The Washington Post has made available a Foxfire plugin and a Chrome plugin that will automatically display commentary next to Donald Trump’s tweets. Spearheaded by the Post’s politics team at The Fix, the plugins provides context and fact-checking of Trump tweets in real time. Recommended. — Joe
Category Archives: Products & Services
More than 60 years of U.S. laws are now published online and accessible for free for the first time after being acquired through a purchase agreement with William S. Hein & Co, Inc. The Library has made available the main editions and supplements of the United States Code from 1925 through the 1988 edition here.
H/T to beSpacific. — Joe
by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker
A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.
Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.
Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.
Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.
Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.
As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.
Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe
On Free Government Information, James Jacobs observes that the automatic spending cuts in the GOP’s tax plan could decimate the GPO because its revolving fund for FY18 could be cut $2 millions in 2018 with additional cuts for 10 years. “$2 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but GPO only requested $8,540,000 for the revolving fund for FY18. That’s a 25% cut! The revolving fund pays for improvements to GPO’s FDsys (and its successor system, govinfo) as well as other essential IT projects and things like enhancing the cybersecurity of GPO’s IT systems and other necessary physical infrastructure projects.” “With passage of this ‘tax cut’ bill, Jacobs wrote “GPO’s demise is no longer hypothetical. What will FDLP libraries do in that case? Does GPO have a formal succession plan or escrow arrangements (key components of a Trusted Digital Repository audit!)? And what will FDLP libraries do to maintain critical access to and preservation of government information going forward?” — Joe
According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.
Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe
Back in the good old days of the 1980’s when I was a big law firm research librarian (instead of a bean-counting library administrator I have become), I would “push” or proactively supply attorneys resources unsolicited because I thought they may need the information for pending matters we had worked on together. Usually, the material provided was relevant and welcomed. “Push research” as explained by Casetext’s Jake Heller applies artificial intelligence to what amounts to be the electronic footprints of researchers to alert, update and supply resources to the end user sometimes unsolicited as I had done. By the sound of it, AI-engineered “push research” would perform a far better job of providing unsolicited pertinent information than the typical legal research librarian of the 1980s. On ATL, see Jake Heller, Push Research: How AI Is Fundamentally Changing The Way We Research The Law. Recommended. — Joe
Presented at the 16th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law (2017), Jack Conrad and Khalid Al-Kofahi, both employed by Thomson Reuters, explain scenario analytics using the Company’s jury verdict and settlement databases. Here’s the abstract for their paper, Scenario Analytics – Analyzing Jury Verdicts to Evaluate Legal Case Outcomes:
Scenario Analytics is a type of analysis that focuses on the evaluation of different scenarios, their merits and their consequences. In the context of the legal domain, this could be in the form of analyzing large databases of legal cases, their facts and their claims, to answer questions such as: Do the current facts warrant litigation?, Is the litigation best pursued before a judge or a jury?, How long is it likely to take?, and What are the best strategies to use for achieving the most favorable outcome for the client? In this work, we report on research directed at answering such questions. We use one of a set of jury verdicts databases totaling nearly a half-million records. At the same time, we conduct a series of experiments that answer key questions and build, sequentially, a powerful data driven legal decision support system, one that can assist an attorney to differentiate more effective from less effective legal principles and strategies. Ultimately, it represents a productivity tool that can help a litigation attorney make the most prudent decisions for his or her client.
In a major coup for both the LexBlog network and Fastcase, Fastcase has integrated the LexBlog network’s bloggers commentaries into Fastcase 7. Now, a Fastcase searcher can access contemporary analysis on legal developments in addition to linkage to HeinOnline’s library of legal periodicals. “We’re pushing hard to add the best secondary sources for our members,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters. “The LexBlog network is a platform for some of the nation’s leading experts in law to report and synthesize legal news and developments. And the collection of every day’s LexBlog posts reads like the most compelling legal newspaper in America.” Quoting from Bob Ambrogi’s LawSite’s post. — Joe
Bloomberg Law announced a new research feature, Points of Law, a little over a week ago. I’ve been playing around with it using the ATV injury problem I created for teaching online legal research concepts. In summary, An ATV rider was injured while riding on someone else’s private property without permission. The problem called for the researcher to identify relevant cases where assumption of risk was a viable defense and collect them for later analysis. The jurisdiction is New York.
Let me explain a little about Points of Law before I dive into my experience with it. Bloomberg’s press release describes the feature:
Points of Law offers a more efficient way to conduct case law research. Through the application of machine learning to Bloomberg Law’s database of 13 million court opinions, Points of Law highlights language critical to the court’s holding, links this language to governing statements of law and relevant on-point case law.
Bloomberg Law provides context – connecting keyword search results to governing statements of law – and unparalleled breadth of coverage, generating one million Points of Law from our state and federal court opinion database.
