I wrote a post about three years ago for the old Law Librarian Blog on why new law students should make friends with a law librarian.  That post was deleted along with all the other LLB posts after the “trouble.”  I found a copy recently, and given that this is the time of year for orientation, I thought it would be worth it to post again.  I think it’s still relevant today.  Here goes:

U.S. News & World Report has a short post out for new law students who will start their law school career in the next few weeks. It offers four points for navigating law school:

  1. Come prepared
  2. Focus on finals
  3. Make friends
  4. Remove distractions

I’d like to focus for a moment on the third one.  The author suggests making connections within the law school and the wider university through activities and other diversions as a break from the law school routine. That’s great advice as law school can be a highly competitive grind.  I’d like to make one other suggestion that may help the new student:  get to know a librarian.  Why? Because we know stuff that students do not.

We know the cycle of the law school academic year. It normally doesn’t shock us when 1Ls invade the library for the legal writing treasure hunt.  It’s not exactly the running of the bulls, but there are certain parallels.  For students it’s a new experience.  For us, it’s “been there done that.”  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even for the simple stuff.  There’s usually a ready answer that can make a student’s life easier.

We also know the resources.  It may be nice to have all of those apps on tablets and phones. And I’m sure there are plenty of new law students who have a lot of experience doing research in college. Legal research, however, is a different animal. Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law are not free in the wild. The mechanics can be a challenge despite the trend to provide Google-style interfaces. Librarians understand how this stuff works and can help.

I’ll offer related word of advice: not everything is online. More important, not everything is online and is free.  It’s more often than not a pay for play world.  Luckily the law library has licensed a lot of the good stuff.  We can tell students what information is easily accessible and what is not.  We can also ex plain how to get remote access to stuff, like articles, hard to find documents, exams, and other materials.

Librarians know the law school. We’re not the concierge for the school, but we know how it works. We can tell you generally which office likely handles what responsibility.  We can tell you where are public copiers, scanners, microform readers (yes, they are still necessary) and other useful resources may be.  We can also tell you generally what your expectations should be in using them. The library is probably the friendliest location in the law school.  Students use the library facility regularly in spite of the integration of technology into the curriculum. We try to make the place a comfortable and quiet space to study.  Take advantage of that.

So, make friends with a librarian.  We won’t break the rules for you. But our institutional knowledge of the law program and legal information can make a student’s life easier. We even know where the bathrooms are located.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

Mark

Or is the correct term “wither?”  I was wondering, at least.  I was in the process of putting together a handout for a lecture I was giving to law review cite checkers on sources and strategies when I thought I’d include Microsoft Academic Search as an alternative to Google Scholar.  A Search in Google brought up links to the page which turned out to be unavailable.  I hadn’t used Academic Search in a while as it was light on law and law related sources.  As it turned out, the site was shut down.  A page in Wikipedia basically stated that the service was folded into Bing.  Pity that as the model Scholar uses is ad free and limits itself to scholarly items.  Bing, of course, is a general search.  That’s not to say it can’t bring up specific articles and their sources.  A scholarly search site would be a more efficient way to find this stuff.  More information on the decline and fall of MS Academic Search is available from Newsblog.

Note:  Let me know if anyone is interested in the guide I referred to earlier.  It is DePaul centric in terms of databases and electronic strategies.  I’m sure the guide could be adapted to any library if one wanted to edit it.  I need to make a few minor changes to it based on the lecture questions.  I could send out copies within a day of request.

Mark

I posted about three weeks ago about the discussion going on at my library concerning the maintenance of the National Reporter System as well as other bibliographic items.  This was in connection with ABA Standards for law school library collection allowing for “reliable access” to primary law through electronic resources.  This got me wondering.  I know that current and ongoing material would be on Lexis and Westlaw and other resources.  The immediate question is how far back does everything go?  I would assume through representations that the databases cover all case law from the beginning.

