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Extras - Seven Quick and Easy Internet Legal Research Tips

By Jerry Lawson, Published on February 15, 1999

Jerry Lawson is the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers, from the American Bar Association. He is also the designer of the Internet Tools for Attorneys Web site.

1. Browser's Power Features

Before using search engines, learn to use your browser's power features.  The browser is the key tool for an Internet researcher. Study the online help and consider getting a book for further guidance. Burgess Allison's Quick Guide books for Netscape Navigator and IE Explorer are great at teaching the basics lawyers need to know. See http://www.abanet.org/lpm/catalog/ for order information, or check out the review at http://www.netlawtools.com/reviews/.

2. Graphics

Speed up access and reduce distractions at the same time: Turn off the automatic downloading of graphics feature in your web browser.

3. Find Feature

If you find a lengthy document that has the information you want in it somewhere, use the Find feature of your web browser to locate it within the document. It's a choice under the Edit menu of most browsers.

4. Fast ISP

Get as fast and reliable an Internet connection as you can manage. This applies to both your ISP and your type of connection (analog modem, ISDN, cable modem, ADSL, etc.). It is true that a determined researcher with slow, underpowered connection will eventually find most of the things that someone who is better equipped will find. However, just because a good marathon runner could complete a race wearing a 10 pound weight doesn't mean that is the preferred way to compete.

5. Best Time to Search

Try to time your searches to avoid Internet congestion periods, like mid afternoon in the eastern U.S. Your searches will be faster, and possibly more complete, since some search engines truncate searches when under heavy load.

6. Bookmark It!

If you find a valuable resource you will probably want to use again, bookmark it. Make it easier to find your treasures by keeping your bookmarks organized. Newer browsers support nested folders and drag and drop to organize bookmark files.

7. Browser Searching

For simple quick searches, use your browser. With Internet Explorer 4, type in the word find or go and a search request in the URL line to get an instant list of hits from Yahoo. With Netscape Navigator 4, just type in the search term or terms. If you are only looking for one word, preface it with a plus symbol and a space (+ impeachment). The browser will select a search engine and return the search results automatically.