I’m getting acclimated to getting pitched. Most of the time, the pitches are press releases that follow the conventional template.
Joseph Morin didn’t send the conventional template. Instead, he sent a short email about Bestlaw, stating he’s a 3L at the UC Berkeley School of Law, and editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. He built Bestlaw, a Chrome extension, to add features to Westlaw. Sounds useful, and I was curious to know the last straw that made him build an extension. Per Morin:
As a law student, I spend a lot of time doing legal research and writing citations. Legal citations have to conform to the Bluebook, which is a massively complicated 500-page style guide. I wanted to automatically generate Bluebook citations for the cases I was reading, but Westlaw didn’t have this feature.
So, I started building the extension over the summer in my free time. I added a tool to generate Bluebook citations with one click. There were other things I wanted in Westlaw–like a link to jump to the footnotes, tables of contents for cases, and the option to fold and expand statutory sections–so I built those, too. I shared it with a few friends over the summer for feedback.
I launched the app publicly last Wednesday. As of today, it has 1,500 users and it enhances over 20,000 pages per day on Westlaw. Lots of my law school classmates are using it. We’re using it to speed up the editing process on the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. The law schools with the most active users are Stanford, Harvard, Georgetown, and NYU.
This is not his first foray into a technology solution, either. His previous law-related technology project was a site called perma.cc. Morin describes it as preserving
links in court opinions and legal scholarship. I wrote the code last summer and donated it to the Harvard library, where I was a fellow during the past year. It’s currently in use at the Fifth Circuit, the Michigan Supreme Court, and several other courts and law reviews.
Morin can add his name to a growing list of lawyer-programmer hybrids. Whether partnering with developers, as the case was with David Colarusso and Due Processr to automate sentencing calculations, and Terence McEnally who built Bernize Sez to easily connect ticketed drivers with lawyers, or using their own coding chops, the lawyer-programmer hybrid is making legal stuff better, and more accessible, for all.