Technology Property provides information on current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the real property area. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.
Internet Resources For Real Estate Lawyers
The Internet has enormous quantities of useful information for real estate lawyers. Much of the information is easily accessible using any world wide web browser, including Netscape, Microsoft Explorer, America on Line, CompuServe or Prodigy. Many of the resources described here, and others not mentioned, are accessible from the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section's web site ( www.abanet.org/rppt/home.html) and through the Dirt web site ( cctr.umkc.edu/dept/dirt/) (type Internet addresses into your web browser without the parentheses). At the Dirt home page, click on "Other Sites of Interest."
The best thing going for real estate lawyers on the web is the Dirt list server. Dirt is an Internet e-mail discussion group moderated by Prof. Patrick Randolph of the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school. Prof. Randolph posts an interesting case summary on a daily basis, which triggers discussions among the nearly 1,000 real estate lawyers in the group. Many Dirt members are "lurkers" and rarely comment, but all members of the list learn from and think about the daily postings and the discussions between the more loquacious list members.
Dirt's world wide web home page contains information on subscribing. There is no cost to subscribe except the subscriber's regular Internet access fees (which range from $10 to $30 per month for unlimited use personal accounts in most American localities). Commercial accounts are higher, but one account can serve many people.
The RPPT web site includes information on the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the ABA. A broad collection of real estate related Internet web sites is available on the RPPT site. Click on the RPPT on the Net graphic, then click on the Related Sites on the Internet hypertext, and, finally, click on the RPPT 1997 Spring Meeting Link List hypertext. Members of the RPPT Title Insurance committee can subscribe to an Internet e-mail discussion group focusing on title insurance. From the RPPT on the Net graphic, click on the RPPT Listserv/Discussion Groups hypertext, then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Subscribe to rppt-title-ins hypertext.
Many of the more useful websites for lawyers fall into five major classifications: (1) search engines, which help a user find information on the web; (2) governmental sites, which offer much legal and practical information; (3) educational sites, often run by universities and law schools, which frequently provide legal research resources; (4) commercial sites, which offer business, banking and other real estate related products and services; and (5) nonprofit sites, which provide practical information.
Search engines permit key word searches on the Internet, much like key word searches on the Westlaw and Lexis legal databases. Because most of the information on the Internet is lay-oriented rather than legal, most Internet search engines are not practical for legal research.
For example, a search for the term "equitable mortgage" would bring up mortgage companies rather than case law on equitable mortgages. Some popular search engines include Altavista ( altavista.com), Lycos ( www. lycos.com), Webcrawler ( webcrawler.com) and Yahoo ( www.yahoo.com).
Specialized search engines can find postal and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, list servers and Internet news groups. A web page that compiles many search engines is the All-in-One search page ( www.albany.net/allinone). A relatively new engine, which searches public documents nationwide, is Knowx by Information America ( www.knowx.com). This site searches real estate, bankruptcy, judgment, lawsuit, lien, UCC, name availability, death records and other public records throughout the country. Martindale-Hubbell has built a web site for finding lawyers, the Martindale Lawyer Locator ( lawyers.martindale.com/marhub), and West Publishing has a site for searching West's legal directory ( www.wld.com/wld).
The federal government was instrumental in the creation and expansion of the Internet and maintains many web sites with immense volumes of information. A comprehensive list of federal web sites is at the Villanova Center for Information, Law & Policy, Federal Web Locator ( www.law.vill.edu/fed-agency). The Federal Web Locator includes links to federal courts and case law. Of particular interest to real estate lawyers are the HUD home page for housing information ( www.hud. gov); the IRS web site for tax returns ( www.irs.ustreas.gov); the Library of Congress legislative information site for checking federal legislation ( thomas.loc.gov); and the Government Printing Office site at Purdue University for federal statutes, regulations and publications ( thorplus.lib.purdue.edu:8100/gpo). Many state and local governments have web sites that include links to branches, departments, agencies, cases, statutes and ordinances. A comprehensive collection of state and local government websites is at the Piper Resources web site ( www.piperinfo.com/state/states.html).
