General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

The Right Information at the Right Time

How Oliver’s Cases Can Help You

by Edward Poll

You’re a busy trial attorney sitting at your desk and eyeballing the stack of advance sheets. You keep meaning to get through them as they come in each week, but things happen. They pile up. And now you’re going to have to spend next Saturday afternoon going over them, scanning for the relevant opinions in your practice area.

Sound familiar?

Now there’s good news for litigators who are ready to use the Internet to change the picture presented above. Oliver’s Cases (named for famous jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes) is a relatively new Internet service that automatically delivers the latest federal and state appellate court opinions in your practice area to your computer desktop every day. Think of it as an electronic advance sheet.

How It Works

When you subscribe to Oliver’s Cases (, you choose one or more of the listed legal areas relevant to your work. Don’t worry about locking yourself in to this list; you can change it a dozen times or more a day with no lag time.

You can also choose from a list of courts that post appellate opinions to the Internet. All of the federal circuit courts, the Supreme Court, and nearly all of the state appellate courts post their opinions to the Internet as soon as they’re published.

Then the real work—but not yours—begins. Oliver’s Cases scans every court site several times every day and, depending upon how you’ve set up your preferences, uses push technology to deliver the latest opinions to your computer. ("Push" means technology does the search for you and "pushes" the information to your computer; traditional "pull" technology requires that you do the searching.)

All you have to do is click on their cute red, white, and black icon, and a small screen appears, flashing all the opinions waiting for you. To read cases, click; a larger screen appears with a list of the new opinions that shows case name, area of law, court, and a brief summary of major issues in the case. To find out more, click on the case name; and in short time you’re linked to opinion’s full text, on the court’s website.

If you don’t want to be distracted with flashing icons and screens, no problem. You can program the service to be more passive and check it whenever you want. It’s always working in the background, accumulating the latest opinions based on your subject selections.

How can you use it? You can glance over the list, or you can read the opinion online. You can copy it, download it, or store it. As a backup, Oliver’s Cases stores all cases from all courts for six months in an on-screen library. As a subscriber, you can always search this library for cases in any area, in any court, with no restrictions, and without any additional cost. If you find a case here, you can copy that, too.

Push Technology Benefits

The Chicago-based company has been offering the service for a little less than two years. President Robert D. Yates says he got the idea while he was practicing law in California and facing his own piles of advance sheets. Wondering if there could be a better way to save time and marrying that challenge with push technology, he developed Oliver’s Cases.

"The benefits are clear," he explains. "First, this is much more immediate than advance sheets. On average, opinions are available on Oliver’s Cases within one or two hours of their being published. Second, the information comes in bite-sized chunks. No more weeks of cases piling up. You can access the opinions every day, every other day, whatever you want. And, finally, you’re not flipping through 40 or 50 cases to find the two or three that really fit your practice. We have over 70 areas of law that subscribers can select, in any combination. Choose tort, criminal law or whatever legal area is relevant to your practice, and that’s what you get. It’s the right information at the right time."

What if you like browsing other areas of law to pick up ideas for your practice and are worried about being too narrowly focused? "No problem," says Yates. "You just add other areas to your setup list. We have some people who subscribe to one state court in all areas. Then we have others who want one area but all the courts. You pick and choose; it’s completely flexible for your needs."

System Requirements

Oliver’s Cases works with Windows 98/95/NT, Windows 3.11, or Macintosh Power PC™, System 7.5 or higher. You’ll need a web browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 or higher, or Netscape Navigator 2.0 or higher.

Concerned about push technology clogging up your system? Oliver’s Cases keeps that in mind by downloading only when your connection to the Internet is idle. If you’re on the Internet, the download will stop until you’re done; then restart where it left off. Also, remember that all that’s being downloaded is the list of the new opinions; the opinions themselves are still on the courts’ websites. Your system isn’t being swamped with 30-page opinions.

Oliver’s Cases costs a very reasonable $195 per year. No per-minute fees, no extra charges. They don’t even run ads to clutter up your desktop. For trial and subscription terms go to or call 877/654-8377. n

Edward Poll , J.D., M.B.A., CMC, is a certified management consultant in Los Angeles who advises attorneys and law firms on how to deliver their services more effectively while increasing their profits at the same time. He is the developer of The Tool Kit for Buying or Selling a Law Practice . He can be reached by e-mail at .

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