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

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

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

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

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

Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup, AALL is not a signatory. — Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I’ve read lately on the Internet that have piqued my interest include an article on The Atlantic by Bruce Schneier called The Battle for Power on the Internet.  Scheier argues that institutional power wielded by government and corporations have caught up with hackers and formerly (relatively) powerless advocacy groups when it comes to use and control of the Internet.  It’s an interesting read in that he leans to institutional control as the likely winner in the long run.  Corporations and government work together in a public/private partnership to track Internet usage.  One uses the information for marketing and the other for surveillance.  This is, in contrast, to the early days of the network when anonymity ruled.

We’ve seen the Internet destroy re-fashion certain industries such as news delivery, music and media, and Schneier touches on these to the extent that industry and government work with each other to minimize piracy in intellectual property, enforce trade restrictions, and track activities.  That last one gets prominent attention, although Schneier doesn’t take a stand on whether this is good or bad.  One of his examples shows how the rebels in Syria use Facebook to organize resistance.  The Syrian government uses Facebook activity to identify individuals for arrest.  In the end, those with technical proficiency will be in the best position to endure changes.

It’s always been my opinion that the more convenience technology offers, the more we are likely we are to be tracked and monitored.  I’m not paranoid about this.  It’s almost impossible to use an electronic device or service without creating a transactional record.  I think we are well past the point of limited archives that evaporate after a short time.

My solution would be to have a clear understanding of what information is collected, for how long, how it’s used, and who has access to it.  I don’t mean to support vague and wordy privacy policies either.  There should be a clear law or policy that requires that this information be spelled out.  Schneier suggests that neither a police state nor an Internet utopia is likely.  As he puts it, “figuring out a stable middle ground is hard.”  He states these kinds of issues are primarily political questions and will be sorted out that way, no matter how technology develops.

Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Joe

Windows 8.1 became available last week to consumers wishing to upgrade their Windows 8 installations.  The update is free and is only available as a download through the Windows store.  I have a Windows 8 machine that is dedicated to music production.  My so-called productivity machine runs Windows 7 with no plans to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for the foreseeable future.  I am one of the Metro Modern Interface haters, though I’m not pathological about it compared to some of the comments I’ve read in tech stories.  All of my audio/video applications are based in the desktop.  I made the upgrade last weekend.

Aside from the download (about 3.5 GB), a lot of the actual installation happens behind innocuous screens that ask for patience or state “almost done” or words to that effect.  SkyDrive is deeply integrated into Windows with an option in the install process to use it or not (which Microsoft does not recommend).  I declined as I didn’t need cloud storage for everything I do.  Raw recorded multi-channel music files can be in the hundreds of megabytes each and I don’t need to waste the bandwidth to access them.

Microsoft seems to lean on machine owners to log into their systems using a Microsoft account, though there are ways to maintain a local account on the machine.  If a local account already exists, there is an option on the “create a Microsoft account” screen that includes a link to “Continue using my existing account.”  See the illustration and instructions here and here.

Depending on preferences, there are steps to disable Bing search as part of the desktop search, if one doesn’t want it, and steps to boot directly to the desktop (right click on the desktop taskbar and look for the option under navigation).  There are better options for grouping apps on the Start Screen.  The Start Button also returns with my favorite feature.  Right clicking on it brings up several options, including one to power down without having to invoke the charms list on the right side of the monitor.  The Start Button is worth it for that feature alone.  One other point worth mentioning is that antivirus software such as McAffee does not work with Windows 8.1.  The install process silently removes any installed antivirus software and replaces it with Windows Defender.

I understand what Microsoft is doing here by creating an operating system that can share information seamlessly over Windows powered devices.  It makes sense in a world where people use phones, tablets, and desktop machines and need that convenience.  It’s lost on me since a) I don’t use social media, so I’m not constantly sharing anything, b) have only one Windows 8 capable computer with no current plans to buy another, and c) use all of my applications via the desktop with a mouse and keyboard.  I appreciate the fact that Microsoft has built in settings that can be changed to disable most of the new features. I’ll be posting links to the better articles that offer Windows 8.1 tips over the next few days.

Mark

As I have noted in other forums, one of the ways American law schools are reacting to smaller classes is to eventually reduce the size of the faculty.  There is another approach in academia generally and it’s documented in a short essay on Slate titled “I Quit Academia,” an Important, Growing Subgenre of American Essays.”  Even tenured folks can find the work unpalatable despite the money and alleged job security.

Also on Slate is an article reprinted from Inside Higher Ed called “Classroom Confidential: Should professors have any expectation of email privacy?”  A faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse responded to students who could not access the Census.gov during the shutdown that Republicans and Tea Partiers were responsible for the lack of access.  Like anything sent to a third party, it made it into the wild and caused quite a stir.  The lesson?  Don’t say anything in email that one would be embarrassed if public.  A good example is this story from Inside Higher Ed, “Iowa TA Accidentally Sent Class Nude Photos.”  Oopsie.

Getting back to law, Harvard Law School announced that the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession has started a Law Research Centers Papers series within the Legal Scholarship Network (LSN).  Papers related to the program are here.  The HLSP web site is here with links to papers and other publications.

Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Joe

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

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

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

Joe

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

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

NBER Working Paper No. 19519; Issued in October 2013

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

Joe