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Internet Research for Paralegals

This guide represents a summary of the points accompanying the teleconference lecture conducted in January, 2012

History of legal materials on the Internet

Public access to the Internet hit a critical mass around 1993. Governments established sites with some government resources consistently beginning to appear online. Governmental units quickly realized that they could lower the cost and raise the convenience of providing information to the general public by posting it online as an alternative to distributing printed documents. That realization spurred further movement to replace or complement printed documents with web-based versions. Most primary legal information on the web tends to appear from the early 1990s forward. Governmental entities such as courts or legislatures placed documents on the Internet as they were being created by software in the first instance. Government sites tend not to digitize older existing paper documents and process them for inclusion into an archive. This trend is changing to some extent, however, as the cost of digitization older materials drops. The Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), for example, are working to digitize older government materials. Non-governmental public service sites such as universities tend to take the lead in presenting older documents, sometimes in cooperation with governments meaning older primary legal documents are not exclusively available through government servers. Progress is incremental at best given the task. Nonetheless, the content of “as created” legal archives can be substantial compared to need when holding documents anywhere from the last ten to fifteen years or more.