A new website called Tabulaw hopes to simplify the task of legal research and writing. As of this writing, the site is still in a private beta, which means you’ll have to fill out a request to obtain an invitation to try it out.
The site’s premise is that legal research tools are expensive, fragmented and redundant. It seeks to remedy this by combining key tools in a single location and making them all play nice together.
From within the Tabulaw site, you can search for a court opinion. (It uses Google Scholar to find cases.) Once you find a case, as you read through it, you can highlight passages. The text you highlight is automatically saved, complete with its citation. The passages are saved in Quote Bundles to which you can assign names and descriptions.
Once you have done your research and you are ready to start writing, you can do that from within Tabulaw also. You can create and edit a new document in Tabulaw, upload one from your computer, or import one from Google Docs. It appears that Tabulaw uses Google Docs as its document-editing base.
As you write, your quotes are displayed in a panel to the right of the document. Simply click any quote to insert it in your document, complete with its full citation (including page citation). You can also click a button to return to the case and see the quote in context. Any documents you create in Tabulaw can be downloaded to Microsoft Word.
Tabulaw has fairly rudimentary collaboration features at this point. You can share your Quote Bundles with other Tabulaw users or send them by email. You cannot share documents directly from within Tabulaw, as far as I could see.
There are shortcomings to Tabulaw. For one, there is no way to search statutes, which limits its usefulness for some. For another, it has no real word-processing features other than the ability to create and write documents. For any formatting and final touches, you would have to export the document.
That said, the ability to easily save, organize and use quotes from court cases could be a time saver. I could see this being a useful intermediary tool when writing a quick memorandum on a short deadline. Get it started on your computer, upload it to Tabulaw and incorporate the research, then download it and give it the finishing touches.