A time-saving Google tool that few lawyers know about

Have you ever wanted to find only favorable cases involving money?

For instance, have you been in a case in which attorney fees are to be awarded? If you are a plaintiff and are to be awarded attorney fees, you will probably want to find those cases that award high hourly rates. If you are the defendant who will have to pay the fees, you will want to find cases with low hourly rates.

You can’t, as far as I know, with the normal online legal research tools, find the high or low fees you are looking for without reading all the fee cases. Not in Lexis, not in Westlaw, not even in Fastcase. But you can sort of narrow the field using Google Scholar. Google has a search term called “range.” That term is implemented by putting the high and the low amount separated by two dots — with no spaces. Google describes it this way:

Search for a number range: Separate numbers by two periods without spaces (..) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.camera $50..$100.

Let’s say you want to find a refrigerator and are willing to pay between $150 and $250 for it.
You can search Google Scholar for      refrigerator $150..$250. You may get some false hits because the syntax is not perfect. But, in the main, you will be able to zero in on what you want.
Now how does this affect lawyers? In the attorney fee situation, if you are the plaintiff’s attorney you may want to search only for fees that exceed $200 per hour. You might then search for “attorney fee” OR “attorney fees” “per hour” $201..$500 . You will get some cases that don’t seem correct, but this will probably be quicker than just doing the search without the range search.

Of course, if you are the paying party, you may want to see only the low hourly rate cases. So your search might be “attorney fee” OR “attorney fees” “per hour” $50..$150 . Another example would involve a land case in which you might be looking either for high or low per acre prices. The high and low searches might be “per acre” $150..$1000 or “per acre” $50..$150.
How do you find all of this in Google?

1. Type in the address bar scholar.google.com

2. Click on Case law and then on the applicable courts: Federal courts, Louisiana courts, or Select courts.

3. Put in your search

And all of this is free.

Moreover, Google has all sorts of information in Scholar. It has sort of a Shepard’s by its showing which later cases have cited earlier cases. (When you pull up a case, click on “Cited cases.” It won’t show whether the case was affirmed or reversed or whatever. You will have to read the later citing cases for that. But what do you expect for free?)

There is more Google Scholar information, although it relates directly to published articles and not  to reported cases. And, of course, there is an extensive Wikipedia article about Google Scholar.

There are even more Google goodies, but that will be for another day. )

A more precise search could be developed using some additional Google search tools, but that too will have to wait for another day.

A.J. Levy

P.S. Please post any uses that you have found for the range option.

A.J. Levy
504-214-6947
ajlevy@compuserve.com
(C) Adolph J. Levy

How to use Adobe Acrobat as a typewriter to fill in forms

I suspect many law firms have typewriters squirreled away somewhere just to fill in forms.

Ross Kodner, computer guru extraordinaire, has an article about how Acrobat Standard, Professional or Professional Extended editions can be used as a typewriter to fill in those forms. He gives very detailed step-by-step instructions about how to save the forms as pdfs and then how to fill them in. http://blog.technolawyer.com/2010/01/smalllaw-acrobat-typewriter.html

He has his own blog, http://rossipsa.com/, and this and some of his other articles are also published in the Small Law blog at Technolawyer.com.

There is no charge to subscribe to either Ross’ blog or the Technolawyer.com mailings. Subscribing to both is highly recommended.

Using Facebook, MySpace and Google to collect on judgments

How about this? The I.R.S. and state tax people are using Facebook and MySpace to collect on back taxes. There are a number of recent articles on the topic, including one from the Wall Street Journal entitled Is “Friending” in Your Future? Better Pay Your Taxes First.  (For more articles, just search Google for: IRS Facebook.)

The Journal article writes about how Minnesota authorities collected “several thousand dollars” by using one evader’s MySpace announcement and how the IRS got $2,000 taxes after the debtor announced he was going to be a deejay at a forthcoming party.

In addition to using Facebook and MySpace, tax people also use Google. ”One agent collected $30,000 of unpaid tax from a resident after a Google search found him listed as a high-ranking local marketing rep for a national firm. If a Google online search isn’t productive, agents use the social sites or chat rooms in a last-chance hunt for their quarries.”

One note, however, about a difference between using Facebook and MySpace. The Journal notes:

“There are limits to what state agents can do on the Web. In Nebraska, agents are only allowed to use information that is publicly available online. So, MySpace — owned by News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal — tends to work best because its users often post more public information than do those of sites like Facebook, [a Nebraska agent] said. The default settings for adults on MySpace create a public profile, while the default settings on Facebook create a profile only viewable by an approved list of friends.”

