N.H. case law Web site is catching on

A recent graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center has launched NHCaseLaw.com, an online service featuring New Hampshire Superior and Supreme Court judicial opinions, as well as briefs and memoranda from local attorneys.

“This is a unique approach to publishing judicial documents,” said NHCaseLaw.com founder Christopher Buck. “Instead of traveling to a clerk’s office and asking for a copy of a case, which can be time-consuming and costly, we encourage lawyers to contribute their own copies of judicial opinions and briefs by giving them opportunities to market themselves to potential clients. The public also benefits from increased access to the judicial system.”

He said the site aims to solve a fundamental problem: The judicial branch issues approximately 50,000 Superior Court orders each year, and many of those are routine orders that do not raise novel legal issues. By having lawyers filter the interesting from mundane cases, the site is reasonably assured that only relevant content gets published.

The project, which began a few months ago as an independent study assignment in law school, has become the largest online database of New Hampshire Superior Court judicial opinions, Buck said, surpassing the state’s own Web site and more established services, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis.

Buck said he plans to pay for the free site with advertising revenue and donations from nonprofit groups, and build in premium services in the future. “One of our goals is to make the law accessible to anyone that wants to research it. Until now, you had to be a lawyer and pay thousands of dollars for the same ability to look up court decisions. We want to present a meaningful alternative for New Hampshire citizens.”

Buck said he plans to add more community-oriented services, such as a chat function and the ability to form groups around specific interests. NHCaseLaw.com also currently allows lawyers to list themselves in a directory, which can be accessed by potential clients.