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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Using Data to Leverage Access to Justice

During the closing session of the Canadian Bar Association’s Envisioning Equal Justice Summit: Building Justice for Everyone, held in Vancouver in April, we were asked to come up with one idea from each table to help access to justice and to move justice reform forward. Through the lens of legal information and based on the sessions I attended Saturday, the thing I would like to discuss further is developing expertise in analyzing and explicating existing datasets and creating the structures to collect new data about the legal system to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of programs and demonstrating . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Law Reports, Digests and Public Access to Legal Information

[I begin this column with an aside. Because I will be discussing The Canadian Abridgment, the nonpareil of Canadian legal information, I want to give any non-Canadian readers some context. For American colleagues, The Canadian Abridgment (published by Carswell and now in its third edition) is similar to West’s digest system (General Digest, Decennial Digest), with Canadian counterparts of Shepard’s Citations and the Current Law Index included for good measure. The Abridgment’s Australian counterpart is the Australian Digest. The foregoing digest services are all published by that jurisdiction’s local Thomson Reuters law publisher. The closest . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

MOOCs: What Are They Good For?

Massive open online courses or MOOCs seem to be popping up everywhere. I first noticed the term in the advance flyer for Law via the Internet 2013. Then I began seeing it more often so I decided to explore this new phenomenon both for myself and to share through this blog. I wanted to learn if such courses could be useful for law librarians, law professors, law students and practicing lawyers

The three major names in the world of MOOCs are:

  • edX, a non-profit consortium of universities offering 60 courses, five of which are law-related.
  • Coursera,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Information

The Lieber Code

April 24, 2013, marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, a U.S. government document also known as the “Lieber Code”. Francis Lieber of the War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, prepared the Code at the request of President Abraham Lincoln. The President issued the Code on April 24, 1863, as General Orders, No. 100. Even after a century and a half, this document continues to be relevant today. Justice O’Connor cited it in the plurality opinion in Hamdi et al. v. Rumsfeld, 542 . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Knowledge Management in Law Firm Libraries

There are a number of articles about how libraries can be part of law firm-wide Knowledge Management projects and initiatives. Ted Tjaden has written a particularly good article on the subject: “The Evolution of Law-Related Knowledge Management in North America – Opportunities for Law Librarians”. However there is very little literature out there on how law libraries can use knowledge management processes within the library.

Private law libraries tend to be small, so they may not feel the need to have a formal KM program. That said, most law libraries are already practicing some sort of informal KM, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Legal Citation Style – a Wicked Problem in Legal Information

The lack of uptake for citation management software programs, such as Zotero, EndNote, and RefWorks, by even tech savvy legal practitioners and scholars has puzzled me for some time. The absence of these programs or similar solutions is particularly surprising when one considers the large number of vendor supplied and internally customized labour saving solutions law firms implement in the interest of repeatedly saving small amounts of time and the institution wide licences many universities have implemented to encourage their use. As I started exploring the reasons for this absence, I found that there are many issues . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Change – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

In my previous article I discussed the different ways in which Change can affect us – and whether it is welcomed or it is being endured has a great deal to do with that. We know Change is inevitable and constant, so our best strategy is to prepare ourselves, in body and mind, to run the marathon that it presents.

Whether you’re running with Change or away from it, it’s going to be a long haul. An SLA article from 2002, “Coping with Change in the Workplace,”[1] sets out a few basic strategies to make the constant transitioning a little . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Some Things in Legal Publishing World ARE Free…

I started off this column planning to write about free resources available from OUP. But then I started to think about the other on-line publishers, who also provide some limited content to non subscribers, and thought that this is something to be identified and shared in more detail. In a world where there is a rush to the monetization of knowledge, where we have a divide between the digital haves and have-nots , it is good to see that some of this knowledge is freely shared. For those with access to subscription resources, in law firms and universities, it’s sometimes . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Price of Open and Free

On May 1st, a Texas law student uploaded the specs for 3D printing of a single-shot pistol to the web – specs that were downloaded over 100,000 times before the U.S. State Department asked that he remove them from his site. That same day, May 9th, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order “Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information.”

The juxtaposition highlights how open data efforts are generally considered contributions to freedom of information and the advance of human liberty, but occasionally thought of as dangerous incursions into . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Virtual Conference Going: A Mixed Blessing

One of the conferences I go to for a quick and painless technology update is Computers in Libraries (CIL) held in Washington, DC in the spring. I first came to it in 2000 when a friend of mine loaned me her press pass for the last day of the conference. At one of those sessions I was pleasantly surprised to learn about virtual reference service at Northwestern University Library, only a few miles from where I was working at the time in Chicago. I was hooked and have been to almost every CIL since then. 

After I retired, however, I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Keep the Change

Though my column focuses on legal information, in the United States legal education is intimately bound up with the trends in legal information. LEXIS and WESTLAW maintain a stranglehold on the marketplace by heavy investment in law school training. By putting boots on the ground in the form of dedicated training representatives, student advisors and, of course, free access 24/7 to the relevant systems, the big commercial data bases win hearts and minds. New law students are highly energized and very impressionable. What they find upon arrival in law school is, as far as they see it, the way things . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Zero Is an Answer

A computer trainer I know well tells me that there was much discussion in his company as to whether they should charge for searches that returned no results. After great debate it was concluded that zero hits was a legitimate search result, and, as such, the company should charge for it. I think anyone who carries out research would agree with this: knowing that something has not been considered or talked about is important. The difficulty with this is knowing if zero genuinely is the answer, rather than the result of not using a relevant resource or search term. It’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information