In The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts (Oxford UP, 2016), Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind predict that our Internet-based society will have little need for teachers, accountants, architects, lawyers, and many other professions (librarians?), who continue to work as they did in the 20th century. The book describes the people and systems that will replace them. From the book’s blurb:

The authors challenge the ‘grand bargain’ — the arrangement that grants various monopolies to today’s professionals. They argue that our current professions are antiquated, opaque and no longer affordable, and that the expertise of their best is enjoyed only by a few. In their place, they propose six new models for producing and distributing expertise in society.

Some food for thought after AALL’s name change debacle. Recommended. — Joe

“LexPredict has developed an algorithm, {MARSHALL}+, that the company says can accurately predict Supreme Court cases. Using their algorithm, they’ve come up with predictions on which cases will be affected [by Justice Scalia’s death]” writes Bob Ambrogi. According to LexPredict, there are 14 cases whose decisions are likely to be impacted. “These changes will result in either reverse to affirm or vice versa switches, or by changing the opinions from precedential to non-precedential.” Details here. — Joe

End Note: On a related note, SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe examines whether there is a standard practice of not nominating and confirming Supreme Court Justices during a presidential election year. Read more about it. See also Lyle Denniston’s Is a recess appointment to the Court an option?, also on SCOTUSblog.

From February 11th’s report of 2015 full-year and Q4 earnings results comes the news that TRI’s cash cow, Thomson Reuters Legal, reported an operating profit margin of 29.4% for 2015. That’s one percentage point higher than last year’s results. Propelling this increase is the high-margin legal solutions line of products and services. As US Print continues its death spiral and US Online Legal Information remains stagnant, Solutions grew revenues by 6%. There is reason to believe that the continued growth of Solutions likely will produce an operating profit margin of 30% by the end of 2016. Soon, too, Solutions will represent 50+% of TR Legal’s revenue.  See graphics, below.

During the Great Recession, the Shed West era of collection development brought dramatic change to TRI’s balance sheet. From a high of 33%, TR Legal’s operating profit margin dropped to 26%. TR Legal shifted gears from being a publisher to being a legal solutions vendor that happened to have a large digital inventory of legal information.  That is to say one of our three very expensive suppliers of legal information is coming out of the Great Recession no longer primarily focused on legal publishing.  There will be consequences for the law library community. For one, I doubt many law libraries outside of the private sector participate in the solutions market. — Joe

tri 2015 legal results

tri 2015 pie

In response to a takedown notice issued by Lawriter (dba Casemaker), Fastcase is seeking a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief in US District Court so that it can continue to publish the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations for the Company’s 800,000 member subscription base, including, interestingly enough, members of the Georgia state bar. In a nutshell, Fastcase is hoping for a ruling that states that no one can own and publish exclusively public law. Here is the complaint in what may be a landmark case for the Open Law movement. — Joe

Update: Bob Ambrogi reports that Lawriter will not fight Fastcase’s lawsuit.

AALL’s rank-and-file turned out to vote down the Executive Board’s unanimously recommended rebranding of AALL as the Association for Legal Information (ALI). The “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” argument opposing the initiative apparently resonated with many voters. The vote wasn’t even close:  80% opposed to 20% in favor. By AALL standards, voter turnout was extremely high at almost 60% of the membership, indicative I think of the collective nerve the Executive Board struck with its proposal. Rare indeed it is for the rank-and-file to stand up to be counted in opposition to the Executive Board. This aging and decrepit law librarian cannot remember the last time the membership so forcefully slapped around the Executive Board.

I voted for the name change. It offered the admittedly long-shot chance at presenting additional opportunities for reforming AALL so I wanted to see this recommendation pass. I just wish the Executive Board had brought this issue to the attention of the rank-and-file in a more direct way.

While the Executive Board and HQ staff did a good communications job — emails, enewsletters, videos of Executive Board members, AALL communities, etc., I would have preferred to see the issue also debated at our annual meeting’s members open forum before the Executive Board took any action whatsoever. Had the Executive Board heard the hue and cry calling for adding the word “professionals” to the proposed name, the Association of Legal Information Professionals (ALIP) might have persuaded many of the “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” voters to accept changing AALL’s name.

