Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

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

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls…

I was updating my LinkedIn profile recently. I realized I recently reached a “tipping point” where I have been a lawyer longer than I have not. Reflecting on my demi-career, it strikes me how law firms have changed very little since I started my traineeship in 1993. Sure, there are new technologies available in the lawyers’ toolkit, but the way lawyers think about, and interact with, technology has hardly changed at all.

The lawyer’s main tools are word processing software for drafting documents and email for communication. This represents a technological advance, but barely. In some ways, I see regression. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Spring Update From Washington, DC

As I write this, Dogwoods and Azaleas are the leads here in the spectacular show of spring flowers. Our Congress is back from its Easter vacation, but had a very busy season before leaving. And citizens are taking increasing notice of what’s going on in the Capitol. The In Custodia Legis blog from the Library of Congress reported an exponential increase in traffic on Congress.gov. On January 22, 2017 they set a new record of over 1.2 million site visits. The blogpost reveals more details about how and what users have been accessing. For example 52% of current usage . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Would a Ryerson Law School Need a Law Library?

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Ryerson University’s plan to open a law school. Both the Letter of Intent and the whitepaper (Training Tomorrow’s Legal Professionals) prepared to document the proposal have been taken down from the web, so it’s difficult to check the details. The proposed new law school would purportedly be radically different from the other “traditional” law schools in English Canada. Its innovative and transformative curriculum would address changes in the profession by focussing on innovation in legal education and offering more opportunities for experiential learning geared towards “new competencies” such . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Legal Information’s New Coke Moment

One of the high points of the history of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries – L’Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CALL-ACBD) was the “Quebec Riot” of 1989. Carswell had changed the Canadian Abridgment over the prior years, and law librarians intervened to ensure the major reference source in Canadian law continued to work for researchers and libraries, which were the primary customers for the service.

Part of this change was the result of a drive toward comprehensiveness and the resulting increase in volume of the books themselves, which no longer fit on libraries’ shelves, and the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Notes From Washington, DC

First I want to share the good news with you. The new Law Librarian of Congress, Jane Sanchez, started her new position the second week in February. You can find out more about her stellar qualifications here. And the weather in DC continues to be moderate with spring flowers emerging very early.

The bad news just keeps on coming, so I will share only some with you. The new administration has posted inaccurate texts of the President’s orders on their website. And much scientific and other information is disappearing from US agency websites. But even more disturbing is the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

If Only Law Firms Knew What Law Firms Know…

I was recently honoured with an invitation from Dave Bilinsky and Tom Spraggs to present at the Law Firm Knowledge Management webcast as part of the recent CLE TV Solo and Small Firm Seminar Series hosted by CLEBC. Having moved from running the Knowledge Management program at one of BC’s largest firms to practising law at an IP boutique this year, I possibly had a unique perspective to bring to the table.

I started the webcast with Lew Platt’s famous lament while CEO of Hewlett Packard, which is a kind of touchstone in Knowledge Management, and one I often hear . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

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