No or not until computers can generate a document that meets the reader’s needs and expectations according to Syracuse Law prof Ian Gallacher in his essay, Do RoboMemos Dream Of Electric Nouns?: A Search For The Soul Of Legal Writing [bepress]. Here’s the abstract:

This essay considers the possibility that computers might soon be capable of writing many of the documents lawyers typically write, and considers what qualities of writing are uniquely human and whether those qualities are sufficient to render human written work superior to computer generated work.

After noting that despite the claims of rhetoricians and narrative theorists, not all legal writing is persuasive writing, and that it is in the non-persuasive area of prosaic, functional documents that computer generated documents might gain a bridgehead into the legal market, the essay tracks the development of computer-generated written work, particularly in the areas of sports journalism and corporate reporting. The essay notes that the templates developed to generate these documents can be customized to produce the tone desired by the customer, meaning that both rhetoric and narrative have been captured and transformed into tools that can be manipulated by computer programmers. This in turn means that computer generated documents will not be devoid of rhetorical or narrative interest, making the programs that develop them potentially appealing for lawyers even if they seek to use them to draft persuasive as well as more functional documents.

What these programs will lack, however, is empathy — the ability to anticipate what information a reader will need from a document, and when the reader will need it, and to draft a document that meets the reader’s needs and expectations. An empathetic human writer knows when to follow and when to break the genre expectations of a document and can send powerfully persuasive messages to a reader by use of that knowledge.

The essay concludes that empathy is a crucial, and uniquely human, aspect of persuasive writing and that an empathetically-aware written document should be superior to a technically accurate but non-empathetic computer generated document.

Joe

— in order to begin to address domestic concerns that laws are being implemented in ways beyond what was thought allowable and to rebuild faith with our international partners?

I guess we will have to wait ‘n see. Quoting from OpenGovernment.org’s Oct. 29, 2013 newsletter article, “US to Outline New Commitment​s at the Open Government Partnershi​p Summit”:

Later this week the Obama Administration is scheduled to announce the US’ new round of commitments to make the government more open and accountable during the meeting of the Open Government Partnership in London. Due in part to complications created by the government shutdown, the US will not be unveiling its full action plan (the full plan will be released in early December), but US officials will be presenting an outline of what they consider to be ambitious commitments. The commitments that will be discussed during the meeting are expected to be related to modernizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), spending transparency, and open data.

A recent letter coordinated by OpenTheGovernment.org and signed by 45 organizations that work on a variety of issues urged the President to take advantage of the Summit’s international stage to commit to curbing secret law. As regular readers know, secret interpretations of the law have been at the heart of recent controversies ranging from opinions by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing interrogation techniques that many say equate to torture to opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that allowed for massive expansion of the National Security Administration’s surveillance programs. The most recent revelations regarding surveillance have raised serious concerns about what the government is doing in our name and the extent of violations of American’s privacy and civil liberties, and critical questions about whether the US’s programs breach international law. We intend to continue to raise these issues with the Obama Administration, and push for concrete commitments.

The embedded link in the above quote sends one to the press release for the Oct. 21, 2013 open letter. Here’s the list of signatories:

  1. American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
  2. American Civil Liberties Union
  3. American Library Association
  4. American Society of News Editors
  5. Arab American Institute
  6. ARTICLE 19
  7. Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  8. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
  9. Californians Aware
  10. Center for Democracy and Technology
  11. Center for Effective Government
  12. Center for Media and Democracy
  13. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREW
  14. The Constitution Project
  15. Council on American-Islamic Relations – CAIR
  16. Electronic Frontier Foundation
  17. Electronic Privacy Information Center – EPIC
  18. Essential Information
  19. Federation of American Scientists
  20. First Amendment Foundation
  21. Government Accountability Project – GAP
  22. Human Right Watch
  23. iSolon.org
  24. James Madison Project
  25. Just Foreign Policy
  26. Liberty Coalition
  27. National Coalition Against Censorship
  28. National Freedom of Information Coalition
  29. National Security Archive
  30. No More Guantanamos
  31. OpenTheGovernment.org
  32. PolitiHacks
  33. Project On Government Oversight – POGO
  34. Public Citizen
  35. Public Knowledge
  36. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  37. Reporters Without Borders
  38. Society of Professional Journalists
  39. Sunlight Foundation
  40. Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University
  41. Understanding Government
  42. Vermont Coalition for Open Government
  43. Vermont Press Association
  44. Washington Civil Rights Council
  45. Win Without War

