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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Where Have All the Articling Students Gone?

This is my first column for Slaw, and may I say, it is an honour to be asked to contribute. Of all the reading material that crosses my desk and my computer, Slaw is one of the few for which I have always made time, even if it’s just to scan titles. The combination of blogs and columns always seems to bring me information, just when I need it, or even better, before I know I need it.

By way of introduction, for many years I worked as a Law Librarian in Bay Street law firms. I even spent a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting is an interesting publisher, established in 1865 by the legal profession in Great Britain, to bring some order to the then somewhat chaotic world of law reporting. Before this time, English law reports, now known as Nominate Reports, were produced on an individual basis by barristers, with a series lasting from one or two volumes, to the working life of the author barrister. Series varied in standard, layout and structure.

The ICLR oversaw the introduction of an orderly reporting system with the creation of The Law Reports, as the series that would report judicial . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and the Law

Decades ago when I was looking for legal information on gays in the military worldwide, resources were scarce. Those gopher, pre-web days are gone and now researchers can find a wide variety of resources on the global legal status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people. So, let’s check to see how these resources cover military law related to LGBTQI persons around the globe.

The newest resource is the International Commission of Jurists’ Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Justice: A Comparative Law Casebook (September 2011). It includes a foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby, former President of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Legal Research Training’s End

From my earliest days as a professional I have taught about how best to carry out legal research. Over the years I have instructed high school students, undergraduates, prisoners, graduate students, paralegals, librarians and many, many law students. Something not quite rational drove my interest. Many times I have paraphrased the lines spoken by John Belushi in the classic movie The Blues Brothers, telling people that I was on a mission from God to teach legal research. I have written books, made cassette tapes, video tapes and DVDs about legal research. If this almost obsessive interest had not been . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Other Eighty Percent: Dealing With Lesser-Used Items in a Library Collection

Librarians often use the rule that 20% of a library’s collection accounts for 80% of its use. However a recent OCLC study found that 80% of the circulation in a university library was driven by just 6% of the collection. Given that law libraries, whether academic, courthouse or private law firm, are constantly under space pressures, does this mean that we should be discarding the other 80-94% of the collection and using the space for something else? (Spoiler: my answer is “no”.)

Usage is not necessarily a good measure of the value of an item. There are items in my . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Developing a Library Collection Development Policy: Monographs

The new library of Osgoode Hall Law School is open, even if not yet quite finished. We’re still waiting for some of the furniture to be delivered and the rare books reading room (Canada Law Book Rare Book Room) is still under construction. I’m crossing my fingers that the missing pieces will be in place for the official opening of the new Ignat Kaneff Building, home of Osgoode Hall Law School, on October 16.

But there’s much more to a good library than well-designed facilities, access to good resources and helpful staff. One of the essential ingredients of any successful . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

A Flurry of Innovation: An Update on Free Law

The past two months have seen a flurry of innovative activity in the corner of the legal technology world that concerns free access to law and open legal information. Here are some developments that seem noteworthy:

Open Legal Educational Resources

New, free, and open versions — in ePUB and .mobi formats — of U.S. federal court rules have been published, jointly by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School and CALI, The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. This is the latest addition to the ePUB-based open legal publishing endeavor that John Mayer describes in this recent post. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Another Mac Convert

I was part of the Apple IIe generation – we installed them in the school I worked at in the 1980’s. They seemed great, but somehow the DOS computers that started to creep in seemed to allow us to do more in the background, and the techies decided that this was the way to go. I learned some Unix along the way, and that helped me create some smart databases in 1990 in my library, but I soon joined the crowds. My first computer purchase was a Windows PCc, and for more than 20 years I stuck with PCs. I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Starting Points for Researching Haitian Law

Haiti is located in the West Indies, on the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Its official languages are French and Haitian Créole. It shares a border with the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. It lies near Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the state of Florida in the U.S. It has a rich cultural heritage. However, researching Haiti’s law can be frustrating. Haiti is in the Caribbean, but works on Caribbean law mostly focus on English-speaking, Commonwealth Caribbean countries. Works on West Indian law tend to focus on the British West Indies. And works on Latin American . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

User Generated Content and the Law

The study of law is very intriguing, for someone like me who came to it via the back route. Since I work in a law firm library, and haven’t been to law school, I am very aware of my limitations when it comes to legal research. I like to think that makes me more observant and diligent. One of the things I’ve observed is the way the law overlaps. A few years ago, I was helping an associate sort out where he’d find the answers to a question involving dangerous driving. He ended up needing three separate pieces of legislation: . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Joy of Wildcards (And Boolean Operators)

Quicklaw and Westlaw Canada use “*”. CanLII uses “!”. I’m referring to the symbol that these databases use for as a “wildcard”, that is the symbol used to represent one or more characters in a string when carrying out a search. Conversely, when it comes to the symbol used to truncate a word, Quicklaw and Westlaw Canada use “!”, but CanLII uses “*”. (Google does not allow users to truncate search terms at all, although it does use “*” as a wildcard in phrase searches.)

Not only does the symbol used for the wildcard vary among online services, but . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Synergy and Hope in Philadelphia

Time and circumstance have been good to me. I began studying China in 1968. Why I did so was a mystery to all concerned. No one in my family had dreams further than the boundaries of Canton, Ohio. As my father, a working man who thought that I was throwing my life away by studying the Chinese language, put it, “You never even met a Chinese person before you went off to college. We don’t even have a Chinese restaurant in this town!” My decision was not based on practical reasoning; I just discovered as a freshman in college that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information