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Paralegal Article

Be a Technical Miracle Worker

Published in the 2005 Winter Issue of the NCPA Forum 

One busy afternoon, your attorney stops by your desk and asks you for some urgent items; one e-mail correspondence that is located ‘somewhere’ in Outlook, received so long ago you don’t remember the date, a file that is surely tucked away in a ‘safe place’ and a web site the attorney is ‘ adamant’ you had shown her.  You smile politely and say you will have it to her by the end of the day, all the while knowing that it will take a miracle to find any one of these items. 

 With the invention of several desktop tools, believe it or not, these items can be found in approximately 0.3 seconds for each of them!  Google, MSN, Yahoo, and several other search engines have added these tools that you can download and use the power of their search engine to search your hard drive!  Here’s how it works:  Once you download and install a deskbar like Google Desktop Search, it will index your ‘entire’ hard drive.  This will result in being able to search for e-mails, files, web history and chats.  For example once a keyword search is executed through the desktop search tool, you can sort by each individual item; e-mail, files, web history or chats.  When you are in a document intensive industry where you need to have instant recall for documents, this tool can truly save the day!  Depending on what type of research project you are working on, you could be receiving over 100 e-mail messages a day into your Outlook folders. You could be viewing over 50 web sites on different subjects. Now you no longer have to rely on your bookmarks or saving web sites. You will easily have the ability to retrieve archived material using these tools

The next item in your electronic arsenal is the use of RSS (Rich Site Summary).  Don’t let the acronym scare you awayInstead of going into a long explanation of what it is, let us concentrate on what it can do for you.  Think: ‘extreme current awareness tool’!  For example, consider that you are in a medical malpractice firm and you have to monitor 50+ sites per day plus you need to track any new items in the news and follow some blogs.  Instead of doing such labor intensive tasks, have all of this information streamlined and sent directly to your Outlook Inbox. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  But wait a minute, it gets better.  RSS is not limited to just text, but podcasts (audio broadcasts) and vblogs (video broadcasts) which can be delivered to your desktop as well. RSS is a powerful tool.  Companies and law firms can really use it to their advantage by monitoring news, court decisions, competitive information, business and industry information,  hot topics, audio broadcasts, and video broadcasts.  A product called Newsgator will integrate directly into Outlook.  However, there are many other aggregators available.  My Yahoo! is another example and has the ability to add RSS feeds.  To get a complete directory of news aggregators go to:  http://www.hebig.org/blogs/archives/main/000877.php .  If you want to incorporate RSS feeds across the entire firm or company you may want to hire an experienced company to accomplish this goal.  One such company is RSS Communications at www.rsscommunications.com.  They are experienced in many facets of the technical world and RSS integration is their specialty. 

Every person who searches the Internet has certain web sites they are comfortable searching and accessing information.   Let’s talk about how to find blogs (weblogs), podcasts, and vblogs so you can add them to your relevant RSS feeds.  Many blog search engines are in beta at the moment.  By the time this article is written, any or all of them could be out of beta since the Internet moves by warp speed!  Let’s first start with the search engines; Google and Yahoo.  Currently, Google has a blog search in beta.  Google’s blog search address is:  http://blogsearch.google.com .  Yahoo has recently announced a search devoted entirely to blogs as well.  It is also in beta.  The address for Yahoo’s blog search is:  www.threadwatch.org/yahooblogs.html.  Then there are other places to find blogs such as IceRocket (www.icerocket.com), Blogdigger (www.blogdigger.com), Blogpulse (www.blogpulse.com), DayPop (www.daypop.com) , Feedster (www.feedster.com),  and Technorati (www.technorati.com) .  The last five mentioned, Blogdigger, Blogpulse, DayPop, Feedster, and Technorati can also be searched at one time by using a Meta Search Engine called Clusty (www.clusty.com)!  Using Clusty could save you a lot of time by searching several of these blog searchers at once. 

Podcasts (audio broadcasts) and vcasts (video broadcasts) are trickier to find.  This is really an up and coming technology that you will hear a lot about in the coming months.  Again, one of the large search engines, Yahoo, has decided to keep up with technology and they have a beta searcher for podcasts:  http://podcasts.yahoo.com .  Not only can you find podcasts in different categories here but Yahoo even has a tutorial that tells you how to make your own podcast!  Other places to search for podcasts that have been in existence longer than Yahoo are; Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com), podCast411 – a podcast directory (www.podcast411.com ), PodcastNet (www.podcast.net ), and the one everyone knows, Apple’s iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes ).  As hard as it is to find podcasts, it is even harder to locate vcasts.  Yahoo and Google again are braving new frontier with video search, Google Video Search (http://video.google.com) and Yahoo Video Search (http://video.search.yahoo.com)  Don’t look for either of these to be comprehensive.  A lesser known but longer existing search spot for video and audio is Singing Fish (www.singingfish.com).

With all of this technology, it will be easier once you learn how to harness the power, to keep up with your clients and your competitors by monitoring their text, audio, and video output. 

 

About the Author:

Donna Fryer (www.SearchitRight.com ) has been in business for 10 years as an Information Professional executing database and Internet research for her clients, mentoring new business owners, and training her clients how to conduct research.  Currently, Donna is offering file CLE classes to paralegals and attorneys in North Carolina and NY, CA, NV, WV, & FL.  The training can be done over the phone so little time is taken away from work.  All that is needed is a phone line and a computer.  The accredited CLE class offering is “Legal Research  Google”.  This CLE class makes anyone doing research into an efficient researcher by the end of class.  Questions or comments, please contact: CLE@searchitright.com or (336) 456-7956. Global Information Research and Retrieval, LLC is located in Greensboro, NC.

Click here to get SearchitRight's other training including how to find information on the Web.