RECAP: PACER Spelled Backwards is Good News for Researchers

The CourtListener RECAP resource is a gem! A joint undertaking with Free Law Project leading the way, this resource provides free searching and downloading of approximately 3.4 million PACER orders and opinions.

Where RECAP truly shines, however, is in addressing the dismal search options on PACER as well as the ability to search the full-text of all the orders and opinions it contains – something PACER has never offered.

A picture is worth a thousand words and a quick comparison of the screen captures shown below of PACER versus RECAP is stark.

PACER Search Screen


RECAP Search Screen



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What’s in an Answer on Westlaw and Lexis Advance?

Following, albeit rather slowly on the heels of Westlaw Answers which launched in February 2016, Lexis recently released Lexis Answers. Both are designed to help the legal researcher get quick answers to simple legal questions.

Specifically, Westlaw Answers provides:

  • Specific answers to common types of legal questions.
  • Links to authoritative court decisions.
  • Questions appearing in type-ahead display, with the answers shown above the search results.

Lexis Answers provides:

  • Ability to start typing
  • Ability to start typing a query in the Lexis Advance Red Search Box — you can begin in question form (e.g. “What is …”) but it’s not necessary.
  • Suggested questions as you type and can select and go to the answer.
  • Two types of results: Lexis Answers Card with a concise answer from an authoritative source such as a legal dictionary or case law along with links to go directly to the precise answer passage in the source or to explore topical links to related concepts.
  • Comprehensive search results from all Lexis Advance content.

The main differences between the two is in the display of results upon selecting the desired question.

In Westlaw Answers, the suggested question the researcher selects determines the content set of the result list that displays (i.e. cases where a term is defined, statutes/courts rules, regulations, administrative decisions or secondary sources that cover the concept) with no option to explore the larger universe of Westlaw content unless the same search is repeated.


Lexis Answers on the other hand is less cumbersome in that it offers both the answer and the ability to filter and select the additional content sets (i.e. statues, administrative  materials, secondary materials etc,) discussing the concept in a single results display screen.

The Answers feature is a great addition for both providers. However, in a head to head comparison, Lexis Answers wins on the results display side of things by saving the researcher time by allowing for ease and quickness in exploring a legal concept more fully.

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Is it Wise to Bury Your Head in the Sand? 3 ABA Tech Competence Rules Suggest No!

An Ostrich has good reason to “bury” it’s head in the sand, and not because it’s frightened or trying to avoid something. So unless you’re an ostrich who purposefully “buries” their head in the sand, doing so is risky and can have consequences especially as it relates to your awareness and use of technology in the practice of law.

Robert Ambrogi of LawSites blog fame has been tracking States as they adopt rules for the ethical duty of technology competence. As of March 16, 2017 the number is up to 27.  Both ABA Rule 1.1 and the more recently adopted revised Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) and Comments dated February 17, 2017 have bearing on attorney requirements for technology competence. The latter rule adds real and measurable substance to Rule 1.1 by requiring that CLE courses “provide education on safe and effective ways to use (emphasis added) technology in law practice”.

As the recent blog post Not competent in basic tech? You could be overbilling your clients–and be on shaky ethical grounds points out simply keeping abreast of technology is not enough, rather one should get the necessary continuing education on using technology effectively or risk being in violation of Rule 1.5 which states “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to work in a cost-effective manner and to avoid churning hours.” 

Presumably the ethical obligation to work in a cost-effective manner extends to the work you do using technology. Therein, the danger of burying one’s head in the sand when it comes to keeping abreast of technology and more importantly being effective in the actual use of the technology tools used in the practice of law truly lies!




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3 Password Management Apps: Reduce Hack Chances

The recent post How to Secure Legal Documents reveals just how quick and easy it is to crack weak passwords and is a call to action for everyone to evaluate their “password hygiene” habits!

The old saying “the best defense is a good offense” holds true in the online world of passwords too. And your best offense is to use a password manager app that remembers login information for sites you access, helps you generate strong ones, and warns you when you have duplicates.

Consider using the free version of one of these three apps to help beef up your password offensive plan.

LastPass offers a free or premium version. The free version provides:

  • Access on all devices Now Free
  • Save & fill passwords
  • Password generator
  • Secure notes
  • Share passwords & notes
  • Security challenge
  • Two-factor authentication

Dashlane is touted as the”world’s best password manager & secure digital wallet” and the free version provides:

  • Password manager
  • Auto fill
  • Digital wallet
  • Ironclad security
  • Works on all platforms – Desktop and mobile
  • Emergency sharing
  • Secure sharing (up to 5 items)
  • Security breach alerts
  • Password changer

RoboForm bills itself as “the top rated password manager” and the free version offers:

  • Password generator
  • Folders and search functionality to organize password
  • Strong security
  • Password audit to detect duplicate passwords
  • Import/export options from another file or password manager app
  • Auto-fill web forms
  • Encrypted text notes
  • Access and sync across all devices
  • Secure sharing

Creating strong passwords is an all-important defense tactic! Using one of the above apps will get you started on the path to doing so, but be certain to create a very strong master password for whichever password manager app you choose!

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Legal Bloggers: Sources for Images

Do you want to give your posts and articles a fighting chance to be noticed and read? Research has shown that Blog posts with images garner more attention and have a higher click-through rate.

Searching for photos or images for a blog post or article is easy. The difficult part is making certain you have the proper rights to use the image.  A new image search on the block and two old standbys help you do just that.

Creative Commons image search is the new arrival still in beta, that lets you limit searches by license type, title, creator, tags, collection and type of institution before you run the search.

Flickr Commons also lets you narrow the initial results list to a variety of usage types.

Here’s to increasing your click-through rate by inserting images in your articles and posts!

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New Legal Research Site on the Block

In an already crowded field, CourtListener, the newest free legal research website in town, impresses with its repositories of millions of legal opinions, thousands of judge reports (primarily directory type information), an audio collection of  oral arguments, and millions of PACER documents and dockets.

That alone would be enough to garner attention, but adding to that, its advanced search options for the various databases it offers makes it even more outstanding.

Advanced opinion search:


Citation search using the official volume number, reporter and page number:


Advanced search of PACER documents and dockets:


Advanced Judge search:


Oral Argument Search:


All in all a resource worth exploring and using!




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LegalBoard, Echo, and Fake News!

LegalBoard is a first of its kind computer keyboard designed by lawyers for lawyers/legal professionals. Via simply plugging LegalBoard in and pressing a button you are switched to legal mode which lets “you add track changes, comments, and common legal terms, symbols (i.e. §, ¶, and ©) and citations with a single keystroke”. Genius! Wonder for which profession will get the next customized professional keyboard?

Amazon Echo appears to be the latest craze in hands-free voice activated tools. While primarily intended for personal use it does have features that could be useful for attorneys but all users should be aware of potential risks. By saying a wake word – Alexa, Amazon, or Echo – anyone within hearing distance of the device, which cannot distinguish between voices, has “access to every single account you’ve linked to it” and potentially allowing a houseguest to ask the amount of your bank account or letting children inadvertently order food, toys etc.  Moreover, due to the confidentiality of client conversations and data, extra caution is in order if using Echo in a law office as requests are stored on Amazon’s server for a yet undetermined period of time.

Developed by researchers at Indiana University Hoaxy (Beta) is a partial solution to the “fake news” phenomenon. It tracks “social sharing of links to stories published by two types of websites: (1) Independent fact-checking organizations, such as,, and … and (2) Sources that often publish inaccurate, unverified, or satirical claims.” While Hoaxy does not verify if the claim is true or false, it is a good starting point for researching the veracity of a news claim.

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