PreCYdent is a legal research tool that I am very excited was submitted for review. The idea behind the site is to enable everyone (not just the legal community) to search and find both case law and statutes for all matters. They are headquartered in San Diego, CA and have recently opened up the early alpha version of their software. Funding for the company is undisclosed.

The current state of legal research has two major players Westlaw and LexisNexis, Westlaw being the dominant force. It is practically necessary to have access to one of these two software programs to do useful legal research and both of these services individually license their product using heavy price discrimination which is downright exorbitant at times (often). Furthermore while the traditional software of Westlaw and LexisNexus is great at looking up cases which you have the citation to (a citation is generally how you find a case) as well as following the cases subsequent history (was the ruling upheld?, overruled?, is there conflicting law?) it is borderline useless in a generic word search (i.e. it is difficult to type in "lemon vehicle private party" and find out cases or statutes pertaining to lemon laws and private sellers of automobiles). In summary most lay people could not afford or efficiently use the major tools for legal research.

PreCYdent seems to be running on 2 main platforms, making their service able to effectively understand searches for words and to be free for all. These are both lofty targets to set your site on for this industry, with that said they both need to be accomplished ASAP. To make their word search tool understand what you are looking for they use a combination of an algorithm and user response (almost like Mahalo but with a defined niche for legal cases and statutes). In the few searches I ran I had significantly better search results with PerCYdent than that of Westlaw or LexusNexis, however my results were far from perfect. This can probably be attributed to PreCYdent only having indexed U.S. Supreme Court cases, and Court of Appeals cases.

There are other features offered on the site such as "finding lawyers," and "answering legal questions," but the community does not appear to be developed enough to make this useful, yet (they are still in Alpha mode so I will give them time). In short PreCYdent offers a very innovative idea and a useful tool which could enable all people to find the law and use it themselves. However if they are to become a dominant player in the market they have a lot of hard work ahead of them (including the active indexing of ALL cases). If PreCYdent can make legal searching both better and free they will have the ability to revolutionize legal search as we know it not to mention monetize their search traffic rapidly. All in all they have a great concept the only question will be if they can pull it off.