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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Trend Spotting or Why I Hired a CI Librarian

Co-authored by Anh Huynh, the Competitive Intelligence Manager at Davis LLP

There are fads and good ideas: distinguishing between the two is not easy, but that does not mean we should not be willing to try something new. By informing ourselves, reading the pulse of our institution and using our own good judgement, we are more than prepared to identify an unmet need in our information services and how to fill it.

A number of years ago I kept hearing about CI (Competitive Intelligence). I read articles, went to sessions at conferences and was generally finding that CI was moving . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Rise (And Fall?) of Class Actions: Comparative Law Resources

Some Slaw readers may soon become members of a class that is suing one of the leading sources of online legal information in Canada. In 2010, Lorne Waldman, a Canadian attorney, filed a statement of claim against Thomson Reuters Corporation for infringing Waldman’s moral right to control the reuse of his writings included in Thomson’s “Court Documents Collection” (CDC) database (available via Carswell Litigator). CDC permits subscribers to download documents Thomson copied from court files in Canadian cases. The court files include briefs and other documents written by Canadian lawyers, including Waldman. Thomson does not ask the authoring lawyers for . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Appreciating a Good Thing and the Profession That Protects It

When certain aspects of life become accepted practice, part of the texture of everyday life, one tends to forget that they are there at all. They become part of the wallpaper. One forgets that putting them in place involved massive effort, and that things may not always be the same. To stretch my metaphor to the breaking point, someone might come in and paint over the wallpaper. It is important not to take for granted those things which we should cherish. Access to information is just such a phenomenon. The point was brought home to me this year.

Each spring . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Digital Library: Why Aren’t We There Yet?

Last week I was asked why my library wasn’t physically smaller.

“Isn’t everything online?” No. “Did we really need all these old books?” Yes. “Wouldn’t it be more convenient for lawyers to be able to access library materials regardless of their physical location?” Definitely.

Although we are moving towards the reality of a digital library, we have not arrived there yet.

What is available?
The most considerable barrier to the fully digital library is that many legal resources do not exist online. Legal publishers have digitized and made available online many Canadian primary legal resources such as case law and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Developing a Library Collection Development Policy: Government Documents

This is another in a series of columns about developing a law library collection development policy for the new, digital information environment. In my last two columns, I discussed journals. In this column, I’ll consider legislative materials as a subset of government documents generally, their role in legal research, their place in a contemporary law library collection, controversies surrounding print vs digital formats, and possible policies for collecting them.

A discussion of the role of government documents has recently taken on immediate significance in light of last month’s press release from Publications Canada that the decision has been made to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information


According to, communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.” That sounds pretty simple, but wait, can a word with that many syllables and so many modes of connectivity really be that simple? In the library world we know that if communication were easy, straightforward and not prone to misinterpretation, a lot of our time would be saved. Library school was all about the “reference interview”, and if I’ve learned anything since then, it is that the art of understanding and deconstructing someone else’s question is one of the most difficult . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Digitisation – Free Online?

This time I thought I would talk a bit about digitisation being done by libraries, specifically the Bodleian. This is not exactly related to law or legal materials, but it is about using technology to release manuscripts, books and documents that once were the exclusive preserve of specialist scholars and making them available to the world. The Bodleian has been digitising some of its earliest treasures for many years now, and as always, these projects go ahead when funding is available.

In recent weeks a great deal of coverage was given to the announcement that the Bodleian Libraries and the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Tracking Down the Brazilian Anencephalic Abortion Case, in English

I got the heads-up from a Brazilian law librarian colleague about a significant opinion published on April 12, 2012. I decided to use the opinion for a kind of case study in how to find cases in English translation. The Supreme Court of Brazil ruled that pregnant women carrying fetuses with anencephaly can legally abort them. The Court’s press releases describing its votes and reasoning are here and here. They’re in Portuguese, which I can make out since I know Spanish, but Google Translate helps give the gist in English. Also, because abortion is a hot issue worldwide, there . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Bloomberg Law: The Wheel Turns

Tectonic plates are shifting in the world of legal information. The sale of the Bureau of National Affairs to Bloomberg surprised me. I worked with BNA a bit back in the pre-Internet days. I was a great fan of U.S. Law Week, a research tool that I felt was much undervalued. I even made a promotional video for them when they began to transition from offering solely a print product into adding a digital platform. Being employee-owned and devoted to high quality editorial content, BNA was easy to like. When Bloomberg came on the scene I saw the shades of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Managing Unstaffed Satellite Libraries

Satellite libraries, as the name suggests, are libraries that are adjuncts to a principal library. In law firms, they can vary in size from a bookcase in a hallway to a full-sized library. Satellite libraries may be in the same building as the central library, or they may in a different city or even country. They may or may not have library staff running them. Unstaffed satellite libraries present a greater challenge as they depend on articling students, receptionists, or secretarial staff to do such things as loose-leaf filing and reshelving books.

Why do satellite libraries exist? For satellite libraries . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Developing a Library Collection Development Policy: Journals Part 2

This is another in a series of columns about developing a law library collection development policy for the new, digital information environment. In my last column, I looked at journals – what they are, how they’re produced and their respective markets. In this second part, I’ll look at how journals are used in legal research today in both practice and in law schools, their place in a contemporary law library collection, and possible policies for collecting them.

Journals vs Books

Journals are used differently than books. A legal treatise examines the many aspects of a single, relatively broad topic . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Inspiration to Innovation

The world has always had innovators and inventors. According to Wikipedia the oldest known tools used by humans are 2.5 to 2.6 million years old. In the late 1800’s Benz and then Daimler produced vehicles with an engine. Henry Ford manufactured cars in the United States and his fortunes really took off when he started producing black Model T’s on an assembly line. General Motors started offering colour choice and an annual model change, which forced Ford to change. And so on. From earliest times there have always been those who have had new, interesting, innovative ideas. Where do those . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information