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CD-ROM update.

In my April 1991 column, I extolled the virtues of CD-ROM technology for attorneys.(1) CD-ROM stands for Compact Disk, Read Only Memory. Thousands of pages of text-based information, graphics, motion pictures, and sound will fit on one of these shiny disks that are similar to audio disks. By accessing huge databases via CD-ROM, you do not incur online charges, nor do you feel the pressure of searching databases while the cost per minute mounts. Your searches will be more extensive, more leisurely, and less costly to your clients.

In the last three years, the cost of CD-ROM disk drives has fallen dramatically--you can now get one for as low as $200 to $300. Some vendors, like Apple Computer, Inc., are going to make a CD-ROM disk drive standard equipment on future computers. The cost of most non-legal CD-ROM publications (especially games and publications like encyclopedias) has fallen, and the number of available legal publications has increased dramatically.

The cost of most legal CD-ROM publications is generally high, but consider storage costs for print versions of the same products and the problem of finding volumes being used by others in your firm. So many valuable products for lawyers are now on CD-ROM that a CD-ROM disk drive should be standard equipment in your office.

Most of the CD-ROM products require minimal training to use, and some come with online tutorials. Publishers' representatives can also answer questions. In addition, some publishing companies have integrated CD-ROM products with their online systems; with a modem, CD-ROM purchasers can dial into a service like WESTLAW and get up-to-the-minute information.

Before ordering, you should see the product demonstrated to be certain it satisfies your needs. Also check the type of computer the CD-ROM product works with and the minimum random access memory (RAM) requirements. Because CD-ROM costs and schedules vary from publisher to publisher, it is best to check prices and frequency of updates with individual vendors.

Here is a sampling of what is available on CD-ROM.(2)

West Publishing Co.

West has plunged into the CD-ROM publishing business. The company introduced its CD-ROM Libraries in 1988. In 1992-93, it introduced 52 case law libraries, U.S.C.A., and state statutes for more than 20 states on CD-ROM. It now has full-text case law on CD-ROM for all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. These products include the company's exclusive editorial enhancements like headnotes, synopses, and references to West's key number system.

In December 1993, West added its Supreme Court Reporter, which provides U.S. Supreme Court cases from 1789 to the present as printed in United States Reports, volumes 1-105, and in West's Supreme Court Reporter beginning with volume 1. Regular disk updates and advance sheets provide more current information. West CD-ROM subscribers can also choose to update case law daily through WESTLAW and the new WESTLAW Subscriber Agreement.

West also publishes a Social Security reporting service and the Federal Reporter (Second), Federal Supplement, and Federal Rules Decisions on CD-ROM.

Most CD-ROM disks come with software to perform searches, and West has been a leader in searching software. Premise Version 2.0 can be used on DOS, Windows, and Macintosh computers.(3) It contains a connection for a mouse, an on-screen button palette (a strip or box with icons denoting pull-down menus), dialogue boxes for viewing sub-menu options, and the ability to display and print black and white images.

One key feature other companies also offer is hypertext capability. With hypertext links you can jump from one document to another with a click of the mouse. For example, you can move from a court case to a cited statute and back.

Lawyers Cooperative Publishing

The United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) is available on LawDesk, the CD-ROM product line from Lawyers Cooperative Publishing.(4) The annotated product comprises over 150 print volumes. You can access any section of U.S.C., reference relevant parts of the Code of Federal Regulations, and see notes of decisions from court cases and major administrative agencies. This product also uses hypertext links.

The company has also released a complete system of research and analytical publications like American Law Reports (A.L.R.), including A.L.R. 3d, 4th, and 5th and the complete A.L.R. index on LawDesk, updated quarterly. It is also publishing state-specific case law on CD-ROM disks.

Matthew Bender

Matthew Bender publishes a number of CD-ROM libraries under the Search Master trade name. Libraries include Business/Commercial, Collier Bankruptcy, Environmental, Federal Practice, Immigration, Intellectual Property, Personal Injury, Tax, California Practice with Codes and Civil Cases, Florida Practice, New York Practice, and Texas Practice.

The publications included in the personal injury library are Attorney's Textbook of Medicine, Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine, Proving Medical Diagnosis and Prognosis, Damages in Tort Actions, and P.I. Actions, Defenses and Damages. In addition to these, the company publishes a number of pamphlets that explain CD-ROM technology and provide reasons for the technology's popularity.(5)


The Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory is available on CD-ROM, and all 24 volumes are on a single disk updated quarterly by the company at no additional charge.(6) In seconds, you can search for information on over 800,000 lawyers, law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies as well as suppliers to the legal profession in the United States and 130 other countries.

The Michie Co.

The Michie Co., owned by Mead Data Central (providers of the LEXIS/NEXIS services), publishes case literature via its Law on Disc research system.(7) The Michie Co. and West are the two companies publishing Illinois case law on CD-ROM as well as the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Michie updates the Illinois laws each month.


