As part of my work with a local government law firm, I have accumulated over the years a list of online resources for municipalities, counties and special districts. Below are local government legal resources you need to know:
Municipal & County Codes
Municode includes most major American municipalities and counties ordinances and rules. American Legal Publishing Corporation also provides for select municipal codes. If you can’t find what you are looking for on these websites, local governments often include their codes on their websites.
Ethics play an important role in local government and vary by state. Several counties and cities have also adopted codes of ethics. Most states have an ethics commission such as Oregon and Florida. In Florida, the Commission on Ethics website includes a lot of resources for local government such as opinions, orders, rules, forms and guides for public officers and employees.
Local Government Formation
Not only can you find proposed bills that may affect local government on the Florida House of Representatives website, but also guidelines for bill drafting, local bill policies, procedures and forms, and a local government formation manual. In California, you can find information on special district formation on the California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions.
You can find board meeting agendas and minutes on most local government websites. County minutes can also be found on the county clerk website. For example, Palm Beach County minutes can be viewed on the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller website.
Local governments often publish public notices in newspapers, from a board meeting notice to a request for proposals. You can view public notices published throughout the State of Florida on Florida Public Notices website. The Ohio Newspaper Association also has a public notices website.
There are a lot more resources specific to each municipality, county and special district that can be found online. If you are looking for a local government resource or document I haven’t mentioned here, send me an email. I will be happy to help you find it.
After closing on a real estate transaction, clients like to receive a closing binder including all relevant documents to the deal. However, creating a closing binder can be time consuming and costly to distribute. An electronic closing binder is a great alternative to the traditional binder. It is fairly simple to assemble if you are familiar with Adobe Acrobat. It is also environmentally friendly. Finally, attorneys can save electronic closing binders in their document management systems, making it easy to search and find them.
PDF Binder or Portfolio
Adobe Acrobat Professional offers two options to create a closing binder: a PDF binder or a PDF portfolio. A PDF binder is similar to a traditional binder. It includes bookmarks in the sidebar and a table of content on the first page with links to pages in the document. A PDF portfolio is like a briefcase holding different kinds of documents such as PDF, Word and Excel documents. If you click on a document icon, you will only see this specific document. PDF portfolios are quick and easy to create. However, they do not have a table of content. Your clients must have Adobe Reader 8 and up to be able to view it.
Once your binder or portfolio is created, you can simply email it to your client. Your client can then make the decision to print the document(s) or simply retain the electronic version.
If you would like to know how to create a PDF binder or portfolio, Rick Borstein wrote an excellent guide called Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9.*
If you do not have the time or personnel to make an electronic closing binder, contact Your Paralegal Help Desk. We will be happy to create one for you.
* Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9 is from the Acrobat for Legal Professionals (Acrolaw) Blog at http://www.adobe.com/go/acrolaw. The images used in our blog post were taken from this guide.
Startup solo practitioners and small law firms often have limited means. Some of them can’t afford to subscribe to Westlaw and LexisNexis. As useful as they are, there are free and low cost alternatives that can accomplish similar results. Let’s take a look at two of them.
Fastcase is a legal research service that covers federal and state primary law. Its collection includes statutes, constitutions, cases, a newspaper archive, legal forms and PACER search of federal filings. Unfortunately, some state regulations and court rules are missing. Fastcase prides itself in being the only legal research system that sorts the best results to the top of the list like Google. It also features an interactive map of search results so you can see the most important cases at a glance. Even though Fastcase flags cases with negative treatment, it is not a complete citator like Shepard’s. Nonetheless, for the price, it is well worth it. Fastcase offers two payment plans under $100 per month depending on the type of legal research coverage you need. It also offers a 24-hour free trial. It's good to know that several state bars, including the Florida Bar, offer Fastcase for free to their members.
Casemaker’s coverage is similar to Fastcase. It provides federal and state primary law. However, there are three services that differentiate it from Fastcase. Casemaker offers digests that include summaries of state and federal appellate cases classified by practice area. It also offers CaseCheck+, a citator that rivals with Shepard’s and Keycite. Finally, attorneys can use Citecheck to upload briefs and find out if citations remain good law. Casemaker’s subscription plans are in the same price range as Fastcase. Like Fastcase, Casemaker partners with bar associations to offer free basic legal research to their members.
Even though Fastcase and Casemaker may not be as comprehensive as Westlaw or LexisNexis especially for state coverage and secondary law, they still offer a viable low cost option for legal research.
Every year the Florida Legislature passes bills that may affect the practice of law in Florida. 2014 is no exception. Below is a summary of those bills:
On another note…
In last week’s blog post, we wrote about the importance of protecting confidential information. The legal community is not the only one concerned with this subject matter. The Florida Legislature recently passed SB 1524, an act related to security of confidential personal information. This new law requires businesses and governmental entities to take reasonable measures to protect and secure data containing personal information in electronic form. If a breach takes place, the law also provides for notification to the Department of Legal Affairs and to the individuals under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, SB 1524 does not define or explain what reasonable measures an entity should take to protect the data.
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Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.