Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Roll your own Google

I saw this post today at one of my favorite blogs, Inter Alia, noting that Google has finally given us the ability to create our own customized search engines with a product called Google Co-Op (not a very good name, I don't think). So, I've decided to give it a whirl.

Although Lexis and Westlaw are great, they cost your client money. Sometimes, you just want to do a quick search of free published case law that most courts now post on their web sites. In the past, there was no practical way to search multiple court web sites at one time. You either used Google and came up with one bazillion hits, or you went to multiple court web sites and plugged in the same search terms to each. Neither are very efficient. Enter Google Co-Op.

On the sidebar of my weblog, I have added a custom search window that searches state and federal case opinions within the Fourth Circuit. It covers the following sites:

Fourth Circuit

Federal Cases www.mdd.uscourts.gov
State Cases www.courts.state.md.us/opinions

North Carolina
State Cases www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/sc/opinions http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions

South Carolina
State Cases www.judicial.state.sc.us

Federal Cases www.vawd.uscourts.gov
State Cases http://www.courts.state.va.us/

West Virginia
Federal Cases www.wvsd.uscourts.gov www.wvnd.uscourts.gov
State Cases www.state.wv.us/wvsca/docs

A number of district courts do not publish opinions on their web sites, so I could not find a way to include their cases.

A nice feature of Google Co-op is that once you enter your search terms, you can refine the search by certain pre-assigned labels. For instance, I have added labels for "Federal" and "State" cases, and also for specific states. So, for instance, if you want to search for cases involving Title VII, you can enter "Title VII" as your search term. Then, you can refine the search by clicking on the "West Virginia" refinement link above the results, and narrow the hit list to only those cases from the West Virginia federal and state court web sites.

I will warn you, my custom search engine is in "beta." Of course, if you were looking for the best in online legal research, you would be using Lexis or Westlaw anyway, right? If you have suggestions on how to improve it, please e-mail me.

** Update: Rory Perry pointed out that the case opinions can be isolated on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals web site by adding "docs" to the URL. So I have modified the Google Co-Op customized search engine to reflect that change. Thanks, Rory!


Bob Coffield said...

Brian, I saw the same post late last night and had the same thoughts about creating customized legal search engines based on cases or client specific information. You beat me to the punch. I'll plan to give your custom search a whirl.

Guy Barry said...

I look forward to seeing what your beta search engine can do that all the rest can't
Good luck

Anonymous said...

Brian, I found your blog are very informative. I hope you don't mind I've bookmarked your blog for my future reference.

Cancer Type

Kfz said...

Fantastic blog you've got here Brian Peterson,

I was looking for search engine related information and found your site.

I have a German Vehicle site.Kfz

It covers everything about Vehicles, News, and more. Stop by and check it out when you can. Enjoy!

Rory said...

Brian, to restrict your search to West Virginia state slip opinions, as opposed to the whole website, use the url restriction:


I'm currently putting together a similar effort that will search all state and federal official court websites, found as an early form at:

Anonymous said...

Very good article...infomational for sure...looking forward to reading some more posts placed on this topic...will be checking this page again..have saved in favorites and bookmarked...thanks

Seo Directory Web Directory

Anonymous said...

Interesting thing. I think I will try out this "Google Co-Op". Could come in quite handy at times. Toner

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article, as usual Google are attempting to saturate and monopolize the market with another product, - but it seems pretty good! I have a friend who is currently finalising his PHD on the physics of search engines [or something like that] so I will forward this blog address on for him as this may be useful for his research.

Share your information at YourBroadcaster - Creating, Writing & Collaborating.