Web Site Offers International Legal Info

By: Charles Bowen

With last month’s terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington and their aftermath, international news is back on page one and many of our readers are thinking globally again. It is at a time like this that we are reminded that the World Wide Web isn’t always as worldly as we might want it to be.

Consider law, for instance. While there are dozens of sites out there devoted to the understanding of law, court decisions, and general legal matters, most of them focus exclusively on the North American legal community. However, there are law sites that make the Internet international.

My favorite is World Law Direct, which offers free legal advice on both U.S. and international law. Not only that, the site also provides access to lawyers from 26 countries around the world who are available for consultation 24 hours a day. Created in 1998 by partners in five leading international law firms, the site offers what it says is the first automated system to address more than 6,000 common legal issues and problems.

Founding board members include educators from Harvard, as well as universities in New York, Michigan, and California, and international law professors from London, Moscow, Zurich, Beijing, Prague, and Tokyo. To use the resource, visit the site at http://www.worldlawdirect.com, where the navigation bar along the left side of the introductory screen provides links to nearly a dozen broad topics, including:

* International, covering Europe, China, Russia, and more than two dozen other countries, with a focus on business, human rights, war, treaties, trade, tourism, contracts, and global finance.

* Business, with emphasis on corporations, partnerships, limited liability, trademarks, and copyrights and contracts.

* Finance, discussing creditors and debtors, bankruptcy, budgets, investments and other money issues.

* Immigration, focusing on work visas, green cards, overstays, foreign students, embassy assistance and customs issues.

* Property, with issues regarding mortgages, leases, financing, contracts, and landlord-tenant matters.

* Family, covering marriage, divorce, wills, estate issues, adoption, support, child care, and school.

* Employment, discussing job issues, discrimination, withholdings, garnishment, hiring and fire, harassment, and benefits.

* Health Care, including issues related to insurance, product liability, injuries, accidents, and malpractice.

* Criminal Law, ranging from warrants and arrests to court appearances and sentencing.

* Nonprofit Law, covering establishment, regulation and reporting of nonprofit entities, fund-raising, escrows, gifts and liabilities.

* Internet, with topics such as Web copyrights, e-commerce legislation, privacy, linking, cyber-squatting, government regulations, international agreements, domain rights, and cyber- music rights.

If you’d rather not take the time to browse through these assorted departments of issues, you also can search the site by keyword. A data entry box is located in the upper left side of the introductory screen. Enter a keyword or phrase and click the Search button to see a list of articles containing your search term(s).

And if you don’t find the topic you are seeking in the extensive collection of pre-filed articles, use the site’s free ask-an-attorney option. Click the “Ask Our Lawyers” link at the top of the introductory screen. The site then prompts you for your name, e-mail address and, optionally, a phone number, then provides a space in which to write your question and issue. The site promises an e-mailed answer within 24 hours.

Other considerations for using World Law Direct in your work:

1. The site’s introductory page features a “What’s New?” section, with hyperlinked headlines in a portion entitled “Key Issues of the Week.” These usually range from topics related to child support and medical malpractice to employers’ monitoring of workers’ Internet use.

2. For more information on the site, click the “FAQ/Help” link at the top of the introductory page.

3. If you write about the site in your news columns, you might want to point your readers to the “Build a Document” link at the top of the introductory screen. From here, a visitor can create standardized legal documents covering basic things like leases, bills of sale, employment contracts, and wills.

To see the last 10 “Digital How-to” columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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