The staff here at the Alameda County Law Library is always on the lookout for no-cost but reliable information sources to share with our patrons. The library is on a tight budget. Many of our patrons are too. Our revenue stream has dropped dramatically over the past decade. We have had to make adjustments within our collection, making the most of what we have. We do not have the extra funds to spend on resources that might be just nice to have. Our patrons rely on our library because they find themselves in a similar situation.
Even attorneys – solo practitioners, members of small firms, or those newly admitted to the Bar – need to be conscious of overhead costs. The extras that would be nice to have – business development tools such as Bloomberg, Law360, Courtlink, Court Wire and other legal industry news sources — come with a high price tag. Those titles are marketed to the larger law firms, firms that also have marketing personnel and budgets. For many people interested in monitoring the current developments in the legal environment even the cost of subscription to a legal newspaper, such of The Recorder or the Daily Journal, can be prohibitive.
What can a resource-challenged legal practitioner to do? What about your average citizen who has interest but not the funds to track issues and/or cases within the US legal system?
Channeling the flow of information
Below is a curated list of free internet resources – accessible through a web sites or by email subscription – which may help anyone keep up with developments in the area of law – news-worthy new filings, activity in cases, proposed and enacted laws and regulations, developments in the legal profession – at no additional cost other than having access to the internet.
Keys for successful use of the internet as a news resource are:
- Choose your sources wisely. Be selective.
- Know that browsers and social media sites are looking for profits. Browser search algorithms are guiding your search results to items they think you and their paying customers will be happy with – ads are displayed at the top of the list on Google. Ask yourself – is the site trying to sell me something even if it is just their world view?
- Organize the delivery of information so you can easily review lists of results, deleting or opening links depending on your interest.
- Use an internet reader or other software to centralize the flow of posts from information web sites. (Also called news feed software or RSS feed aggregators.) Feedly provides free basic news feed software. This service allows you to gather and store headlines and links gleaned from web sites by subject category. There are other similar software products. Internet reader software can be very helpful if you want to monitor the discussions on individual blogs whose authors focus on specialized legal topics. The Feedly screen also shows the age of post and popularity with other readers.
- You might want to set up a separate email account for news readers and to receive digest emails. The streams of legal news information will not get tied up with work or personal emails.
Digests – Email subscriptions
Many news organizations provide free digests, but, if you want to share in their work product, they want to know who you are. The list below includes sources that will not spam you (too much) once you give over your email address.
- The State Bar of California has a Daily News Digest that provides headlines and links to legal articles with a focus on California, but, it also includes links to reports on events and cases of burgeoning interest across the country. Many of the links are to items from subscription-only publications but access is granted for some of the articles referenced. This digest is well-curated and the articles are interesting and well-written. Sorry, but if you want to track the politics of the State Bar organization, this is not the digest for you.
- The California courts’ web site has recently developed a news page with links to articles of interest. Its focus is on the California court system and judges.
- Available as email alert.
- News from the CA Courts.
- American Bar Association news alerts and newsletters page. You will have to give up some personal information and will need to delete a few email solicitations but the cost and quality of the information is worth it.
- The ABA also has a legal blog directory for those who wish to find and follow blogs that focus on specific areas of law. (They still use the term “blawg” but don’t hold that against the directory’s editors as the directory itself is very useful.)
- The ABA Tech Journal may be of interest to those trying to keep up with technology advances in the legal field.
- National focus.
- Lexology – aggregates posts from law firm blogs. Law firms, who are trying to promote their expertise, will tell you for free what they know about the developments in their practice areas. You can select areas of interest and geographic coverage for your email digests. Reviewing just the headlines can help you stay informed as to what issues others in your practice area think is important.
- If you are considering setting up a blog yourself, Lexology is an excellent way to quickly review a wide range of legal blogs. Who is good, what too much self-promotion reads like in post, what types of headlines you click on.
- California League of Cities Local News Roundup for those interested in following local area legal news. Reviewing the titles and links can help you track issues of interest on the community level such as — legalization of marijuana, tax measures, Airbnb regulation.
- California focus.
If a digest only provides a title link but not the full text, your local library can help. County law libraries have legal newspapers and professional periodicals.
If you want to set up a newsfeeds/RSS feeds, here are some good sites to start with:
- Courthouse News Before the creation of many of the case filing alerts subscription services, Courthouse News was the go-to company for keeping informed of new filings. They now have a home page that provides information (but not the documents) for new court filings, as well as, general legal news.
- National coverage.
- Description from the company’s site – “Courthouse News Service is a nationwide news service for lawyers and the news media. Based in Pasadena, California, Courthouse News focuses on civil litigation, from the date of filing through the appellate level. Unlike other Internet-based publishers that simply aggregate information prepared by other content providers, Courthouse News publishes its own original news content prepared by its staff of reporters and editors based across the country.”
- ABA Daily News Legal news and court actions. National coverage.
- Bloomberg News provides some of its articles for free on its web site. Focus for this site is the business of law and Big Law, or, in the words of the late Justice Scalia, “tall building” firms.
- WSJ Legal Blog Access to blog articles available for free. National coverage, well-written articles.
- Reuters Legal News Free access to non-premium legal news. Focus on corporate law. Reuters owns Westlaw.
- Sacramento Bee Capital Alert Good coverage of California legislative activity. Sites limits the number of full text articles that can be read on your computer per month.
- Not free but… you may wish to invest in one online subscription to a “national”, professionally written news publication. The New York Times covers the legal profession and legal news. The Los Angeles Times also has excellent coverage of California legal news.
Dear Reader – Have a free news resources that you find helpful and don’t see on this list? Send word to ACLL at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be added to this post.