140 Characters or Less: An Experiment in Legal Research

Forthcoming: International Journal of Legal Information (Spring 2015)

Posted: 25 Oct 2013 Last revised: 12 Feb 2015

See all articles by Patrick Ellis

Patrick Ellis

Michigan State University College of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2013


In 1995, Robert Ambrogi, former columnist for Legal Technology News, wrote about the Internet’s potential to revolutionize the accessibility and delivery of legal information. Almost 20 years later, Ambrogi now describes his initial optimism as a “pipe dream.” Perhaps one of the greatest problems facing the legal industry today is the sheer inaccessibility of legal information. Not only does this inaccessibility prevent millions of Americans from obtaining reliable legal information, but it also prevents many attorneys from adequately providing legal services to their clients. Whether locked behind government paywalls or corporate cash registers, legal information is simply not efficiently and affordably attainable through traditional means.

There may, however, be an answer. Although the legal industry appears to just be warming up to social media for marketing purposes, social media platforms, like Twitter, may have the untapped potential to help solve the accessibility problem. This Note attempts to prove that assertion by showing an iteration of social media’s potential alternative use, as an effective and free information sharing mechanism for legal professionals and the communities and clients they serve.

Generally speaking, law review editors and other academicians demand that authors support every claim with a citation, or, at the very least, require extensive research to support claims or theses. This Note seeks to fulfill this requirement, with a variation on conventional legal scholarship. Almost all of the sources in this Note were obtained via Twitter. Thus, this somewhat experimental piece should demonstrate social media’s potential as an emerging and legitimate source of legal information. By perceiving and using social media as something more than a marketing tool, lawyers, law schools, and, most importantly, clients, may be able to tap into a more diverse and more accessible well of information. This redistribution of information accessibility may not only solve some of the problems facing the legal industry, but also has the capability to improve society at large.

Keywords: Legal Research, Social Media, Open Access, Legal Industry, Marketing, Internet, Information Systems, Economics, Law Firms, Law Schools, Social Justice

Suggested Citation

Ellis, Patrick, 140 Characters or Less: An Experiment in Legal Research (October 1, 2013). Forthcoming: International Journal of Legal Information (Spring 2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343874 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2343874

Patrick Ellis (Contact Author)

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics