Finger on the pulse

By Gloria Song October - November 2012

From Google Alerts to newsletters, there’s lots of ways to stay on top of breaking legal developments.

Finger on the pulse Vasiliy Yakobchuk / istockphoto

Besides traditional sources such as Annual Practice Guides, there are a number of useful ways to stay up-to-date on changes in the law, new precedents, and doctrines. Here are some online options:

RSS feeds. Short for “Rich Site Summary”, RSS is a data format that allows you to check frequently updated websites to which you subscribe, such as blogs or news sites, by presenting updates in aggregate form. These web feeds are an easy way to browse new updates from many different sources with one glance. For example, CanLII offers RSS feeds for recently modified legislation, recent decisions, recently modified decisions, and search results ( rss.html) (, although a non-legal site, is also a useful newsfeed that can be used for legal updates.

Netletters: As you can imagine, netletters are like newsletters, but online. One example of a useful netletter is The Bottom Line, a weekly digest published by Legal Aid Ontario, discussing breaking developments in legislation and case law for areas of law such as criminal, family and refugee.

Alerts: Many veteran users may already be familiar with creating a Google Alert, which sends you an e-mail when Google finds news results matching your search term. This can be useful when you are awaiting a new development. Did you know that you can set up alerts for commercial publishers such as Quicklaw? These services allow you to automatically re-run a search at intervals and send you the new results. However, sometimes there is a charge for each search.

Listservs: These are electronic mailing lists, which often function as ongoing group discussions. The Canadian Bar Association offers a number of listservs based on subject matter and region. The Criminal Lawyers’ Association also has a listserv.

Gloria Song is an Ottawa-based research lawyer and freelance journalist.

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