The Internet for Fun and Profit
Instead of being completely over-whelmed by the vastness of the Internet, you should learn how to use it to enhance your practice. Yes, it’s large. Yes, at times it seems fairly uncharted. Yes, if you did not grow up using a computer (which would be almost everyone born before 1975), it is somewhat daunting. Instead of viewing the Internet as a vast wasteland, think of it as a huge library with almost limitless resources, which should be pretty easy to do since there is now more information available electronically than in print. This article will give you a guide to some sites you can put to use immediately. Once you become familiar with some of these, you should venture out and discover what else is out there.
For the true computer neophytes, you'll require an Internet Service Provider (ISP).1 Once you have a connection to the Internet, you need a "browser" to read what’s out there. Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer are the two most common browsers. When you have selected an ISP and a browser, you’re now ready to get on-line and find out what’s out there.
The first place to go is the premier site for bankruptcy information, ABI World, located at www.abiworld.org.2 You should consider setting your browser to open it as your starting place each time. It is filled with current information on bankruptcy issues. The "Today’s Headlines" section details current events in the bankruptcy world in a summary presentation. "Cracking the Code" is a newsletter written by ABI members and is updated on a regular basis. The vast library of ABI publications will become available to all ABI members later in 1998 when ABI On-Line, a private section of ABI World, changes from a separate service at additional cost to a membership benefit. When that change occurs, every member will be able to research the archives of the ABI Law Review, ABI Journal and many seminar publications for cases, articles and papers on any issue involving bankruptcy law and practice.
The amount and variety of news sources on the Internet is nothing short of awe-inspiring. All of the major networks have sites where current infor-mation is available.3 Newspapers from around the nation and world can be found on Yahoo!4 The local papers that are on-line and which make the Associated Press wire service available on- line are listed at wire.ap.org (the AP’s Internet service), where up-to-the-minute information is available.
If this is not enough, there are electronic "clipping services" that will sort the information for you, and some will even E-mail highlights or bulletins directly to your computer.5 Countless magazines are available electronically as well.6
On the financial information front, you can monitor the markets (including the market ticker and averages, both on a 20-minute delay), up to 20 stocks or mutual funds you follow and current news by going to www.my.yahoo.com and creating a "profile" of the information you want to receive. Analyses of your mutual funds are available at www.morningstar.net.
Imagine the benefit of having SEC filings available at your desk instan-taneously. This service is already available. The SEC’s EDGAR service (for "Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system") can be searched at www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar. However, a more usable format for the same information is available through Price Waterhouse’s Technology Centre at bamboo.tc.pw.com/cgi-bin/edgarscan_html. This service filters and sorts the companies and types of SEC filings for each company. You should go to the SEC’s page first to see why you’ll thereafter use PW’s alternative service. The information on EDGAR is invaluable for obtaining information about debtors, creditors, indenture trustees, parties in interest and competitors.
For those of us who travel frequently, it is nice to know that maps for anywhere in the United States are available on-line. What is even more amazing, there are web sites that will provide detailed "turn-by-turn" directions between any two points. These directions guide you directly to your destination while providing both the distance and estimated driving time.8 Address, phone and other information about businesses and individuals (including maps to the addresses) is available at www.bigbook.com.
Information about the status of an express shipment (to or by you) can be found at www.fedex.com/track_it.html, www.ups.com/tracking/tracking.html and www.usps.com/cttgate/ for FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, respectively (provided that you have the air bill/tracking number). Insofar as the post office is concerned, www.usps.com also will give you access to the definitive ZIP code directories (both regular and reverse) for every mailing address in the United States.
There are powerful computers (called "search engines") that can search quickly for specific information throughout the entire Internet using a "key word" search (like Lexis or WestLaw). The most common search engine would be www.yahoo.com, which includes an index or outline of various sites by topic in addition to the key word search. This is particularly handy if you are searching for types of sites, instead of specific sites. An incredibly fast key word search can be performed at www.altavista.digital.com. It is particularly handy if you are seeking detailed information about a specific topic, company or individual. (Imagine the fun of being able to surprise an adversary with information that they thought you would never be able to find simply by looking on the Internet. You can see how useful the Internet can be.)
Information is only as good as your access to it. When you find a site that is particularly attractive or useful, mark its location so you can return. You can memorize its location by giving it a "bookmark" (Netscape) or naming it as a "favorite" (Explorer). Once you’ve done that, you’re only a click away from going directly to that site (instead of trying to remember how you got there before). I would strongly suggest that you organize your "bookmarks" or "favorites" into groupings to help you find the sites more easily.9
Assuming that you can get the computer away from your kids, the information available on the Internet can truly help your practice immeasurably. However, the only way to become proficient with the Internet as a tool is to invest the time to use it and find even better sites than are listed here. Once you do that, the world is truly at your fingertips.
1That can be anything from a very small local operation (like the first one I had that folded shortly after I signed up) or one of the national providers. Almost every telephone company (local and long distance) is an ISP. New computers also come with free trial connections to CompuServe, America On-line and Microsoft Network (as well as a few others). You might consider a pricing plan that allows unlimited duration on-line since surfing is more fun (and productive) if you do not think every minute costs you more. [Return to Text]
2For the sake of convenience, the "http://" portion of each URL (Internet address) listed in this article has been omitted. Depending upon the browser you select, you may or may not need to type that for each address you use. [Return to Text]
3They can be found at www.abcnews.com, www.foxnews.com, www.msnbc.com and www.cnn.com. My personal preference is CNN for both its depth and breadth of coverage. If local television or radio is your preference, many stations are on the Internet at www.(station's 4-letter call sign).com. [Return to Text]
5Customized news presentations are available at www.my.yahoo.com and customnews.cnn.com/cnews/pna_auth.welcome, among other places. CNN's site allows you to identify key words to be searched in providing the customized news presentation. [Return to Text]
6The Time/Warner family of publications (including Time, Fortune, Life, People and Money) is available at www.pathfinder.com. Current information from Reuters is available at www.pathfinder.com/news/latest/. [Return to Text]
7Weather information is available at www.weather.com, www.intellicast.com and cirrus.sprl.umich.edu/wxnet/ as well as from local radio and television stations. To see if a local station is on line, try www.(stations 4 letter call sign, i.e. wbap).com. Many of these sites have current radar and satellite pictures as well. [Return to Text]
8Maps and driving direction services can be found at www.mapquest.com and www.MapsOnUs.com. The phenomenal level of detail of both the maps and directional guidance indicates that this could be a "Military - Industrial Complex" described by President Eisenhower. [Return to Text]