General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter
SPRING 1999 ISSUE
CLE Everyday: How to Use a List Server
By Stuart Levine
E-mail would be a bargain if all that it offered was a steady stream of CLE every day through the use of list servers. The concept behind a list server is simple. A subscriber to the list server submits a question or comment, which is distributed to all of the other subscribers. Other subscribers then make their own comments or offer suggestions.
Thoroughly monitoring the discussions becomes a practical impossibility.
For example, in the four months between June and September 1998, the ABA Estate Planner’s and Administrator’s list server had more than 2,500 submissions. That’s just slightly less than 27 submissions each and every day, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays included. Just to review that many submissions is time consuming. If you want to go further and participate in the discussions by also submitting comments and questions, you virtually have to put your practice on hold.
The key to dealing with heavy traffic list servers is to focus on reviewing only those “threads” (discussion topics) that are of special interest. Make sure you use an e-mail program that allows you to filter submissions into a separate folder. If you don’t, the clutter will gradually reduce your practical ability to use e-mail to zero.
Finally, there are list servers that do not invite active participation from subscribers. For instance, I am a subscriber to two list servers that distribute summaries of every case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, usually on the same day that the opinion is handed down and a similar service that provides summaries of the opinions of the Maryland appellate courts. Clearly, I do not read all of the summaries, much less all of the full opinions, which, in most cases, can be obtained through Web sites. However, merely by reviewing selected summaries in those topic areas that most interest me, I gain a fuller perspective on those fields that I practice in. The value of these list servers was underscored for me recently.
Last year, on a Friday, I argued a case before the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court in the state. On the following Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion that touched upon one of the issues in my case. I probably received the e-mail containing the case summary by Tuesday morning. I did not read it, however, until Wednesday morning.
I immediately went to the Cornell Law School Web site (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/) and downloaded a copy of the opinion. By Wednesday evening, I was able to contact my client in Delaware, my co-counsel in New York, and I had submitted to them a draft of a supplemental memorandum discussing the new Supreme Court case and its applicability to our case. That memorandum was revised and was then filed on Thursday. Needless to say, the process was a hit with my client (and I won the case).
Stuart Levine is in private practice in Baltimore.
A List Server for Every Lawyer
* Law List (Searchable) www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/law-lists
* Law List (Alphabetical) www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/lawlists/lawlists.txt
* Washburn University School of Law lawlib.wuacc.edu/washlaw/List Serve.html
* ListTool www.lawguru.com/subscribe/listtool.html
* Tile.net http://tile.net/