The investigative skills of an attorney can be the difference between winning and losing. With more and more of what we do happening online, being able to track down web users and website information will become a very important part of online investigative work. “E-discovery” is essentially discovery dealing with evidence in electronic format. A quick google search of “computer forensics” reveals numerous tools that allow individuals to gain access to hidden data on a computer. E-discovery and computer forensics is a broad and fascinating subject. Today, I will focus on the online aspects of computer forensics, which includes WHOIS, reverse WHOIS, DNS, or IP searches.
Want to find out more information about a site making defamatory comments about a client or infringing on a client’s trademark rights? Using a WHOIS look up on a website address can yield useful information as to who registered the site, when it was registered, when registration will expire, and where the site was registered. You can also find out what other websites were registered by the same person (or company). Often times, contact information such as phone number, (real world) address, and an email address can be found when conducting a WHOIS look up. A WHOIS look up is probably the single most important query you can use to track down information about a website and it’s administrators. A DNS or IP search seem to both track down information based on an IP address.
An IP address is basically the address that your computer uses while online. It can be used to track down your location or access your computer (with or without your permission). An IP address can also be used as a website address if the site does not have a registered name. For example, wikileaks’ domain name was shut down recently, which is why they now use an IP address for those wanting to access their site. Using an IP query, you can look up their IP address, which yields a PO Box number in Australia.
When “cornell.edu” is used in a WHOIS look up, you can see that the domain name was first registered in 1985 and the contact information for a “technical contact” as well as an “administrative contact” are available.
A “reverse WHOIS” look up is used to determine what domain names are associated with a particular individual’s name, email address, or physical address.
Most domain tools websites allow you to make basic queries, but to get in-depth reports you almost always have to pay a small fee. One of the more popular domain tools websites used is http://www.domaintools.com/.
Throughout this course, I have learned of numerous websites providing information for free. I was quite astonished to learn that there are so many of them out there. We are truly blessed to live in a time where so much information is readily available (or too much perhaps). But, having all this information readily available does not mean that research became correspondingly easy. We have a new task now; sorting through flood of websites to find credible one that would stick around long enough. I felt like I had to keep a long list of useful websites by their categories (caselaw specific websites, regulation websites, etc), track their existence (PreCYdent closed couple years ago) and evaluate new websites that seem to spring everyday and add useful ones to the list. Of course there are websites providing comprehensive information at one spot, but most of these websites are fee based like Westlaw and Lexisnexis. So, I was happy, yet overwhelmed of all these new websites I learned. And there came lawyerexpress, a portal that made my research so easy.
Lawyerexpress is a website dedicated to providing legal research and news to attorneys. This is a free web portal, but I recommend you to join as a member (also free) because you can customize the webpages and add/change contents. Lawyerexpress really lives up to its name and understands what portal actually means; linkpage presenting information from diverse source in a unified way. With lawyerexpress, you no longer need to keep track of all your favorites websites for research separately. It’s all there. Really, it is all there. Also, If you don’t see it there, you can websites of your liking under tab you think the website belongs to, or put it under MyLinks tab. After I browsed through this website, I actually made this website into my starting page. The look of the website, contents, usability and some features it provides—note, planner and office tools—really got me.
Before going further, I will introduce who runs lawyerexpress. lawyerexpress is powered by Ceoexpress, which was founded in 1998. Ceoexpress was developed to organize the best resources on the web for busy executives and have expanded its reach on the internet with the launch of four new sites: Wired CEO, the first wireless portal for executives, as well as JournalistExpress, MDExpress and LawyerExpress. From looking at ceoexpress website and later launched four sites, it looks credible with quite long history(considering it is webpage).
Now that we know who made this website, let’s go back to lawyerexpress. It has 8 main tabs on top of the page and sub tabs under each of these main tabs. These main tabs are law headlines, law blogs, legal research, news/journals, tools & travel, breaktime, practice areas, my links. Also, essential law links and top law news are are fixated on the left side of the webpage, making research more convenient. You should browse through all these main tabs to explore vast contents it provides in such an organized way. For example, I found Practice areas to be really helpful in getting comprehensive news on your area of practice. For example, if you set it as corporate law, it will give you corporate law news, M&A research, Antitrust, securities law, securities oversight, Delaware, blue sky, journals, etc all pertaining to corporate law practice.
