Are we teaching what they will use?

Here at Stanford we haven’t shown our students Shepard’s in print in at least a decade.  And we have long since stopped using the digests in print as well.  So it was good to see these decisions validated in an article from the latest issue of Mississippi College Law Review, “Are We Teaching What They Will Use? Surveying Alumni to Assess Whether Skills Teaching Aligns with Alumni Practice,” by Sheila F. Miller.

The article wasn’t surprising to me, except the evident reluctance by law school alumni to use low-cost tools made available to them, namely Casemaker and Fastcase.

As can be seen from the frequency of usage chart, Lexis and Westlaw continue to be the most popular choices for online research. This finding is not significantly different depending on the size of firm, or year of graduation. This data is similar to a 2007 survey of Chicago lawyers in which 87% of attorneys surveyed who had practiced for zero to five years did “most” of their research in Lexis or Westlaw.   Casemaker provides free research for members of both the Ohio and Indiana Bar Associations. 43 Yet, only 16.9% of respondents used Casemaker often, very often, or always, and only 13.5% used it at least sometimes. This was a surprising number given the number of the respondents in small offices. In the follow-up interviews there was some criticism of Casemaker. For example, attorneys stated Casemaker is “too slow” and Casemaker is “not as easy as Westlaw, and I have an unlimited subscription for Ohio law.”

From Footnote #43:

Fastcase provides basically the same service for some other states, and we asked in the survey about Fastcase as well. The numbers were so low on Fastcase use that I did not include them in the tables of results.

WeCite Project’s win-win opportunities

Analyzing how a given opinion has been impacted by subsequent decisions is an essential part of legal research.   Consequently, the work of the Free Law movement cannot stop with making opinions freely available: a free and robust citator is also needed.

A gargantuan effort will be required to build (and continually update) such a citator. The newly launched WeCite Project, co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and the free legal research platform Casetext, aims to bring the win-win power of crowdsourcing to the task. Along with the traditional crowdsourcing strategy of enabling a community of like-minded people to easily contribute,  the WeCite Project is also giving law schools the unique opportunity to do their fair share in another win-win way:  students learn about citators and citation analysis; the database grows.  Already a number of advanced legal research classes have already participated and our class this spring will join the crowd.

The Columbia Society for Law, Science and Technology is hosting a WeCite Event at Columbia Law School on March 26, 2014 (see details and RSVP here: https://casetext.com/wecite/event).  Any and all who are passionate about legal research and/or equal access to the law are invited to attend.  Those who cannot make it to New York can also participate remotely.

Importantly, any and all citator entries created under the WeCite Project (“wecites”) are public domain under a Creative Commons SA license.  Casetext will also be creating an API to allow anyone to bulk download wecites.

The beauty of crowdsourcing is that small contributions from individuals can aggregate into something magnificent.  For those who are interesting in pitching in, instructions can be found here: https://casetext.com/wecite

Free Law Project Improves with API

Our good friend Pablo Arredondo shares this great free law development:

Those pursuing better legal technology will find new wind in their sails with the release of the first-ever application programming interface (“API”) for U.S. judicial opinions. The API is the latest in a string of great contributions from the Berkeley-centered Free Law Project (FLP), and will give developers and researchers unprecedented dexterity in accessing and analyzing FLP’s substantial (and growing) collection of judicial opinions.
Mike Lissner, co-founder of FLP and the driving force behind the new API, describes some potential uses for the API here: http://freelawproject.org/?p=342

The actual API can be accessed here: https://www.courtlistener.com/api/rest-info/
As with everything FLP does, this project is open-source and feedback from the community of users is encouraged and greatly appreciated.

Free Law Project from CourtListener

We here at Stanford are big fans of CourtListener.  We use it to, among other things, identify recent cases that cite our faculty; those alerts come to us faster than those from some other services.

Stanford Law School alumnus, Legal Research Plus guest blogger and legal informatics visionary Pablo Arredondo has some news to share about CourtListener’s Free Law Project:

Brian W. Carver and Michael Lissner, creators of the CourtListener platform
and associated technology, are pleased to announce that after four years
developing free and open legal technologies, they are launching a
non-profit umbrella organization for their work: Free Law Project. Free Law
Project will serve to bring legal materials and research to the public for
free, formalizing the work that they have been doing, and providing a
long-term home for similar projects.

“Since the birth of this country, legal materials have been in the hands of
the few, denying legal justice to the many,” said Michael Lissner,
co-founder of the new non-profit. “It is appalling that the public does not
have free online access to the entirety of United States case law,” said
Brian Carver, UC Berkeley professor and Free Law Project co-founder. “We
are working to change this situation. We also provide a platform for
developing technologies that can make legal research easier for both
professionals and the general public.”

