October 23, 2012

Free Online Research Tools

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 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

November/December 2010 Issue | Volume 36 Number 6 | Page 09

The Price Is Right

Free Online Research Tools

Want basic info about legal or business issues, or your clients, prospects and rivals? Perhaps you can’t afford pricey online research software. Or maybe you can, but you keep losing your software log-in and password. Maybe you just don’t have the time or energy to slog through TMI reports and want a simple, big-picture view. Try these tools out, for free.

Google is still your friend. Start with www.google.com/finance, which offers beaucoup info, especially about public companies. You’ll find company news, financials, lists of competitors, officers and execs and much more.

Create simple Google Alerts. Use them to get daily e-mail reports about your clients’ and rivals’ activities. And don’t forget to create a Google Alert about yourself, to learn the news appearing out there about you.

Your public library—no kidding! Speaking of pricey software, your public library probably has already subscribed to many of the tools you want and will let you use them for free from your laptop. If you don’t believe us, click on www.hpl.lib.tx.us/business, which takes you to the Houston Public Library’s online research database. There you’ll find familiar research tools and sources like Barron’s, Factiva, GaleNet, Hoover’s, Mergent, OneSource, WSJ and much more. To access these troves, all you need is a Houston Public Library membership card, free to any Texas citizen and a whopping $40 for those who don’t live in the Lone Star State. Yippee ki-yay!

Company Web sites, duh! Many companies’ Web sites are generous with information about their strategy, performance, personnel and culture. From PowerPoint presentations about their growth plans to videos of executives describing new products to audio recordings of the last quarterly analyst conference—you can find much intel to help you prepare for pitches and other presentations.

Climb the law firm beanstalk. Check out www.feefiefoefirm.com, developed by an Aussie librarian and his friends. This preciously named but cool site uses Google to search selected law firm sites. It will help you locate sophisticated Dodd-Frank legal commentary by Wall Street lawyers, or a divorce lawyer in Singapore. (We wish you luck on both fronts.)

About the Authors

Ann Lee Gibson is principal of Ann Lee Gibson Consulting. She advises law firms on business development and competitive intelligence initiatives. Greg Lambert is Library and Records Manager in the Houston office of King & Spalding. He works as a liaison between departments regarding business development, KM and firmwide initiatives.

Find more free research ideas in the ABA book Find Info Like a Pro, Volume I by Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch.