Crowdsourcing of legal research, the future?

One that has been on the back of my mind today.

As you folks know, there are a few law-related topics that I am very interested in, so I write about these. It surprises me that–beginning some days later–I get visited on search terms for the topic that I wrote about!

It’s got to be that Google must know everyone’s business, at least when it comes to arcane questions in the law.

[More later today.]

[Update: So I wonder about this. Cases, more and more, are disseminated public information. There is nothing we can do about this, and I’m not sure that the answer is simply not to mediate disputes outside of some adjudication process. As I’ve pointed out before, the open court system was an 18th century innovation, which by-and-large replaced thuggery, assassination and bloody violence as the means to resolve disputes. I’d hate to see the 21st century become one where, instead of making progress in the lives people lead, we revert back to more barbaric practices that are, right now, only the stuff of offbeat or Sci Fi movies. (I am thinking about Auntie’s Wheel from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

So it’s going to be more and more likely that if you use, say, the U.S. federal court system, other people will be able to do a Bing search (or the ever popular Google search) on you and find that, ho!, you used the court system.

We often think about this in terms of a job search, and in terms of prejudice. Prejudging people based on what is in the search results. But there is another side to it, and that is: other people who are interested in the same issues, and who use the search engine to see if anyone else is thinking about the same injustice or problem, where the law may be a remedy.

For regulars, I am tracking back a bit here. As you know, I am interested in Pennsylvania religious society law. I lived in Pennsylvania during college and law school, and had my introduction, as it were, to petty corruption within the U.S. Episcopal Church, through antics going on at the St. Clement’s Church in Philadelphia.

Years ago, if you were faced with an arcane legal problem, and you weren’t part of a group of people, you basically had to suffer in silence. Along comes the internet, and 20 years later, if you have an arcane problem, you’ll get searched on–or do the searching–and end up becoming acquainted (online, at least) with 15 or so people who are focused on the same problem.

It is not as easy to marginalize people when you can’t just make them out to be the only one facing some obstacle out there. As more people decide to post about their obstacles, the more likely the legal issues they face will be part of that post. They more likely other people who either face it, or can see where the development would be an unwelcome change in the law, will pick up on it.

And so, we will have the crowdsourcing of legal issues. Probably with that, also, will be search engine companies that collect and assess the data about what people are searching on, and why.

This all just theory now, but I could see where it gels together into some process, and that law firms (the relative deep pockets in the “business”) figure out the angles.

Will crowdsourcing be some kind of “pre discovery” or “pre motion” activity within the law? Will vested interests throw out their political agendas before that ever has a chance to develop into something worthwhile?]


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