Oyez.org v. Findlaw.com
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1913
- Category: Internet
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Serious legal research is a very taxing activity. It requires much time, patience and ingenuity. It requires one to have an expanded vocabulary and an advanced grasp of logic. The study of law is difficult. The question we have to ask is: Does it have to be?
Legal professionals and law students of the past often found themselves frustrated because libraries were incomplete and their collections worn-out. Jurisprudence is already difficult to decipher as it is, what more if the print has become pale and unreadable.
Today, in this age of information, entire collections are accessible on any computer or PDA in any part of the world. We are now able to carry libraries in our pockets, so to speak. Texts in cyberspace do not deteriorate in time and they can easily be retrieved by the use of high-speed search engines. More time is being spent on actually analyzing content than on leafing through half-torn pages of dusty books and periodicals.
Legal resource websites provide researchers with quick access to cases, laws, journals and news articles that might be of interest. These sites give a quick solution to the problems in information access. It would not only help legal professionals but any and every person who is in need of legal information. People are no longer left at the mercy of their lawyers and their legal jargon because these resources are free for all to use. People are now reading more and participating more in their legal battles and concerns because they are given easier access to the law. They are now more able to know their rights and find solutions to their legal obstacles.
This writer will now attempt to compare and contrast two leading free legal resource websites namely, oyez.org and findlaw.com. This writer chose these sites because they are the most popular and the most accessible to the public. We will attempt to see the effectivity of these sites as research tools. In order to do this correctly, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the most usual users, the law students and the lawyers. We have to understand what they need and what they are looking for. By answering these questions, we will be able to evaluate these websites on terms of form and content. We will see what they did right and what needs to be improved.
This analysis is expected to show that legal websites whether broad or specialized, traditional or cutting-edge, may serve as useful tools in studying the law and in educating the public.
They call themselves the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court” and their aim is to demonstrate “the power of multimedia integration with serious academic content.”
A common problem in the legal academic community is that things become too complicated (whether or not they are made such intentionally is beside the point). Problems that start out as simple everyday situations are dressed up and obscured by legal language that only an elite class of highly educated individuals is able to break down and understand. This is the very archaic trend which Oyez.com is trying to destroy. Supreme Court decisions are handed down in simple English and made available to the public to serve whatever purpose they see fit.
Oyez.com focuses on the US Supreme Court and its decisions rather than the law in general. This could be seen by many as a limiting factor, but it could also be lauded as a decent attempt to fill a specific niche in the market. The site provides all kinds of information on the Supreme Court, from the individual mini-biographies of Justices up to the latest news articles concerning pending decisions.
Oyez.org also manages an audio podcast or an internet radio show called The Oyez Supreme Court Podcast where the latest cases are digested and discussed in detail. This is presented in a simple yet formal lecture method. People can download these podcast episodes into their computers or iPods and listen to them on-the-go.
According to website information, “FindLaw is the highest-trafficked legal Web site, providing the most comprehensive set of legal resources on the Internet for legal professionals, corporate counsel, law students, businesses, and consumers. These resources include Web search utilities, cases and codes, legal news, an online career center, and community-oriented tools, such as a secure document management utility, e-mail newsletters, and message boards.”
FindLaw.com is more content heavy and serious. The website is generally divided into to groups. We have the For the Public section and we have a section For Legal Professionals. The For the Public section provides for legal assistance information organized in problem-based categories like Accidents & Injuries, Divorce & Family Law and Immigration. This facilitates the search for legal services based on the real concern of clients as opposed to the more academic purpose of student research.
FindLaw.com is more popular simply because it contains more information. It appeals to those seeking for legal assistance because their concerns are tackled head-on without the unnecessary sugar-coating that is so common in the legal profession. Because of this, people are able to figure out what they really want before going to a lawyer for consultation, saving them hundreds of dollars in avoidable legal expenses.
For the law student or academician, FindLaw.com is a rich source of research and practice material. For example, they provide legal forms that may serve as templates that might save a practitioner much time and effort in drafting them from scratch. FindLaw.com also has compiles news and journal articles that keep lawyers up to date on the legal developments that may be useful in his or her field of practice.
