Home Ch: 6 - Computer Concepts and Legal Applications Computer Concepts and Legal Applications On-line and CD-ROM - Legal and Factual information Databases
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Chapter 6 - Computer Concepts and Legal Applications

On-line and CD-ROM - Legal and Factual information Databases


Robert Berring, Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, has recognized a changing legal and factual research paradigm:

“I believe that we are in the middle of a shift, a generational change really, in the way people use information. On one side of the divide are people who primarily use books as their source of information and who view printed information as the only valid form of information.

On the other side are people who see information as divorced from its format. Be it on a page, on a terminal or in some other electric form, information is information. This shift is especially important in the field of law because law is so centered on its research process.”

Professor Berring believes the paradigm shift is occurring because of overload. He states, "There is simply too much stuff. One hundred and twenty thousand cases entering into our system every year, two million sections of statutes enacted throughout the country ? there is simply too large an amount available for any individual to intelligently sort through."

Traditionally, lawyers have used books, books, and more books to research the "law". This time consuming task of locating materials in musty, dusty libraries was oftentimes considered a badge of honor, especially when you were able to locate the "case". The major paradigm shift in legal research occurred approximately 20 years ago with the introduction of the "on-line" legal research databases. These subscription on-line services, such as Westlaw, Lexis and LOIS can locate a list of cases from anywhere in the country in seconds. What use to take hours and days has now been reduced to seconds.

Lawyers in all areas of their practice need information and more information. Concise and relevant information can assist you in all phases of the legal process. From drafting a contract pre-lawsuit analysis, drafting pleadings, filing briefs/motions, discovery, trial and post trial, research information is needed.

Below are examples of questions that could be answered using free or fee based on-line sources and CD-ROM disks that are currently available:

Product Liability

  • Get the financial profile of a manufacturer and/or parent company named in your product liability suit.
  • Search the literature to locate any discussions of a product in question regarding warnings or performance concerns.
  • Acquire documentation of the standards and specifications for a type of product to determine if the manufacturer was in compliance.

Medical Malpractice

  • Determine if a failed surgical procedure performed on a client was appropriate for his condition.
  • Learn the long-term psychological ramifications for a client who has been paralyzed or permanently injured.
  • Obtain documentation regarding the side effects of drugs prescribed for your client.
  • Search medical literature to determine if a course of treatment or level of care were outside of established norms.
  • What are the latest medical articles on lung cancer?

Text Box:    “We always made the library very important.  It kind of represented the intellectual capital or the knowledge bank of law and it was very important to express that, . . .  I think today that information is ubiquitous.  We get it everywhere.  So, the significance of the library as a repository of information is less of an importance.”   - Doug Zucker, Gensler Associates, Law Office Designers Business

  • Search for trademark infringement.
  • Create a financial profile of a company, credit history, corporate affiliations, etc.
  • Obtain copies of newspapers that contain references to an individual, product or business entity.
  • What government contract provisions are mandatory in all Department of Transportation contracts?
  • What is needed to prepare an agreement in conformity with the Uniform Commercial Code to sell 500,000 yards of cloth to a clothing manufacturer?
  • Did Dimension Cable Corporation make a profit in 1991?
  • What is the Dun & Bradstreet's rating for XYZ Corporation?
  • Did ABC Corporation have a copyright on their research documents?
  • What federal statutes are applicable to a defendant's proposed stock offering?
  • What legal publications have discussed the venue requirements of a corporation incorporated in Delaware, but doing mail order business in other states?
  • What federal regulations apply to the use of a new pesticide?

Court Rules

  • Will the affidavit of the plaintiff's attorney create a genuine issue of fact to preclude a motion for summary judgment?
  • What are the complaint pleading requirements for a case in the California courts?
  • What are the applicable Rules of Procedure for litigation in Texas?


  • What is the personal income data for the juror's county in Omaha, Nebraska?
  • What interrogatories should be sent on a wrongful death case?


  • What effect would a Chapter 11 filing by the plaintiff have on a particular case?
  • What tax consequences occur if a defendant settles with the plaintiff?
  • How many lawyers are in the law firm of Frank and Howard in Houston, Texas, and what are their areas of expertise?

Internet Sites

See eLawExchange section entitled Litigation Links (www.elawexchange.com) for a listing of WWW Internet search engines and legal and nonlegal sites for the legal practitioner.


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