I, however,  would have voted against renaming AALL ALIP because this matter should be about what we work with — legal information — and who we work for — private, government and academic sector employers — not about our professional self-identification be that as law librarians or legal information professionals. While I will keep paying my membership dues to Ye Olde AALL, I also would pay membership dues to an Association for Legal Information, if some of the 496 rank-and-file members and Executive Board members who voted for the name change were to take it upon themselves to establish ALI. That, however, seems highly unlikely; I think the carpe diem moment may have passed.  – Joe

NB: AALL has scheduled a virtual town hall for Tuesday, February 23, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (CST) “to provide time for further discussion and to answer any questions you may have.”

In The State of Legal Research Education; A Survey of First Year Legal Research Programs or ‘Why Johnny and Jane Cannot Research’ [SSRN] Washington and Lee’s Caroline Osborne identifies the following four elements in the ideal design for a basic legal research class:

  1. A required research class of a minimum of two credits taught in the spring semester of the first year (1 credit) and the fall semester of the two-L year (1 credit).
  2. A professor with both a JD and an MLS or MIS, preferably admitted to the bar and possessing some experience in the practice of law or an equivalent level of practical experience.
  3. A grading schema equivalent to that of the first year doctrinal courses.
  4. A curriculum that includes research strategy; the fundamental resources of secondary sources, case research, statutory research and the administrative state; problem-solving; and concepts of efficiency and effectiveness.

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Dissatisfaction with the research skills of the new associate is an oft-repeated refrain. This article explores the state of research education in the law school curriculum. Questions explored include: whether or not legal research is a required first year class; the number of semester of research instruction; the expertise of the professor; number of credits awarded for legal research, scope of the curriculum and observed challenges. Also considered is the impact of a more vigorous writing focus on research skills education. Survey data collected from the two hundred ranked law schools is used to explore these questions and as the basis for reforming research education.

Recommended. — Joe

Among several other product announcements, Thomson Reuters Legal recently disclosed that it will release in beta the first legal product using Watson’s cognitive computing technologies by year’s end. On Dewey B Strategic, Jean O’Grady writes

Ever since TR announced their collaboration with IBM Watson last October, the legal community has been impatient to learn how this alliance will manifest in a legal product. We still don’t know but TR did promise that they will be the first company for built a legal product using Watson technology. The alliance will combine IBM’s cognitive computing with TR’s deep domain expertise. A panel of executives from TR and Watson revealed that there will be a beta product available by the end of 2016. Their first collaboration will focus on taming the complexities of global financial regulation.

Bob Ambrogi adds “The product will help users untangle the sometimes-confusing web of global legal and regulatory requirements and will be targeted at customers in corporate legal, corporate compliance and law firms. Initially, it will focus on financial services, [Erik Laughlin, managing director, Legal Managed Services and Corporate Segment, and head of the Watson Initiative] suggested, but will also address other domains important to corporations.”

Very interesting. Wouldn’t it be something if TR was prepared to demonstrate how this product will work at AALL ALI AALL in Chicago this year? — Joe

Sarah Glassmeyer has released the results of a survey of state primary law. State Legal Information Census (PDF). Here’s the abstract:

This report presents findings from a survey of state level primary legal information.   Primary legal information includes code (codified statutes passed by state legislatures), regulations (codified collections of rules passed by administrative agencies) and case law (appellate court decisions).  This survey was done with the goal of reviewing the free and open status of this legal information.

Findings indicate that there exists at least 14 barriers to accessing legal information.  These barriers exist for both the individual user of a resource for personal research as well as a institutional user that would seek to republish or transform the information.   At the time of the census, no state provided barrier-free access to their legal information.

Furthermore, analysis of the legal information provided by states shows that it is impossible to do any but the most basic of legal research for free using state provided legal information sources.  Current collections allow for citation retrieval and some basic keyword searching.  No state allows for federated searching of legal information collections.   The universal lack of a citator for case law renders these collections, as a practical matter, useless and would be considered malpractice for a legal practitioner to rely upon.   There is also a worrisome lack of archival material maintained by states.  Not only does this affect one’s ability to do comprehensive research, but it also could be indicative of a lack of adequate preservation.

