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Do I Really Need Books for Legal Research?

If you haven't noticed, unless you are in a Third-World library without internet access, nobody really does legal research using books anymore.

So do lawyers really need those old law books? And what about those skills that came with learning how to research with books? Is there a place for old school lawyering?

"Wait, wait," you may be saying. This is all happening too fast. One question at a time, please.

New Guidelines on When Judges Should Use Internet Research

Sometime after Al Gore invented the internet, judges started including internet sources in their decisions.

That was then. Now the American Bar Association has invented guidelines for how judges should use the internet for legal research.

And if you believe that Gore invented the internet or that the ABA can tell judges how to do their jobs, you may want to check out bridges for sale on Amazon. In the meantime, there are these new rules:

When the topic of Space Law comes up, some lawyers are bound to roll their eyes, while others will start scanning their memories of which Starship Enterprise crew member could have been a space lawyer. But in reality, right now, most space law is about as exciting as an international patent dispute, or as crazy as crazy gets.

Although we are actually pretty close to having some serious (and cool) legal issues in outer space, until commercial space travel and space tourism really take off (pun intended), space law will likely remain in the provenance of the patent lawyer, legislators, and lobbyists.

Unsent Text Message Is Valid Will, Court Rules

Perhaps the cycle of life is the same as the cycle of law when it comes to wills.

In Queensland, Australia, a court has accepted an unsent text message as a valid will. The text was found in the deceased man's phone after he committed suicide.

As in any probate case, it marked the sad end of a life. But it happened at a time when informal wills are making a comeback.

E-discovery has come a long way since it first debuted. Papering your opponent has never been easier and no longer requires spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on copying and a crosstown courier. Now, it is routine for document dumps to be fully contained on a single flash drive, or DVD-ROM, or even in an email.

However, while digitization makes e-discovery easier, the age of the internet has brought with it an entirely new language that lawyers and discovery professionals from coast to coast must learn to understand: Emoji.

Should I Use Emojis in Court?

An emoji is worth a thousand words, and that's a legal problem.

According to a Santa Clara University Law School professor, emojis and emoticons have popped up recently in at least 80 U.S. court opinions. The problem is they can be misunderstood.

"As emoticons and emojis play an increasingly important role in how we communicate with each other, they will increasingly raise legal issues," says professor Eric Goldman.

Is It Fair Game to Use Your Smartphone Against Opposing Counsel?

Basically, it was a high tech way of spying.

According to reports, the Red Sox baseball team was stealing hand signs by watching video replays of the game off the field and then texting the information live to a staffer's smart watch in the dugout. Cheating or gaming?

Not that we should ever think like that, but couldn't an attorney use similar technology to outplay opposing counsel in the courtroom?

Can Hurricane Lawsuits Be Based on Climate-Change Science?

If necessity is the mother of invention, could a hurricane be the mother of new litigation?

Apparently so. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, attorneys have already filed lawsuits on behalf of homeowners and businesses that were deluged. They could open a floodgate of, well, you know the story.

According to reports, climate-change science may also lead to pioneering lawsuits.

While courts surely derive some sick and twisted pleasure by forcing attorneys on opposite sides to file joint pleadings, how you go about handling those logistics can have a big impact on your case.

Since the great word processor schism, Microsoft Word has emerged as the dominant program, trouncing Word Perfect in its widespread adoption by both lawyers and courts. However, one of the potentially fatal flaws of Word involves one of the best features: Track Changes. If you're not careful, your opposing counsel will be able to gain valuable insights based on your assumedly private edits.

Millions of PACER Documents Made Free

PACER, your favorite tool for getting federal court documents, may not be your favorite for long.

CourtListener, a service of the Free Law Project, now offers every free written order and opinion that is available on PACER. And unlike the court's preferred provider, CourtListener does not require a user account with the typical conditions.

The service does not replace PACER, but it makes research a lot easier and cheaper. The Free Law Project also threw in a bonus: a legal scraping toolkit.