up for Firm Manager on a month-to-month basis with no long-term commitment. Monthly pricing will be flat-fee, all-you-can eat. Cancel at any time and then have up to six months to retrieve any data you’ve stored. During the public beta period, there is no charge to use Firm Manager. You can sign up to participate in the public beta at the site.

(I was part of a 15-member advisory board recruited by Lexis to provide feedback on the product’s development. I was given access to a private beta version. I received no compensation for my participation. I did receive reimbursement for air and hotel to travel to one board meeting.)

A Resource for Litigators
Legal media company ALM has rather quietly launched a new Web resource for litigators, Smart Litigator, www.smartlitigator.com. The site is intended for litigators in New York state but will become the template for the eventual roll-out of similar sites in a number of states where ALM has offices. (New Jersey and Pennsylvania are next.)

ALM formally unveiled Smart Litigator in late January at two back-to-back events, the New York State Bar Association annual meeting  and LegalTech New York. The site is now up and running and available to anyone to try free for 30 days.

Smart Litigator is heavily integrated with the New York Law Journal, the daily legal newspaper that reports news, court decisions and court information, and with ALM’s VerdictSearch, www.verdictsearch.com. It taps into those sources to provide case and verdict reports tailored to your practice area. It also offers forms, checklists and actual case files contributed by a roster of prominent New York litigators.

In addition to that content, Smart Litigator has a full, 50-state case law and statute research database. Even though the site is focused on New York, its users can research cases from any federal court or state appellate court and statutes from every state.

The site is designed to have a simple interface and to be easy to use, and it accomplishes both of these goals. One way it does this is with a universal search feature. At the top of every page throughout the site is a search bar that lets you search across all of its content types. Results are organized by content type, so you can easily narrow your search results.

After the 30-day trial runs out, the subscription price is $795 a year for NYLJ subscribers and $995 a year for all others. That’s an all-you-can-eat price; there are no extra charges for viewing particular libraries or types of content.

I have a more detailed review at my blog (www.lawsitesblog.com). The bottom line is that Smart Litigator is a full-featured product that any New York lawyer who goes to court will want to check out.

Crowdsourced Patent Review
You may remember the pilot project called  Peer To Patent, www.peertopatent.org, an innovative collaboration between the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the Center for Patent Innovations at New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy. The pilot, which ran from 2007 to 2009, used crowdsourcing and the power of the Internet at large to help vet applications for business-methods and software patents.

Now, Peer to Patent is back, with a new pilot that launched Oct. 25 and that will continue to accept applications through Sept. 30, 2011.

Under the pilot program, inventors can opt to have their patent applications posted on the Peer to Patent website. Volunteer scientific and technical experts then discuss the applications and submit prior art they think might be relevant to determining whether the invention meets the legal standards of being new and non-obvious. After the review period, the prior art is sent to USPTO patent examiners for their consideration during examination.

This latest pilot will accept 1,000 applications, a nearly three-fold increase from the 400 handled under the earlier pilot. Also, it will accept applications for a broader range of patents from the business-methods and software patents covered under the first pilot. It will now include biotechnology, biopharmaceuticals, telecommunications and speech recognition technology.

Global Hub for Free Legal Help
Recently, Thomson Reuters launched a Web-based service that is intended to promote “the culture and practice of pro bono” around the world. Called TrustLaw, www.trust.org/trustlaw, the site’s key feature is a platform called TrustLaw Connect, which is designed to allow non-governmental organizations and social entrepreneurs that cannot afford legal services to connect with lawyers willing to represent them for free.

The site also features two comprehensive libraries of news stories, legal materials, case studies and other resources. One library focuses on materials related to pro bono legal services. The other collects materials related to good governance and anti-corruption.

Explaining the purpose for the site, Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said that although pro bono is well organized in countries such as the United States, many countries lack any organized platform for pro bono. With TrustLaw, she said, “we are creating a market for pro bono… to spread the practice of pro bono worldwide.”

The kinds of legal matters appropriate for TrustLaw are wide-ranging. They can include advice on such topics as IP, governance structures, organizational issues, contracts, real estate and employment. For lawyers, one benefit of the site is the ability to become involved in global projects outside the usual scope of their day-to-day work.

Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of
National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.

© 2011 Robert Ambrogi

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