There are more examples, but you get the idea, and, by now, you’ve probably realized that you could do this for your clients.

P.S. I just come across a very detailed article on ”How to Subpoena MySpace and Facebook Information.” It has lots of information. (I found the article  — including some 50 other article titles – in a weekly posting from Technolawyer. It’s a free service and also has lots of valuable information for attorneys.) Continue reading

A creative way to use Google street views: Using it to find a cheaper hotel room

The ABA Techshow was recently held at the Chicago Hilton located at 720 South Michigan Avenue. Even though the ABA got a discount on the normal room rate, it still cost attendees $199 per night.

While I was at the conference, I started speaking with someone who was attending who could not have afforded that rate. He told me how he found a hotel that was much cheaper and that was only a block away. How did he do it?

Here’s how: He went on Google’s street views and just “walked” from the Hilton to the next block on Michigan where he “saw” another hotel, the Blackstone, which was at 636 South Michigan. He called the hotel, and, in addition to being close, it was cheaper than the Hilton.

But, you might ask, how did he know that it was a hotel and what its name was? Simple. He could see a sign “from the street” showing that it was the Blackstone Hotel.

How to have the Post Office automatically update you on people’s new addresses

What happens when you send a letter to someone and that person has moved? Your letter will automatically get forwarded for the first 12 months after the service. But you won’t get the person’s new address.

Here’s how you can have the Post Office automatically send you the new address: Just place “Address Service Requested” on your envelope and you’ll get the new address – at the grand cost of fifty cents.

Think about adding the line to the return address on your envelopes. That is, unless you don’t want to get notified or pay the fifty cents.

You can see details and requirements here and here. The rules are also printed in the Postal Service’s Quick Service Guide, Publication 95, section 507d. There is also a “Quick Service Guide 507d, Additional Services, Ancillary Service Endorsements” here.

More sites for finding info on jurors, lawyers, and others

I wrote earlier about using pipl and other sites for finding information about potential jurors and others — including discovering what federal and state political contributions they had made and which parties or candidates received their contributions. 

While I was at the latest American Bar Association Techshow, Jim Calloway told about a site that was new to me. It’s 123People.com.  It’s a good source of information, and, if you search your own name, you might find yourself mentioned in cases or in articles that you had forgotten about.

Jim always has interesting information on his site, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog. If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

And, if you’re trying to find someone — or how old someone is – or their phone number – or perhaps even their prior addresses — try Zabasearch. It has an incredible amount of information — and it’s also free.

Selecting mock juries and focus groups: A very out-of-the-box approach

The normal approach to selecting members of mock juries and focus groups is to try to obtain a cross-section of the community in which the case is going to be tried.

I recently read an article about how one plaintiff lawyer purposely does not pick a representative group when he selects people for his mock juries and focus groups. Instead, he sometimes selects only conservative jurors — those who are more likely to find problems with his case. The attorney, Sach Oliver, a partner in the Bentonville, Arkansas firm of Bailey & Oliver, writes in part:

Our firm has had huge success with focus groups by choosing a conservative church in the community to find jurors, and this method may help you, too. We choose a conservative church because we want to find out everything that potential jurors might think is wrong with our case, and we find that conservative-minded people tend to point out more weaknesses.

He has also summarized in an e-mail the benefits of his approach:

One of the most interesting and favorable aspects to the church method is that you watch conservative jurors use conservative arguments to persuade other conservative jurors. These conservative arguments are usually golden material that should be used in the preparation of your case as themes and arguments.

You can find the following attached in a PDF document:

Sach Oliver’s “Simple Steps to Conduct Your Own Focus Groups: The Church Method”

A two-page form letter to Pastors of selected churches, including information regarding payments to the church and to the potential jurors for the mock trial

A letter to the volunteering mock jurors

(The foregoing materials in the pdf are reprinted with permission of the author.)

Also included in the pdf is a copy of a piece by Sach Oliver in Trial, a publication of the American Association for Justice. The article is also available online at http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/5045.htm (for subscribers) and is printed in the December 2008 issue of Trial, page 59. (Reprinted with permission of TRIAL (December 2008), Copyright American Association for Justice, formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA(r))).

How to find information about potential jurors and others — including info about their political contributions

Do you want to find information about potential jurors and others? Here’s where at no cost you can search multiple sites with one search: Kim Komando (that’s really her name — her site is Komando.com) has listed sites in which you can search social networking sites simultaneously. The sites include PiplWink, PeekYou  and Cvgadget.

How to search the “Deep Web” with “pipl

She wrote this about pipl  in her article Find personal information in the deep Web :

[Google and Yahoo] can help you find information on specific people. But search engines don’t index some of the juiciest information. For that you need to go a little deeper.

pipl only searches by first and last name, city, state and country. But it searches the deep Web. These are the pages search engines often overlook.

It will search through public records, online store profiles, member directories, publications, etc. It will return the best results from multiple categories.

I tried all four sites and pipl seemed best to me. It even included the amounts and recipients of federal political contributions that some of the people I searched had given. Fascinating information if you’re trying to get info on a juror or anyone else.

Two of her other articles, Tools for finding long lost friends and Employers can find personal information online, give further details on cybersleuthing.

How to find both federal and state political contributions

You can also go to OpenSecrets.org, a site that collects lots of data on political contributions for federal offices, including the names of donors and the recipients and dates of the donations. (If you search OpenSecrets, make sure you put the potential donor’s last name first, followed by a comma and then the donor’s first name.)

For information about contributions to state candidates, you can go to the Institute on Money in State Politics, whose url is appropiately named  www.followthemoney.org.

 4/22/09 For a later post regarding more sites for finding info on jurors, lawyers, and others, click here.

Here’s an out-of-the-box way for unemployed attorneys to get new clients

There are now all sorts of articles about how lawyers have lost their positions. Carolyn Elefant has detailed the problem in Legal Blog Watch as has Bruce MacEwen in his Adam Smith, Esq., whom she cited.

As they noted, some out-of-work attorneys have started volunteering to do pro bono work as a way to keep busy and to keep their morale up.

Some time ago — probably at least two years ago — I read an article about a lawyer who was also unemployed. Here’s how he found some work: He called a local TV station — it might have been a newspaper — and offered to cover at no cost an ongoing criminal trial that was of great interest to the community.

He reported from the court and got his name out at least daily. He did a good job and people called him to represent them.

So, get a notepad or some makeup and, likewise, get your name out. And get those new clients.

Out-of-the-box uses for Dragon NaturallySpeaking

 All of us – or at least most of us – have heard of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and its use as voice recognition software in law offices.

 But there are many more uses for Nuance Corporation’s Dragon!!

 Uses outside of a law office

I read a while back about how a husband whose wife was deaf was using Dragon to communicate with his wife while they were driving. Even though she could read his lips, she couldn’t use that facility in the car because she couldn’t see his lips while her husband was looking straight ahead while he was driving. What to do?

Solution: her husband put their laptop in the car, and, while they were driving, he would speak into a microphone – perhaps a lapel mike – and his wife could read what he was saying on the laptop screen. She could then orally answer and he could respond using Dragon. It changed their lives.

I just did a Google search, and found a variety of uses for Dragon on Nuance’s U.K. site. One of the user stories described in detail how a daughter communicated with her deaf mother using Dragon and a wireless mike.

Nuance has a page that categorizes user stories of how Dragon was used to improve the users’ creativity, their work, and their life.

One of the unusual stories detailing how life was improved was a story by a student who was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He used Dragon to complete his 107-page master’s thesis, and he noted that he could even use Dragon while laying down. He added: “It has truly been a new lease on life.”

Other stories include ones by a psychologist with chronic fibromyalgia, a multiple sclerosis patient, and someone with severe dyslexia. There are others, for a total of 9 pages of stories.

An out-of-the-box use in a law office

In addition to non-law office uses, I have come across an unusual use of Dragon in a law office. One time I was speaking with a secretary about Dragon, and she told me about the out-of-the-box way her office was using it. She told me that an attorney she worked for would often handwrite his papers and presentations. Rather than her typing them, as would be normal, she, as his secretary, was saving time by using the speech recognition software to herself dictate what the attorney had handwritten.

I’ve heard for a long time how attorneys have been using dictation software, but that was the first time I had ever heard about a secretary using it.

The Nuance U.S. site also includes a number of stories of how others with physical challenges have changed their lives and have become able to work in law and other offices.  It also includes stories of how one lawyer has used Dragon and has eliminated his need for a full-time secretary .

See a review and demo videos

You can see David Pogue’s New York Times review of Dragon version 10 here. You can also see his video review here.

You can also see video demos in English  or, if you want, a humorous version in Geman, an older version (9) in Italian,  and a current demo in Spanish. You can even see a demo of someone transcribing from an MP3 recorder to Dragon.

Please comment on other uses

It would be interesting to hear stories of how law and other offices use Dragon to communicate with clients, witnesses, or office personnel. Please add a comment that might help others if you have any such stories.