Using The Internet For Your Law Practice
The Bright Shawl
Mark I. Unger, Esq.
10010 San Pedro,
*To request a downloadable version of this document with ‘live’ links, please email the author at the above listed email address.
That Princes & Kings and Clowns
Who scamper in sawdust rings
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity
For to each is given a sack of tools,
A shapeless mass & a book of rules
And he must make,
Ere life has flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.”
Anon (quote courtesy of Stewart Gagnon)
II. Search Engines/All topics
a. Phone/Address Finders
b. Data Searches on People
IV. Property Searches
a. Real Property
b. Corporation Tax Search
d. Personal Property and Corporate Filings
VIII. Legal Research Sites
d. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (revisions):
Private Legal Sites for
IX. Issue Specific/Practice Area Specific Websites
P Pronunciation Key (k-strm)
P Pronunciation Key (d-vôrs,
To obtain a divorce.
As lawyers practicing family law, we are often called upon to take situations, which are extreme (at least to our clients) and act accordingly. As the definition of ‘accordingly’ will vary from case to case and lawyer to lawyer, what will vary less is how we might perceive what ‘Extreme Divorce’ might mean to our actions. Dictionary.com defines the two terms above and, by this writer’s interpretation, might be combined as follows:
Extreme Divorce = Being in or attaining the greatest or highest degree in a complete or radical severance of closely connected things.
In other words, our job, should we choose to accept it, and try and do it well is that of performing at the highest level in the complete division of persons and things. Not exactly appealing to the empathetic, it’s process is dictated by the ability to acquire information and use it to save or protect our client from the other side. In that vein, all tools at our disposal that helps us do that at some point will become expected. The Internet, in its current form is a tool that can do one of two things—it can either level the playing field or it can provide an advantage to one side. It’s use will become ever more of an integral extension of our practice. It’s key is our ability to embrace it and make it an automatic part of our mental process in preparing for the extreme, or not so extreme divorce.
This paper is a basic introduction to conducting research on the internet, primarily focusing on some of the most basic and widely used websites for locating people, places, and things, as well as pursuing legal research and information. Most of these sites are free and easily accessible to the public, however some have been restricted and are intended to conform to recent movements in privacy law and the legitimate purposes for such research. Many of the search engines and websites listed herein contain a certain amount of crossover or overlapping of topics or information. Although I have tried to limit the number of sites in this paper, only trying them out will result in which one best suits your practice and personal taste.
II. Search Engines/All topics
These sites are generically based and are intended to search for keywords that are registered as “metatags” with the particular search engine/website, returning a list of sites that match as closely as possible the words for which you searched.
A. Google: www.google.com
--my personal favorite; download the toolbar directly to your computer for 24/7 searching capability without having to go to the website; toolbar also includes automatic ‘popup’ blocker; expanded to include map searching for local restaurants or businesses, shopping (called “froogle”) and image searching (that’s picture searching via the internet), and currently in beta testing for email service.
B. Dogpile: www.dogpile.com
C. AltaVista: www.altavista.com
D. Excite: www.excite.com
E. Yahoo: www.yahoo.com
F. www.searchengines.com -- Outstanding resource site listing all major search engines, and listings for search engines by topic (including legal), area of interest or region
G. Craig Ball’s Meta-Search Engine: http://www.craigball.com/searchcentral.html
A. Phone/Address Finders:
State Bar of
(includes disciplinary records):
This site, further updated in functionality also allows for online-video CLE, checking your CLE requirements,
3. Anywho: http://www.anywho.com/
Finds businesses or people by name, Yellow Pages, White Pages, Reverse Lookup, Toll-free numbers, and International pages; in conjunction with AT&T.
4. Smart Pages: http://www.smartpages.com/
SBC/Ameritech’s comprehensive version of nationwide searches for businesses and a whole lot more; consumer oriented.
5. US Search: http://www.ussearch.com/wlcs/index.jsp
Search backgrounds of people, criminal histories, identity theft and various court records, for a fee.