I wound up checking each information statement for case law in WestlawNext and compared it to everything that is a citable item in Table 1 of the Bluebook.  Westlaw does, in fact, represent that it carries case law for every item listed as a citable reporter in the Bluebook.  I’m in the process of checking Lexis at the moment.  While I can take issue with the way Lexis organizes its case law files, the survey so far indicates that it goes all the way back as well.  Lexis does have some interesting additions in that it seems there are databases for circuit court reports for a select number of states.  I’m still working on that survey.

I’m considering an expansion of the survey to other databases such as Hein Online as well as free resources such as Google’s case law and books and other reliable databases for comparative purposes.  Hein’s historical databases for case law and statutes continue to expand, especially for state published items.   I’m also interested in the formats (text only, PDF, etc.) and the range of coverage for each file type.  This information would likely be useful for cite checkers and reference librarians.  I have the initial WestlawNext chart for coverage by reporter and date.  Feel free to contact me for a copy.  I’ll post my progress as I get through this.  I may ultimately turn this into an article that compares type of material to availability, format, and whether it’s reliably free or in a subscription database.  We’ll see if I have the stamina as this goes forward.

Mark

There is an interesting discussion going on at my library.  As others may be doing, we are considering the proper mix between print and online resources.  ABA law school accreditation Standard 606 now allows for “a core collection of essential materials through ownership or reliable access.”  It’s that last part, “reliable access,” that triggers deep soul searching of what to buy in print or what to buy as an electronic subscription.  Tempering the rule are other qualifications that state the core collection should support faculty scholarship and the curriculum, and that a collection that consists of a single format may violate Standard 606.

In this context I’ve recommended that we drop the National Reporter System, ALRs, CJS, multiple state codes, and selected treatises that are online.  This may sound radical to some.  I know that law schools and libraries are experiencing budget cuts due to lower enrollment.  That drives part of the analysis.  Another factor that bears thought is what we teach these days.  The legal writing program at DePaul started teaching all electronic research.  We experienced a drop in library visits as a consequence.  No more treasure hunts, no answering the same questions over and over at the reference desk.

I can remember how far we’ve come in electronic access.  We used to teach print resources because that’s what the legal market had out there.  Now electronic access to case law and other primary sources is ubiquitous.  At one time it was viable to teach print because the databases were based on print.  Understand the organization of print and the online version would make more sense.  That’s not so true anymore.  Online database providers no longer think in terms of echoing print other than citation and star paging.  Certainly there was a time when case law on Westlaw was organized by reporter.  Not anymore.  It’s all jurisdictional, and that seems natural now compared to looking for a database containing the Northeastern Reporter.

Look at how citators have changed.  There was a time when Shepards online would be no more current than the latest print update.  Even the CD-ROM product mirrored print.  Now everything is dynamic.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to subscribe to the print edition at this point.  We cancelled our print copies years ago. If anything was made easier by online access, Shepards, KeyCite, and citators in general are it.  They are more complete, can be filtered, and everything is spelled out instead of interpreting symbols attached to citations.

Then there are law reviews.  I have to say how much I like Hein Online when it comes to law reviews.  Everything back to day one is there in PDF format more or less.  We still get paper copies of law reviews but discard them once they appear on Hein.  No more binding these books for the collection.  Google Scholar works as a handy index to Hein content as well as other scholarly databases.

So now the next question is what is the proper mix for print and online?  I know that some libraries have already dropped major primary resources such as reporters.  In one sense, we are behind the curve on making that set of decisions.  Never in my career had I thought I would be part of this kind of decision.  Times change.  I find that I’m not very sentimental about physical materials that no one uses at my library.

Mark

The Supreme Court issued one opinion this morning.  That case, Zivotosky v. Kerry (13-628), resolves a long standing court battle on whether a U.S. passport issued to a citizen born in Jerusalem can state the country of birth as Israel.  The current administration, as well as every previous administration since the United States recognition of Israel in 1948, has declared that Jerusalem is not under the control of any one country.  The Foreign Affairs Manual requires that passports recording of birth location be consistent with administration policy.

Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 in 2002.  Section 214 of the Act is titled “United States Policy with Respect to Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.”  Congress explicitly authorized passports to state the country of birth as Israel for those U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem.   Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem in 2002 and his parents requested his country of birth be listed as Jerusalem.  Consular officials declined the request, setting up the present suit.

There is a long history of this case proceeding up and down the federal court system.  The Supreme Court issued a procedural opinion in 2012 (Zivotofsky v. Clinton) ruling essentially that the federal courts could decide the question.  Three years later the Court rules on the substantive issue, stating that the Act is unconstitutional.  The rationale for this is an analysis of constitutional language,  historical practice, and past precedent touching on presidential power to conduct foreign relations.  The Court acknowledges that Congress can pass legislation that can regulate passports in some circumstances.  Congress, cannot, however, pass legislation that affects the power of the President to recognize (or not) foreign sovereigns.  This Act falls into that latter category.

What struck me most about the opinion is the number of historical secondary sources cited by the Court.  It’s almost a lesson in legal research.  Some of the sources include:

  • Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States §203, Comment a, p. 84 (1986)
  •  2 M. Whiteman, Digest of International Law §1, p. 1 (1963)
  • 1 J. Moore, Digest of International Law §27, p. 73 (1906)
  • I. Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law 93 (7th ed. 2008) (Brownlie)
  • The Federalist No. 69, p. 420 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961)
  • E. de Vattel, The Law of Nations §78, p. 461 (1758) (J. Chitty ed. 1853)
  • 2 C. van Bynkershoek, On Questions of Public Law 156–157 (1737) (T. Frank ed. 1930)
  •  2 H. Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace 440–441 (1625) (F. Kelsey ed. 1925)
  • 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1560, p. 416 (1833)

There are more.  I point this out as someone who has taught Advanced Legal Research, emphasizing that researching international and constitutional law issues requires attention to historical literature.  There is more to interpretation than the latest hornbooks.    The Court’s opinion today validates that.  The Clerks did a marvelous job in working on this case.  I’ll leave the impact of today’s decision to the commentators in the new.

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court and was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment and dissenting in part.  That makes it 6-3.  Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justice Alito.  Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

Mark

One of the many issues coursing through law schools these days is revising the curriculum to produce more practice-ready graduates.  This makes a school’s students more likely to be attractive to firms in that they would need less training on the job to be successful.  I attended a panel discussion several months back at the LexisNexis offices here in Chicago that featured librarians from large firms, small firms, and the federal courts.  The discussion centered on the expectations each of their respective organizations had for interns and new hires.

I found it pretty interesting as we in academics teach research from the perspective of skill and strategies without context.  We talk about being cost effective here in the law schools but sometimes I’m not sure our version of cost effective is the same as that as a firm or legal practice.  One would think that a firm would like to keep costs down as much as possible while at the same time getting the research right. That may be true generally, but the approaches the librarians discussed varied depending on the research topic and the available resources.  The point really is that a student/graduate versed in online legal research should ask how research is conducted at the firm in order to use learned research skills effectively.

One of the other things that came up in the discussion was security.  That’s something I admit I never really thought about.  I’m used to seeing email messages with the standard disclaimer to the effect “this communication is intended for ….”  Client privacy, after all, is an ethical issue.  Those same issues come up in research where graduates find that they are restricted in where and when research is conducted.  I’m sure firm librarians reading this will say “Yes, and?”  It may be a shock to students to learn that firms and courts lock down information with prohibitions against thumb drives containing confidential information and other electronic devices that do the same.  Remote access to a firm’s system is definitely not as casual as logging into a law library’s database list.  Or putting it another way, there is a big difference between what is possible and what a firm allows and how it allows it.

With all of that, there is a recent study funded by Lexis that measured some of the expectations of some 300 hundred hiring partners for so-called practice ready graduates.  Here is the executive summary with links to the full report:

Executive Summary

Law Schools and individual faculty are in the process of revising their curriculum and classes to address the demand for more practice-ready graduates. But what are the most desired research, writing and transactional skills and how can law schools develop these skills most effectively? An independent survey was conducted by 5 Square Research, Inc. and funded by LexisNexis®, to answer these questions and more.