Educational sites often provide valuable information and are frequently more dramatic in appearance than governmental sites. A handy site run by Bucknell Univer-sity includes over 330 dictionaries of over 100 different languages ( www.bucknell.edu/~rbeard/diction.html). A site containing tremendous amounts of text-based information is the Gopher menu at the University of Minnesota ( gopher.tc.umn.edu). This is the original Internet Gopher site. Gopher was the most popular form of information retrieval on the Internet before the introduction of graphics-based World Wide Web technology. The Stern Business School of New York University operates the Edgar web site ( edgar.stern.nyu.edu), at which users may search and obtain Securities & Exchange Commission filings. A very helpful legal research site is the Cornell University Law School page ( www.law.cornell.edu). A useful collection of maps and geographic references is at the Univer-sity of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research site ( www.cgrer.uiowa.edu/servers/ servers_references.htm). Real estate lawyers hoping their progeny will emulate them may want to view the colleges and universities home page offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( www.mit.edu:8001/people/cdemello/univ.html).
Residential real estate lawyers should check out Fannie Mae's web site (www.fanniemae.com). Geo- Systems Global Corporation, Inc. operates a site called MapQuest ( www.mapquest.com/cgi-bin/mqatlas), which allows users to zoom into street maps worldwide. Hoovers, Inc. runs a web site ( www.hoovers.com/ cgi-bin/show_file.cgi) on which users can search companies by location, industry and sales.
Mortgage Market Information Services lists mortgage and real estate related web sites ( banking.interest.com/ sources.html). The Homebuyer's Fair has a site ( www.homefair.com) that includes information for consumers making home buying and financing decisions. Mortgage Market Information Services' web site (banking.interest.com/mmis.html) provides mortgage interest rates by state, lists of mortgage lenders by state, consumer information, mortgage news pub-lications and links to 100 different local newspapers. Mortgage Tech claims to list every mortgage broker, mortgage lender and real estate finance company on the web ( www. mtgtech.com).
Several title insurance under- writers have web sites, including Chicago Title and Trust Company ( www.ctt.com), Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company ( www2.cltic.com/cltic), Fidelity National Title Insurance Company ( www.fntic.com), First American Title Insurance Company ( www.firstam. com), Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation ( www.ltic.com), Old Republic National Title Company ( www.oldrepnatl.com), and Stewart Title Guaranty Company ( www.stewart.com).
Nonprofit entities carry the "org" suffix in their Internet address. These organizations are often trade or professional associations such as the American Bar Association ( www.abanet.org). The Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) has a web site that explains the electronic registration system ( www.mersinc.org). The Mortgage Bankers Association of America's web site ( www.mbaa.org) provides mortgage industry news and in- formation regarding the trade association. The American Land Title Association's site ( www.alta.org) contains information of interest to lawyers working with title insurance.
A Rich Resource
Because of the vast quantity of information available on the Internet, users often must sort through a lot of chaff to find a valuable kernel of information. Nevertheless, the results richly repay the effort. Real estate lawyers can use the sites described in this article to find people needed for execution of corrective deeds and defendants in quiet title actions. Federal and state statutes and regulations can be searched, often at no charge. Biographical information on local and opposing counsel is freely available. Due diligence can be performed on parties to real estate transactions, including public record searches.
E-mail is convenient for communication with friends, family members, colleagues, opposing counsel and clients all over the world, at minuscule costs. Communication and information are free on the Internet; lawyers merely need to access them.
Technology_Property Editor Kevin J. Dunlevy, Best & Flanagan, PLLP, 4000 First Bank Place, 601 Second Ave. So., Minneapolis, MN 55402-4331; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Probate & Property Magazine is published six times annually and is included in section members' annual dues.