The universe is smiling on The Little Guy, lawyers who want to fly solo or in sixes, and legal bloggers like myself whose brandnames would be enhanced by access to documents. That's the result of Google's announcement yesterday of Google Scholar.
The legal media such as LEGAL BLOG WATCH have been deconstructing this game-changer primarily in context of its being a Westlaw and LexisNexis commercial killer. Read Robert J. Amgrogi on this. As a populist and small-business player, I see a whole other side to this development.
In describing Google Scholar, Google itself states:
Google Scholar enables "people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using GOOGLE SCHOLAR. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like 'Planned Parenthood v. Casey'), or to topics (like 'desegregation') or other queries that you are interested in ... Your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role."
Obviously, Google Scholar in itself is analogous to the invention of printing. A world reserved for a few has broken open.
- Yes, pro se litigation is more possible, particularly now that document services like LegalZoom exist. That web document enterprise has been co-founded by Dream Team's Robert Shapiro. He has seen the legal present and it is digital. Probably Shapiro recognized this would all happen more quickly than Richard Susskind anticipated. My hunch is that this ability to go pro se is in itself a deterrent for many petty lawsuits including those concerning the First Amendment [here is my white paper on supposed cyberbullying Download Digitaldefamationcopy.]
- Yes, small firms can operate more cheaply, especially given other enabling technologies such as cloud computing [here is the article I published on that Download Cloudcomputingarticle.] They have already demonstrated they can manage major litigation such as the lead paint lawsuits, public nuisance and personal injury. Fifty-five lawyer firm Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson did just that, and it's based in the midwest.
- And alternate legal media such as this blog now have the resources to cover a legal issue with the access to the data and credibility as do THE NEW YORK TIMES or THE LAW BLOG OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. This puts reporting back to its origins when it was the journalist with the best sources who was the first-read and the most trusted. The line, always blurred, between establishment and citizen journalism, has washed away in the tsunami of Google Scholar.
No, I won't hypothesize about commercial legal-information services, law schools, and large law firms. My hunch is, though, that they will have struggle to retain their turf and defend their reason for being, much like that American Bar Association is having to.