Archive for November, 2009

Google's Foray into Web-based Legal Research

Google has been known to jump headlong into new web-based initiatives in search of the next big success.  Some do succeed (Google Maps = Super Cool) and some do not (“Orkut,” Google’s social networking site which has not quite established the brand recognition of myspace or facebook).

Now, Google has leapt into the world of computer-based legal research via a searchable case database on its Google Scholar site.  Here is an announcement from the Google Blog.

Will this free offering knock the fee-charging West and Lexis up against the ropes?  Not anytime soon.  A blurb in the ABA Journal points out that Google Scholar, while easy to use, does not include a statute/code database, and does not offer a case citator a la Shepard’s.

Nevertheless, and as with all of Google’s undertakings, this initiative is worth watching.  And it may prove a useful arrow in the quivers of public interest lawyers whose access to the fee-charging databases is limited.

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Swelling Need for Food Stamps Reduces Stigma

The New York Times reports on the growth of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a/k/a “food stamps”) as more families who may not have thought of themselves as “poor” struggle during the economic recession.  The piece highlights the remarkable diversity of food stamp recipients, ranging from the chronically impoverished to the working poor who are unable to cobble together enough paid hours to keep their pantries full.  Astoundingly, 1 in 4 Philadelphians benefit from food stamps, in addition to their wide distribution in more rural, poverty-stricken locals.

But the real story is the emergence of food stamps as a vital resource for those who were once economically secure, but whose incomes took a downward turn when the recession hit.  Families struggle now to maintain basic living necessities, letting alone the idea of keeping up with their old standards of living.  Those who once would have been embarrassed to receive government handouts now count themselves among those saved by the economic safety net.

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