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
(C) Adolph J. Levy

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.