Also, I’d like to introduce two features I thought were quite unique and distinguishes lawyerexpress from other legal websites. Two features are Practice Support and Company Research under legal research tab. Some of links under Practice Support includes Fact finder(background check website), National Association of Professional Server, Expert law, Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys and Jury Consultants. For attorneys practicing in court, such information are critical for their practice, yet are not well taught at school (at least, I have not learned of these websites). Also, I liked the Company Research, which provides links to Hoover’s, Moody’s, SEC Database, Standard & Poor’s, etc. For corporate lawyer or other lawyers whose case is involved with corporate, it is essential that one does a background research on the company. Company Research feature meets such needs of lawyer and provides some useful websites. One suggestion I have for other users is to add Yahoo!Finance and Tip’d, two websites I learned to be very useful in class.
I dare say that this website is a must visit website for all attorneys. There are just so much in this portal that I regret not being able to explain all contents it provides. I hope other people find this portal as useful as I did and good luck to other researchers navigating through flood of information.
Caveat: Even though lawyerexpress is a free web portal, some links it provides are fee based. So, if you want to do all your research for free, you should customize the webpage and remove all fee based websites and add more free websites you are aware of. Also, I noticed that among MDexpress, JournalistExpress and CEOExpress, only CEOExpress is fee-based website (it does have free trial though). CEOExpress is the first of Express portals so I am little concerned that rest of Express portals might eventually follow CEOExpress structure and change to fee-based at some point. I am hoping that it stays as a free web portal, but if not, we will have to hope that new portal site springs up by then. So, for now, let’s use it while it is free.
On Tuesday’s class, Professor Haight has mentioned the ICC—International Criminal Court website when talking about doing international law research. I explored that website after class since I am interested in criminal law and found out that ICC actually offers a lot of resources than it look like (no offense to the appearance of it).
On the homepage of ICC, you can get a brief idea about the court and structure of it. It is a very helpful introduction when you just start the international criminal law research and want to get a decent idea about what you are dealing with. On the right of the homepage, there are seven sections that the website covers. Under situations and cases, you browse cases by country. I clicked on the first case on that page which is “The prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo”. You can see there is a brief profile about the defendant and the trail procedure of this case and what counts is he accused of. On the right of this page, you can see the court records, transcripts, background information and press releases about this case. Among these sections, I am particularly interested in Press Release. In this section, you can see a lot of related news concerning the case. This officially released news is pretty short but quite reliable. There is also a section especially about Press and Media. You can find ICC Weekly Update in it.
The most useful section in ICC to me is “Legal texts and tools“. It has two subdivisions, “Official Journal and Legal Tools”. Official Journal of the ICC was created pursuant to regulation 7 of the Regulations of the Court. Legal Tools offers access for uses with the legal information, digests and software necessarily for doing international criminal research. According to the website, the legal tools “seek to serve as a complete virtual library on international criminal law and justice (involving war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or aggression)”. It has over 44,000 documents and legal digests. On the website, it offered you instructions on using the Tools and the current status of the Tools. Clicking on “Go to Database”, it will open a new webpage where you can do your research. I run a research on “rape” and you can eliminate the results by content type, organization/state or by source of the documents. It also automatically arranged the results by relevancy.
For an official site of International Criminal law, this website gives you a thorough understanding of this topic and helps you a lot when you want to do some research on it. And the most important thing is that it is official and more reliable.
One of the good things about studying in the U.S.A is that I can get access to a lot of sources of comments about the politics of my country, among which the negative ones are hardly available within the domain of China. For example, the analysis of the Cultural Revolution is not so easy to obtain. So when I first discovered there is a bunch of videos archives in FedFlix of the unspoken history, it is not hard to imagine my excitement.
FedFlix is a joint venture of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and Public.Resource.org in cooperation with other government agencies including the National Archives. According to their agreement, NTIS sends Resoure.org the federal agencies’ film and video archives. It uploads them to the Internet Archive, YouTube, and its own public domain stock footage video library, then sends the governments back their videotapes and a disk drive with the digitized video.
According to the records on the website, there are currently 6055 items available there. And the number is increasing regularly. Those videos cover a broad range of topics. Among the most popular ones there are some legal documents which might attract you, like Nuremberg, by Department of the Army. You can browse the documents by collection, by keyword, or by creators. FexFlix also provides an advanced search. If you want to have some fun and learn something about law as well, I suggest you browse by creators and try films under the creators like American Law Institute, Federal Judicial Center, Office For Victims Of Crimes. National Archives And Records Administration might not be necessarily relevant, but it contains the largest volume of videos and is definite worth a try.
