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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Selling the Farm?

Readers of SLAW know that, as a rule, librarians are passionate about their collections, and despite negative stereotypes, they embrace the electronic resources and developments with alacrity, often way ahead of the pack. (For example, in 1998, the librarian community were among the earliest adopters of, and overwhelmingly enthusiasts for, the new Google search engine, with is simple clean lines and lack of advertising – such a contrast to the AltaVista, Ask Jeeves  and Excite interfaces in use at the time.)

Where practical and useful for the organisation, librarians equally maintain the book resources for which they have responsibility. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Citation Wars Redux

The Internet has eroded traditional sources of authority. Where once the Encyclopedia Britannica was a final word on many subjects, Wikipedia now reigns supreme. A decade or two ago, the annual Information Please almanac with its sweet index could settle all arguments, now a Google search will do. A highly articulated structure of editors and review panels once guarded the mountain top of cognitive authority. But no more. The retrieval of information no longer troubles us, sorting out the glut of data is the trick. Yet one source holds sway in the world of legal information: The Uniform System of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Changes in Cross-Border Corporate & Transactional Law Research

Lawyers and researchers looking into legal issues in international business transactions face a changing research landscape. Traditional tools for cross-border research are falling by the wayside. Lexis stopped updating the Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digests (summaries of foreign law authored by local law firms) after the 2011 edition. Lexis last updated its (now archived) International Multi-Jurisdictional Surveys in 2009. Westlaw no longer includes access to Practising Law Institute (PLI) course materials. Many researchers find print looseleafs difficult to use. Luckily, new research tools are filling the gap. Researchers looking into issues in transnational transactions have some really great, viable online options . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Recharge Your Career

Whether you are starting your career, are mid-career or are winding down, you should take time to recharge. Ever since 1975, one of my favorite ways to refresh lagging enthusiasm for the rigors and routines of work has been to go to the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In the early days I was energized by meeting new people and learning new skills. As the years rolled by, my excitement was in honing skills and in catching up with the many friends I made over the course of my career. Now that I am retired, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Measuring the Performance of Law Firm Libraries

It is challenging for law firm libraries to measure the performance of their libraries. Traditional library metrics are less helpful for law firm libraries compared to public or academic libraries; for example, circulation statistics are often used as an indicator of library usage and what parts of the library collection are in highest demand. In law firm libraries, many of the materials are used primarily in the library or are signed out to a single lawyer for months (in some cases for years) at a time. The circulation statistics for a given book will therefore suggest that it was never . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Convergence, or a Tale of Two Conferences

Recently I had the great opportunity to attend two seemingly opposite conferences addressing the duality my professional life has taken on. Going directly from one to the other, I became aware immediately that lessons learned from one could be applied to the other: the similarities and differences very illuminating to problems both sets of professionals are experiencing.

One of the great things about my position as the Executive Director of the Toronto Lawyers Association is that I’ve been introduced to a whole new galaxy of professionals … the people that make up the Canadian Society of Association Executives. They are . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

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