In the early days of free caselaw research services, it seemed like new search services were popping up all over the web. But without strong financial support, many disappeared almost as quickly as they had appeared.
One of my favorites for caselaw research was PreCYdent because it provided IMHO “one of the most innovative SE algorithms offered for a free, fee-based, or a very expensive licensed legal search experience.” Quoting from PreCYdent: 2006 – 2009 (Jan. 28, 2010); see also, Law Prof as Toolmaker: An Interview with PreCYdent’s Thomas A. Smith (Jan. 29, 2008). But PreCYdent’s funding dried up and it became “history.”
PreCYdent was really a demonstration project. To the best of my knowledge, no commercial enterprise stepped up to the plate to license the search engine. For PreCYdent, WEXIS was already too late because both companies were working on their new SE algorithms. The PreCYdent SE, however, would still be a competitive alternative to WLN and Lexis Advance SEs for caselaw research. At least in the commercial space, Fastcase’s SE is competitive. (Why? See Part II of this series tomorrow.)
So, what’s left and by “left” I mean free online legal search services that will likely remain available awhile longer because they are financially supported. Only three come to mind and one of them has been, well, see Greg Lambert’s As LexisOne Goes Dark, Fastcase’s PLoL Comes Back To Life on 3 Geeks (April 13, 2012).
Google Scholar for Legal Opinions and Journals (supported by, well you know);
Public Library of Law (supported by Fastcase); and
the semi-“useful” FindACase (supported by VersusLaw).
The rest of the few once-supported (read reliable) free services as annotated in the above screen capture from a section of our little county law library’s caselaw research guide (click to enlarge) are “gone” or “long gone.”
See on lawprofessors.typepad.com