Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Scholar Adds Legal Search: Can It Compete with Westlaw or Lexis Nexis?

Google announced this week that its Google Scholar now allows you to search for legal opinions:
"Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar."
A quick search using the terms "copyright infringement fair use" gave me access to several of the major opinions including: Sony v. Universal; Harper & Row; Campbell v. Acuff-Rose; and A&M v. Napster. The amazing thing is that Google Scholar even utilizes links to citations. For example, Google Scholar provided links to 2,704 court cases and legal papers that cited Campbell v. Acuff-Rose.

What Google Scholar does is bring relatively easy access to court cases to the masses for free. However, at present it does not flag negative authority; a must for most lawyers. Google Scholar appears to be a great free source to quickly nab a specific published case. Westlaw and Lexis Nexis just lost a lot of business.

1 comment:

  1. How much business do you think Westlaw and Lexis Nexis will actually lose? I would argue that it will be insignificant for the time being.

    The legal industry seems to be based very strongly in tradition and it seems unlikely that most of these lawyers would suddenly begin using Google rather than Westlaw or Lexis. In addition, I would guess that most attorneys who have been out of law school for more than 5-10 years are not yet tech savvy enough to begin using Google's search.

    I also think that Google Scholar probably does not carry the same credibility as Westlaw or Lexis even though they are all displaying the same opinion. For example, if someone asks you where you got the opinion and you reply, "I got it off Google Scholar" you may lose credibility, which is of utmost importance to attorneys.

    Google Scholar will be useful to non-legal scholars and people generally interested in law, but those are probably not the same users who would by paying for the services provided by Westlaw and Lexis.