One of the secondary sources I’ve used the most in my law school career has definitely been law reviews and law journals. All of my searches were done online usually with Westlaw or Lexis; however, some I found through a simple “google” search. Now that journals are beginning to create websites with access to some of their more recent publications, free online access to these journals will become more readily available, though it might take awhile for all journals to catch on.
I’ve mainly used journals when writing research papers for a class or a Note. With the vast number of journals publishing multiple issues a year, there are usually many articles written on a given subject that I happen to be researching. The journal articles help me to identify the key primary sources and other useful secondary sources in that area. They come in less handy, however, when I’m doing internships and clinics, which begs the question of the practical use of journals outside of academia. Do practitioners and judges even read this stuff?
A little over six years ago, in his article, Against the Law Reviews, Judge Posner expressed his concerns about the system of scholarly publication in law. Unlike other professions, legal scholarly writing is published in journals edited and published by law students usually with little, if any, experience as editors and a limited knowledge of legal subjects. In contrast, scholarly journals for other academic fields are “edited by seasoned specialists, usually professors, who have had years of experience both as editors and as scholars in the field covered by the journal.” These articles often go through a “peer review” process, where other professors critique the article and give their opinion on whether it should be published.
While some of Judge Posner’s problems with student editors seem petty, such as his complaint that they want to add too many footnotes and make unnecessary stylistic change, many of his criticisms seem valid.
One such criticism is the trend for journals to focus on another area of expertise outside the law, which he calls “law and . . .” fields (e.g. “Law and Economic”). Most likely the editors have even less knowledge on these extra-legal areas, making the absence of peer review even worse. Then, compounded by the fact that the students are not trained or experienced editors, whatever suggestions they do make are unlikely to benefit the author or reader. According to Posner, “the result of the system of scholarly publication in law is that too many articles are too long, too dull, and too heavily annotated, and that many interdisciplinary articles are published that have no merit at all.”
Posner suggests that law reviews should return their focus to publishing topics that “student editors can handle well,” such as criticisms of judicial decisions and carefully analyzing judicial decisions to discern new directions in the law. Additionally, more attention should be given to lower court decisions, since according to him, the Supreme Court Justices are less likely to be swayed by scholarly criticism of their opinions.
In all honestly, I still doubt that many lower court judges would pay much attention to criticisms of their decisions by law professors and students. However, I do think more analysis on the change in jurisprudence of a given area of law would be very practical for practicing lawyers. The benefit of quickly researching the general trend of how judges are ruling on the area of law you specialized in seems very useful.
With regard to minimizing the damage done by inexperienced student editors, he suggests handing the editor’s position over to law professors, while continuing to allow the students to work and write for the journals under faculty supervision. Judge Posner doesn’t deny the valuable benefit to law students who work on a journal (something that I strongly doubted during my experience as an associate on a journal, then later realized the benefit during my 2L internship). Although it might not be as helpful in securing jobs for some of us as it once was, the sourcing, cite-checking, Bluebooking, and everything else we loved to hate about journal did come in handy, I must admit. Posner suggests these benefits actually are the largest hindrance to reform of the current system.
I feel that students will still be able to get the benefits of learning these skills, while the involvement of a more hands-on faculty supervisor conducting peer review will likely increase the quality and scholarship of the law journals. So what’s the problem?
Although blogging is not new, it is new to me. Before this class, I had never written a blog and only read a few in passing. In fact, I didn’t know the difference between a “blog” and a “blawg” until today (a “blawg” is written by lawyers or focuses on law related topics). So with this very limited knowledge of blawgs, I never considered them a source of legal research. However, as a result of our last research assignment, I came across a couple of good blawgs for those interested in international human rights law.
Impunity Watch is a blawg sponsored by Syracuse University College of Law and written by Syracuse law students. According to the site, “Impunity Watch’s mission is to monitor and address horrific human rights abuses and possible situations of impunity.” They deal with fundamental human rights violations such as discrimination, human trafficking (whether for forced labor or sexual exploitation), the denial of access to food and water, and genocide. The goal is to hold those responsible for such acts accountable and bring them to justice.
What I especially liked about this blawg was its organization and usability. You can browse articles by continents or region. There is a large photo associated with each blog and an abstract. You can, then, click to “read more” if it interests you. There’s also a tab for featured articles if you don’t have a specific region in mind. They also have “Today’s Top Posts” and “Upcoming Events” available.
