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Archive for the ‘Legal Publishing’ Columns

The Future of Headnotes

I believe that a book without an index is not as useful as a book with a good index. 

A case headnote can provide a complete index to a judicial decision.

Headnotes are at risk because the full text of legal decisions without headnotes are now available free on the Internet from multiple sources. This free access has resulted in a dramatic reduction of print subscriptions to law reports.

Is there a need for headnotes? Headnotes tend to save time for a searcher by providing an index to a decision and by providing index material for digests. When a judicial . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

A Student-Led Movement for a University Open Access Policy

Having been a supporter of open access to research and scholarship for a dozen years now, I sometimes think that I have seen it all, from brilliant strategies to collegial indifference. Thus my surprise and delight, when I recently had the chance to meet Goldis Chami and Gordana Panic at the University of British Columbia to talk about their efforts, as students, to bring about open access to the work published by faculty and graduate students at UBC. Goldis, a second-year medical student, and Gordana, a recent graduate in Biology and Psychology, explained to me that they were determined to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Upgrading to Elegant

In conjunction with the release of his latest autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry has produced a rather unique interactive iPhone app titled myFry. What really catches your attention about it is the app’s navigation system:

When I first saw it, I was immediately struck by its beauty. Its functionality, however, remained something of a mystery to me. The designer of the app, Stefanie Posavec, writes:

The app functions as a ‘visual index’ of key theme tags within the book, which have been divided into 4 major groups: People, Subjects, Emotions, and Fryisms (metaphors, similes, word play,

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Publishing

Legal “Publishing” Companies & People: That’s What We Need

It has occurred to House of Butter that in 2010 there now appears to be a singular lack of imagination at senior management levels at the major legal publishers.

Plenty of the usual tinkering and re-imagining of existing content and products and more of the we’ve bought this and look at the our latest JV with one or other technology based company to help “streamline” content management and flow at law firms. Woop de doo.

HOB wonders if this lack of imagination has its roots in fact that both Lexis and West currently see themselves as “content” database storage and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Authors and Acquisitions

What does the acquisition of one publishing house by another mean for an author? Since the announcement of the acquisition of Canada Law Book by Carswell Thomson, I have received a number of calls from authors and editors asking me questions relating to the acquisition and what it will mean to them.

Is one legal publisher better than another?

Needless to say, it can be a bit disconcerting for an author to learn that his or her publisher has been sold to a competitor. In persuading an author to sign with Publisher A, as much effort would have been spent . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Distributed Intellectual Property and the Common Good

Under the Author Information section of an article in Nature last week (August 5), there was a highly irregular reference to an unusual number of extensive contributors: “Foldit players (more than 57,000) contributed extensively through their feedback and gameplay, which generated the data for this paper.” As you might imagine, this throws a small wrench into the intellectual property concept of scholarly publication, in which the publisher reaps the profits, while the honors of priority and attribution go to the identified authors. In this case, the 57,000 anonymous authors suggest something new is afoot. 

In the article in question, “ . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

What’s Good Enough?

What’s the best thing about Wikipedia? It’s a source that’s “good enough”. It’s an excellent way to get up to speed when all you really need is general or background knowledge. And the price point is so attractive! But would I rely on Wikipedia exclusively? Doubtful … and I certainly wouldn’t rely on it in an important situation without checking primary sources. 

Some wikis are now appearing as sources of legal information. I was fascinated to read the recent post on this site about the new tax wiki established by Professor Ben Alarie, of the U of T Law Faculty; . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

The Anatomy of a Headnote

After a judicial decision is completed by a judge and filed with a court, a legal editor may add a headnote to the decision. A headnote is normally prepared by an editor employed by a publisher. 

The main purpose of a caselaw headnote is to save a searcher time in finding a point of law. A headnote should be an index to a judicial decision. For example, a headnote can serve a searcher so that only a portion of long decision has to be read.

Comment and opinion should not be part of a headnote.

What are the elements of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Curating the Legal Web?

Much to the chagrin of the museum crowd, the last few years has seen a steady degradation of the term “curate.” A recent New York Times piece noted that the term “has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting.” In this sense, everyone perhaps is a curator. 

Now, as stimulating as an etymological debate on the word “curate” undoubtedly would be (e.g., Florida still uses the phrase “probate curator”), I’m not really interested in doing it here. I raise the issue because I am . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Staying Relevant in Legal Publishing

The two leading Canadian legal publishers, Carswell Thomson and LexisNexis Butterworths, have something in common – both face a major challenge for continuing relevance in the Canadian market. Interestingly enough, the real challenge does not come from each other, but from free services and technological advances, and increasingly from small but nimble legal publishers committed to the delivery of high quality competitively priced products. How each of them responds to this challenge will determine their ultimate role as providers of legal information in the Canadian legal market.

Meeting the challenge has been made more difficult because of the unrealistic expectations . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Independent Bookstores

In mid-June Irwin Law held a book launch to celebrate the publication of The Lunatic and the Lords by Hon. Richard Schneider. Justice Schneider, as some readers will be aware, presides over the mental health court at Old City Hall in Toronto. His book is an account of the 1843 trial of Daniel M’Naughten for the murder of Edward Drummond, secretary to Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. The verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was so controversial that Queen Victoria ordered the House of Lords to review the verdict. The result of this review was the ‘M’Naughten Rules’ . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

Richard Susskind and Legal Publishing

Richard Susskind has been far and away the most interesting speaker I’ve heard this year. He’s been travelling around the world delivering his message of coming change for the legal profession. He spoke at a recent CLEBC course and at the BC Court of Appeal 100th anniversary course.

For those of you who haven’t yet had the Susskind experience, he predicts that the legal profession is undergoing profound changes as corporate clients are under increasing pressure to cut costs, and as private clients cannot afford the bespoke services provided by lawyers. He anticipates that over the next ten years, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing