Illinois Adopt Public Domain Citation System

The Illinois Supreme Court adopted changes to Rule 6 and 23 today. These changes adopt a public domain citation system for Illinois appellate decisions that are filed on or after July 1, 2011. According to a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, (which I can’t link to because it is behind a paywall), the Supreme Court’s contract with West Publishing Co. to print advance sheets and bound volumes expires on July 31, and will not be renewed.

The comments to Rule 6 explain (this is a link to a PDF),

The system of case citation that has historically prevailed in the United States relies upon the elements of printed case reporters, that is, volume number, case name, beginning and pinpoint page numbers, and year of filing. In Illinois, citations have been made to our state’s official reporters (Illinois Reports and Illinois Appellate Reports), with parallel citations to the appropriate West regional reporter (North East Reporter and/or Illinois Decisions) also allowed. But reliance upon printed reports for access to the courts’ opinions has diminished with the rise of electronic databases, such as those found on the Court’s own Internet website, Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, and various CD-ROMs. In this state, the Illinois Supreme and Appellate Courts’ opinions have been made available on the judiciary’s website since 1996. However, the requirement that case citations be made to printed reporters has prevented direct
citation of those opinions, even though they are now widely available on various electronic databases.

To remedy this situation, the Illinois Supreme Court has amended Supreme Court Rule 23, and has entered an administrative order in relation to Rule 23, to direct Illinois reviewing courts to assign, at the time of filing, public-domain case designator numbers (e.g., “2011 IL 102345”) , as well as internal paragraph numbers, to all opinions and Rule 23 orders filed after July 1, 2011.

I think that this is a great thing. I have nothing against West or Lexis (in fact, I have a WestlawNext subscription and I really like it). However, I do have a problem with our public law being held by a private company. To the extent that we can separate that, the better off we are.

Congrats to the Supreme Court for a great step forward. Next, I hope the address the fact that our public jury instructions can only be found in west publications. Those too should be freely and publicly available on the Court’s website.

A Plug for Google Scholar

After court today, I visited the law library in the courthouse. Given that I do most of my research online, I don’t spend much time in the law library. However, today, I wanted to take a look at a treatise. I then decided that the library would be a good place for me to work on the response brief I was drafting.

I had my laptop with me, so I went to work.

As I was writing, I discovered that I needed a case to support a particular position. Because the library has wi-fi, I was able to log on to my WestlawNext Account and search for what I needed. During the search, I came across a case from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I wanted to see if the case was useful, but I knew that it was outside of my plan.

Not wanting to give up, I decided to see if Google Scholar had the case. I put the inf0rmation into Google and in a few seconds I was reading the case (and realizing that it was of no use to me). The thing I love about the process was that pulling the case up was no more difficult than typing its name into my Google Search bar.

So, if you are looking for a case that it outside your subscription plan, give Google Scholar a try.

Now, for the embarrassing part of the story. It was only after I was done and leaving the library that I realized I could have just pulled the reporter from shelf. I was in a law library for heaven’s sake. However, the though of pulling the physical book never even crossed my mind.

Trust but Verify

I am fascinated by this story in which a person managed to persuade at least five television stations to put him on the air to demonstrate his prowess as a yo-yo champion. I understand that producers for morning shows have to fill their air time and I understand the desire to fill that air time with a yo-yo champion. That is something unusual and could be entertaining.

However, I am baffled by the fact that these stations apparently did no research before letting this guy go on live television. Obviously, this did not work out well for the stations. In one instance:

At WISC in Madison, Strasser was booked and ready to go on “News 3 This Morning.” But things took a strange turn when Strasser said on the air, “Do you want to hear a scary story?”

Colin Benedict, the station’s news director, said the anchors were confused. They thought a yo-yo champion was supposed to be on.

Instead, Strasser started talking about his personal story of alcohol and drugs.

And the yo-yo tricks? Benedict said Strasser tried one but the yo-yo fell apart and onto the studio floor.

That was enough for WISC. The anchors took over and Strasser was off the air.

What did this guy do to get on the air? He sent the stations an email:

In each case, producers at the television stations received an e-mail from Joe Guehrke, saying he represented Strasser and ZimZam Yo-Yo, “the world’s first ‘green’ ” nonprofit toymaker.

Guehrke told the stations that Strasser, whom he called a “master yo-yo artist,” would be in their area to bring his environmental message and “zany sense of humor” to kids.

Guehrke wrote in one e-mail to a TV station that Strasser was a dynamic talk-show guest who comes “equipped with a roster of amazing yo-yo tricks, juggling and fun tips about how kids and adults alike can take small steps to make the world a greener place.”

