Category Archives: Professional Reading

How different are the early versions of the U.S. Constitution?

Did you know that the text of the Constitution signed by delegates at the Constitutional Convention was not quite the text of Constitution as received by the states for ratification? The states received a printed version of the parchment text containing mostly minor differences. But according to Philip Huff there were four (again, slightly) different versions of the Constitution circulating at the time:

  1. The parchment signed by the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention
  2. The September 18 print of John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole, printed at the Philadelphia Convention’s behest. This formed the basis for the earliest newspaper printings of the Constitution.
  3. The September 28 print forwarded by the Confederation Congress to the states
  4. The form of the text Francis Childs and John Swaine, official “Printers to the United States,” included in their 1789 session laws volume wherein it was prefaced by a resolution of Congress that “there be prefixed to the Publication of the Acts of the present Session of Congress, a correct Copy of the Constitution of the United States.”

In How Different Are the Early Versions of the United States Constitution?: An Examination, 20 Green Bag 2d 163 (2017) Huff  offers “a study of constitutional minutiae: The parchment and the September 28 print have been carefully compared, and the most interesting results of the collation are reported.”

See also Huff’s variorum of the US Constitution here. Joe

Short Takes On The News: Public Defenders, Lawyer Ideology, and Faculty Pay

Short Takes on the News

The Governor of Maine is promoting legislation that would revise how representation for indigent criminal defendants is organized in that state.  Rather than organizing a public entity to perform the work, the State would contract with lawyers for individual cases.  The story in the Bangor Daily News doesn’t mention this directly, but this would likely save a cat box load of money that would go to government pensions for state employed Public Defenders otherwise.  I wonder if Maine would be willing to try this same approach with the Prosecutor’s Office.  Probably not.

Has anyone ever wondered about the political ideology of the legal academy?  I’d say the answer is no only because the bias anecdotally appears to be liberal.  Well, someone took the time and effort to measure that bias in multiple contexts.  A new paper called The Political Ideologies of the American Lawyer by Adam Bonica, Adam S. Chilton, and Maya Sen seems to confirm just where that bias lines up on a spectrum of left and right.  The legal profession collectively lines up somewhere center left close to where Bill Clinton would be (he’s a marker on the chart along with other well-known politicians).  Medical doctors and bankers tend to be more to the right.  Go figure.

Graduates of elite law schools tend to be more liberal:

The most striking result in Figure 6 is that all 14 top law schools have distributions that lean to the left. That is, there are more liberal alumni from those schools than there are conservative alumni. Not only do all of the schools lean to the left, the skew is fairly extreme in several of the schools. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the University of California, Berkeley has the most liberal leaning distribution of alumni of all the elite law schools. That said, although the ideology of Berkeley graduates skews the furthest to the left, it is obviously not the only school with a heavily left skewed distribution. In fact, all of the top six law schools—Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, and NYU—have a relatively small number of graduates with conservative CFscores.

There’s a joke in there somewhere but I’m not the one who is going to make it.

There is an in depth write-up of the paper in Quartz.  It can be downloaded here.

Finally, the EEOC has investigated pay discrepancies between male and female faculty members at the University of Denver and wouldn’t you know it, there is a pay gap.  Moreover, it’s been going on for at least four decades.  The story is in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Denver Post.  I guess liberality stops at the paymaster window, at least at UD.

Mark

Study Examines The Shrinking Print Collection in Law Libraries

I get press releases. Oh do I get press releases from publicists on some of the wackiest topics out there.  I’m not going to go into that because there is one that actually relates to something in which I’m interested.  I’ve written about the shrinking print collection before, especially when it relates to primary materials.  I have advocated cancelling reporter subscriptions because there is so many alternative sources for it in subscription and free databases.  Mind you, it should be a thoughtful cancellation considering how well the online alternatives can be a solid substitute.  The same applies to secondary sources where the treatise is available through an electronic subscription via Lexis, Westlaw, or another electronic library package.  I believe we at DePaul are not unique in considering the issues.

Well, back to the press release part.  The Primary Research Group has issued a commercial study on the shrinking print collections.  It’s called Law Library Plans for the Print Materials Collection, ISBN 978-157440-353-4.  Here’s a sample set of stats from the publication:

  • The cumulative 2-year drop in spending on print resources from 2014-2016 by the law firms in the sample is expected to be 22.6%.
  • For small law firm libraries the number of subscriptions to print journals went from 66.67 to 51.67 and then to an anticipated 45 over the three year period, a cumulative 2-year drop of 32%.
  • Primary works accounted for a mean of 35.53% of spending on print legal materials with a median of 30% and a range of 5% to 90%. For law school libraries, print primary materials accounted for 54% of the total print materials budget, a much higher percentage than for law firm libraries 28%, or government law libraries, 32.86%.