4. Switchboard.com: www.switchboard.com
Outstanding and comprehensive free way to find a lot of people.
5. Area Code Listings
Searchable Database, which lists cities, and State covered
6. ATT reverse phone lookup
7. Yahoo People Search: http://people.yahoo.com/
This pay site, merely repackages and utilizes USSearch.com but offers three different packages depending on how much information you want on the person.
B. Data Searches on People
1. Birthdays: http://anybirthday.com/search.htm
2. Search Systems: http://www.searchsystems.net/
Public Records locator by State; some for free, some for fee.
3. Virtual Gumshoe: http://www.virtualgumshoe.com/
Great list of investigative tools, extremely comprehensive portal for investigators and investigation.
4. PublicData.com: www.publicdata.com
Outstanding portal for locating driver’s license and criminal records; fee-based, but not that expensive. Not as up to date as some others, this site is very user friendly, as reprinted below—
5. Accurint: www.accurint.com
Boasting the lowly price of 25 cents per search, this is my favorite for locating people and information about them. Other search examples include Banking, Insurance, child support agencies, collections, landlord/management companies, and media; now includes batch processing with partner ‘SmartJury,’ allowing for mass searching for potential juror information.
6. KnowX.com: www.knowx.com
Slightly more expensive, but all searches can be ordered in a self-contained format on a pay-as-you-go way (app. 6.95 per search).
8. Intelius.com: www.intelius.com
With pricing similar to KnowX, this site seems to offer an incredible amount of available information. Reached this site while searching through Yahoo’s people search.
7. Web Detective: http://www.web-detective.com/
$29.95 initial membership fee to join; claims as comprehensive as anyone’s
IV. Property Searches:
A. Real Property:
1. Craig Ball’s County Property Links
Thanks to council member Craig Ball, who
along with Howard Nations has arguably the two best private research sites for
2. Texas County Data Website: Billed as
B. Corporation Tax Search:
C. Bexar County Practice: I would be remiss in not providing some of
the sites that provide attorneys in and around
1. Bexar County Appraisal District: www.bcad.org
2. Bexar County District Clerk:
Lists information and postings on a full range of practice issues in the Bexar County Courts, including: Fax Filing, E-Filing, Fees, Civil and Criminal Courts, Local Rules, Passports, Attorney Vacation submissions and Tax Suits.
3. Bexar County District Court Litigant Search:
Searchable by party name, it’s finally here. What used to be via HyperTerminal access, it’s now web-based and will be one of the most valuable assets to your office-based practice.
Searchable database of Assumed Names, Commissioners Court Records, Deed Records, Marriage Licenses, and UCC filings and Foreclosure Notices, with more on the way.
1. Home Page:
6. San Antonio Police Reports
D. Personal Property and Corporate Filings:
Secretary of State (SOS):
If you do not want to pay for the same service on Lexis, you can
Search the SOS site, and even file other business documents and articles, for a small fee.
1. Office of the Attorney General, Child Support database; with client information, you can look up recent payments by Non-Custodial Parents.
Texas Online, E-Government Services; Texas Government site and partner for
Electronic Filing of Court Documents (now available in
3. Texas Department of Public Safety:
Search Tx.DPS for any of the following (some with slight fee)
Log in to search statewide criminal records database; similar to PublicData and KnowX’s but probable more up to date.
A full range of forms provided by Tx.DPS.
4. First Gov – US Government Portal/gateway to US Government web pages: http://www.1stgov.com/
Comprehensive State Government Links; Links to virtually all state agencies, as
well as statutes provided by one
Comprehensive Federal Government Links from the same
VI. Texas Legislature: search for past and pending legislation, as well as comments and legislative history.
for opinions, as well as general Court information for all
B. Search for Local Rules for
C. Texas Municipal Courts Website – Links page to vast majority of
Municipal Courts in the State of
VIII. Legal Research Sites:
D. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (revisions):
H. Texas Case law:
1. My Texas Bar: Utilizes internal ‘deep’ linking with Findlaw (requires signup as bar member and password, free for bar members):
2. Findlaw: www.findlaw.com
4. Lexis: www.lexis.com
Full service legal research site; various plans available.
