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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

7 Reasons to Celebrate Legal Research and the Fact That It’s There to Stay

In his book What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly (the founding executive editor of Wired magazine) writes that:

History is rife with cases of misguided technological expectations from the inventors themselves. Thomas Edison believed his phonograph would be used primarily to record the last-minute bequests of the dying. The radio was funded by early backers who believed it would be the ideal device for delivering sermons to rural farmers. Viagra was clinically tested as a drug for heart disease. The internet was invented as a disaster-proof communications backup. Very few great ideas start out headed toward the greatness they eventually . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

New Edition of “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting”

The fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (MSCD) has just recently been published. It is a must-have reference work for any lawyer who is interested in proper contract drafting, in other words, for any lawyer who drafts contracts. The author is well-known drafting expert Professor Ken Adams, who has been speaking and writing about these issues for a number of years. His blog, on the Adams on Contract Drafting site, is an excellent source of commentary on a great many contract drafting issues, including ones that, for space limitations, are not addressed in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

The State Weighs Differently on Each of Us

The creation and maintenance of a state is an ongoing exercise in force. Without the force the state will not continue. There are many societies throughout history that existed quite well without one, and recently I’ve been thinking about how each of experiences the force of the state differently, now that virtually all people live in them. I recently read that no group of hunters and gatherers or pastoralists has ever willingly transitioned to settled life, because it makes them easier to control and tax [1], and there is a vivid description of the violence and political machinations required to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Tiny Care, or Saying Yes to Saying No


I usually write a column about a foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) aspect of legal information, but I’m taking a little break to discuss a general aspect of legal information – law librarian “self-care”. I don’t really like that term, so let’s call it something else. A legal information professional has to stay healthy, to maintain good mental and physical health for themselves, and also to be able to provide the best service possible at work in the present and in the future. Sometimes this is called “work-life balance”. I’m going to call it “tiny care” after @jonnysun’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Weak Data Security Will Erode Our Privacy and Our Liberties

I’ve been thinking a lot about cybersecurity recently. But when news of the Equifax data breach surfaced recently, I was more alarmed than usual. Although Equifax is the latest of a long line of data breaches where personal information has been stolen, this one was different.

There was the usual furor, of course, (US Senate hearings, questions in the House, newspaper headlines raging, stock tanking, etc.) when the fact of that massive data breach occurred was finally disclosed (a full five months after the breach occurred). More details on the scale of the breach have trickled out since then. But . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Revisiting the Case for Project Management in Legal Practice

I hesitate to write further about project management in legal practice because there has been so much said about it, but I just finished my exam to be a “Project Management Professional” (PMP), and I want to share some thoughts on why it’s a good fit for legal practice and how it fits into legal information work.

There are many “projects” in law offices or libraries—offices get moved, IT systems get upgraded, and new systems generally get rolled out periodically, but those kinds of projects are not the reason I think it’s worth talking about project management in legal practice . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Picturing the Law

I went through law school without ever seeing pictures in the law books I read. And only once did I imagine the parties in a case and give them faces – State v. Williams, 484 P. 2d 1167 (Wash. Ct. App. 1971). There, in my criminal law textbook, was the story of an Indian couple without a lot of education who were charged with manslaughter because their child died after they failed to take him to a doctor. They thought he had a toothache. Ignorance was not an excuse. I still visualize them and their pain at losing their . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Europe’s Data Protection Reform Raises the Bar

With the advent of computer databases in the early 1970s, there was a general uneasiness about the power of the state becoming overbearing. The concern about individual privacy centred on the potential for governments to collect and process a vast amount of information about its citizens on a scale only imagined in sci-fi before. Appropriate safeguards were enacted, even if legal uncertainty over government department’s power to share data with each other became the major obstacle in completing e-government projects. (The Indian Supreme Court’s finding of privacy as fundamental right in response to the government’s compulsory biometric identity card system . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property, Legal Information

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Legal Research?

I have been thinking about the great flow chart below that David Whelan created to illustrate this blog post called “Law Libraries and Legal Malpractice” from 2014:

Image credit: David Whelan, “Law Libraries and Legal Malpractice”, https://ofaolain.com/blog/2014/07/04/law-libraries-and-legal-malpractice/.

He even went so far as to claim that “Lawyers do not need law libraries to be competent” (shocking, I know).

It got me thinking about something I’ve noticed working in legal information: lawyers don’t mean the same thing when they talk about legal research as librarians do. Lawyers tend to refer to the entire process of research that forms . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Dürer and New Law: Everything Old Is New Again?

One of the many advantages of studying history and the arts is that one gets a very broad sweep of perspective that other subjects can’t provide.

Business school case studies are very interesting but are usually always based on contemporary successes as anything older than ten years is deemed irrelevant. However, if like me, you enjoy reading the books of economic historian Niall Ferguson, you will appreciate that everything old will become new again – if you wait long enough.

It is trite to say that although there are many other different ways lawyers can bill their clients, no . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Quantifying the Value of Legal Information

[Download the accompanying spreadsheet here]

Quantifying the value of legal information is difficult: the most valuable commodity in a law firm is the knowledge in the minds of the people who work there, and in the written information firms produce and acquire that elucidates their work. In the event of a bankruptcy, it’s possible that the only assets left to settle debts is the art on the walls, because the value can’t be recovered from the people’s heads when they leave — I always look at the art in law firms. The value of this information is more . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

I, Robot

At 15, I became self-aware. I started working in the public library. Maybe it was earlier. If my memory banks are not malfunctioning and have not been tampered with, I started out shelving books. I do know that I read all the books in the young adult section of the library. Encyclopedia Brown. Ramona. Jo. The Witch of Black Bird Pond. And a book about young Quakers in love. I ended up reading the Large Print books in the adult section. Barbara Cartland. Mary Stewart. Elizabeth Cadell. Westerns. Gothic romances. Mystery suspense. Before I got to anything too risqué, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information