Spindle Law – Crowd-Sourced Legal Research

I recently got a demo of Spindle Law, a new crowd-sourced legal research site that’s part legal treatise, part wiki, and part lawyers’ forum for discussion.  Spindle Law organizes the law hierarchically with topics leading to ever-narrowing legal rules.  Instead of searching the text of cases or other authorities and then teasing out the legal rule, you browse or search for the rule, which is shown with the authorities that support it.  There’s also a really cool workflow tool that helps you draft a document based on your research.

The law on the site is contributed by the community alongside designated specialists who keep an eye on things.  You can log on and start adding to existing practice areas, start a new area, comment, or “vouch” for an  authority and agree (or not) that it supports the linked rule.  So far, there’s substantial coverage of the law of evidence, Clean Air Act, securities fraud, and forum non-conveniens (my personal favorite).

Cases and other legal sources are, more and more, out on the web for free.  But until this information is well organized, practicing lawyers can’t make much use of it.  Spindle Law may very well be how that organization will happen.  While there are clearly the issues of information that is crowd-sourced (think accuracy of Wikipedia), the benefits may far outweigh the issues, if properly monitored and a vibrant ecosystem evolves.  I am excited to see where they go with this idea.

  • This is very cool.

  • The River Temoc

    A very interesting concept, but I'm a bit concerned that their business model is setting Spindle up for failure. They're saying that the site is "free to anyone" for now, but eventually will migrate to a paid-subscription model for everyone but students and contributors. The problem is that, as with newspaper sites, people become habituated to free contact — free content is "sticky." I don't see how they're ever going to get people to pay for it once they're used to getting it for free.

    So the question I put forth is: how do you monetize this idea?

  • Thank you for the thoughtful post. Just to clarify as to River Temoc's comment: It's a good point about trying to charge for previously free content. Our plan, though, would not be to get everyone used to conducting research on the site for free and then suddenly start charging for it. Assuming we do decide to charge non-contributors, we would start charging as soon as the site contains enough law to make it valuable enough to enough non-contributors to justify the costs of charging for it. (It's possible we won't do it at all, however. We have other expected revenue streams, and the statement you saw on the site is really intended to assure contributors that they won't face a pay wall. While it leaves open the possibility that we will charge non-contributors, it isn't meant to imply that we definitely will do that.)

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  • Kevin Flynn

    That sounds like a lot of files and documents they uploaded. I wonder what kind of document scanning services they used.