The result is a new white paper, Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice, which shares the responses of 300 hiring partners and associates from small to large law firms practicing in litigation and transactional law.

Key findings include:

  • 96% believe that newly graduated law students lack practical skills related to litigation and transactional practice.
  • 66% deem writing and drafting skills highly important with emphasis on motions, briefs and pleadings
  • Newer attorneys spend 40% – 60% of their time conducting legal research
  • 88% of hiring partners think proficiency using “paid for” research services is highly important
  • Students lack advanced legal research skills in the areas of statutory law, regulations, legislation and more…
  • The most important transactional skills include business and financial concepts, due diligence, drafting contracts and more…
  • A law firm spends approximately $19,000 per year, on average, to train a new associate

This study reveals the most important and most lacking practical skills desired by legal employers and will help inform law schools of the specific content and tasks they can integrate into applicable classes and experiential learning programs pursuant to employer demand and the new ABA standards.

Read the full article with charts, Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice, or view this Executive Overview Prezi*.

*Chrome or Firefox is best for viewing Prezi

Mark

I get kind of busy sometimes with email and other online stuff, doing two or three things at the same time.  I have copied links to place in an email, and then something else to put in a document, and then I get distracted and sometimes put the wrong thing in the wrong document.  I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t inadvertently sent the wrong message with the wrong content to the wrong person.  That doesn’t happen to all of us.  Take, for example, the email sent by Drexel University faculty member Lisa McElroy to her students with a link to a great article about brief writing.  Turns out the link went to content on PornHub instead.  Woopsie.

I have sympathy for Professor McElroy in that this embarrassment was probably not deliberate.  Drexel is investigating.  Here are two links to the story, one from the Drexel University Herald and one from  WPVI-TV Philadelphia.  The latter has a screen shot of the email with the link blocked out.  I liked the Westlaw logo at the top of the message.  What I’d really like to know is not how or why this happened, or even the porn link.  What was the article on brief writing?  That’s what happens when you get to be my age.

Mark

The following is a guest post by Beth E. Applebaum of the Arthur Neef Law Library at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan.  I’m a big fan of Bloomberg Law’s docket search feature, but it does have limitations whether one has access via an academic or commercial contract, as Beth has discovered.  She writes:

Although Bloomberg, WL Dockets and CourtLink can be cost effective tools in retrieving Federal Court Dockets, we recently were reminded that they are not a reliable tool for conducting empirical legal research.

An experienced legal researcher, using appropriate search terms, had been assured by our Bloomberg Rep that “all PACER records were on Bloomberg.” Relying on that information, she used a keyword search to retrieve all filings of a specific motion.

Since PACER dockets on Bloomberg are not updated on a real-time basis, the results were significantly incomplete. According to our Rep, Bloomberg “sweeps” through PACER several times throughout the day to pull in new cases. Once the dockets are in the system, Bloomberg refreshes the civil dockets in U.S. District Courts and Chapter 11 Bankruptcies on a 30 day cycle. (Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 dockets are on a less frequent cycle). Otherwise, updates for specific cases must be requested by the user. The reason the dockets are not updated more frequently is a combination of costs to Bloomberg and “server traffic.”

As a result, a keyword search in Bloomberg will not generate comprehensive results. A time-consuming (and certainly not full-proof) two-step approach is to update all cases in a specific jurisdiction for a specific date range; then conduct the keyword search.

We have reviewed PacerPro, RECAP and Inforuptcy and it does not appear that they provide any better alternatives for empirical research. Our Bloomberg Rep has acknowledged that this issue has been raised by other legal professionals and that as of right now, Bloomberg is “not set up for that kind of
research.”

If you have developed other approaches or work-arounds to deal with these research issues, we’d certainly like to hear about them.

