Way back in July and August 2005, I wrote a series of posts here about what I called the aging core of FindLaw. In the first post of the series, I started with this:
“FindLaw’s core is showing its age. Started in 1994 as an index of legal resources on the Internet, FindLaw used that index as the foundation on which to build a range of resources for legal professionals, businesses and consumers. But in recent years, FindLaw has let its index go to seed, failing to weed out dead URLs, update site descriptions or add new resources as they come along. The deterioration of FindLaw’s index is so extreme as to call into question its usefulness as a primary resource for legal professionals.”
As I noted then, FindLaw’s downturn seemed to coincide with its 2001 purchase by Thomson West. What I did not mention then was that with that purchase came the departure of FindLaw’s co-founder Tim Stanley. From my earlier reporting about FindLaw, I knew Stanley to be creative and energetic. I could only wonder whether his leaving contributed to FindLaw’s downturn. (In fairness to FindLaw, it responded quickly to my series and continues to make substantial revisions and enhancements to its ever-growing site.)
Meanwhile, Stanley started a little company called Justia. At first, Justia’s main focus was “legal marketing solutions” — creating law firm Web sites and blogs and providing search engine optimization. At the same time, Stanley and his staff worked on public-interest side projects such as the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center and RecallWarnings.com. Later came Justia’s Supreme Court Center, pulling together a searchable collection of Supreme Court cases along with Supreme Court resources from all over the Web.
Justia continued to add innovative features, such as BlawgSearch for searching law-related blogs and Blawgs.fm for searching law-related podcasts. Just last week, he launched Federal District Court Filings & Dockets, for searching and browsing federal dockets. Along the way, Justia added collections of links to Web legal resources arranged by legal practice areas and to legal research and law practice resources arranged under cases and codes, courts, states, law schools, legal forms and the like.
All of which seems to be bringing Justia back full circle to where FindLaw was when Stanley left — when FindLaw was still the premier portal for legal research. Look at Justia’s front page today and one is reminded of the FindLaw of old. More to the point, Justia today is becoming every bit as valuable as a legal portal as FindLaw once was. In fact, I would say it is one of the best free legal-research sites on the Web.