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Book Review – Google For Lawyers

Large law firms used to have large budgets for legal research which gave them, supposedly, an advantage over smaller law firms.  Those days are gone as research and technology budgets are strained even for large firms.  It is possible to do excellent legal research on the Internet for free but lawyers need to learn how to harness the power of Google.  The ABA Law Practice Management Section has published Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch’s Google for Lawyers Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools. These are the same experts who have authored The Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet currently in its third edition, and Find Info Like A Pro Volume 1 Mining The Internet’s Publicly Available Resources for Investigative Research and Find Info Like A Pro Volume 2 Mining The Internet’s Publicly Available Resources for Investigative Research also from the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section. 

Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch are the co-founders of Internet For Lawyers and they are the gold standard for teaching legal professionals about the Internet.  They specialize in teaching about free investigative and background research resources as well as how to use the Internet and technology to research more efficiently and cost effectively in practice.  Their books are the first I recommend to my students in Advanced Legal Research each year.  

It’s a foregone conclusion that law students are going to use Google.  Everyone uses Google but how many of us really know how to use Google effectively not only for research here at school but later in practice?  For instance one of our recent blog posts discussed using the legal opinions and journals search under Advanced Google Scholar.  If you haven’t read that post I recommend it to you.  

Google For Lawyers is a big book, 27 chapters full of information about everything from why lawyers have a duty to Google; to finding free case law, legal news and articles; to researching expert witnesses, opposing counsel and clients.  It also covers many Google features such as Google Groups and how you can recover email archives from those groups; Google Images so you can locate photos of pretty much everyone and everything; Google Blogs; Google Finance which helps you monitor public companies and gain a competitive intelligence advantage and much more.  

The first chapter in the book is about why you should use the Internet to locate information and the lawyer’s duty to Google to search for publicly available information on the Internet.  Courts first began talking about parties being “imputed with constructive knowledge of information available in the public domain” in Whirlpool Financial Corporation v. GN Holdings, Inc., 76 F. 3d 605 (7th Cir. 1995).  Ten years later the Third Circuit agreed with the Seventh Circuit’s Whirlpool statements about accessing information in the public domain in In re: Adams Golf, Inc. Securities Litigation, 381 F. 3d 267 (3d Cir. 2004).  

In Munster v. Groce, 829 N.E. 2d 52, 62 (Ind. App. 2005), the judge took note that there was no evidence in this case of a public records or Internet search for Groce (the missing party). “In fact we (the judge) discovered upon entering “Joe Groce Indiana” into Google an address that differed from either address used in this case as well as an apparent obituary for Groce’s mother that listed various surviving relatives who might have known his whereabouts.” 

Since most people never use all of Google the book is invaluable for learning about Google features other than just its search engine.  In addition to the ones I mentioned above, there’s Google Books which now has millions of books, many in full-text, posted for free.  Once you find a book in Google Book you can get it from a library or purchase it.  Google Desktop Search installs on your hard drive so you can not only search the Internet but also search your files; this is a great free knowledge management tool.   Most people know about Google Apps, which includes Google Docs, email (Gmail), spreadsheets, calendar and Google presentations (PowerPoint-like slide presentations), all of which can be shared online so as a law firm you can draft documents with lawyers in other offices or share them with clients.  But do you know about Google Sites and how to use it to market your practice or locate clients for a particular class action lawsuit you are considering?  

There is a good section on Google privacy regarding the information stored in Google Docs and Gmail.  While no system is perfect, the ABA’s opinions on this are detailed in section 18.8 of the book along with the very good advice to make sure you check with your local Bar about their rules and Ethics Opinions on protecting information.  

There are several features detailed in the book that Google is no longer supporting most notably, Google UncleSam and Google Wave.   This only goes to show how quickly things change on the Internet.  All in all Google for Lawyers is an excellent way to learn how to make use of one of the world’s favorite search engines.

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