Jerry Lawson is President of Netlawtools, Inc., specializing in Internet
training and web site design for attorneys. He is the designer of the
Internet Tools for Attorneys web site, http://www.netlawtools.com.
To order the books listed below, click on the title.
(Archived May 15, 1998)
No, not all the useful information about the Internet is available on the Internet. At least not yet.
There is still room for paper books, especially those that go beyond being mere catalogs of web sites. The best ones provide explanations, tutorials, or add significant value through editorial judgment.
Below is an annotated selection of the books most likely to be useful for those using the Internet for legal research, broken out into three categories:
- Using the Web
- Research Techniques and
- Link Catalogs.
A. Using the Web
To be effective at Internet legal research you must be able to navigate the web with confidence.
The Lawyer’s Quick Guide to Netscape Navigator by G. Burgess Allison (ABA LPMS 1997; $74.95)
The Lawyer’s Quick Guide to Microsoft Internet Explorer by G. Burgess Allison (ABA LPMS 1997; $74.95)
These books are not marketed as “legal research” books, but non-experts may find them more useful as Internet research aids than any of the books listed below. No books are better at teaching Net navigation to lawyers than these slim volumes (about 150 pages each) .
B. Research Techniques
The general searching techniques covered in these books will stand you in good stead with either legal or factual research on the Internet.
The Alta Vista Search Revolution: How to Find Anything on the Internet by Richard Seltzer (Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1996; $16.99)
Slightly dated, but this book is so valuable as to make you wish that similar coverage for Excite and some of the other major search engines were available. Many examples are included in the 276 pages.
The Internet Guide for Michigan Lawyers, Third Edition, Ed. by Mary Ellen LeBlanc (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1998; about $50)
An excellent anthology with sections on Internet legal research. Contributions from leading Michigan practitioners, as well as experts with national reputations. Only a few sections are primarily oriented toward Michigan. This 300+ page, well produced 8 ½ by 11 page size paperback may be the best basic Internet tutorial for lawyers available. Licensed versions of the book have been published by CLE groups in Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
NetResearch : Finding Information Online by Daniel Barrett (O’Reilly, 1997; $24.95)
A simple overview of the subject. Part of the respected publisher’s Songline series of introductory books, which include Net Law: How Lawyers Use the Internet, by Paul Jacobson, which provides many practical examples of lawyers using the Internet for research.
Search Engines for the World Wide Web by Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner (Peachpit Press, 1998; $16.95)
Detailed practical coverage of the ten top general purpose search engines, plus many more specialized search engines. Inexpensive, as well as being possibly the best such reference available.
Secrets of the Super Net Searchers: The Reflections, Revelations and Hard-Won Wisdom of 35 of the World’s Top Internet Researchers by Reva Basch (Online, November 1996; $29.95)
Consists solely of interviews with experienced Internet researchers. Some great ideas, but this book is primarily of interest to serious students of the subject.
Web Search Strategies by Bryan Paffenberger (MIS Press, 1996; $29.95)
Bryan Paffenberger must be a candidate for the most prolific computer book author around. This book does a good job of covering the basics of searching on the Internet.
World Wide Web Searching for Dummies, Second Edition by Brad Hill (IDG Books Worldwide 1997; $24.99)
Like most of the “Dummies” series, a better book than you would expect from the insulting title. Even the not-so-dumb will get some good ideas.
C. Legal Link Catalogs
Judging by the numbers of books with this theme brought to market, this type is very popular, but when dealing with a something as dynamic as the Internet, some may question the utility of paper bound link catalogs. Given that an online link collection is not just potentially fresher, but easier to use (no typing of lengthy URLs), is any paper book with this format worth buying?
The answer is a qualified yes. Many entries in link catalogs will not change immediately. Not everything in them is necessarily outdated before they make their way into print.
The biggest value of such books may be”getting you in the game.” When you find one Internet site that is close to what you are looking for, it will usually be easy to find others, often more up to date ones, because they tend to link to each other. (This is why part of the Internet was named the World Wide Web: the intricate pattern of links between sites is like a spider’s web linking information literally all around the world). For many new users, the toughest part is finding those initial links to get them in the game Books can be useful for them. Even experienced Internet users may occasionally use paper resources like these as a starting point.
Guide to Finding Legal and Regulatory Information on the Internet, Yvonne G. Chandler (Neal-Schuman 1998, 212-925-8650; $125)
The newest and thickest of this genre of books. Includes brief descriptions of almost all sites listed, as well as screen captures of a good number, but almost no other exposition or assistance to the user aside from the catalog of sites. Contains little or no information about listservs and relatively few links to law firm web sites, which in some cases are among the most valuable resources available to practical researchers.
How to Access the Federal Government on the Internet, 1998, Bruce Maxwell(Congressional Quarterly, Inc. 1997, 800-638-1710; $28.95)
Like the other bibliographic books listed here, except more narrow in scope, as indicated in the title.
How To Use the Internet for Legal Research, Josh Blackman (Legal Research of New York, 1996, 718-399-6136, about $50)
One of the better books in this genre. Not as detailed as some, but the good balance between exposition and collected links is a plus, as is the annotated list of legally-oriented listservs..
The Internet Guide for the Legal Researcher, Second Edition, Don MacLeod (Infosources Publishing, 1997, 201-836-7072; $55)
Greatly improved over the first edition, but still basically just a list of sources of legally-related information about the Internet. The “how to do it” section in the front has been expanded. In an interesting touch, contains many screen captures of sites discussed.
Law on the Net, Second Edition, James Evans (Nolo Press, 1997, 1-800-992-6656 or 510-549-1976; $39.95)
Another bibliography, this time put together by a non-lawyer. Also includes legal resources on bulletin board systems and services like CompuServe, AOL, etc. Despite Evans’ non-attorney status, this book compares favorably with some of its competitors, probably due to Nolo’s experience with legal books.
The Legal List : Research on the Internet, 1997, by Diana Botluk (West Group, 1997; $39.99)
A revision of Erik Heels’ ground-breaking book, this volume is probably as good as any in this category. It illustrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. For example, do we really need a paper reference about the Internet to provide “snail mail” addresses for law schools, or telephone numbers of paper legal book publishers? One innovation: “Suggested Exercises” at the end of chapters. Has a fair amount of information on legal listservs, a plus, due to their great potential value.
A Pocket Tour of Law on the Internet, Michael Gross (Sybex, 1995, 176 pages; $12.99)
Another link catalog, this one apparently aimed primarily at an audience of non-lawyers, it’s part of a series of “pocket tours” of Internet resources related to Music, Food and Drink, Games and so on. Much shallower than some of its competition, and also more outdated than most, but the author is a decent writer and he includes a good 32 page introduction to the Internet that some will find useful. It’s hard to be too negative about a book that costs about a tenth as much as some of its competition.