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Archive for November, 2005

Legal Researchers in the Year 2020 . . .

A number of discussions arose at a meeting with colleagues today on the future of law firm legal researchers given changes in technology. It was hard enough twenty years ago (when I was still typing my law school papers) to imagine the impact of the Internet, the scope of online law-related information and other technologies that support legal research (e-mail, laser printing, scanning, etc.) [although twenty years ago I did have a Commodore computer that used a cassette tape deck as its memory – you had to fast forward the tape to get to different spots on the memory!.] Could . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

The History of Citations and Indexes

In reviewing the work of Eugene Garfield (of whom more anon) two points were fascinating.

Firstly that the idea of citation databases in the sciences came from Shepards Citations. See his 50 year old article Association of ideas techniques in documentation: Shepardizing the literature of science. I’d assumed that the legal documentation theorists drew from the mathematicians and information scientists, not the other was round. His article is worth reading.

Second the history of information science used to assume that techniques of organizing information were essentially from the Enlightenment, and the founding of the great national libraries, like the . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Empowering the End User

The web democratizes information. But I just stumbled on a fascinating site with case law and articles for authors considering suing publishers. Check out which presents a model for decentralized subject specific information.

In a different more academic vein, we had occasion to look at restitutionary remedies on Friday and my colleagues were delighted with the depth of UCL’s restitution site at
What other subject specific hoards do we use? . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

WikiBooks, Sony DRM & a Changing IP Culture?

We’ve all heard of Wikipedia, the freely editable online encyclopedia, but have you heard of its sister site WikiBooks?

Wikibooks is a collection of open content textbooks, manuals, and other texts, with supporting book-based texts that are being collaboratively written. This site is a wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit any book module right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears in every Wikibooks module. Set up in July, 2003, volunteers have written around 12,294 book modules in a multitude of books.

I fully admit I am no expert in IP, but . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

A Dissent on Open Access

The Royal Society urges caution over open-access publishing. See
Polly Curtis, education correspondent, Thursday November 24, 2005, Guardian Unlimited

One of the most prestigious scientific academies today warned against a rush to “open-access” publishing, saying a change to the current system of releasing research could have “disastrous” consequences for science.
The Royal Society today published a position statement urging caution against radical reform, in a move which will anger academics and universities who have been pushing for a replacement to the current costly system.

The row over how to publish research centres on the role of the biggest academic publishing

. . . [more]
Posted in: Miscellaneous

WestlaweCarswell Certification

There is a good article in the most recent issue of the CBA National for October-November starting at page 31 called the “Legal Research Roundtable”, in which SLAW is given as one of the websites.

At the same time as I was reviewing this article, which stresses the importance of legal research skills for law practice, I received notiifcation from WestlaweCarswell about their new certification programme:

I use this as a refresher for upper-year law students. I’d be interested in hearing about other experiences and uses of the ecarswell certificate.

nc . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Reported vs Unreported

Musing in the rain this morning on the nature of reported Vs unreported decisions and wondering just what the distinction means any more.
In the ‘old days’ (Simon C set me off on this train of thought with his recent posting) the distinction was very clear. Reported, print decisions were all you had access to. Finding information about recent, unreported decisions was very difficult. Doing any sort of comprehensive search was impossible. Of course we had a lot less to read! But now? When researching anything, and I’m not alone in this, I look at reported or unreported decisions, making . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Reality Check

Once in a while, one needs to be reminded of just how partial the electronic tools are, and how much we’ll continue to need old-fashioned libraries.

Let’s get away from the grand abstractions and make this very concrete.
Here was the issue. We had to consider whether a contract was binding. It had been made on April *, 200*. But we discovered that one of the parties named in the contract hadn’t been incorporated until May *, 200*. If it wasn’t yet in existence, could it validly contract?

If this were just involving Canadian parties, the answer would have been . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

What Would Microsoft Research Make of Law

A provocative interview with Microsoft’s Chairman and Chief Software Architect, William H. Gates, in the latest Information Week, in which he discusses work being undertaken by MS’s research campuses, including one in Bangalore.

What struck me was not so much the ‘we’re overtaking Google’ rhetoric, but how they were thinking about large domains of ill-connected information. The focus was on scientific information, but it was interesting that the model he discussed was pulling together astronomical data.

A couple of quotes:

We’re seeing fields of science that have so much data that without our ability to data mine and [manage]

. . . [more]
Posted in: Miscellaneous