I found the press release accurate. I used one of the sample searches I set up for the research problem, <all-terrain vehicle and assumption of risk>. The case law I expected to see in the list of results was there. Some of the cases, not all, had a Points of Law icon on the right side of the text. Clicking that highlights text that the AI in the database considers to be significant. My search highlighted what I would describe as a combination of black letter law on a keyword related topic or significant points on how the courts treat that topic. The focus here was on assumption of risk, obviously, as and all-terrain vehicle is not a legal concept.
Here are some example results extracted from Marcano v. City of New York, 296 A.D.2d 43, 743 N.Y.S.2d 456 (App Div, 1st Dept 2002):
Generally, the issue of assumption of risk is a question of fact for the jury.” (Lamey v Foley, 188 AD2d 157, 163-164 .)
“The policy underlying this tort rule is intended to facilitate free and vigorous participation in athletic activities.” (Benitez v New York City Bd. of Educ., 73 NY2d 650, 657 .) [Discussing how assumption of the risk in sports is handled by the courts. – MG]
Because of the factual nature of the inquiry, whether a danger is open and obvious is most often a jury question * * *.”
What I found most interesting about using Points of Law is how viewing multiple extracts informed me about assumption of risk without requiring a lot of lengthy analysis. Now, not all cases in the search results were useful in my context where an ATV rider was injured. At the same time, a researcher will find what they need to know conceptually about assumption of the risk as treated by the New York Courts. I assume that applies to other legal doctrines as well.
Another feature worth mentioning is that clicking on the highlighted phrase will open a side window that cites other cases expressing the same point of law (up to 10). There is also a button that shows a citation map of the Point:
Another button shows a list of opinions that expressed related concepts along with the Point text:
All in all, I think this is a nifty feature that researchers and litigators will actually use. I wonder if it will integrate with any of the current general search products on the market, as in “Hey Google, find me cases in New York State that discuss assumption of risk in the context of recreational activities.” If we now think that first year law students take the lazy route in legal research based on their Google use, just wait for the future to show up.
In the Not Everything is Perfect category, one case, Bierach v. Nichols, 248 A.D.2d 916, 669 N.Y.S.2d 988 (App Div, 3d Dept 1998), had one Point of Law listed but not highlighted in the text. It was short enough that I was able to guess what was the likely text that would have been highlighted. Oh well. –Mark
According to RNRMarketResearch.com, the legal analytics market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 32.7% and is projected to grow from $451.1 million in 2017 to $1.858 billion by 2022. But not all legal analytical products are created equally. On the AALL CS-SIS blog, Jonathan Germann demonstrates this by comparing Docket Navigator with Bloomberg Law. The latter comes up lacking. “As information professionals become regular users and gatekeepers of analytics tools, what information transparency is necessary for reliance?,” asks Germann. He proceeds to provide a transparency checklist. — Joe
Google has retired the instant search feature it introduced in 2010 where search results will populate a page as a user typed. No more. The reason for this is that 50% of searches are on mobile devices where the feature makes no sense. I wonder if anyone will notice. More details are at The Verge and Search Engine Land. —Mark
Late in 2017, Overdrive will launch a cost-per-circulation pricing model for eBooks and audiobooks that will enable libraries to provide a patron-driven acquisition model for select titles from OverDrive’s Marketplace catalog. When selecting a book under the cost-per circulation model, libraries will be charged only when a patron borrows a title. For more, see OverDrive’s blog post. — Joe
In What does it mean to ask for an “explainable” algorithm?, Ed Felten discusses the explanation problem for algorithms in terms of (1) claims of confidentiality; (2) complexity; (3) unreasonableness; and (4) injustice. See Felten’s Freedom to Tinker blog post for details. — Joe
Global-Regulation has launched the Global Law Search Engine, a fee-based service that can be test driven for free right now. The search service claims to be the most comprehensive currently available because one can “[s]earch, find and compare laws from 90 countries using a user-friendly search engine that is aimed at legal information professionals, not lawyers. Due note this important caveat: “Our service is entirely run by computer algorithms. Translations are not human-vetted. There may be inaccuracies in information due to our algorithmic extraction of information. Always consult the official source when making use of legal information.” FAQ here.
H/T to beSpacific. — Joe
AALL’s annual New Product Award gives the recipient vendor free fodder for an advertising campaign and a dose of much needed good press each year. “This award honors new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials. A ‘new’ product is one which has been in the library-related marketplace for two years or less. New products may include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, educational or bibliographic material, or other products or devices that aid or improve library workflow, research, or intellectual access. Products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” Quoting from AALL’s New Product Award page.
Thomson Reuters won the award for WestlawNext in 2011 and Bloomberg Law won for BLaw in 2012. What ever happened to Lexis Advance? Launched in 2011, Lexis Advance would have still been eligible for the award in 2013 but PLI’s PLI Discover PLUS received it that year. PLI Discover PLUS is an excellent service but…it’s not from a major vendor of what was then a next-generation search service like, for example, WestlawNext was at the time Thomson Reuters received its award. Besides, I believe, PLI Discover PLUS would have been eligible for the award in 2014.