Comparison of Navigation
Both sites offer simple and intuitive navigation that ensures that visitors can easily show themselves around without getting lost. Menus are provided on the top of the page for quick navigation. Search engines are provided to assist visitors in finding exactly what they are looking for.
Comparison of Content
As already mentioned above, FindLaw.com is more comprehensive as to its content. It provides for laws, case summaries, dictionaries, and news and journal articles. It also provides links to legal practitioners in the US for potential clients and it contains a job section for those lawyers seeking for employment.
Oyez.com dedicates itself to information concerning the United States Supreme Court and its decisions. It also provides for links to the various appellate courts throughout the United States.
Both websites provide search engines to allow the user to find the content that is desired.
Layout and Design Comparison
Both websites present their information in a very user-friendly manner. The layout is uncluttered and easy on the eyes, which is very important for one who expects to be in front of the computer monitor for several straight hours. Oyez.org, however, has a better layout because all its content is found at the very center of the page while the menus and the ad boxes are found on the sides.
This allows the reader to focus on the content free from needless distractions. Findlaw.com presents its menu like any other search engine where the menus are found at the dead-center of the page. With a content-heavy site like this, navigation can sometimes turn out to be too overwhelming for people who are not too accustomed to surfing the internet. Oyez.com might be more appealing to new users in spite of its lack of content.
Because both sites offer free services, it is understandable why ads abound throughout the websites. This is their way of keeping themselves self-sufficient without having to rely on membership fees. However, Oyez.com is able to treat ads with more style and with minimal distraction. In FindLaw.com, ad boxes can be a little unnerving when you find them on top of every article or document you are trying to browse. In any case, this is a minor problem considering that the user does not have to give out his or her credit card information to be able to access these useful information and services.
Both sites use minimalist designs to give more emphasis on the content. They use few colors (mostly blue and white), allowing perfect contrast between the text and the background. Many designers commit the simple mistake of ignoring contrast (ie. using light colored text over light background) that makes website texts impossible to read. The designers of these two sites are clearly aware of such a problem especially with text-heavy sites such as these.
Both sites also use appropriate headings typed in large fonts to make the sections easier to spot. Additionally, Oyez.org offers a more liberal design with its use of wide spaces that make the overall look more pleasing. Other website developers tend to cram up even their opening page with content that it causes visitors to shy away from going further.
Legal study is becoming easier and faster with the development in technology. In effect, legal services are also expected to improve in terms of speed and quality. We have looked into two legal resource websites: Oyez.org and FindLaw.com. On one hand, we see Oyez.com, a website that specializes itself with information on the US Supreme Court. It offers a narrow but detailed look into the most important US institution concerning the law and its decisions. On the other hand, we have, FindLaw.com, a website that serves as a comprehensive one-stop-shop for legal services.
For a person seeking for legal advice, FindLaw.com would be the resource of choice. It caters to people who are looking for practical answers to real concerns without having to prematurely consult a lawyer. For those who are studying the law, both these resources can be used to complement each other.
Oyez.org is used to make jurisprudence more understandable while FindLaw.com may be used to study legal provisions and scholarly articles written by other practitioners and academicians. Any student of the law will find himself in a better position by using these two resources. One can often able to learn much more from the content of these websites than from classroom lectures. If anything, these websites clarify what the student has already read but did not understand. They provide light to the gray areas of legal study.
Legal education does not have to be difficult. Through technology, the people who manage these websites summoned enough foresight to provide education to all who seek it. They are great teachers in their own right because they strive to demystify the law and unveil it of all exclusivity and complicity.
To the learned student of the law, these sites serve as a new avenue for deeper (not necessarily more complicated) understanding. It presents the law in a manner that is simple, friendly, and familiar. Lawyers are not supposed to be trained to make people feel stupid. Lawyers are there to realize and give effect to what people already know. Justice is common sense. All the lawyer needs to do is to make justice real. And with these tools, all people might be able to see it happen.
FindLaw.com (2006). Retrieved June 5, 2006, from http://findlaw.com/
Oyez.org (2005). Retrieved June 5, 2006, from http://www.oyez.org/oyez/frontpage