States were scored and ranked based on the openess of their legal publication practices.  On a scale of 0 – 24, the highest score achieved was 18.  The lowest was 8 and the median was 14.  These results were compared against the adoption of the Uniform Electronic Legal Information Act (UELMA) and it was found that adoption of UELMA did not correlate to barrier free publication practices.

— Joe

Yes, Judge Richard Posner has written another book, Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary (Harvard UP, Janurary 2016). Here’s the blurb:

Judges and legal scholars talk past one another, if they have any conversation at all. Academics couch their criticisms of judicial decisions in theoretical terms, which leads many judges―at the risk of intellectual stagnation―to dismiss most academic discourse as opaque and divorced from reality. In Divergent Paths, Richard Posner turns his attention to this widening gap within the legal profession, reflecting on its causes and consequences and asking what can be done to close or at least narrow it.

The shortcomings of academic legal analysis are real, but they cannot disguise the fact that the modern judiciary has several serious deficiencies that academic research and teaching could help to solve or alleviate. In U.S. federal courts, which is the focus of Posner’s analysis of the judicial path, judges confront ever more difficult cases, many involving complex and arcane scientific and technological distinctions, yet continue to be wedded to legal traditions sometimes centuries old. Posner asks how legal education can be made less theory-driven and more compatible with the present and future demands of judging and lawyering.

Law schools, he points out, have great potential to promote much-needed improvements in the judiciary, but doing so will require significant changes in curriculum, hiring policy, and methods of educating future judges. If law schools start to focus more on practical problems facing the American legal system rather than on debating its theoretical failures, the gulf separating the academy and the judiciary will narrow.

— Joe

It’s almost time to vote on the Executive Board’s unanimous recommendation that our association change its name to the Association for Legal Information (or “ally,” not “A”, “L”, “I”). But it is going to take more than mere rebranding (with its $185,000 price tag) to transform AALL into a vital organization for legal information consumers today and into the future. I wonder if we are up to the task of creating a new normal for providing leadership in the field of legal information and information policy.

Will we see a membership drive that reaches out to legal information professionals who work outside of the law library if the name change proposal is accepted by the rank-and-file? Of course, it is hard for many law librarians to justify paying AALL dues. Will non-law librarians working in the legal information field find the cost worth it to join under the big tent to be known as ALI? Non-traditional legal information professionals have been able to join AALL with full membership privileges for a couple of years now with no perceptible growth in membership rolls. While AALL doesn’t need money from new dues-paying members, our association does need to grow a non-traditional legal information membership base to change the negative connotations associated with “libraries” and “librarians.” If we change our name without also expanding our membership base, we will not be able to promote the value of all legal information professionals in any substantive way.

Will we see the rationale for this name change begin being realized with something other than the same old programming typical of most of our previous annual meetings? Hell if I know if AALL is prepared to “make it new.” I doubt an annual meeting programming initiative will happen without an influx of new, non-traditional members who, like the rest of us, are tasked with the professional mission of putting content in context. If we change our name without acquiring experts in the fields of knowledge management, competitive intelligence, legal analytics, search engine engineering and artificial intelligence as ALI members, we will have lost an opportunity to foster the development of the legal information profession.

Will we see a major revision of AALL’s bylaws? To give this rebranding effort teeth to take a bite out of negative, limiting, narrow perceptions about “libraries” and “librarians,” constitutional reform of AALL is needed. That reform, in my opinion, ought not to be put off. A case can be made that the Executive Board’s rebranding initiative should have been postponed until substantive bylaw reforms are made and voted on by the membership. If we change our name without restructuring our association, we will be in no better position to serve a leadership role than we were during the Great Recession; our association needs more than a name change to respond to the forces of change being thrust upon legal information professionals and their employers in the 21st century.