Yup, AALL is not a signatory. — Joe

Patrick M. Ellis, a 3L who is an associate editor of the Michigan State Law Review, decided to find out. Here’s the abstract for his working draft of 140 Characters or Less: An Experiment in Legal Research [SSRN]:

In 1995, Robert Ambrogi, former columnist for Legal Technology News, wrote about the Internet’s potential to revolutionize the accessibility and delivery of legal information. Almost 20 years later, Ambrogi now describes his initial optimism as a “pipe dream.” Perhaps one of the greatest problems facing the legal industry today is the sheer inaccessibility of legal information. Not only does this inaccessibility prevent millions of Americans from obtaining reliable legal information, but it also prevents many attorneys from adequately providing legal services to their clients. Whether locked behind government paywalls or corporate cash registers, legal information is simply not efficiently and affordably attainable through traditional means.

There may, however, be an answer. Although the legal industry appears to just be warming up to social media for marketing purposes, social media platforms, like Twitter, may have the untapped potential to help solve the accessibility problem. This Note attempts to prove that assertion by showing an iteration of social media’s potential alternative use, as an effective and free information sharing mechanism for legal professionals and the communities and clients they serve.

Generally speaking, law review editors and other academicians demand that authors support every claim with a citation, or, at the very least, require extensive research to support claims or theses. This Note seeks to fulfill this requirement, with a variation on conventional legal scholarship. Almost all of the sources in this Note were obtained via Twitter. Thus, this somewhat experimental piece should demonstrate social media’s potential as an emerging and legitimate source of legal information. By perceiving and using social media as something more than a marketing tool, lawyers, law schools, and, most importantly, clients, may be able to tap into a more diverse and more accessible well of information. This redistribution of information accessibility may not only solve some of the problems facing the legal industry, but also has the capability to improve society at large.

Hat tip to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites post. — Joe

For history of US legal education buffs, Yale Law School Library’s Document Collection Center has launched a wonderful resource, Litchfield Law School Sources.

This resource brings together text, images, interpretive material and bibliography about Litchfield Law School and the law notebooks kept by its students.  During the school’s years of operation, 1774 to 1833, nearly 1,000 young men traveled to Litchfield to study with Tapping Reeve, the founder, and James Gould, his assistant and sole proprietor after Reeve’s death. More than 270 notebooks have survived, representing the efforts of 90 students as they recorded law lectures delivered by their teachers and copied charts and essays on particular points of  law. At a time when the usual method of legal training in this country was an apprenticeship with a solo practioner, these notebooks are evidence of the beginning of professional legal education, based on a comprehensive curriculum which relied heavily on the content and structure of  William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Why did so many of the best and the brightest sons from elite families attend Litchfield? For the answer comb through the provided resources. See, for example, Composite Curriculum at Litchfield Law School based on lectures of Tapping Reeve, 1790-1798.

Hat tip to Dan Ernst’s Legal History Blog post. — Joe

A new gold rush has come to California, with the state’s massive legal system open for mining as courts and lawyers move to new technology. Investor Warren Buffett’s right hand man has joined in the race along with enormous software and publishing companies from around the nation. “It’s truly the wild west here in California,” said an industry insider, “a land grab.”