The last one is interesting.  We in the academic business try to prepare students for the tools that they can expect to use in practice.  If law firms are buying less print, and I’m assuming a firm in this situation is using an online database, why are academic libraries still buying at a much higher percentage?  But, hey, that’s just me wondering that.

Here is more information about the report:

The study is currently available as a PDF and will be available in book format on September 9, 2015 and can be ordered now. The price for either version is $135.00; site licenses are also available. To view the table of contents, an excerpt, questionnaire and list of participants, view our website at http://www.PrimaryResearch.com or visit the product page for this report at http://www.primaryresearch.com/view_product.php?report_id=561.

The question I’m thinking about now is how to utilize the space that will become available.  I’ll write my thoughts about that later.

Mark

Study: Academic Publishers Rake In The Dough

There is an interesting article from the CBC called Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke.  The sub-title is “5 companies publish more than 70 per cent of research papers, study finds.”  There is a constant cry from academic libraries in the United States, and I assume Canada, over the cost increases in scientific, medical, and social science journals.  Harvard University in fact joined that chorus three years ago in encouraging its scholars to publish in open source publications.  Academic libraries in some situations dropped Elsevier subscriptions in protest.  Others joined in as well.

The CBC article documents a study of publishers by Vincent Larivière and others from the University of Montreal’s School of Library and Information Science.  He found that the top five journal publishers held 53% of the academic journal market and had a 40% profit margin.  This sentence explains why that is possible.

“The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins.”

Indeed.  There is a link to the full paper within the article.  Here’s the abstract:

The consolidation of the scientific publishing industry has been the topic of much debate within and outside the scientific community, especially in relation to major publishers’ high profit margins. However, the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers, as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines, has not yet been analyzed. This paper provides such analysis, based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013. It shows that in both natural and medical sciences (NMS) and social sciences and humanities (SSH), Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis increased their share of the published output, especially since the advent of the digital era (mid-1990s). Combined, the top five most prolific publishers account for more than 50% of all papers published in 2013. Disciplines of the social sciences have the highest level of concentration (70% of papers from the top five publishers), while the humanities have remained relatively independent (20% from top five publishers). NMS disciplines are in between, mainly because of the strength of their scientific societies, such as the ACS in chemistry or APS in physics. The paper also examines the migration of journals between small and big publishing houses and explores the effect of publisher change on citation impact. It concludes with a discussion on the economics of scholarly publishing.

It’s published in PLOS ONE, which is an open source journal.

Mark

What Do Legal Employers Want In Law School Graduates?

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

A Peek Inside the Inbox

As a writer for the Blog I get a tremendous amount of press releases and other publicity information in my inbox.  Sometimes the subjects are interesting enough to lead to a post.  Other times the subject is interesting but not viable to publish.  I obviously act as the filter here.  Since it’s Friday, usually the day I can wander subjectively, I thought I would share some of these items with readers.

For example, Senator Barbara Boxer tells us that she testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on the 10th of March on the LINE Act.  She introduced the legislation with Senator Ben Nelson.  It would require states to minimize waiting time at polls for voters by developing contingency plans when lines are long.  It targets states where long lines frustrated voters. Her video testimony is here, and more details about legislation are here.  I should mention that I am an avid reader of political stories though I tend to keep my opinions mostly to myself when it comes to the Blog.  I reserve my snarky comments to the comment sections for these stories.

I get offers to review books or articles that go somewhat afield of the law but are interesting nonetheless.  Here are several titles I could have received as review copies:

  • World War I For Kids by R. Kent Rasmussan (Chicago Review Press, 2014).  The release notes that this is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI.  The book description:  With vibrant illustration and original images, hands-on activities, and clear explanations on everything from how the war began to how United States’ entry into the war helped end it, World War I for Kids pinpoints the war’s impact on later historical events and encourages critical thinking. Instead of offering a laundry list of battles, names, and dates, Rasmussen notes that “it is more important to know what events were truly significant, why they happened as they did, and how they were connected with one another.”  I love watching stuff about World War I on what used to be the History Channel.  I watched one of the Channel’s documentaries on the Battle of Jutland on DVD recently.  Great stuff.  It’s a pity they don’t do more of it.
  • As I write this piece, Oxford University Press sent this to my inbox:  Oxford University Press recently published Dealing with Losers: The Political Economy of Policy Transitions, by Michael J. Trebilcock. This book explores the political economy of transition cost mitigation strategies in a wide variety of policy contexts including public pensions, U.S. home mortgage interest deductions, immigration, trade liberalization, agricultural supply management, and climate change, providing tested examples and realistic strategies for genuine policy reform.
  • Routledge sends this:  There is a threat to preserving the historical record of the Northern Ireland Troubles which may be as hazardous as any fire or flood. In a new article published in the journal Archives and Records James Allison King warns that the fallout from a recent intervention by the British Government risks silencing people’s accounts that would otherwise have been put on record.  In his paper, “‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas”, King examines the ‘Belfast Project’ at Boston College, a ground-breaking oral history endeavour in which interviews gave valuable and previously unheard accounts of the Irish conflict. Those contributing were promised that the recordings wouldn’t be released until after their death. However, investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Historic Enquiries Team into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville intervened. This resulted in the relevant interviews being subpoenaed by the US Federal Government at the request of the UK. An ongoing court battle has succeeded in limiting the number of oral histories to be released for now.  Read the article online here.  Readers know that I’ve covered the troubles at Boston College’s archive on this issue.
  • West Academic Publishing sent this:  Graduation time is just around the corner!  Coming next month is an indispensable volume of wisdom and advice for law students of all ages written by Paula A. Franzese, a nationally-acclaimed educator and unprecedented ten-time recipient of the Professor of the Year Award.  A Short & Happy Guide to Being a Law Student (West Academic Publishing March 2014) is a daily companion for school, work and life, Franzese shares essential wisdom on how to be one’s best and features five guideposts for success as well as priceless advice on how to succeed in class, on exams, on job interviews, at work and in relationships.  March 3, 2014 | West Academic Publishing | ISBN-978-0-314-29107-3 | Paperback | 293 pages | $17.00.

There is a press release that announces that  George Washington University created a highly informative infographic detailing a paralegal career titled,  “Changing the Legal Landscape: The Evolution of the Paralegal”  The over-saturation of the legal landscape is leaving eager law school graduates struggling to find suitable positions. With the decreasing employment rate for lawyers, one facet of this field is on the rise—paralegals. Due to their flexibility in working in a variety of areas of law and affordable starting salary compared to lawyers, paralegal careers are rising exponentially. Many attorneys thrive in the roles of managers, planners, and strategists, while paralegals tend to be very detail oriented and succeed as technicians and fact experts.

Readers may not know that I have lectured in commercial CLE programs aimed at paralegals.  The ABA and others have discussed the idea that law schools should consider creating programs that educate students in aspects of the law without leading to a J.D.  I believe law schools should be naturals at educating paralegals rather than leaving it to a separate program.

Finally, our friends at the American Library Association make this announcement:

On Friday, March 14, 2014, the American Library Association (ALA) will award President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies the 2014 James Madison Award during the 16th Annual Freedom of Information Day at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The Presidential Review Group will receive the award for calling for dozens of urgent and practical reforms to the National Security Agency’s unlawful surveillance programs.

“The Review Group’s recommendations are aligned with the American Library Association’s commitment to maintaining public access to government information,” said Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association. “Thanks to the steadfast commitment of this group, impractical reforms to the government’s unconstitutional surveillance practices may soon be on the horizon.”

The full press release is here.

Thanks for reading.  And to all the press officers out there, keep sending the stuff.  I may do more of these posts every now and then.  – Mark

Conceptualizing judicial notice of facts from Internet sources

Trial by Google: Judicial Notice in the Information Age [SSRN] “explores the emerging phenomenon of courts taking judicial notice of facts gleaned from Internet web sites, like Google Maps.  It highlights the inviting and terrifying intersection of venerable judicial notice doctrine and the Internet, and ultimately suggests guidelines for courts applying Federal Rule of Evidence 201 (Judicial Notice) and state analogues to Internet sources,” according to the article’s co-author, Jeffrey Bellin, on EvidenceProf Blog. Here’s the abstract for Bellin and Andrew Guthrie Ferguson’s forthcoming Northwestern University Law Review article:

This Article presents a theory of judicial notice for the information age. It argues that the ease of accessing factual data on the Internet allows judges and litigants to expand the use of judicial notice in ways that raise significant concerns about admissibility, reliability, and fair process. State and federal courts are already applying the surprisingly pliant judicial notice rules to bring websites ranging from Google Maps to Wikipedia into the courtroom, and these decisions will only increase in frequency in coming years. This rapidly emerging judicial phenomenon is notable for its ad hoc and conclusory nature – attributes that have the potential to undermine the integrity of the factfinding process. The theory proposed here, which is the first attempt to conceptualize judicial notice in the information age, remedies these potential failings by setting forth both an analytical framework for decision, as well as a process for how courts should memorialize rulings on the propriety of taking judicial notice of Internet sources to allow meaningful review.

Very interesting and highly recommended for legal research and writing instruction.  Joe