Intlawgrrls is a blawg has a little wider scope than Impunity Watch, though also deals with issues of discrimination and human rights. In their own words, Intlawgrrls are “voices on international law, policy, practice.” They “embrace foremothers’ names to encourage crisp commentary, delivered at times with a dash of sass.” As implied in their name “grrls,” all the authors are women, though their articles don’t necessarily focus on traditional “women issues.” The two primary contributors to the blawg are Diane Marie Amann, a law professor at the University of California-Davis and Beth Van Schaack, a law professor at Santa Clara University. Beth Van Schaack was a familiar name to me since she is a co-author of my International Criminal Law casebook.
This blawg has interesting articles on a variety of legal topics. They have many, many guest bloggers, so along with the blawg is a biography and picture of the guest author. The downside to this blawg is the format. Instead of tabs at the top of the page to search by region or topic, they have a basic word search text box. If you scroll down the page, along the right column you can also search by author and series topics they have done, such as the crime of aggression, disability rights, Guantanamo, and human rights in the United States. They also have connections to other blawgs if you continue down right column. Unfortunately, there are no search boxes on the right column, just a long list of all the authors, series topics, and other blawg links. So there’s some good information if you don’t mind scrolling a little while to find it.
Finding international resources and foreign law can be daunting, even terrifying to many veterans of Westlaw and LexisNexis. But the ILRG’s LawRunner hopes to provide a familiar fix to the problem.
The Internet Legal Research Group provides indexes of free legal websites grouped by category, including legal forms, law school rankings, outlines, law journals (just those with an online presence, and some with dead links), but most importantly, foreign sources (LawRunner). LawRunner is actually a web crawler, rather than a list of sources, and runs a customized Google search for a specific country. I took it for a spin to see whether its “advanced query templates, or forms” could really “assist researchers in taking advantage the [sic] query parameters built into Google.” That one typographical error just now, found on the main page of the LawRunner’s global index, suddenly made me question its credibility very slightly.
I began my perusal of LawRunner by clicking on three random countries. I was happy to see that their list of countries and territories was extensive and even included places like Niue and Tuvalu. After clicking on a particular country (there is no option to select multiple countries for a comparative law search, sadly), I was directed to a very simple search box, with an option to check whether I wanted results to be prioritized whether they had “law” or “legal” as a keyword. There was also an option to search specific sites based on domain name, such as commercial (.com), educational (.edu), or government (.gov) sites.
The searches themselves produced mixed results. I chose to run the same search for “trademark law” in three countries (thus avoiding the need to select the “law”/”legal” prioritization option. The United States, South Korea, and Estonia. I started with the United States as a sort of baseline test, and immediately met with frustration. While clicking on any other country allowed me to limit my searches to particular top-level domains (.com, .edu, .gov, etc.), clicking on the U.S. link brought me to a page where I could either select a particular state, or search across all 50 states (District of Columbia not included). The ability to search for U.S. federal law was found at the bottom of the screen in another search dialog box. But minor annoyance aside, a search for “trademark law” across all state governments yielded fairly good results, with a variety of state statutes defining “trademark” showing up. While the results were far from organized, and it was difficult to tell exactly which statutes were being displayed, the sites being displayed were generally on point. The real test would come with foreign law sources, however. The first result for “trademark law” in South Korea pointed me to a PDF of the Trademark Law of Syria. The second result linked to a trademark law for what appeared to be Greece. Finally, the third result showed me a PDF of a translation of the Trademark Act of Korea. After that came a spattering of links to Korean IP and patent law firms. Estonia proved to be much better – the very first result was the text of the Estonian Trademark Act, followed by the website for the Patent & Trademark Agency, and a recent act passed by the Estonian Parliament on trademarks. When I tried restricting the search to Estonian government sites only, though, no results appeared.
Overall, I felt like LawRunner provided a good start to researching foreign laws, but a targeted country-specific guide to available resources would be much more helpful (or at least a sort of LII-type page for general legal information, like what Canada and Australia have done), since the results found here could change based on a whim of Google’s search result algorithm. Results were also inconsistent across countries, and while a broader and more diverse search might iron out some discrepancies, I felt like someone who wanted to get a good grasp of trademark law in other countries would simply type that into the search field and end up with the same confusion I had. I was mildly disappointed with what I found, and while the search across U.S. states was not bad, there are other, more easily navigable free resources for domestic state law.