Lexis Advance was no better or worse than WestlawNext and arguably better that BLaw back in 2011-2013. So I’m left wondering why LexisNexis never received AALL’s New Product Award. For that matter, why didn’t LexisNexis receive the New Product Award when it launched the first professional grade, enhanced law eBooks and/or the first law eBook lending platform, the LexisNexis Digital Library? If LexisNexis systematically enhances its secondary works accessed on Lexis Advance with videos as it did with one title, the Company might be eligible again because “products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” — Joe
List of Previous AALL New Product Award Winners
2017: Casetext, Pablo Arredondo, Vice President, Legal Research, San Francisco, CA, CARA
2016: Ravel Law, Daniel Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder, San Francisco, CA, Judge Analytics
2015: Lex Machina, Josh Becker, CEO, Menlo Park, CA, Legal Analytics®
2014: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Getzville, NY and Fastcase, Inc., Washington, D.C., HeinOnline/Fastcase Integration
2013: Practicing Law Institute, New York, NY, PLI Discover PLUS
2012: Bloomberg Law, New York, NY, Bloomberg Law
2011: WestlawNext Team, Eagan, MN, Thomson Reuters – WestlawNext
2010: Fastcase, Inc., Fastcase Legal Research iPhone App
2009: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Subject Compilations of State Laws (HeinOnline)
2008: Cassidy Cataloging Services, Inc., WLX Cataloging Record Service (WLX E Treatise Collection, Lexis II Primary Sources, and Westlaw IV Journals & Law Reviews)
2007: No award
2006: No award
2005: Thomson Gale, The Making of Modern Law
2004: Jenkins Law Library & American Lawyer Media, http://www.palawlibrary.com
2003: No award
2002: No award
2001: W.S. Hein & Co., Inc., Hein-On-Line
2000: IndexMaster, Inc., IndexMaster
1999: West Group, Key Cite
1998: Congressional Information Services, Inc., CIS Congressional Universe
1997: BNA, Inc., Health Law & Business Series
1996: No award
1995: Shepard’s McGraw-Hill, Inc., How to Shepardize
Since the foreshadowed demise of Lexis and Westlaw classic versions back in 2010 and 2011, I’ve been expecting to see the use of multimedia by our very expensive digital legal publishers in their newer search service platforms because it could be a transformative value-add-on for the traditional text-only electronic delivery of legal information. LexisNexis’ The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial embeds 150+ short videos within the content of the work when you subscribe to the publication on Lexis Advance. LexisNexis press release. It appears, however, that the videos may not be embedded in a standalone eBook edition of this work. The work’s blurb notes “The eBook versions of this title feature links to Lexis Advance for further legal research options. Video content and links are exclusively available with a subscription to this title on Lexis Advance.” That’s disappointing but not unexpected; both Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis require a subscription to their search service to access resources linked to in their eBooks.
H/T to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSite post. See also Jean O’Grady’s Treatises are not dead they are just being transformed. Lexis Launches First Video Treatise. Can the Gamified Treatise Be Far Behind? — Joe
Reid Goldsborough describe the algorithmic basis for Facebook’s news feed, writing “The ever-changing algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed, called EdgeRank, is … crucial in today’s social media-infused world. It determines what you see when you check Facebook,” … adding … “Facebook is largely mum about EdgeRank, keeping many things private for competitive reasons. But based on what is publicly known as well as EdgeRank’s behavior, Facebook uses EdgeRank to help create your news feed mostly through Affinity Score, Edge Weight, and Time Decay.” Goldsborough proceeds by describing Affinity Score, Edge Weight, and Time Decay in layman’s terms. He also comments on the echo chamber effect of Facebook’s news feed in his Information Today article. Informative. — Joe
I must be getting old because when I read that AALL gave its annual product of the year award to Casetext’s CARA I didn’t know what it was. But Bob Ambrogi does. He reviewed the service last summer in New Casetext Feature Finds Relevant Cases For You, But Along With It Will Come New Pricing. CARA, which is short for Case Analysis Research Assistant, is a productivity enhancement tool for document review which automatically finds relevant cases to any document you upload into the system. Bob writes “[w]hat CARA is actually doing is comparing the cases in the uploaded document to the cases and articles in its database. For every case in the document, it is looking for other cases that are usually cited together with that case. It uses various indicators to weigh relevance, including how often two cases are cited together and how often they are discussed together in third-party articles contributed by Casetext users.” CARA’s output is a list of relevant cases not mentioned in the uploaded legal memorandum, brief, opinion letter or other document containing legal text.
Kudos to Casetext for creating what sounds like a useful tool. — Joe