|Reading between the lines: Is Google moving into law?|
Google made the announcement on its official Google blog, where the staff from Silicon Valley declared the new service would enable lawyers and non-lawyers alike to simply access opinions by searching via case names or topics of interest.
The content is made available via its Google Scholar search application and covers US state and federal district, supreme and appellate court decisions.
Justin North, director of Australian knowledge management consultancy Janders Dean, questioned just how far Google might take its supply of legal content around the world, asking if we might soon see the search giant covering all facets of case law across multiple domestic and international jurisdictions.
"They have proven with their widely criticised and somewhat secret book scanning project that they have the reach and capabilities to enter the publishing market overnight," he said. "They also have quite deep pockets."
North believes that Google's power and differentiation will emerge from its ability to provide related contextual information to case law by using their widely adopted search algorithms and retrieval strategies - which could retrieve relevant news items, commentary, legislation, opinions and specific contact details for legal expertise.
Already, Google's bolstered legal search allows users to explore how opinions have influenced later decisions by using "Cited by" and "Related article" links supplied on the search page results.
But North does question Google's ability to ensure the "user experience" that paid subscription services to case law and legislation can currently offer.
Still, North suggested an emerging opportunity for Google in legal. "The automated collection, consolidation and quality ranking of legal precedents, clauses and forms could be a powerful and profitable use of their technology and their footprint," he said. "Such a market offering could be a fatal blow to existing providers."