Beth may be contacted at as0941@wayne.edu.  If anyone else would like to add some thoughts to the blog, feel free to contact me. –Mark

One of the running issues I had been following is the attempt to copyright legal briefs with the intention to gain royalties or prevent others from using them.  The particular case that litigates the issue is White v. West Publishing Company and Reed Elsevier (USDC Southern District NY).  District Judge Rakoff ruled that the use by West and Lexis is fair use.  Both companies transform the documents to a different purpose and use according to the Judge’s analysis under the four fair use factors:

The Court finds that West and Lexis’s use of the briefs was transformative for two reasons. First, while White created the briefs solely for the purpose of providing legal services to his clients and securing specific legal outcomes in the Beer litigation, the defendants used the brief toward the end of creating an interactive legal research tool. See Blanch v. Koons, 467 F.3d 224, 251 (2d Cir. 2006) (“The sharply different objectives that Koons had in using, and Bland had in creating [the work] confirms the transformative nature of the use.”). Second, West and Lexis’s processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents “add[] something new, with a further purpose or different character” than the original briefs. Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. While, to be sure, the transformation was done for a commercial purpose, “the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.” Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. Thus, on net, the first factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use.

The Court dismissed the claim with prejudice.  The entire opinion is here, courtesy of ARL.  I’m sure there will be an appeal.  Lawyers are sometimes too smart for their own good.  –Mark

I found another Lexis video published today promoting LexisAdvance.  It’s available hereTry freeze-framing it around 1.46 or so.  You’ll see something like this image which I provide by way of screen capture.  All I can say is I didn’t know the United States Supreme Court published its opinions in the 4th Series of California Reports.   I wonder how long this is going to stay up?Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 3 21 08 PM  I’ve got a bad feeling about this. — Mark

 

There is a longer video from Lexis on the new LexisAdvance interface which reveals more detail about the interface.  There are obvious improvements compared to what currently exists.  I’m not convinced until trying it out.  My uncertainty has more to do with whether the functionality is conducive to work flow.  Lexis seems to think it is.  We’ll see.  As of this writing there are 423 views and no comments for the six minute video. The video is on YouTube here.  While we’re on the subject of videos, some may want to view this video concerning the LexisNexis Digital Library for Law Schools.  –Mark

For those who want to get an idea of the new LexisAdvance interface there is a YouTube video that Lexis has provided.  I can’t tell whether the new design improves searchability or not.  I see an example of a search result but not necessarily the way to get there.  That’s not a criticism.  Anything is better than the one that exists now.  All I would say at this point is Lexis, please do not get rid of the Lexis.com part of the site until the new interface takes hold and works.  Check out the promotional (and I do mean promotional) video here.  Note that comments are disabled.  I wonder why? –Mark

I understand from emails I received that Westlaw Classic is going away on July 1, 2014.  It was last summer when the folks at Three Geeks and a Law Blog noted that WestlawNext Accounted for 80% of the Westlaw revenues.  The post there predicted Classic would go away at the end of 2014.  That was almost right, but certainly right enough for a prediction.

I remember the WestlawNext introduction tour.  I wasn’t sure about WestlawNext at the time.  The “Google”-ization of the search box was an interesting concept.  I wasn’t keen on it then because the new platform seemed more search oriented than browse and search.  That has changed over time with various interface adjustments.  Gone, for example, is the need to put a prefix before a search to indicate that it was Boolean.  I still use the Classic platform on occasion for some tasks.  There is the familiarity factor at work here.  I won’t necessarily miss Classic when it goes away.  WestlawNext is pretty solid at this point.