They are scrambling for a mother lode of multi-million-dollar contracts for software and licensing, vast additional sums for upkeep, and the right to set up a toll booth on Court Road for 38 million people. — Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News Service

Why? Dinzeo explains that “the rush of deal-making follows the collapse of a half-billion-dollar, ten-year state project to develop a Court Case Management System for all California’s 58 trial courts. Widely savaged by judges as a ‘fiasco” and a “boondoggle,’ the software developed by Deloitte Consulting was abandoned last year.” For much more see Tech Gold Rush Strikes CA Courts. — Joe

Sounds like New England Law School administration has found a novel hardball way to downsize faculty ranks. The title of Blog Emperor Caron’s post explains the School’s plans in a nutshell: New England Law Faculty Face 8-Course Teaching Loads, Mandatory Office Presence (M-F, 9-5) Unless 35% Accept Buyouts. Yikes, that sounds like the four letter word most feared in the legal academy — W O R K. Apparently tenured and junior profs targeted for buyouts will have to work such grueling hours if they do not accept the buyouts being offered before start of the 2014 academic year.

Hat tip to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports. — Joe

Hat tip to DigitalKoans for calling attention to Jingfeng Xia’s The Open Access Divide, Publications 2013, 1(3), 113-139; doi:10.3390/publications1030113. Here’s the abstract:

This paper is an attempt to review various aspects of the open access divide regarding the difference between those academics who support free sharing of data and scholarly output and those academics who do not. It provides a structured description by adopting the Ws doctrines emphasizing such questions as who, what, when, where and why for information-gathering. Using measurable variables to define a common expression of the open access divide, this study collects aggregated data from existing open access as well as non-open access publications including journal articles and extensive reports. The definition of the open access divide is integrated into the discussion of scholarship on a larger scale.

— Joe

At least not until after they appear. Louis J. Sirico, Jr. apologies for a robo ad that appeared on Legal Skills Prof Blog, a member of Blog Emperor Caron’s ROBOnanza:

I am sorry that this blog was used for a cheap political stun.  I have deleted the ad.

For details about the robo ad by a political group that disparaged one of his colleagues who is seeking election as a trial judge, see Sirico’s post, Ads Appearing on This Blog. — Joe

Hat tip to Legal Informatics Blog for calling attention to D’Aspremont and Van den Herik’s The Digitalization of the Assembly Line of Knowledge About Law: A Reinvention of the Confrontational Nature of Legal Scholarship? [SSRN]. Here’s the abstract:

This paper reflects upon the rise of new tools of production and dissemination of knowledge about law as well as their impact on the dynamics and the nature of the profession of legal scholar. Taking the contemporary international legal scholarship as a case-study, it discusses the potentially dramatic changes brought about by the new media of communication, not only with respect to the configuration of the assembly line of knowledge about law in the 21st century but also regarding the profession of legal academic as a whole.

This paper starts by distinguishing modes of law-making and modes of knowledge-production with a view to showing that these two modes of production of authoritative statements share are not always following radically different dynamics. It then recalls that the production of knowledge about law has always been estranged from the State and rested on a competitive social process between professionals. The paper subsequently makes the point that knowledge-producing processes in international legal scholarship have been dramatically altered in the cyber-age. Knowledge about international law is now created, selected and disseminated through previously unknown channels that cannot be influenced by the State. These mutations have required legal scholars to change how they envisage and construe their contribution to the production of knowledge and thus how they see their own profession. The paper finally formulates some concluding remarks about what it means for the discipline as a whole.

— Joe

“It’s always interesting to see how a lawyer’s oral argument marries up to their briefing, and for me, it helps give greater context to the points,” wrote Jason Wilson at The Annotated Oral Argument: Tucker v. Thomas (#SCOTX). Check out his example of annotating an oral argument  conducted before the Supreme Court of Texas. (NB: the annotation links to open source texts of court opinions and statutory code sections.) He adds, “If y’all like these annotated arguments, I can start posting more here or on Annotations.”

