One thing that you learn while completing your first year of law school is that you have suddenly become the legal advisor of your close family. I can attest to the fact that spending over a decade developing legal technologies instead of providing legal advice does not lower the expectations of those around you. Family members appear to assume that as long as you have attended law school, you should be able to quickly take a position on any legal issue they raise. And to be frank, the most challenging ones are not necessarily the ones you read about in the morning news.
For instance, a member of my family consistently pins me down about park regulations regarding dogs. Like many other dog owners in urban areas, this person is unhappy about the lack of places for dogs to run free. Whenever we meet, she expects me to come up with legal arguments supporting her yearning for less stringent regulation. The fact that I personally do not own a dog is irrelevant here. I have had to become an expert on the matter, if only to look sharp at family reunions.
As one may expect, professional resources dedicated to this specialized topic are few and scattered. Obviously, current awareness services from legal publishers are of little help considering the absence of a market that would justify the production of added-value material. There are a few online databases specializing in animal law, such as the Animal Law Resource Center, the Animal Legal & Historical Center of Michigan State University and, in Canada, the case law database of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. However, most of those websites focus on fair treatment of animals, not management of the environment affecting animals. In consequence, only a tiny fraction of what can be found on these websites is of interest to me. It should also be added that I do not have the incentive to invest time parsing those databases for updates on a regular basis.
However, the official legislative texts affecting this field are easy to locate online. Since my relative lives in Montreal, by-laws concerning pets and parks can be found on her borough’s website. Provincial and federal legislation is also freely available on the CanLII website. A query for leash (dog or pet or animal) park on CanLII also returns 175 cases, some of them particularly relevant as they concern cancellation of the off-leash designation of areas for dogs.
Lexbox provides me with the capacity to assemble all of this material in a single folder, to store it for good and to be notified of updates whenever something new comes up. When saving the above query, I was advised that I should expect approximately 24 notices per year based on past history. I opted to receive them in my Lexbox account only, keeping my mailbox unencumbered and offering me the flexibility to check it out only when I need to (in this case usually at a party with a drink in one hand, my mobile device in the other). I also created amendment alerts for the National Parks of Canada Domestic Animals Regulation, as well as the Parks Regulation, and the Regulation respecting the safety and welfare of cats and dogs of Quebec, making sure not to miss any future legislative updates. In the same vein, I created citation alerts on Ross v. Toronto (City), 2011 ONSC 7591 and a few other leading cases, to catch any new decisions on the topic that would have managed to evade my keyword search. By agglomerating these items together with links pointing to the animal law databases and the by-law from the local government website, I created my very own dog law database in less than 20 minutes.
The example I have used for this post may sound funny, but the benefits for practicing lawyers are definitely real. If you do legal research, whether regularly or not, you now have the possibility to quickly and easily assemble a database of legal information dedicated to your topic of interest. Much of the work is completed by simply browsing the web, since interactions with Lexbox are taken care of by a browser plugin. Doing so will permanently eliminate the noise from your results, saving you time whenever you need to dig back into it. Updates are received real-time but you can look at them only at the moment of your choosing. And when you determine that something is worth sharing, you can do so with a single click.