Research Hack: Tabulaw

Cast your mind back to 1999: Westlaw and Lexis were the only games in town. If you wanted electronic research you had to be corralled in an expensive, proprietary sandbox that charged by the minute. Free, web-based legal research sites like Lawguru and Findlaw had yet to find their audience. They were dark times.

Even back then however, it was clear to some of us that the future of legal research was the Web. For my part I started a website that let lawyers add their own user-generated and found content to the site’s knowledge base, then connect with each other. It was a forerunner of the user generated content (UGC) and social networking we now take for granted. I even planned to create a companion software app that would capture the URL and citation of online research for later use … and then the dot com bubble burst and everything went sideways.

A decade later, Caltech and Yale-trained lawyer Ari Hershowitz founded Tabulaw with the goal of streamlining the research process and permitting users to collaborate on legal documents, virtually, in real-time. If you can’t visualizing doing what I just described, it’s because you’ve never seen it done before. Even the legal research duopoly of Westlaw and Lexis haven’t come close to what this little start-up has accomplished. In your face Wexis.

Here’s how it works: join Tabulaw and research via legal research fountainhead Google Scholar.  Eventually users will be able to use any source.  Once you find useful information just highlight and save it. Tabulaw let’s you easily organize the information with tags.  You don’t actually need to do anything else – Tabulaw has already copied the highlighted text, along with the URL where you found it and fully formatted Blue Book citations. Booyah! That text can also be inserted, citations and all, into your memo, brief, etc. But wait, there’s more. Once your research is complete you can instantly share it with anyone or even publish it so it’s public. And the process is free. Just like the law should be.

Tabulaw is currently in private beta, but Practicehackers can sign up here.