What we do see so far is that AALL has done a good communications job. There are plenty of resources available to members to read more about the proposed name change, including:

End Note: I have no illusions about membership drives, annual meeting programming and bylaw revisions but I will be voting in favor of the name change because of the opportunities it presents. I have not seen an argument opposed to the name change written in the blogosphere but an excellent post in favor can be found here. Voting opens Tuesday, January 12th, and results will be announced on February 11th. – Joe

From the announcement by Rick McKinney (Federal Reserve Board Law Library):

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (LLSDC) is pleased to announce a new addition to its Legislative Source Book entitled “Sources for the Congressional Record: Free and Commercial”. The new website contains a list with links to most all online sources for the Congressional Record, free and commercial, with dates of coverage, including the bound Record, the daily edition, the Congressional Record Index, and predecessors to the Congressional Record. Also included are brief notations about search, browse, print, and cite retrieval capabilities of the sources as well information on libraries with paper and microform issues. Finally there are a number of links to aid researchers in understanding the Congressional Record, its history, its volume numbers, and what is or is not included in the pages of the Record.

Visit LLSDC’s Legislative Source Book. — Joe

Prompted by Thomson Reuters Legal’s decision to make Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure more selective in describing and analyzing new case developments, Professor Joan Steinman, a co-author of the treatise, has been publishing digital compilations of case descriptions and citations to law review articles that complements the contents of the pocket parts to volumes 14B and C of the Wright & Miller treatise. “The cases described here either are not included at all in the 2015 volume 14B and C Pocket Parts or are cited there for different propositions than are reflected in this electronic publication.” Quoting from the abstract for Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted July 7, 2015]. See also Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted March 4, 2014].

This is the first time I’ve noticed something like this happening. Treatise authors confronted by similar WEXIS editorial decisions may want to follow Professor Steinman’s example. Unfortunately, the pocket parts at issue make no mention of Professor Steinman’s digital supplement. A statement could have been placed at the end of the following quotation from the pocket parts’ Preface:

As always, it is essential that the judge or lawyer using the Treatise check the supplementary material in connection with the question in which he or she is interested in order to be fully informed of the current state of the law.

— Joe

Ask most legal professionals where the Bluebook originated and they will likely say “Harvard Law School.” In The Secret History of the Bluebook (Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, 2016 Forthcoming) [SSRN], Fred R. Shapiro (Yale) and Julie Graves Krishnaswami (Yale) beg to differ. They trace the origin of the Bluebook to Yale. As proof, the authors point to a 1920 one-page set of citation rules covering court opinions, law reviews, and treatises prepared for the use of the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal by William Murray Field under the direction of Karl Llewellyn, both YLS grads. In 1921, the Yale Law Journal expanded the Llewellyn-Field rules with the publication of “Abbreviations and Form of Citation”. Seven of the tiny 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ pages covered citation formats with seven additional pages being a table of abbreviations. (A second version of the “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” pamphlet containing only minor additions was printed in 1924.)

Following Yale’s lead in what we would call today, the uniform citation movement, Harvard Law School produced its own guide for the Harvard Law Review editioral staff in 1922, “Instructions for Editorial Work.” Many have pointed to the Harvard document as being the precusor to the first edition of the Bluebook which was published in 1926. The authors argue that the claim is unjustified because the Bluebook’s first edition only contains one sentence from HLS’ “Instructions for Editorial Work” while approximately 30 sentences from YLS’ “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” are found in the Bluebook’s first edition. Other similarities between Yale’s “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” and the Bluebook exist, e.g., the size and design and layout of the covers of the early editions of The Bluebook mimic Yale’s 1921 and 1924 pamphlet editions of “Abbreviations and Form of Citation.” There is much more historial detail in this highly recommended article that cannot be covered in this brief post. The article, for example, details workloads, copyright ownership and revenue sharing of the proceeds of the various editions of the Bluebook.

