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.