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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

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

Steal This Book!

This month marks the 42nd anniversary of the publication of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. For Slaw readers younger than I, Abbie Hoffman was a political and social activist, a leader of the 1960s counterculture and youth revolution movements. With Jerry Rubin and others, he was a founding member of the Yippies (Youth International Party) and one of the defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial for incitement to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie were the Democratic nominees for that year’s presidential race; Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew won the election.) 

Steal . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Progress v Change

“People like progress, but they hate change.” There are a couple of misconceptions in that statement: Progress is the tangible result of change, you never find one without the other. But more importantly, people regularly confuse dislike with fear. While both are instinctive reflex reactions, overcoming each involves very different strategies. As managers of change, we have to understand that what on the surface appears as “hate” is in reality a fear of the unknown; fear of the future and uncertainty about our ability to secure a place in it.

Those who know me well know I thrive on change. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

That Wifi May Be Free, but Don’t Pay for It With Poor Security…

“Would you pick up a half bottle of beer left on the pavement and drink it?”

This question was put by Rob Cotton, CEO of NCC Group , to a BBC Radio4 presenter when he was discussing the risks of using free wifi hotspots in cafes, etc. Perhaps the image was a bit extreme, but it caught my attention, as intended. He was drawing a picture of the not so pristine world of unsecured free wifi hotspots, and the lure of joining the Cloud wherever you find yourself. The premise is that you should think about what you search, or . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Smaller Law Library

Over the last few years the physical footprint of law firm libraries has been decreasing. Reasons for this include the ever-increasing price of real estate and the availability (both real and perceived) of legal materials online. Some library users rarely or never set foot in the library; this may be because they work in a different office, they work from home, or simply that they prefer to be able to access library services electronically.

In some cases, the decrease in square footage has been library-driven; if the library manager sees that the library does not need all the space it . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Privacy in the Cloud, or Why Won’t Social Media Let Me Be Anonymous?!

I maintain several personalities on social media. I am a different person on Facebook than I am on Twitter than I am on Google+ than I am on LinkedIn, and I like to keep it that way. And even within particular media, I maintain multiple personas with different names and different passwords. I do this to keep my work life separate from my personal life, to be more efficient, to freely explore new technologies, and to reflect different interests. I also do this to explore the potential freedom to be anonymous on the Internet – to not be confined by . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Truth From Fiction

Given the constant flow of events in the world of information and the waves of change confronting librarians, I search for a unifying theme. Can I find something that manages to pull it all together for me? As a law professor I talk to my students about that moment of insight when all of the pieces fall into place, when what had previously been a jumble of unconnected information suddenly shifts into a discernible pattern. Even if the fine details of the final product are unclear, there will be a structure, the subject will make sense. Where is such a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Library Budgets and Priorities: A New Year and a New Normal

For my first column of this year, I had first thought to compile a “top ten” list of major issues currently confronting law libraries and librarians. As I started work on the list, two things quickly became clear to me: first, the column’s space constraints would allow only the most cursory treatment of the ten issues; and second, it was becoming more and more obvious that almost all ten issues were related to or even driven by one great issue. That issue is library costs and the shrinking budgets with which we are expected to cover them. Law schools continue . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

If Your Library Was a Small Business, Would It Still Be Open? Part 2

In my last column we explored how entrepreneurial characteristics can augment librarian skills. Once again, using’s article 25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs, we continue with points #8 to 25.

8. Project a positive business image. Unfortunately we still see that old “us and them” mentality in law firms: lawyers — and everyone else. Help diminish that by always projecting a positive business image. With a Masters degree (or commensurate experience), you too are a professional, but short of wearing your resume as a visible badge, use demeanour (confident and positive), speech (thoughtful, considered and forthright) and relationships . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information