I recently moved to Washington after practicing in Utah for two years. In a way, I am reliving those years— everything is new and the learning curve is steep. In Utah, I was lucky to have colleagues who introduced me to their go-to websites, which gave me a lay of the land as a new litigation associate. This post is designed to pass on the favor.
Washington Courts Website
Superior Court Case Search: This service allows you to look up an active cases in the municipal, district, superior, and appellate courts by party name or case number. It is invaluable for viewing dockets and accessing filings. Court forms: This site includes word versions of all Court-approved forms. The majority relate to domestic relations and criminal law procedures, with a few appellate and small claims forms. This is where you find the required Case Information Cover Sheet to be filed with all civil cases. Pattern Jury Instructions: This site can give you a head start on drafting jury instructions and is useful for understanding the elements of a cause of action. Court Directory: Here you can find court contact information and links to county court websites. These websites are crucial for determining local rules and , e-filing court documents (if available).
PACER and CM/ECF
If you’re not familiar with practicing in federal court, PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records and CM/ECF stands for Case Management and Electronic Case Filing Application. PACER allows you to view federal case dockets and download court filings. CM/ECF is the system used for filing in federal court. You can access these services through the website of the U.S. district court in which you are practicing.
This is a legal research service that has partnered with the WSBA to provide free access to Washington bar members. Casemaker lets you search federal and state cases and statutes, as well as administrative codes, secondary sources, and ethics opinions. The version offered by WSBA has a cite check function that allows you to Shepardize cases. Use your WSBA bar number and myWSBA password to log in. Other low-cost legal research services include Fastcase, LoisLaw and Google Scholar.
Washington State Legislature Website
Besides the Revised Code of Washington and the Washington Administrative Code, this site includes all session laws and the Washington State Register (which is helpful if you are conducting legislative or administrative research for a client). You can also access standing committee reports, bill status reports, digests, and floor activity reports. http://www.leg.wa.gov/lawsandagencyrules/Pages/default.aspx http://search.leg.wa.gov/search.aspx#document
Washington Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC)
This site is great if you are doing any sort of work for homeowner associations. You can find a large and useful compilation of information related to local government including links to municipal and county codes, administrative manuals, attorney general opinions, ordinances budgets, fee schedules, forms and contact information. This site also houses a library of city and county manuals, referendum guides, and official directories which you may purchase for $30 each. http://www.mrsc.org/legalres.aspx
Washington Secretary of State Corporations
This is where you can create a business entity, view corporate governance documents or file annual reports. It is also where you identify the legal entities that should be named in a lawsuit and determine where they should be served. I often use it to check whether an opposing party is in good standing. And, if you need to do any historical research, the site includes the listings and locations of state and regional archives. http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/
Washington State Digital Archives
I have often needed to view birth, marriage, military records, and information about land ownership to identify proper parties and work through jurisdictional issues. You can find all of that here, as well as information about trademarks, professional licenses, and corporate records. You can also find UCC filings for certain counties. http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/
WA Department of Licensing Website
If you practice commercial law, you will go here to search for (and file) UCC-1 financing statements. You may also use this to advise a client looking to start a business and how to become licensed and research the laws and rules governing a particular industry. (You also register your car here.) http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/
Westlaw Database Directory
If you need a good overview of a particular area of law and you have access to Westlaw, the Washington Practice Series is a great place to start. This site can bring you up to speed on the agencies, statutes, key cases and issues associated with a legal field. The link included here lists various forms, treatises and other Washington-specific practice materials available on Westlaw but requires a username and password to access content. http://directory.westlaw.com/default.asp?GUID=WDIR00000000000000000000095385845&RS=IT2.1&VR=1.0 Have a resource to share? Add links to your favorite resources in the comments!