Extras – A Review of Current Legal Resources

Steve Anderson is the Librarian at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger, & Hollander, LLC in Baltimore, MD.

Jump to News-Flash for information on new pricing for Current Legal Resources, added 1/30/1999

(Archived February 15, 1999)

  • Tired of maintaining U.S. Code and C.F.R. CD-ROMs?
  • Would you rather pay a bit more to get a fully updated U.S. Code on the web?
  • Are you tired of lengthy waits to complete C.F.R. searches on GPO’s server?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions then the products available on Current Legal Resources just may be for you. CLR undisputedly serves up the latest copy of the U.S. Code and has plans to make the C.F.R. current to within 24 hours of release of the Federal Register, according to Gregory A. Brown, Esq., Vice President of CLR’s Sales and Marketing. Federal Court Rules will be available during the First Quarter of 1999.

CLR was founded earlier this year by a group of former West Group employees who were responsible for the editing of the U.S.C.A. before the closing of West’s Westbury, Long Island, publishing facility. CLR picks up where West left off and continues “a 100 year old tradition of publishing primary federal legal information on Long Island,” according to CLR’s web site at http://www.currentlegal.com. Its editorial staff averages over 20 years of experience in updating federal laws, rules, and regulations, so users can be assured of the authority of its products.

On January 1, 1999, CLR plans to update the U.S. Code within a few days or weeks of the passage of legislation. As I write this, the last legislation that was codified on CLR was only seven weeks old, which betters the U.S.C.A. and the U.S.C.S. by at least two months, and also improves upon the currency of the U.S. Code on LEXIS and WESTLAW, though updating is only a click away on those systems. One year’s unlimited access to this service costs $450.

One of the first features a user notices when visiting the CLR site is its clean, simple, straightforward screen design. It would be difficult for even the most technophobic attorney to get lost. Moreover, it accomplishes this efficiency with only a minimum of links–it takes just three to move from the entry page to a search screen, excluding the password screen.

Users may search by section, popular name, source (that is, the Public Law number), or full text. Even though one may select different fields in which to search full text, there is no online help, or, in fact, any description of Boolean searching at all. Therefore, one is left wondering whether one truncates with an “!” or an “*”. A search guide would certainly be a helpful inclusion.

My full text search took a bit long, but slow network times could have accounted for that. It was marginally slower than a full search on the free U.S.C. web sites conducted within a few minutes of the CLR search.

CLR succeeds at putting together an intermediate level of Code-related meta-information, such as source notations, amendments, and other sections referenced. However, the other sections referenced are not linked. Navigation through successive Code sections is also a straightforward task.

Nevertheless, regardless of its currency and intuitive screen design, it may face a tough sell when faced with quickly-improving free government and law school sites. For example, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School has created a one-stop updating center for their copy of the 1996 U.S. Code, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/. Although a user needs to click four different links to double-check currency (and additional links to examine new legislation, if needed), a speedy internet connection will likely make this task only a mere annoyance if he or she needs to do this only on an occasional basis.

The House of Representative’s version of the U.S. Code is also available for free and even more current than Cornell’s copy. The site at http://uscode.house.gov/usc.htm contains the first half of the Code, current as of January 26, 1998, and Titles 26 through 50, last updated on January 6, 1997. Although the update information was inaccurate when I visited the site, one cannot help but wonder how much longer it will be until The Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives has created an even more timely and efficient site. (Editors Note: For more information on updating the free versions of the U.S. Code, see Genie Tyburski’s recent column, “Illustrating Dave’s Axiom United States Code – Free — on the Web.”)

Current Legal Resources’ copy of the C.F.R. was only in beta test form as of this writing. Still, one can glean some insight into its future by looking at the CLR’s Code features. That is, it will also likely offer an intelligent user interface and easy-to-use search features.

Although CLR’s goal of an immediately updated C.F.R. adds a great deal of value to its product, some legal information consumers will wonder if that alone is worth its $500 subscription cost. (CLR has announced a package deal for 1999 of $750 for both the U.S.C. and C.F.R.). Consider, for example, the recent improvements made to GPOAccess’ version of the C.F.R., available at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/cfr-table-search.html. It now contains a browse feature, full text and section search functions, as well as an updated L.S.A. (List of C.F.R. Sections Affected), so a user can easily make a section current to within a few weeks of the Federal Register. In any event, GPOAccess also hosts the current Federal Register, at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html, from which a user can search particular C.F.R. sections. Of course, CLR may create a more straightforward search feature than GPO’s, but it was not yet available for testing. However, CLR will likely be light years ahead of GPO’s limited server capacity in providing speedier searching.

Current Legal Resources seems to be pinning its hopes on providing the most current copies of Federal primary legal resources. It is well on its way to accomplishing this task admirably. It will doubtlessly ease the minds of those attorneys and librarians who want the absolutely most current texts and will not take “no” for an answer. Still, CLR is positioning itself in a tight squeeze, between free web sources running a bit late on one hand, and U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S., providing much more comprehensive annotations, on the other.

You may try out a sample search, find out additional product information, or subscribe at http://www.currentlegal.com.

News-Flash – Pricing Update from Gregory Brown, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Current Legal Resources.

CLR announces it’s NEW pricing effective February 1, 1999. The Federal Suite (U.S. Code, CFR, Statutes at Large and soon to be added Federal Rules) will be only $495 for an unlimited access annual subscription. The U.S. Code will be $300 and the CFR will be $350.

CLR will continue to produce high quality materials, guaranteed to be the most current, and offer them at prices that the market dictates.

(Added 1/30/1999)

Posted in: Extras, Internet Resources