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Lexbox is a free Google Chrome extension that helps you organize and monitor your online legal research.
- What does “getting organized” with your online legal research mean?
Basically, it means putting things in folders. Legal research is not a task completed on one single website. You may start with Google, then identify a few relevant cases on CanLII, note a regulation on a Queen’s Printer website, as well as a few web pages specifying the administrative policies of a regulatory body. Too often these materials end up scattered all over the place: some are saved on your desktop, some are bookmarked, and some are printed and stored in a physical folder. The downside is that when it comes time to update that research, say, from 3 months ago, you may end up having to start over again from scratch.
The idea behind Lexbox is to provide a workspace to keep track of all this information in one centralized location. You can setup folders by client/file name or topics of interest, whatever makes most sense in your context. And because the documents saved in your Lexbox account remain on the publisher’s website, they keep being updated as the law changes.
- How do you see Lexbox being used as a current awareness tool?
If you download the results of your legal research from publisher websites, your only way to learn about subsequent updates is to consult those websites from time to time, which is far from optimal. Instead, Lexbox bookmarks your search results to keep track of them over time. In this sense, Lexbox is closer to Evernote than Dropbox. Its notification features are designed specifically for legal research.
Lexbox enables you to be notified when a specific legislation is amended or is cited by a new case. Similarly for cases, you can get citation alerts of new cases citing your case. Search alerts push notifications whenever a new document matches your saved query. This approach makes it possible to monitor changes impacting very narrow legal issues.
This is different from most legal current awareness services that focus on broad areas of practice for obvious commercial reasons. If you find it hard to keep up with the volume of generic information generated by those systems, Lexbox may prove to be a valuable alternative.
- Can Lexbox folders be shared among researchers? Do you see this as a collaborative function?
At the time being, items stored in your Lexbox account can be shared by email, but we are definitely considering enabling shared access to selected folders amongst users. For instance, this would allow a practice group to collectively work on a research project. It is likely that this feature will be part of an upcoming premium account package made available for a fee.
- Are you planning on supporting any other platform in addition to Google Chrome?
At this stage, there is no plan to support any other desktop browsers since both Microsoft and Firefox recently announced their intention to support the Chrome store extensions in upcoming versions of their browsers.
Also, based on user feedback, we will eventually consider the development of IOS and Android apps to support mobile devices. But this is not an immediate priority as our statistics show that legal research is still undertaken from desktop environments in a very large proportion.
- Lexbox says it is much more than a CanLII add-on. Can you explain that?
Lexbox is not a single website’s feature – it has been designed to work on many websites. Naturally, we started with CanLII because it is the largest legal research website in Canada. Also, and this is important, CanLII is accessible through APIs which make the work easier and the results reliable. Lexbox is currently supporting 8 different websites including the Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada website, the Federal legislation website, e-Laws and BC Laws. Our current focus is on expanding this list based on the most popular user requests. Ultimately, our objective is to cover all of the websites used by legal researchers.
Also, regardless of supported sites, you can store any web page in your Lexbox folders. For example, if you need to keep track of a newspaper article alongside the rest of your search results, you can do so by simply clicking on the Lexbox icon added to your navigation bar.
- You say free law websites are Lexbox’s focus at this time but commercial ones are not to be ruled out. What’s your plan?
If we want 360 degree coverage of legal research, we’ll need to talk to commercial services as well. Currently, Lexbox allows users to generate lists of authorities based on the contents of its folders. This cool feature will be even more useful if such lists contained the full scope of research finds in a file, which obviously would include some subscription material. It’s a win-win.
- If lawyers invest their time in your product, is there a chance it could get prohibitively expensive in the future?
No. The functionalities currently included in Lexbox will remain free. Eventually, premium accounts will be introduced, offering additional features and capabilities for a fee. Our plan is to prove that a free product can stand on its own before developing a revenue model. And considering the growth of Lexbox’s user base since its launch (500 users after 2.5 months), it definitely looks like it can.
Among the additional features that we have in mind for the upcoming premium accounts are the capacity to search within your Lexbox folders (including in the content of documents stored on publisher websites) and the capacity to share selected folders with other Lexbox users. Aside from these ideas, the list of premium features has not been decided yet and will be determined by collecting user feedback.
- What’s next for Lexbox?
Our philosophy as a company is to build simple, efficient and reliable tools. This has also been the priority when designing Lexbox and we intend to keep it that way. Prior to the launch, we had planned to offer product documentation. It turns out that users onboard and work with Lexbox smoothly and help files are not necessarily in high demand. Obviously, the feature set will grow – sharing folders, searching folders’ content, timing research sessions for billing purposes, adding more sites, such as LegisInfo, CAIJ and others. The focus on simplicity and discoverability will remain a high priority. Lexbox will be an easy-to-use productivity tool that makes great legal research resources such as CanLII, even better.