Turning to Westlaw’s competitor, Lexis has seemed to go in the opposite direction with the LexisAdvance interface.  I thought it was a good product when it was introduced.  The standard database list was available along with a souped up search box.  That changed essentially into the interface we have now.  I know that Lexis has received its share of withering comments over Advanced.  I certainly have made my thoughts clear to the company.  I could elaborate here but there is no point.  I am aware that Lexis is beta testing a new interface that it says addresses customer concerns.  The last target date I heard for release was sometime this summer.  My attitude is that I would prefer the company to get it right than put out an improvement that still needs significant work.  — Mark

If readers haven’t seen the essay on legal writing by Bryan A. Garner published in the February issue of the ABA Journal, here’s a link to it on the Journal’s web site.  It’s hard to argue with the essay that begins with these words:

Legal writing is notoriously dull, slow, cumbersome, obtuse, roundabout and pedantic. There are many reasons: (1) unnecessary jargon, (2) overreliance on abstract nouns, (3) overlong sentences, (4) overlong paragraphs, and (5) the failure to differentiate between useful and useless details.

One of the main arguments is to place citation in footnotes rather than in the text.  The result will be a clearer writing style that communicates appreciably better.  Naturally, there is pushback in the comments.  I have to admit that reading cases, memoranda, and other legal documents when I was in law school pretty much killed most any desire on my part to read long form.  Putting it another way, I don’t read for fun at this point.  I suspect I’m not alone, which may explain why cat videos are so popular on the Internet.  I still have dreams featuring never-ending Civil Procedure I lecture where I’m trying to fathom in rem and in personam jurisdiction.

In other news, the Kansas City Star reports on the tuition war going on between the UMKC School of Law and the University Of Kansas School Of Law.  The border position of both schools between Missouri and Kansas offer options for in-state tuition rates for potential students from either state.  Yes, it’s come to this.  While we’re at it, here is the latest application statistics from the LSAC:

As of 2/7/14, there are 227,912 fall 2014 applications submitted by 32,532 applicants. Applicants are down 11.1% and applications are down 12.2% from 2013.

Last year at this time, we had 62% of the preliminary final applicant count.

Last year at this time, we had 67% of the preliminary final application count.

Not good.

Finally, the National Center for Education Statistics released its annual report on academic libraries called Academic Libraries: 2012 First LookInside Higher Ed has short commentary on the report.  – Mark

I came across Ravel Law today.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  The New York Times calls it “A search, analytics and collaboration tool for lawyers, this platform visualizes and organizes legal cases to highlight patterns and connections between them.”  Some of the confusion I have about the site is due to the limited public access that is available in the free account.  Search results offer opinions from federal and state courts, though the latter are only available with a premium subscription.

I want to emphasize that this is not a review of the site or the full product Ravel offers.  I’ve spent a little bit of time searching some concepts relating to antitrust law as a matter of seeing what results are returned.  My immediate impression is that the site offers full-text opinions with a graphic representation of a case’s relevance combined with relational spokes to other cases that have cited it.  These are represented as interactive circles that work with a citation list.   Hovering on a related case brings up a short snippet of the citing case.  Clicking on a circle brings up the full text of the case.  There is also an interactive timeline that can limit citations to a particular time span.

The value in this appears to relate concepts from one case to others through the visuals on the graph.  The larger the circle, the more important the case will be.  Lines connect one circle to another circle and it’s very easy to see which major cases are connected to other major cases.  This is like a citator on steroids in my opinion as one can get to this point with a simple search.  Citators in Lexis and Westlaw obviously require the analytical starting point to be a citation.  That means multiple steps in developing the analysis that finds the value and use of related cases.  The snippets help immensely in determining which related cases are of value.

I can honestly say that I’m intrigued by what I’ve seen so far.  There is nothing like it in Lexis or Westlaw.  I intend to continue trying out Ravel Law to get a better understanding on how it works.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about this site in the future.  Aside from the information in the Ravel Law FAQ, some commentary about the site by Greg Lambert is in 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. – Mark

Larry Lessig writes

I am completely embarrassed by my google-induced ignorance. And I’m completely committed to tying Bing now that it makes permissions so simple. I’m hopeful they can think more about whether “license” is the right word here. But regardless, Microsoft has taken an important step to make easier for users to use the content they are free to use, and respect the rights of copyright owners who don’t want their content reused.

For more see Lessig’s From now on, I’m “Bing-ing It!”. — Joe