The official goals for the non-profit are:

*   To provide free, public, and permanent access to primary legal
materials on the Internet for educational, charitable, and scientific
purposes;
*   To develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful
for legal research;
*   To create an open ecosystem for legal research and materials; and
*   To support academic research on related technologies, corpora, and
legal systems.

The CourtListener platform was started in 2009 as part of a masters project
at UC Berkeley, and has matured over the years to be a powerful legal
research platform. It has nearly a million legal opinions dating from 1754,
and has more each day as it gets them directly from court websites.
CourtListener currently serves thousands of people with free legal opinions
each week, and has had a doubling of traffic just since July 2013.
CourtListener sends out hundreds of alerts to its users each week,
informing them of new legal cases in which they have expressed an interest.
All of CourtListener’s code is open source and all of its content is
available for free bulk download. Numerous startups and researchers have
used both the code and the bulk data as a basis for their work.

More information is available in [the Free Law Project about page][1],
where you can find a list of current activities and non-profit documents.
The co-founders expect to pursue grant funding from foundations, but also
hope that those who support the goals of improving public access to the law
will [donate directly][2] so that the non-profit can put more developers to
work on these efforts.

In the future, freelawproject.org will be the official place to find
updates about Free Law Project and its related technologies.

“This is a huge day for the open legal movement, and we hope you’ll help
share the news by telling your friends and colleagues,” said Lissner.

**Brian W. Carver** is Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of
Information where he does research on and teaches about intellectual
property law and cyberlaw. He is also passionate about the public’s access
to the law. In 2009 and 2010 he advised an I School Masters student,
Michael Lissner, on the creation of CourtListener.com, an alert service
covering the U.S. federal appellate courts. After Michael’s graduation he
and Brian continued working on the site and have grown the database of
opinions to include over 900,000 documents.

**Michael Lissner** is the co-founder and lead developer of CourtListener,
a project that works to make the law more accessible to all. He graduated
from UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Michael is passionate about
bringing greater access to our primary legal materials, about how
technology can replace old legal models, and about open source,
community-driven approaches to legal research.

For more information, contact info@freelawproject.org

[1]: http://freelawproject.org/about/
[2]: https://courtlistener.com/donate/?referrer=flp-blog

Publishing cases the New York Law Journal way

I start my day reading newspapers, and I especially enjoy the obituaries.   Today’s New York Times includes an obituary for Jerry Finkelstein, publisher of the New York Law Journal, and the obit includes this observation:

In 1963, Mr. Finkelstein bought The Law Journal, the official paper of the city’s legal profession, for $1 million. Its circulation was small, and it was an ocean of tiny print: legal notices, case calendars, texts of decisions. But he turned it into a leading journal, and he wielded enormous power by deciding which cases to publish, in effect determining what the bar read — a leverage not lost on judges, lawyers and politicians.

China Guiding Cases Project Update & Volunteer Opportunities

The China Guiding Cases Project is pleased to announce the opportunity to volunteer with the CGCP!  We are currently accepting applications to be part of the CGCP team over the coming year.  If you are interested in working with our diverse and experienced team on producing high quality products aimed at advancing understanding of Chinese law both inside and outside of China, please visit http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/volunteer.  Note that applications are due June 30, so don’t delay!

We are also pleased to announce the launch of Phase II of the China Guiding Cases Project website (http://cgc.law.stanford.edu)!  Visit the site now to see the following new features:

FOUR (4) China Law Summaries.  Visit our site to learn how Contract Law, Environmental and Resources Law, Intellectual Property Law and Labor Law is practiced in China.  Each summary includes an overview of the area of law, historical background, and reference materials linked to the original sources of law available in English and Chinese!
Quotes on the 1st FOUR (4) Guiding Cases.  Come see what has been said about each of the first batch of guiding cases since their release last December!
News and Events Page.  Learn about CGCP events and see how the CGCP has been covered in the news since our launch last year!

And, if you haven’t already done so, see our recently released….2nd Batch of FOUR (4) Guiding Cases.  The English translations of the second batch of Guiding Cases released by the Supreme People’s Court are now available on our website at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/guiding-cases/.  The new cases include two (2) administrative penalty cases, one (1) construction project contract dispute and one (1) corporate dissolution dispute.

Two (2) NEW Expert Commentaries!
“How to Apply the Guiding Cases of the Supreme People’s Court in Judicial Practice” written by Judge CHEN Kui, President of the Dongguan Municipality No. 2 People’s Court of Guangdong Province (available at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/expert-commentary/3-judge-chen/).

