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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Legal Research’s Easy Button Moment

I have been thinking of this blog post by Jean P. O’Grady from last September: “Lex Machina Launches New ‘Easy Button’ Analytics Apps to Compare Judges, Courts and Law Firms”. To my knowledge Lex Machina doesn’t literally call their system improvements an “easy button”, but the site developments and O’Grady’s description are symptomatic of this moment in how we discuss legal research: there is a desire to make legal research easier, and as technology improves this is becoming a reality.

In many cases this will be a great help to people who want to navigate the legal system . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building and Maintaining a Precedents Collection – Part III

Creating a bank of precedents, whether for a law firm or an in-house department, is a significant challenge. In my previous posts (Part I – Getting Started and Part II – Crucial Elements), I addressed the major challenges involved in building a precedents collection. Maintaining your collection is an even more important, and daunting, task. That is the focus of this last one of the series.

Reasons for keeping your collection up-to-date. Your precedents will only be useful if those who might make use of them are confident that they are current. Once the text (of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Will Your New Year’s Resolution Be to Be More Organized and Productive?

I usually pledge to be more organized, but that goal gets lost quickly in the paperwork surrounding my desk and the messages clogging my email. Very recently I participated in an American Association of Law Libraries webinar on getting control of email. I was one of the many participants who had to confess to having over 1,000 emails in my inbox. And I was told by the presenter Randall Dean that the average person spends about two hours a day dealing with email and checks email up to 20 times per day. Dean is the author of a 2009 book, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Reports of the Death of American Law Firms Are Greatly Exaggerated

Data are recorded about much that we do these days. We all leave a digital trail. The resulting data are a rich source of insight, but in their raw form, they don’t tell us much. We need to analyze data properly and methodically to make sense of it.

The recent poor performance of opinion polls in both the UK’s referendum on remaining in the European Union (“Brexit”) and the US Presidential election left me wondering what they tell us about our dependence on data analytics? Sometimes the models, and the assumptions underpinning them, need to be questioned.

In the case . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building and Maintaining a Precedents Collection – Part II: Crucial Elements

In my previous column, Building and Maintaining a Precedents Collection – Part 1: Getting Started, I reviewed the benefits and challenges of creating such a collection and noted several threshold issues. In this column, I will address certain elements that you will need to keep in mind as you attack this problem.

Contract maturity model. Kingsley Martin, in a three-part series of blog postings on the Thomson Reuters site (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), develops the concept of a “contract maturity model,” based on Richard Susskind’s analysis in his book The End . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The KF Modification: A Canadian Approach to Organizing and Understanding Law

Anyone who has studied law will have used a library at some point in their studies. If you studied at an American or Canadian university, it is likely that the library’s print collections were physically organized on the shelves using the Library of Congress Classification system (LCC), a subject-based classification scheme using a letter or combination of letters to represent a broad subject (eg, D for History, DA for British history, DC for French history) and a number between 1 and 9999 to represent a narrower topic within that subject (eg, DA 445 for the Stuart Restoration, 1660-1688, or . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Fall Information Update From Washington, DC

I’m back in DC after a lovely summer in Wisconsin and am catching up on the latest developments here. Our amazing U.S. election is finally over. Last spring I described the election as a circus. Actually it was not fun at all, but always surprising and often appalling to watch.

I have returned to my post as a volunteer at the Library of Congress, which has changed a lot over the summer. On September 14th Dr. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress. On October 21st she removed Maria Pallante from her position . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Researching the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

I’ve been meaning to write about how to research the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada for Slaw for the longest time because it seemed like a hot issue and I thought a guide to legal information resources might be useful. However, I was thwarted first by what was the right terminology to use. Indigenous peoples? Native peoples? Aboriginal peoples? Indians? First Nations? Would I offend by using the wrong words? And who am I, a non-Canadian, non-indigenous person to write a research guide anyway? Maybe someone else in Canada has already written a guide? (The answer is yes.). But . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Data Visualization in Law Libraries

Data visualization is one of those phrases that is frequently heard these days. It’s a very interesting field; done properly, data visualization allows you to use charts, graphs or other visuals to put statistics into context far more easily than if they were in tabular format. The flip side is that if not done properly, data visualizations can be confusing or, even worse, misleading (as illustrated by this chart).

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Berinato on “Visualizations that Really Work” talks about how visualizations enable us to use data to make . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Like Moneyball for Lawyers?

There is a growing trend to bring the tools of data analysis into legal practice, and much of the media coverage references Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game*, or perhaps the movie based on the book:

With so many things being described as being “like moneyball”, I started to wonder what Moneyball actually said. It also made me wonder what analytics can best be used to illuminate legal information, and where the data could come from, so I read the book:

Lewis discusses the development of the statistics required to adequately measure baseball . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building and Maintaining a Precedents Collection – Part 1: Getting Started

Building and maintaining a precedents collection presents many challenges but the benefits of success are multiple. In my posting from last June, the architect of the Gowlings precedent collection, Graeme Coffin, outlined what the process is at his firm. But undertaking this initiative is one of the biggest challenges that any practitioner, whether practising solo or in a firm or working in-house, faces. I therefore propose to treat this topic in a series of postings so as to discuss the issues in some depth and offer some suggestions.

Benefits. The benefits of creating a good quality, comprehensive precedents collection . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Typography and Legal Information

You may have noticed that, as of January 2016, the online federal statutes look quite different. According to the announcement, these changes were made to improve the readability of the legislation:

Different styles and sizes of fonts are used to give greater prominence to certain elements and to help direct readers’ eyes more easily through the text. The structure of the legislative text (headings, sections, subsections, paragraphs, etc.) has been made more evident in order to improve readability.

Because headings and sub-headings are larger, they are more noticeable, helping readers to find the information they are looking for, and

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Information