Current Awareness Angst

A recent paper part of the Ontario Reports contained a new practice direction – correction – contained a brief summary of a practice direction along with directions to a website for more complete information. While lawyers are certainly used to accessing information on the web (SEDAR and eLaws are obvious examples), I had thought that there were certain information flows which were immune from “webinization”. I may have been wrong.

What is the best balance between “paper” and “electronic”? Electronic delivery of information is becoming more and more popular. With the daily flood of email, however, email notification of new developments is not necessarily the best way to insure that new developments are noted. RSS feeds are another obvious tool to deliver the latest and most important news to lawyers – but there is the same risk of “too much information”.

Sowhat is the best combination of paper and electronic? The legal publishers now offer us extensive databases of information, while continuing to deliver paper products to our offices. There is now a considerable quantity of “free” legal information on the web. I admit that I have not figured out (from either a cost or a useability perspective) how to make sure I see the “right” amount of information about current legal developments. Instead, I appear to have adopted an unworkable compromise of continuing to read a great deal of paper (pages of headnotes from the paper parts of case report series, summaries of unreported cases, tables of contents), together with daily or weekly emails containing summaries of important developments, full text of cases, etc.

Am I being foolish to ask the legal publishers to analyze more carefully the dilemma faced by lawyers and offer us better options (both paper and electronic) to cope with this current awareness nightmare?


  1. Elizabeth, I have no answer to your post, only a comment that I have the same schizophrenic approach to current awareness. I get TOC’s sent to me electronically; other TOC’s are copied and sent to me by interoffice mail from the library; I use RSS feeds from various sources, and then of course other electronic current awareness. It does make me wonder if there’s a market for some entrepreneur to customize current awareness for individual lawyers (eg. by their area of practice) and then “feed” them what they need to stay current? Of course, research lawyers being who we are, we couldn’t trust only one source anyways and would go looking for additional sources …

  2. It sounds to me like there might be lot of overlap in your approach, Elizabeth. Are any of the sources perhaps duplicates in different formats, in which case you could cut back on some?

    For example, Canada Law Book’s caseLaw Alerts via email are derived from the same source as the All Canada Weekly Summaries in paper. caseLaw Alerts are divided up by subject, but otherwise the same. They come out faster than the ACWS since one gets sent out to everyone via email while the other gets sent to the printer. ACWS in paper is summaries only, whereas caseLaw Alerts have direct links in to the full text of the cases. Can you tell I talked to our CLB sales rep yesterday?!? Heh.

    For current awareness, generally electronic is faster, and oft times has direct links in to the full text items for you. I guess the main reasons to go with paper are if you can’t stand electronic sources or if the item is available in paper only. Nothing beats carrying a glossy magazine around on public transit.