With the recent publication of the latest edition of The Bluebook, we can expect numerious articles by Bluebookologists for Bluebookologists about our current edition of the Bluebook as has happened when prior editions were first released. This time around, Shapiro and Krishnaswami set the record straight about where and how this work began. Highly recommended for Bluebookologists and anyone else interested in the adoption and use of standardized citation practices and advances in legal bibliography. — Joe

Last Friday, Thomson Reuters released its third quarter financial results. For TR Legal

  • Revenues increased 1%. Excluding US print, revenues grew 3%.
  • Solutions businesses (46% of the segment’s revenues) grew 4%, slightly lower than the first half of the year due to timing factors. Revenue growth was driven by Elite, Serengeti, Pangea3 legal managed services, and the Investigations and Public Records business. Solutions businesses represent all of Legal’s revenues excluding US print and US online legal information.
  • US online legal information (40% of the segment’s revenues) grew 2%, reflecting growth for the third consecutive quarter.
  • US print (14% of the segment’s revenues) declined 8%, as expected.
  • EBITDA was unchanged and the margin increased 90 basis points to 38.8% compared to 37.9% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 30 basis points.
  • Operating profit increased 4% and the margin increased 200 basis points to 31.7% compared to 29.7% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 130 basis points due to lower depreciation and amortization expense.

triq3dia

As one can see from the above, US Print and US Online Legal only represents 54% of the revenue generated by TR Legal during Q3. Solutions is the revenue growth driver and likely will surpass 50% of TR Legal’s total revenue in a couple of years as US Print continues its death spiral.

triq3

Do note TR Legal’s profit margin for the nine months ended Sept. 30th. At 29.3%, it is substantially higher than all of TR’s other divisions: Financial & Risk (17%), Tax & Accounting (21%), and Intellectual Property & Science (20.4%).

— Joe

Rick McKinney, Assistant Law Librarian, Federal Reserve Board Law Library, posted the following announcement on various AALL lists:

The Federal Law Librarians Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. is pleased to announce the availability on its website of a new online resource entitled Quick Links and Sources to U.S. Court Opinions. The new website presents quick links to all major sources for U.S. Court opinions including sites for recent years, sites for recent and historical years, and subscription sites. It also presents direct links to court opinion sites of specific U.S. courts such as the U.S. courts of appeals as well links to opinion sites to those courts before the 1990’s.  Each specific’s court’s abbreviation and city location can also be found and there is an example of how new slip opinions can be cited. The new website is also linked on LLSDC’s Legislative Source Book.

Bookmark it. — Joe

Available on SSRN, Michigan Law School prof Michael D. Murray’s The Ethics of Visual Legal Rhetoric is a timely contribution to the legal writing literature. Here’s the abstract:

This Article discusses the application of visual rhetorical techniques in legal writing and the ethical questions that are raised regarding the use of these techniques. It is likely that visual rhetoric will be used in brief writing and general legal communications at an increasing rate because the research and scholarship of a wide range of disciplines — law and popular culture, cognitive studies and brain science, data visualization studies, and modern argument theory in rhetoric — indicate the communicative power of visual techniques. This fact coincides with the development of technology in the production of legal documents, and technology in the reading and reception of legal documents, that allow judges and attorneys to access full-color graphics, imbedded video, and multimedia content, and follow hyperlinks in the normal course of reading legal briefs and memoranda.

The recognition in the literature that visual rhetoric is rapid, efficient, constructive, and persuasive reveals the potential of visual rhetorical devices to serve as topics and tropes in legal discourse to construct meaning and to inform and persuade legal audiences. The visual rhetorical topics and tropes inspire inventive thinking about the law that constructs meaning, for the author and the audience. For many members of the legal writing discourse community — judges, practitioners, government agencies, and academics — the modes of persuasion of visual rhetoric can construct meaning and improve the persuasiveness of legal discourse generally in content, arrangement, and style.

Attorneys should fulfill their professional responsibility to use the best practices to represent the interests of their clients in law practice. However, the cautions of scholars as to the dangerous power of visuals to deceive or to overpower more deliberative forms of rational thought and analysis are not lightly to be dismissed. The speed and power of visuals is seductive. Visual topics and tropes are subject to abuse, and must be used ethically and with careful regard to their propriety as a tool to create meaning and inspire imagination, and not used as a tool of deception or obfuscation within the rhetorical situation at hand. I conclude that visual rhetorical devices are a proper form of legal rhetoric if they are used to construct knowledge and understanding of the meaning and message of the communication and do not mislead or prejudice the audience’s reception or understanding of the communication.

Recommended. — Joe