Monday, April 28, 2008

Lawyers Searching The Internet

Do lawyers have a duty to search the internet competently? How should competence in this area be defined? These questions are extremely relevant as more judges are citing the internet, blogs, and wikis in their opinions. Check out Ellie Margolis' article Surfin' Safari: Why Competent Lawyers Should Research on the Web available for download here with abstract below.

The easy availability of information on the internet has drastically changed the way that lawyers conduct legal research, but has it affected the standards for competency to which lawyers are held? This article explores the ways in which judges' and lawyers' expectations have been shaped by technological changes in the last two decades.

The article reviews the various ways in which the adequacy of a lawyer's research can be measured - the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, court rules such as Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and malpractice claims. All of these approaches reveal that competence is measured both by what techniques are standard in practice and by what sources judges look to in supporting their decisions. By both of these measures, a competent lawyer today must go beyond Lexis and Westlaw and conduct legal research directly on the internet.

Because many legal materials are increasingly available only online, and because judges are showing a greater willingness to rely on non-legal information available on the web, the article concludes that a lawyer cannot competently represent a client without conducting research on the internet. The conclusion urges law schools and the practicing bar to be aware of this development and instruct law students and new lawyers accordingly.