The e-mail solicitation stated that Strasser was a runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1995, grand champion at the Pensacola Regional and was nominated for the Walt Greenberg Award in 2000.

There is no Walt Greenberg Award in yo-yo, and there is no evidence Pensacola ever hosted a yo-yo tournament or that Strasser won a rookie of the year award.

Maybe I am strange, but when I am contacted by someone or some company that I have never heard of before, the first thing I do is Google that person.

According to the information in the news story, it appears that a reasonable web search would have revealed that this guy was not who or what he claimed to be. If you can’t find a reference to the Walt Greenberg Award anywhere, that should be a pretty good clue that it does not exist.

The internet is a powerful tool and it is good for things other than legal research and Twitter. Keep that in mind. There is nothing wrong with listening to what people have to say. However, it is someone that you have never dealt with before, take the two minutes required to run a Google search and see if the information you find (or do not find) supports what the person is telling you.

Remember STFW. (If you don’t know what that means, Google it).

Fighting Crime Through Facebook

I don’t practice criminal law. However, in the event that a future criminal stumbles across my website, let me offer a piece of advice: Don’t steal someone’s phone, take a picture of yourself, and upload that to the internet. Yes, I realize that the phone was set to automatically upload photos to facebook when the phone was connected to a computer. However, I don’t find that to be a very good excuse.

I mean really, if you have stolen a piece of electronic equipment, shouldn’t you make sure it isn’t going to phone home before you plug it into a computer?

Complying with the FTC

I think most bloggers are now aware the requirements of the FTC to disclose any relationship between the blogger and a product or service being reviewed. The trick, of course is to make sure that you comply with the rules. Michael Hyatt has recently written a great post in which he gives some tips on how to comply with the guidelines. First he points us to a site called, which has created some simple, easy to use, standard disclaimers.

Also, if you are not interested in using what has to offer, Michael offers both his solution (a disclaimer at the end of each post) along with the 5 standard disclosures that he has created. He even provides a convenient link to Add Post Footer that allows you to automate this process.

If you are looking for some sample disclosures, Michael’s post has some good samples.


There are some websites that drive me crazy with all of the flashing animation and ads that surround the text that I am trying to read. Recently I discovered a tool called Readability that can help with that problem. Simply go to the Readability web site and drag the bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmark toolbar.

Then, when you are on a website that has lots of clutter, simply click the Readability bookmarklet. It transforms your view of the website into a simple clean text only view. You can choose your syle (newspaper, novel, eBook, or terminal), your text size, and your margin. Best of all, to go back to the original view, you simply refresh the page.

Obviously, I don’t use this function with every website I visit. However, for some, it is invaluable. Check it out here.

Incorporation by Go Daddy

Erblawg reports that GoDaddy now offers incorporation services in all 50 states. according to the owner of Go Daddy, the service allows customers to “launch a legitimate business without having to hire a lawyer.” I agree with the poster at Erblawg, however, that this really isn’t the case. Anyone who does corporate work, knows that filing the documents with the Secretary of State is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of forming a corporation properly. Erblawg explains:

Customer can in fact launch a legitimate business, but it’s quite questionable how legitimate that business will be over time. Why is that? Well, it’s shocking how many businesses never issue stocks, elect a board, or appoint officers, sign operating agreements, elect S treatment, or hold annual meetings. As long as everyone gets along, there may not be a problem. As soon as two “owners” of the company disagree or someone sues the company, those little details become important. After all, if no stock is issued, no one really owns the company, and if there’s no board or officers, than no one is really authorized to run it. And if someone sues a company with no minutes or worse, no officers, that company isn’t going to provide a whole lot of protection.

Many of the people I meet with who want to talk about incorporation don’t know why they want to incorporate or what they think they can gain from it. Instead, many want to incorporate because that is what you are supposed to do to protect yourself.

I also get those who complain about the fees that I charge to incorporate a business. I explain all of the services that I provide and why they are necessary to ensuring proper protection. However, some people can’t seem to get past the idea that I am doing something more than filing a form with the Secretary of State.

The reality is that at sometime the person is likely going to have to pay someone to straighten out the incorporation mess. As Erblawg explained,

As the saying goes, you can pay me now or you can pay me later. Later is always more expensive.

I just wished that more clients realized this.

Case Law on Google

The big news that broke last week was that Google Scholar now allows you to search state and federal court opinions. The official announcement is here. I think this is awesome. In general, I believe that making information more available is a good thing. Making our laws freely available and easily searchable is a great thing, for both attorneys and nonattorneys.

