We live in a fast paced world where we often digest information by ticker tape—short snippets of news. This is understandable considering the overwhelming amount of information being directed toward us each day. The problem, or potential problem, is that because of the massive amount of information being directed toward us daily, we often overlook most information, unless we are searching for it, or someone is demanding we pay attention to it. If the information we are overlooking is not significant to us, then overlooking it is not a problem. However, some information may not significant to us today, but it will be significant to us tomorrow. That is why it is important to look at information long enough to determine whether it may be beneficial to you at a future time. You’ll benefit greatly from knowing that information that is significant to you exists and where you can find it, even if it is not important to you now.
The way law students can sometimes feel about Law Library databases is a good example of the information overload just discussed. Law students are inundated with information about the law and how to find it. When it comes to legal research, law students have numerous databases to choose from, but often, they simply default to Westlaw or LexisNexis because these are the two databases they hear about the most. LexisNexis and Westlaw are great resources; however, it is important for law students to look at the many other databases available to them to determine whether those databases might actually fulfill their information need more efficiently or effectively. Quite possibly, one of the potentially overlooked databases may be the very database that most law firms use for a particular practice area.
Below, I have listed a few databases that are often overlooked, but are important to practicing attorneys and law firms. As a law student, you should take a look at these databases, even if you do not have a current assignment in them. Get familiar with the databases, how they work, and the information contained in them, so that when begin practicing law you will know that these databases exist and the information available in them.
EcoAmericas (great for environmental law attorneys) is a monthly newsletter providing information regarding development and the environment in Latin America. It is published online in English and Spanish. Archives online begin with November of 1998. There are also online guides to environmental agencies for each country.
Fastcase (a free resource for bar members in over 24 states) is a legal research database that provides access to primary law from all jurisdictions in the United States. The Florida Bar is one of several bar associations which provide access to Fastcase as part of their bar membership benefits.
Kluwer Arbitration (great for attorneys looking to arbitrate a case) includes cases, legislation, commentary and more on international commercial arbitration research topics.
National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) (great for consumer law attorneys) Online full-text manuals on all aspects of consumer law.