Legal Research Gets Innovative with Spindle Law

Spindle Law is an innovation in legal research and writing, aimed at helping legal professionals and students collect and share nuggets of legal wisdom, from the general to the excruciatingly specific.


Spindle Law is unlike any research method you learned in school. To me, it is a backwards (read: totally intuitive) way of drilling into legal rules and finding the authorities to support them.

The user starts with a research inquiry, and, by either searching or browsing through an extensive outline of the universe of law (think Keynotes hierarchy), finds a nice, lawyerly-phrased statement of the legal rule to answer the research question. Along with the statement of the black letter law are authorities to back it up, which can be easily copied into one’s own online “SpinDoc” or into your clipboard for pasting anywhere.

A few cool things about the authorities behind the slickly-stated legal rules:

  • When a rule and its authorities are copied to your SpinDoc or clipboard, the authority is in flawless Blue Book format, quirky abbreviations and all. Multiple authorities for the same rule are even listed in the correct citation order.
  • Authorities are links to databases where they can be found. Spindle Law does not itself house cases and statutes, but it makes them very, very easy to find, using links directly to Google Scholar, the Public Library of Law, Cornell’s LII, LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Fastcase.
  • Users can vouch for authorities, so you know if others agree that a given authority supports that particular rule.
  • Rules are tagged with the court and jurisdiction, stage of case for disposition, date, and indication of whether the rule was applied in favor of the plaintiff or defendant.

The “tree” format is keyed with cutesy icons indicating what you’re looking at: a top for topic, a ruler for rule, a frog for a cross-reference that will jump you to another location.

The site is very straightforward and easy to use, and has killer functionality. So here’s the catch: Spindle Law needs a lot of contributors in order to become useful and to survive. Every person who creates an account has the power to add topics, rules, exceptions, comments, and other content, and the site counts on such contributions.

Users log in with their real identities, and their names and profile information are attached to each contribution. This model helps with accountability, but could also be a boon to students or practitioners hoping to make a name for themselves in a particular practice area. Even for experts who have case and statute citations for their niche memorized, Spindle Law could be very useful as a place to organize and collect those sources, and from which to build the framework of basic legal arguments.

Law students can use Spindle Law as an outlining tool for any legal topic, as well as a way to track and store research for memo- and brief-writing projects. All while contributing to the site to make it more useful for others.

Spindle Law needs a lot more content to reach its potential. But that potential is great, and hopefully some of you will contribute to the site and reap the rewards of this new, crowdsourced method for legal research.

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  • chris johnson

    I like the potential!

  • To use the legal resources there are in internet, a project is needed (maybe from an University) we need a model. To be successful the model needs someone to start the taxonomy and create and manage the bibliography. Spindle Law provides the taxonomy.

    Another option is developing a technology. This technology should, at least, have the following features:

    1. Law reviews should adopt the practice of asking authors to not only supply abstracts of articles, but should tag them with an approved list of subjects headings. They should also agree to tag digital articles with metadata that accurately reflects author and copyright information.

    2. An approved list of metadata tags could also be circulated among bloggers and periodicals that produce digital editions.

    3. Articles should be mined for citation data, including references to cases, courts, judges, scholars, etc.

    4. Search results should be able to be ranked based on a variety of factors, including reputation and productivity of the authors and citation frequency.

    5. Full text of cases should be indexed by computer and archived in a secure location. Search results should be available either as full text or as citation lists.

    To start, maybe projects like Wex, the Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Law or Google Scholar will provide the foundations.