Dialog produces more than 40 CD-ROM products. One of its more popular products for attorneys is the OnDisc MEDLINE.(8) Covering information from 1966 to the present, the publication is produced by the National Library of Medicine. It provides access to over 7.4 million abstracts and citations from approximately 3,700 journals (70 percent of which are English-language publications) that are published in 70 countries.


Who among us hasn't had to Shepardize cases? Now you can get Shepard's Citations on CD-ROM.(9) I saw this product at a recent technology exhibition and was most impressed. Lawyers can search and retrieve, for example, an appellate case. They can then trace the subsequent history of the case and look up other decisions that refer to the case.

National Telephone Directory

ProPhone, the National Telephone Directory on CD-ROM, is a set of seven disks containing the published white-page listings for every city in the United States.(10) It contains 70 million residential listings and almost 7 million business listings--the equivalent of about 10,000 telephone directories. You can search by name, address, telephone number, business heading, or Standard Industry Classification (SIC) code. You can even download selected listings into a personal information management software program called ACT! (available separately). This product is handy not only for tracing people who have moved away but also for engaging in marketing activities.

U.S. Government Books

The U.S. Government Printing Office publishes a compendium of nearly 300 CD-ROM products containing federal information. Each product entry includes an abstract describing the contents of the CD-ROM disk and information on the searching software used, the system's requirements, and the disk price. The 184-page book identifying the source agency for the data and the distributors/vendors of the CD-ROMs costs $11 a copy.(11)

The government also sells the U.S. Code on CD-ROM, providing full-text access to all 50 titles of the official compilation of U.S. federal laws. It contains over 30,000 pages. The DOS version comes with I-Search software and the Windows version comes with Personal Librarian for Windows retrieval software. The one-time charge is $34.(12)

Software on CD-ROM

The graphical user interface (GUI) for Windows, Macintosh, and OS/2 systems is becoming popular. Applications programs such as Microsoft Office and CorelDraw take up a lot of hard-disk space and require installing many floppy disks on a hard drive. This takes time, and because floppy disks can be fragile, sometimes an installation fails. So more and more publishers like Microsoft Corp. are delivering their products (programs and user manuals) via CD-ROM. Reproducing one CD-ROM disk might cost the vendor only a dollar or two compared to the cost of duplicating scores of floppy disks. Savings to vendors should, at least in part, be passed on to customers.

Further, a new method of distributing software has emerged. Now you can obtain a CD-ROM disk that contains product information for 150 to 200 programs with demonstrations of each and encrypted versions of the complete program. By calling a toll-free number, you can buy a program and have it unlocked from the disk you already have. Disks will usually be sent to customers for the price of shipping and handling. The costs of the CD-ROM programs via this disk should be less than the cost of the same product by mail order.

When I wrote about CD-ROM technology in 1991, 1 saw it on the horizon. Today, it's here. Prices of CD-ROM drives and computers have come down so much that the initial cost of the hardware is no longer a factor. If you don't yet own a CD-ROM legal publication, you probably will soon. The technology is ideal for lawyers to access up-to-date legal information quickly without using expensive online research services.


(1) Paul Bernstein, CD-ROM: Information at Your Fingertips, TRIAL, Apr. 1991, at 65. See also PAUL BERNSTEIN, COMPUTERS FOR LAWYERS 25 (ATLA Press 1992). (2) For a more complete source of law-related CD-ROM products, see DIRECTORY OF LAW-RELATED CD-ROMS (Arlene L. Eis ed.), Infosources Publishing, 140 Norma Rd., Teaneck, NJ 07666, tel./fax (201) 836-7072. The 1994 edition lists approximately 450 law-related CD-ROM products and costs $49 plus $5 shipping and handling. (3) West Publishing Co., tel. (800) 255-2549. (4) Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, tel. (800) 828-6373. (5) Matthew Bender, tel. (800) 223-1940. (6) Martindale-Hubbell Electronic Publishing Dept., a division of Reed Publishing (USA), Inc., tel. (800) 323-3288. (7) The Michie Co., tel. (800) 562-1197. (8) Dialog Information Services, Inc., tel. (800) 334-2564. (9) Shepard's McGraw Hill, Inc., tel. (800) 541-3334. (10) Pro CD Inc., tel. (800) CD-ROM-25. (11) To order the SIGCAT CD-ROM COM-PENDIUM, give stock number 021-000-00158-9 and send a check or money order for $11 per copy or a VISA or MasterCard number and expiration date to Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. The price includes shipping and handling. (12) To order the U.S. Code CD-ROM, give stock number 052-001-00438-8 and send a check for $34 to the address in n.11.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Association for Justice
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Author:Bernstein, Paul
Date:Apr 1, 1994
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