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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

CanLII’s Future as a Canadian Primary Law Cooperative

“[T]here is a need to unbundle CanLII’s data if the full potential of innovation in legal information is to be realized.”

“[T]hrough 13 [now 19] years (from concept to today) and over $20M [now $40M] of investment from Canadian law societies through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, [CanLII] has built up a solid lead and in the “free access to law” business and its central position may now be having a negative effect on innovation in legal information.”

Nearly 6 years ago, as President and CEO of CanLII, I wrote those words here on . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

Working Toward a Random Sample in Law

As more scholars are looking at doing statistical of case law, I wanted to give some advice on how to do that given the way court decisions are written and published.

The first thing to understand about a dataset of case law is that it is not representative of a sample of all the matters that appear before the courts. Jury verdicts and many oral reasons in various areas of law are never written down, so they are not distributed to CanLII and other publishers. This is particularly common for routine issues in areas law like criminal, family, or small . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

We Built This City (Library)

Civic pride has been riding a bit of a high in Calgary recently, and it has naught to do with any professional sports franchise, annual rodeo or the swell of nostalgia roused when considering a possible Olympic bid. The cause for such a recent surge was actually the opening of the new Central Library on November 1. Winning further accolades from some was the fact that the project ultimately came in $10M under budget. While one must admit that the new central library is not perfect in all ways, it is fair to say that in a word, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Fall 2018 Information Update From Washington, DC

I got back to DC in time for the 2018 Federal Depository Library Conference, held October 22 through 23 in Arlington, Virginia. This was an opportunity to learn about the latest enhancements to the Government Publishing Office’s U.S. government information platform, . This platform has replaced their which will be offline by the end of this year. There will be redirects from the PURL’s to the new location of the content.

Their new content includes statute compilations for major legislation, eight new courts added in the U.S. Courts collection, and the Congressional Directories for the 115 . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

New Book: The Fundamentals of Statutory Interpretation

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my new book that will be published by LexisNexis on November 30. More information about this book can be found here.

There are times when judges interpret statutes in ways that defy common sense. A notorious example was raised during the Senate confirmation hearings of eventual U.S. Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch in which he was pressed by Democratic members to defend his dissent in Trans Am Trucking. In what is known as the “frozen trucker case”, he denied a trucker the benefit of protective legislation permitting an employee to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

The First Step Is Admitting We Have a Problem

Is there one right way to research the law?


Do most of us know the best? the most? or even a handful of useful search strategies? Almost certainly not, according to a few recent studies. As one of those studies highlight, even those who do probably aren’t sharing strategies in any event. These studies paint the picture of a profession that plops a few words into a single search engine, relies heavily on the machine to sort the results returns, and then stops looking within a few minutes having grabbed a few documents that look useful.

There are valuable . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Legal Publishing

On Disrupting the Legal Industry …

I don’t think I will surprise anyone here when I say that I’ve heard quite a bit about how people want to disrupt legal practice. I have been thinking about this possibility and reading more about the theory of economic disruption, so now I thought I would elaborate on this here. Before starting I would like to assure those who roll their eyes at the mention of the word that I am also tired of hearing about it, but that there are some things that I think are worth saying.

Disruption isn’t simply making a more competitive business, which makes . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

On Writing, or “Beer + Edits”

Some of us write because publishing is a requirement for career advancement as legal information professionals. Some of us write because we want to document an event in law librarianship, report on a conference or workshop attended. Some of us write to share information on a legal research topic that fascinates us. Some of us write to fill a gap in the literature. Some of us are neophyte writers and some of us have been at it for quite some time. I fit the latter description, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the process.[1]

Honing Your Writing . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

D’You Know What I Mean? – Musing on Communication

A number of my appliances appeared to stage a coordinated strike during my recent holiday break. In equal parts, believing that a significant pool of the knowledge of the world can be accessed via the phone in my pocket, and cautious of the fact that despite this, people are constantly wrong about innumerable things, I set out to up my domestic credentials by attempting a repair of both our dishwasher and refrigerator. A series of web searches, YouTube videos, and some lurking about in appliance repair forums quickly became the first tools in my box. My approach was simple, I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Conferencing, Or, Every Fish Has a Job

Everywhere I go, there’s an aquarium. When I took the library tour while I was attending the law rare book school at Yale, there was an aquarium in the library book stacks. And when I went to the AALL annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland and decided to have dinner at one of the suggested eateries, Luna del Sea Steak & Seafood Bistro had an aquarium. What are the chances of seeing aquaria in unlikely places in the span of a month? Well, each time I saw an aquarium, I was drawn to the black, unmoving fish hidden in the dark . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

GDPR Is Here …. Now What?

With very little fanfare, but flood of notifications heralding its imminent arrival, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) came into direct effect across the 28 member states of the European Union and three of the four states belonging to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), (collectively the European Economic Area (EEA)) on May 25, 2018. The Regulation has been on the statute books for a couple of years, but only appeared on the legal risk radar recently. The maximum penalties for non-compliance are jaw dropping and headline grabbing – €20M or 2% of global revenue for non-compliance . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Latest Legal Information Update From Washington DC

I am away from Washington for the summer, but I want to update you on some recent developments at the Law Library of Congress. If you have any questions about the information below or any other questions or suggestions, the law librarians there are available through their Ask a Librarian interface or their 24/7 chatbot.

In January a post in their In Custodio Legis blog announced an improvement to the search interface on Congress,gov. “The new Search Bar is what we used to refer to as the Global Search, which was present on almost every page. The new . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information