Now, I don’t think that Google Scholar is going to replace West or Lexis anytime soon. Although, like Carolyn Elefant, I have concerns for other providers of legal research. Carolyn explains:

As I see it, Google’s free legal research services won’t put a dent in LEXIS or Westlaw, at least not for a long, long time,  Instead, they pose a threat to what I’ve collectively termed the “second city” providers like Versuslaw, Casemaker, FastCase or Loislaw.  Right now, most lawyers are able to access those services for free or cheap through deals with the bars – but will bars continue to support those subscriptions when there’s a robust free option available?  My heart goes out to these companies because they served as an oasis for solos when no other options, save the law library and manual research, existed.  Yet I don’t see all of them able to survive the Google onslaught.

Of these, the greatest concern is likely for those companies whose market is primarily individual attorneys and individual law firms, rather than those companies that provide services to attorneys as a bar association member benefit. Nevertheless, I expect that Google Scholar will eventually affect the business models of these companies. Also, I would not be surprised if Google continues to improve their service and eventually draws a not insignificant portion of the West/Lexis customers away. Yes, there are those who use West and Lexis for their specialized databases. However, those who aren’t using the specialized databases may, in the near future, decide that it is not worth the amount being charged by Lexis and West.

For other thoughts on this announcement, you can check out the rest of Carolyn’s post, as well as posts by Crime and Federalism, TechnoEsq, Lex Tek, Ernie the Attorney, Jim Calloway, and Rick Klau.


Check out this analysis of the service from Law on My Phone.

What Does Google Know About You?

If you have ever taken a look at the vast number of products that Google offers (and this doesn’t count the stuff that is secretly in development) it is no wonder that some people believe that Google is on a quest to take over the world. I just hope that if that is the case, they are benevolent dictators.

Anyway, if you use Google products and want to find out what Google knows about you, you need to check out Google Dashboard.

To find out more about Google Dashboard, check out the video below (which, of course, is hosted on You Tube, which is owned by Google).

Simple Certified Mail

I do almost all of my simple administrative tasks myself. Mostly because I try to automate them to make the tasks simple and fast to perform. There is one thing, however, that I hate doing: certified mail. It is a pain to deal with and I always delegate that task to my assistant. I have recently discovered a new service that may make certified mail as easy to handle as other routine tasks. This service, called Simple Certified Mail, automates much of the process. Recently I was able to find out more about this service from Keith Pickholz, Marketing Director at Simple Certified Mail.  An interview with Charles Crutchfield, the founder of Simple Certified Mail appears below.

What is is an easy-to-use, web-based service that dramatically speeds up and simplifies the preparation and management of Certified Mail, which is a key process at many law firms. In fact, customers report 75% improvements in productivity when using

Tell me more about Why is it better? improves every step of the Certified Mail process.  Let’s start with preparing and sending Certified Mail.

With, there are no manual forms to fill out, or special forms to put through your printer. And there’s no need to apply stamps or use a postal meter. You simply login to our service, enter the recipient address, and select whether the item is being sent with or without Return Receipt (Electronic). prints the address and the electronic postage, along with the appropriate Certified Mail bar codes (what we call a Certified Mail “label”) on standard paper from any printer. Everything you need to mail the item, and the whole process takes 30 seconds.

Once you’ve printed the Certified Mail “label” you just slip the Certified Mail label, and your document, into one of the special window envelopes we supply for free, and drop in any mailbox. That’s it for mailing.

Sounds like it saves a lot of time. But what about getting Proof of Delivery?

Good question. Of course, the reason people use Certified Mail is to get signed Proofs of Delivery. eliminates the old-fashioned green cards, what the US Post Office calls the PS3811. There are lots of problems with green cards: wondering whether they have been signed; waiting for their return; and then having to file the cards to make sure they don’t get lost. Ten years ago the Post Office developed a more modern system, called Return Receipt (Electronic) that returns the Signature and Proof of Delivery as a PDF file, and carries the same legal clout, but normally you have to go to the Post Office counter to request it for every single Certified Mail item. plugs you right into Return Receipt (Electronic) without leaving your desk. When one of our Certified Mail letters is delivered, the Mail Carrier collects the signature from the recipient on a form, and it is posted as a PDF file on our web site the very next morning. So you get the signature immediately, you can print out the PDF; you can save it to your case file; and you can leave it on our servers where we maintain all your records for seven years.

The rest of the interview appears below the break