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Archive for the ‘Legal Publishing’ Columns

The Rise of the Programmers

I have this dream—a nightmare really—like one of those dreams where you’re trapped in an embarrassing or compromising position. In this dream, I walk into my law firm’s library and the shelves and books are gone. Instead, I see rows of keyboards and gleaming cathode ray tubes. The computers have staged a coup d’état.

Scott Stolley, The Corruption of Legal Research, For the Defense (Apr. 2004).

The promise and scope of Big Data is that within all that data lies the answer to just about everything.

Vivek Ranadivé, Chairman and CEO, Tibco, from Crunching Big Data: more than a

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Publishing

Free Legal Information? Really?

When I was chatting with one of my American colleagues at this summer’s ACLEA conference, our talk turned to our competitors. We agreed that our biggest competition is the free material on the web, rather than legal resources published by any other legal publisher. (We both publish secondary legal material: practice manuals and the like.) This set me on a train of thought about the funding behind all that free legal information.

With my belief in access to justice and to legal information, I can’t help supporting initiatives to make primary legal material and legal scholarship freely available online. I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

The Importance of Character and Experience in Hiring

The following is a quote from the book, From Third World to First, by Lee Quan Yew, prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. The quote refers to his appointment of ministers.

The attrition rate was high because, despite all the psychological tests, we could never accurately assess character, temperament and motivation.

Here at Maritime Law Book we have had the same experience in the hiring of employees.

Marks at school or university, taken alone, are not determinative of an applicant’s likely success in a position such as a legal editor. Character traits are an important indicator or . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Halsburys Laws of Canada

The “Great Encyclopedias” of Legal Research – Part II

This is the second of a series of posts that were prepared as the sequel to a request by Professor Daniel Poulin to explain the character and purpose of “Halsburys” and the “C.E.D.” to his seminar on legal information at the University of Montreal. The views expressed are the personal opinion of the author.


There are three encyclopedic black letter statements of the law that follow the Halsburys model in Canada. Two of them are well established in the market – the Canadian Encyclopedia Digest (Western . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Decision Names

When referring to court or tribunal decisions in our daily lives, we generally use only the name of the main party or organization involved in the case. This “style of cause” or “case name” as we call it, doesn’t have to be unique in order to be specific: in any given legal context, the names of one or two main parties often suffice to refer to a decision, its full citation being used only in formal writings. Also, with electronic databases, we can afford to refer to only one decision and other decisions made in the same dispute are often . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Funding the LIIs

Out of the blue (well to us anyway) House of Butter learnt that BAILii was teetering after it became clear that UK government sources of money were to become increasingly difficult to access as the (UK) coalition austerity belt tightened.

On 10 June we learnt from a number of UK LIS LAW posts and BAILii themselves that although they’d still receive UK government funds until March 2012 the organization would have to appeal for more funds from other parties.

Their funding page was updated with the following appeal notice a few days later

Why is BAILII appealing for funds?


. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Publishing

The “Great Encyclopedias” of Legal Research

This is the first of a series of posts that were prepared as the sequel to a request by Professor Daniel Poulin to explain the character and purpose of “Halsburys” and the “C.E.D.” to his seminar on legal information at the University of Montreal. The first post is a generic description of the Halsburys Model and will be followed by posts on Halsburys Laws of Canada, the Canadian Encyclopedic Digests, and the Juris Classeur Quebec, three publications of the same ilk or genre that are designed to provide legal researchers with “a complete statement” of the laws of Canada, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

“Only a Fool Would Make Predictions—Especially About the Future”

I’m hesitant about trying to predict the future and would be aligned with those with those who have written:

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window


The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.

both by Peter Drucker

or Samuel Goldwyn, providing the title above.

That said, I’m occasionally asked for views on trends and evolution and to squint into the future, while retaining loyalty to the anti-futurists.

Many see technology and social media . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Patent Incentives, the Universities, and the Public Availability of Inventions

I have been working over the last few years on what I feel is a latent distinction within our concept of intellectual property. This distinction sets apart the properties produced in educational institutions from commercial properties. The “intellectual properties of learning,” as I term them, often have, if inconsistently, a distinct economic and legal status to them, whether in copyright or patent law, tax-exemption or incentive. The distinctions made around the public good of learning have a long history, dating back in the West, I am finding, to the medieval monasteries, but they hit the headlines last week.

On June . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Selection of Cases for Publication in Print

Prior to the existence of the Internet there was a long standing debate respecting the volume of cases that were being published by legal publishers. Some lawyers and judges claimed that too many cases were being published because most cases apply well settled principles. Others claimed that the application of old principles to new facts was worthy of publication. The new facts result from an evolving and changing world. Some judges have tried to limit the publication of their decisions.

In 1979 there was no provincial case law reporter for Saskatchewan and Maritime Law Book was preparing to start a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

E-Reader Roundup

E-books and e-readers are constant topics of discussion. Every new device released results in a flurry of activity; one only needs to think of the recent press around the new iPad 2 and the Blackberry PlayBook. Tablets and iPads are frequent topics here on Slaw. And in May, Amazon reported that since April 1, 2011, sales of Kindle books had exceeded the sale of print books. 

When I was at CALL recently, a show of hands indicated that more than half the audience owned at least one e-reader. Everyone I spoke with was enthusiastic about their e-reader or tablet of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

PUNY LAWYERS. PUNY LIBRARIANS. HULK SMASH! a Brief Comment on Fighting Words & Legal Publishers

You can’t swing a dead cat [Fn. 1] on the Internet these days without hitting a lawyer or law librarian complaining about the never ending escalation of prices for legal content (print or digital), the unscrupulous business practices of certain legal publishers, and the ineptitude of member associations to address these problems (and more). [Fn. 2] And while all of this may seem new, it isn’t.

I don’t know when the distrust between lawyers and law librarians and legal publishers actually began, but the late Professor Roy Mersky once stated that lawyers’ displeasure with the tools . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing