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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Valuing Legal Information

The problem with trying to value legal information is that we mostly just talk about its price instead of its value. The value of anything is subjective, and correct legal information at the perfect time is worth a great deal, general legal information that isn’t needed at a particular moment is worth much less. This is important because the people who make decisions about how to fund legal information are often not the people who use it regularly and are generally not faced with urgent legal matters at the moment of making decisions about how much to pay for it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

New Developments in International Legal Information Resources

The New Year is a great time to re-assess old legal research tools and review new ones, so here’s a look at some of the additions to and changes in international legal information resources in the past couple of years.

New resources include the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (MPECCOL), Elgar encyclopedias on private international law and on international economic law, and Oxford International Organizations (OXIO)(freely accessible until July 2018). Also forthcoming from Oxford is the Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law (MPEiPro).

HeinOnline’s foreign, comparative and international law (FCIL) content was enriched by the additions of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Pulling the Plug on Big Tech

One of the biggest changes the technological revolution has given rise to is the rise of the dominant business model of providing free services to people in exchange for an extraordinary wide licence to exploit their data. There is a cost to us that we don’t see, but we are starting to see that it is having a large and incremental impact on our communities, our societies, and our lives. The “Big Tech” digital gatekeepers such as Facebook, Google, Snapchat, etc. refine and exploit our data and have by now laid waste to the advertising multiverse and turned that once . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

End of Year Legal Information Update From Washington, DC

Winter has arrived here with cold (for us) temperatures and some icy snow. But there is good news coming from some U.S. government information sources. In October the Law Library of Congress, where I volunteer, announced a new chatbot service.

“We are excited to announce the release of a new chatbot that can connect you to primary sources of law, Law Library research guides and our foreign law reports. The chatbot has a clickable interface that will walk you through a basic reference interview. Just click “get started,” respond “yes” or “no” to its questions, and then click on the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Canadian Law School Libraries: A Legacy – and a Future?

It has been several months now since I was nudged into an early retirement and left my position as Chief Law Librarian of Osgoode Hall Law School after almost 10 years there. This has afforded me some time to look back on my career in law libraries and to consider not only my accomplishments, however they be measured and judged, but also to reflect on the goals I was unable to realize and the projects that were left unfinished. I look back on this unfinished business not only out of a sense of personal regret. Osgoode offered me the opportunity . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

7 Reasons to Celebrate Legal Research and the Fact That It’s There to Stay

In his book What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly (the founding executive editor of Wired magazine) writes that:

History is rife with cases of misguided technological expectations from the inventors themselves. Thomas Edison believed his phonograph would be used primarily to record the last-minute bequests of the dying. The radio was funded by early backers who believed it would be the ideal device for delivering sermons to rural farmers. Viagra was clinically tested as a drug for heart disease. The internet was invented as a disaster-proof communications backup. Very few great ideas start out headed toward the greatness they eventually . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

New Edition of “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting”

The fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (MSCD) has just recently been published. It is a must-have reference work for any lawyer who is interested in proper contract drafting, in other words, for any lawyer who drafts contracts. The author is well-known drafting expert Professor Ken Adams, who has been speaking and writing about these issues for a number of years. His blog, on the Adams on Contract Drafting site, is an excellent source of commentary on a great many contract drafting issues, including ones that, for space limitations, are not addressed in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

The State Weighs Differently on Each of Us

The creation and maintenance of a state is an ongoing exercise in force. Without the force the state will not continue. There are many societies throughout history that existed quite well without one, and recently I’ve been thinking about how each of experiences the force of the state differently, now that virtually all people live in them. I recently read that no group of hunters and gatherers or pastoralists has ever willingly transitioned to settled life, because it makes them easier to control and tax [1], and there is a vivid description of the violence and political machinations required to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Tiny Care, or Saying Yes to Saying No


I usually write a column about a foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) aspect of legal information, but I’m taking a little break to discuss a general aspect of legal information – law librarian “self-care”. I don’t really like that term, so let’s call it something else. A legal information professional has to stay healthy, to maintain good mental and physical health for themselves, and also to be able to provide the best service possible at work in the present and in the future. Sometimes this is called “work-life balance”. I’m going to call it “tiny care” after @jonnysun’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Weak Data Security Will Erode Our Privacy and Our Liberties

I’ve been thinking a lot about cybersecurity recently. But when news of the Equifax data breach surfaced recently, I was more alarmed than usual. Although Equifax is the latest of a long line of data breaches where personal information has been stolen, this one was different.

There was the usual furor, of course, (US Senate hearings, questions in the House, newspaper headlines raging, stock tanking, etc.) when the fact of that massive data breach occurred was finally disclosed (a full five months after the breach occurred). More details on the scale of the breach have trickled out since then. But . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Revisiting the Case for Project Management in Legal Practice

I hesitate to write further about project management in legal practice because there has been so much said about it, but I just finished my exam to be a “Project Management Professional” (PMP), and I want to share some thoughts on why it’s a good fit for legal practice and how it fits into legal information work.

There are many “projects” in law offices or libraries—offices get moved, IT systems get upgraded, and new systems generally get rolled out periodically, but those kinds of projects are not the reason I think it’s worth talking about project management in legal practice . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Picturing the Law

I went through law school without ever seeing pictures in the law books I read. And only once did I imagine the parties in a case and give them faces – State v. Williams, 484 P. 2d 1167 (Wash. Ct. App. 1971). There, in my criminal law textbook, was the story of an Indian couple without a lot of education who were charged with manslaughter because their child died after they failed to take him to a doctor. They thought he had a toothache. Ignorance was not an excuse. I still visualize them and their pain at losing their . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information