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.