Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advance Sheets Free Online

When I started as a lawyer our firm had a very nice law library.  Every couple of weeks a paperback book would arrive in the mail.  That book was a collection of all of the published appellate court opinions issued since the preceding book was mailed out.  We referred to these books as the "advance sheets."  Several times a year all of the cases in the advance sheets were re-printed in hard bound, leather volumes that then took their place of privilege in our library.  These hardbound copies were referred to as the "official reports" or "the case law."

I am now able to identify several problems with this timeless process. 1.  All those books require physical space for their storage.  Bookshelves and library floor space are expensive.  2.  A physical library requires maintenance.  Books have to be organized and indexed.  Advance sheets have to be rotated, and thrown out when they are replaced by hardbound volumes,  3.  Only one person can read each book at a time.  If two people need a case from the same book?  The second person waits.  4.  All those books were ridiculously expensive.  The publishers made a killing!  You needed the advance sheets so that you could stay current on the latest law.  You needed the hardbound volumes, because you needed the law.

Fortunately technology has evolved to the point that a physical law library is really a waste of space and money for most law firms.  Every California statute and every California appellate opinion is now available on line.  There are free options, and there are subscription options.  Regardless, the cost has come way down from the paper days, and the convenience has gone way up.

There is still a time lag though as appellate opinions are released, and until they get online with some commercial providers.  Also those advance sheets that showed up every several weeks were a convenient way to stay abreast of the latest case law.  They were the place you knew where to look for the latest law.  You just grabbed the d\advance sheet and read.  Where can we turn now?  Why the internet of course.

The Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts' California Courts website is now the web based publisher of the advance sheets.  All published, and unpublished (i.e. not citeable as authority, but valuable nonetheless) opinions, hit the CC website first.  And guess what, they are right there for your review for FREE!

Want to do a daily review of new cases affecting your practice, go to the CC website and read away.  Click here to visit the site.

The site keeps the opinions online for 120 days.  Conveniently, the opinions released in the preceding 100 hours have their own screen.  There is no indexing by type of law, i.e., family law, probate, criminal, etc.  However, with a bit of practice it becomes fairly easy to find the family law cases.  Here are a couple of tips, look for the cases that have "Marriage of" in the title.  That's a pretty good indication that it is a dissolution action.  Also look for cases where the last names of the parties are the same (i.e., Smith v. Smith, or Hansen v. Hansen).  Also look for cases with surname names rather than corporate names.  The case of Wesson v. Peterson is more likely to be a family law case than is Xerox v. IBM, or Greenberg v. Form Motor Co.

Please visit for more information about Harding & Associates Family Law 

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