5. LexisOne: www.lexisone.com
Limited search capabilities for registered users; free service, includes some recent case law, forms, bookstore, news and site search capability; Marketed towards small firms.
6. Westlaw: www.westlaw.com
Same as Lexis, only different; the two major players in the legal research game, West has aggressively marketed it’s website service (for a substantial fee) to tie into other major search engines and gain a web presence and potential client’s for it’s member firms; takes a three-tiered approach for various entry levels for firms.
I. Private Legal Sites for
1. Craig Ball, Esq:
A phenomenal site that can point you in any direction you want to go, a member of the State Bar of Texas Computer Council and self proclaimed ‘technologist,’ Craig’s site is very user friendly and accessible.
Howard Nations, Esq.: Links for
I. Bar Associations:
B. Travis County Bar Association: http://www.travisbar.com/
C. Dallas County Bar Association: http://www.dallasbar.org/
E. Texas Access To Justice Commission (TAJC) and Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation (TEAJF) website. www.TexasLawHelp.org
F. My Texas Bar, free to Texas Lawyers from the State Bar of Texas: www.mytexasbar.com
G. Check your MCLE compliance (from main page: www.texasbarcle.com)
Fee-based searchable archive of State Bar CLE articles from 1998 to present: http://www.texasbarcle.com/publications/articles.asp
I. American Bar Association CLE Programs, online, telephone, live and webcast availability
J. Online Continuing Legal Education
K. West’s online, on-demand center for CLE
L. Process Servers Anywhere:
IX. Issue Specific/Practice Area Specific Websites:
a. Daubert and it’s progeny- Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask…
b. Practice Management:
i. Communication – Cell phone and Text Paging sites; communicate with anyone with a cell phone via web messaging, just be sure to advise your attorney “Communicee” to switch ringer in Court.
www.nextel.com (see middle right of page) or directly from http://messaging.nextel.com/cgi/iPageExt.dll?cmd=buildIndAddressPage
c. Family Law Links:
1. Online organization providing resources with the intent of promoting the best interests of children in the divorce/courts’ process
2. Online subscription website designed to facilitate the communication, planning and scheduling between parents and children in multiple jurisdictions; includes scheduling function for visitation, posting of school grades and messaging in order to further cooperation among parents.
3. State Bar of
including the 2004 Child Support Tax Charts
a. Employed Persons:
b. Self-Employed Persons:
d. Probate Law- Barnes & Karisch’s Probate Website
X. Miscellaneous: Some various consumer sites that I consider the very good for the day-to-day business of living, attorney or not.
1. Southwest Airlines: www.iflyswa.com
2. Expedia: www.expedia.com
3. Travelocity: www.travelocity.com
4. TravelZoo: www.travelzoo.com
5. Orbitz: www.orbitz.com
7. Dollar Car Rental: http://www.dollar.com/
8. Hertz Car Rental: http://www.hertz.com/
B. Currency Exchange websites:
i. UPS: www.ups.com
iii. Federal Express: http://www.fedex.com/us/
iv. Stamps.com: www.stamps.com
i. Dictionary online: http://www.dictionary.com/
ii. Legal Dictionary online: http://dictionary.law.com/
iii. Language translation site-- Altavista search engine partnership with Babelfish translation engine; capable of translating documents, articles or phrases almost instantaneously in most major languages. www.altavista.com/babelfish
iv. Google’s version of asp-based language translation engine
E. Privacy Issues:
1. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
2. SBC Communications’ website initiative to help educate consumers about Internet safety, privacy and security. www.sbc.com/safety
a. Mapquest: www.mapquest.com
b. Expedia: www.expedia.com
G. Computer Downloads:CNET--
H. E-filing websites:
Service Providers (EFSP’s) – The current providers through you may
electronically file documents in
TexasOnline Electronic Filing Service Providers: