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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

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

Building Canada’s Digital Law Library

Over the past year, I have written a series of articles on the theme of (re)building a law library. Obviously, I attach great value to the concept of library as place: my previous column was on that very topic. For me, the expression “virtual library” is somewhat of a misnomer, for a library cannot be virtual if it exists in space and that space has a function. I much prefer the expression “digital library” to describe the non-physical aspect of the library collection, not the library itself, though the two are related and must be integrated in a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

“Sites of Real Engagement”: OpenGovernment.org Opens Up State Legislation

OpenGovernment.org is a new, free site providing online access to information about proposed legislation in U.S. states. Funded by the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) and now covering six U.S. states, OpenGovernment.org — which launched in January 2011 — enables citizens and organizations to learn about and track pending state legislation, the activities and votes of state legislators, issues that are the subject of proposed legislation, and campaign contributions to state legislators.

In July I spoke with David Moore and Carl Tashian — respectively PPF’s Executive Director and Director of Technology, and the developers of OpenGovernment.org — . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Aggravation Due to (Dis)aggregation…

There is a trend that is causing me great consternation, and I think its impact is only just starting to hurt our users and budgets. It is the decision being taken by some publishers of electronic versions of journals and law reports to remove their titles from the aggregators, such as Lexis or Westlaw, and to build their own platforms and then sell the titles /access separately to consumers at a rate they think is achievable.

I admit to my fair share of cynicism in relation to legal publishers; many – though thank goodness not all – have always seemed . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building Digital Law Libraries

After the 2010 earthquake destroyed Haiti’s law libraries, the Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC), a non-profit cooperative of libraries, spearheaded the Haiti Legal Patrimony Project. 13 U.K., U.S., and German libraries contributed unique materials from their collections to help rebuild a collection of Haitian law online via the LLMC Digital database. Many of the 700+ titles on the master list (initially compiled from Law Library of Congress and Columbia University Law Library bibliographic data) have been digitized. The online collection comprises constitutions, statutes, codes, periodicals, and legal treatises. The Haiti Project is one of many digital law library initiatives. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

A Conference Even a Curmudgeon Enjoyed

As I grow older and crabbier, I attend fewer conferences. Seeing old friends is a treat, but the standard meeting format that is built around a parade of speakers, many of whom are not natural communicators, and many of whom do not understand the inner soul of using PowerPoint, holds less and less appeal for me. But on June 16, 2011, The Future of Law Libraries Conference at the Harvard Law School gave me new hope. John Palfrey and his staff, with special nods to Meg Kribble, put on a stimulating, provocative and, well, classy event. The legal information situation . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Legislation Activity in Manitoba

With all the flooding news and euphoria about getting an NHL team again (Go Jets Go!), you could be forgiven for thinking nothing else was happening in Manitoba. However, you would be seriously wrong.

Manitoboba amended the Elections Act a few years ago, adding fixed-year election terms (s.49.1(2)), with October 4, 2011 being the first one. One of the conditions requires that the government not advertise or publish information about its programs or activities in the 90 days before October 4th. This means we are seeing a flurry of announcements in this run-up to the end of the current legislative . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Getting the Most Out of Online Usage Reports

(This article is based on a talk that I gave at this year’s Canadian Association of Law Libraries conference.)

With online services accounting for an ever-increasing percentage of libraries’ budgets, it is important to be able to keep an eye on the usage of these services. Fortunately, a number of these online services offer usage reports. These reports allow the account administrators to get a clearer picture of how these services are used and how to get the most out of them.

Where to get usage reports

The availability of usage reports varies greatly from publisher to publisher, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Indian Kanoon: Sushant Sinha on Innovation and Free Law in India

Indian Kanoon, Dr. Sushant Sinha‘s innovative free-access-to-law service for India, has recently received attention from several sources in the technology world.

First, Indian Kanoon (the Hindi word “kanoon” means “law”) has been included by La Chaire en information juridique de la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal in its IDRC-funded global study of the sustainability of free-access-to-law services. Second, MIT’s Technology Review India in March 2011 cited Indian Kanoonin its recognition of Dr.Sinha as one of India’s “Top Innovators Under 35.” Most recently, Indian Kanoon was the topic of Dr. Sinha’s VoxPopuLII post entitled “Indian Kanoon: . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information