I think Jason is onto something here. While I have little need for Lone Star State annotated oral arguments here in the Buckeye State, I think e-publishing high court annotated oral arguments by an editorial staff that actually knows something (and links to open or opened resources) is a great idea. Hell, that’s why I buy Jones McClure’s annotated federal codes instead of … well, you know.

I would be very interested in annotated US Supreme Court oral arguments, ditto for the Supreme Court of Ohio, if produced by a reliable publisher like Jones McClure. At the SCOTUS level, who might that be? Hint — who is the sponsor of SCOTUSblog and the publisher of USLW?

Joe

Hat tip to Legal Research Plus for calling attention to this interesting NBER working paper:

Searching for Physical and Digital Media: The Evolution of Platforms for Finding Books by Michael R. Baye, Babur De los Santos, Matthijs R. Wildenbeest

NBER Working Paper No. 19519; Issued in October 2013

Abstract: This paper provides a data-driven overview of the different online platforms that consumers use to search for books and booksellers, and documents how the use of these platforms is shifting over time. Our data suggest that, as a result of digitization, consumers are increasingly conducting searches for books at retailer sites and closed systems (e.g., the Kindle and Nook) rather than at general search engines (e.g., Google or Bing). We also highlight a number of challenges that will make it difficult for researchers to accurately measure internet-based search behavior in the years to come. Finally, we highlight a number of open agenda items related to the pricing of books and other digital media, as well as consumer search behavior.

Joe

At Noon, Central Time, today, Rich Leiter and the gang will be hosting the PLL-SIS Executive Board at Law Librarian Conversations to discuss the new normal in law firm libraries. Topics include a proposed name change for PLL-SIS. Jean O’Grady, chair of the PLL Board, provides more information about the topics to be discussed including for example the success of the annual PLL Summit, on Dewey B Strategic. Sounds like a very interesting program. — Joe

Hat tip to Peter Martin for calling my attention to Citing Legally: Occasional observations about the citation of legal authorities by lawyers and judges. The blog is a byproduct of this year’s revision of Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (online edition hosted by LII) and the forthcoming revision of The Bluebook. Launched yesterday, Citing Legally’s first post is titled Statutes – Citation norms that reinforce copyright claims. Highly recommended. — Joe

I want to thank all the readers of old LLB for making our last month on the Law Professor Blogs Network such a smash hit. Not counting our We’re Moving post, Mark and I published only 2 posts on old LLB in September (because I forgot that I had scheduled them) while traffic reached record-breaking heights — 59,947 page views with 57,395 visits as measured by SiteMeter.

Wait a minute, that’s virtually a 1 to 1 ratio of views per visits. Ditto for August. Normally old LLB’s ratio was 1.4 page views per visit as logged by SiteMeter.  I need to amend my early statement:

Thank you robots for making the last two months so special for old LLB.

Typically about 50% of traffic to a web destination is generated by robots. The above 1:1.4 stat for old LLB included such robot traffic. Then there are botnets designed to mess with web traffic stats. See Christopher Steward and Suzanne Vranica’s Phony Web Traffic Tricks Digital Ads (WSJ).

In the case of old LLB’s August-September traffic increase, I think another acknowledgement must be sent out into the uncensored blogosphere:

Thanks Blog Emperor Caron for your tech crew’s “robust testing” before launching the Law Professor Blogs Network’s make-over in August.

Initially I thought googlebot was hitting “LPBN 2.0” just because of the implementation of the redesign generally. Perhaps not. No chance that robots hit old LLB during its last two months so frequently because of the sloppy implementation of robo-ads on Network blogs, right?

I don’t know about current Network authors but I’m thinking this is “bad for business”.  As illustrated by LLB’s SiteMeter stats, below, some but not all Network blogs have  experienced a similar — purely coincidental, right? — traffic pattern change starting in August. Oops.

And then there is the traffic log for one of two SiteMeters for Blog Emperor Caron’s own blog. Over one million page views in September and 2 million page views since August as of last evening.  See  the below screen capture. — Joe

Old LLB Traffic StatsTaxProf Blog SiteMeter Log