and Usage Statistics

CALI – the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction has been mentioned a few times here at Slaw * *. I was reminded about CALI recently by a post of the top ten fall semester 2008 lessons at the Law Librarian Blog.

The CALI site has an interesting first page – a list shows the frequently used material for the day, and week by the student subgroup- 1L, 2/3L and there is a link to more zeitgeist1 at the bottom of the page. One of the zeitgeist is the All Time Lesson Runs Since 2008-08-01. The following list, generated by that source, appeared in the orginal December 8 blog post:

  1. Introduction to Secondary Resources by Brian Huddleston.
  2. Legal Research 101: The Tools of the Trade by Sheri Lewis.
  3. How to Find Case Law Using the Digests by Brian Huddleston.
  4. Anatomy of a Case by Brian Huddleston.
  5. Updating/Validating Case Law Using Citators by Rebecca Trammell.
  6. American Law Reports by Kimberli Morris.
  7. Periodicals Indexes and Library Catalogs by C. Andrew Larrick.
  8. Introduction to Search Logic and Strategies by Sarah Gotschall.
  9. Legal Research Methodology by Wendy Scott & Kennard Strutin.
  10. Finding Statutes by Kit Kreilick.

The list changes as lessons are viewed of course. Ten short (in Canada at least) days after the Law Librarian Blog Post, the Intro to secondary sources is now #15, Legal Research 101 is now #22, How to find case law using the digests is #24.

Today the all time lesson runs since 2008-08-01 list looks like this:

  1. Character Evidence Under Federal Rules (Evidence)
  2. Acceptance (Contracts)
  3. Negligence (Torts)
  4. The Concept of Hearsay (Evidence)
  5. Battle of the Forms (UCC 2-207) (Contracts)
  6. Jurisdiction and Venue (Civil Procedure)
  7. Assault (Torts)
  8. Consideration: The Basics of Consideration and the Bargain Theory (Contracts)
  9. Basic Future Interests: The Concept of “Future Interest” – Lesson 1 (Property Law)
  10. Analysis of a Diversity Case (Civil Procedure)

What is my point? Statistics are not always representative of truth. Usage has to be qualitatively as well as quantitatively measured. Zeitgeist lists are interesting, however using a popularity list alone to make choices on what to look at is limiting.

I would rather my users see the December 8 list than todays simply because of the nature of the favourites. I am surprise the general how to search lessons haven’t remained the most popular, though this is probably due to term exams or papers and students need for a refresher on particular areas of law. is a great resource, with reasonable access fees. It is a really good way to offer more training services with less resources. Even for a practicing lawyer, to be able to look a a specific portion of a class you might not have had room for on your timetable might be a blessing. There are plenty of membership options to choose from.

Looking for ways to get the most out of usage statistics? Try some of these resources:

1 Zeitgeist as defined by Collins: the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period, esp. as it is reflected in literature, philosophy, etc.


  1. Kimberli Morris

    Good point about being careful about what you count, and about what you infer from those counts.
    Actually though, there is a slight difference in detail between the first search and your later search. The original law librarian blog post was about legal research lessons run. The default search includes all lessons run. With statistics, you definitely do have to make sure you are comparing apples to apples as they say. And I agree, a date a little further into December would have given a list better representative of the semester. Wonder if it is possible in the fuseaction search to run a ‘between dates’ search, or if only the website owner can do that.

    Best regards,
    (full disclosure: of course I want to defend my #6 rating!)