“Discussing the Guiding Case System with Chinese Characteristics By First Combining Guiding Case No. 1 with Adjudication Practices” by Judge OU Zelin, of the Second Civil Tribunal of the Dongguan Municipality No. 2 People’s Court of Guangdong Province, (available at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/4-judge-ou/)

For future updates, please subscribe to the China Guiding Cases Project mailing list by visiting https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/chinaguidingcasesproject.  Just enter your email address in the space provided and then click “Subscribe.”  Please note that we will be primarily using this list from now on to communicate important announcements and developments, so be sure to sign up today!

The CGCP Team
Stanford Law School

https://cgc.law.stanford.edu/

Release of Initial Guiding Cases from the Supreme People’s Court of China

The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of  China has released its first four guiding cases : two contract law and two criminal law cases.

上海中原物业顾问有限公司诉陶德华居间
Shanghai Zhongyuan Property Consultants Ltd. v. De-Hua Tao
This is a contract law opinion.

吴梅诉四川省眉山西城纸业有限公司买卖
Wu Mei v. West Side Paper Co., Ltd. Sichuan Meishan
Also a contract law case.

潘玉梅
Panyu Mei, Ning Bribery Case

王志才故意杀人案
Wang Intentional Murder Case

The SPC statement explaining the concept of guiding cases and links to the four cases in Chinese is available at :
http://www.chinacourt.org/html/article/201112/21/472164.shtml

The court announcement and additional information in Chinese can be found at:
http://www.court.gov.cn/xwzx/fyxw/zgrmfyxw/201112/t20111220_168538.htm
http://www.court.gov.cn/xwzx/jdjd/sdjd/201112/t20111220_168539.htm.

Stay tuned to Legal Research Plus for news about English translations and commentary on the initial batch of SPC Guiding Cases.

 

Becoming the “compleat lawyer” the Aldisert way

From time to time I will get a call or e-mail from a proud parent whose son or daughter has been admitted to Stanford Law School.  The parent wants my advice on a book for their accomplished child to read upon the beginning of their new-found career.  A wonderful book has just come along which fits the bill perfectly:  Judge Ruggero Aldisert’s A Judge’s Advice: 50 Years on the Bench.

This slender volume packs a lot of punch.  In less than 250 pages the judge offers answers to questions that have occupied his thoughts for decades:  : “What is the bedrock of our common law system? What are trial and appellate judges really looking for? What is the logical configuration that is absolutely necessary in any legal argument? What practical challenges do judges face when deciding a case? What is the difference between the philosophy of law and a philosophy of law? What is the difference between a judge making a decision and a judge justifying it, and why does that difference matter to me?  Precedent in the law: When do you kiss it and when do you kill it?”

The judge organizes his thoughts among the following five themes:

  • Our Common Law Tradition: Still Alive and Kicking
  • Logic and Law
  • Avoiding Assembly Line Justice?
  • The “Write Stuff”
  • How Judges Decide Cases

And within these themes are found the following chapters:

The house of the law — The role of the courts in contemporary society — Precedent : what it is and what it isn’t, when do we kiss it and when do we kill it? — Elements of legal thinking — Logic for law students : how to think like a lawyer — Formal and informal fallacies — State courts and federalism — Life in the raw in appellate courts — “The seniors” suggest a solution — Brief writing — Opinion writers and law review writers: a community and continuity of approach — Reading and evaluating an appellate opinion — Philosophy, jurisprudence and jurisprudential temperament of federal judges — Making the decision — Justifying the decision.

While I know that all law students would benefit greatly from reading this book, when I first saw it our international students immediately came to mind as no other single volume that I am aware of so neatly and clearly explains the American legal system.  This book explains stare decisis better than anything else available.

Judge Aldisert writes about his particular passion — the law — with an enthusiasm that is almost exhausting.  Through this book the law student can get a glimpse of just how enormously satisfying the next 60 or 70 years of his or her life can be.

As the judge states in his Introduction:  “. . . These pages flesh out the instruments and implements of lawyers with a far-ranging ‘view from above’ with one objective in mind: to enrich the skills of these men and women so that each may bear — to borrow from Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler — the noble title of ‘compleat lawyer.’

This book really should be required reading for all law students, lawyers and others too.  Judge Aldisert is one of my heroes, along with others who inspire me such as Roger Ebert, Vin Scully, Tony Bennett and Keiko Fukuda (Google her)  — people who, while they may have stopped buying green bananas, they have not stopped working and never will.  These are people who make no distinction between work and play and who will be carried off the job feet-first.  They know the secret.   People who I want to be like when I grow up.

Full disclosure:  I was first charmed by Judge Aldisert when I met him during my daughter’s clerkship for him.

Indigenous Rights Case Law Database from CEPMLP

Court Interpretation of Indigenous Agreements: Database

The Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) – University of Dundee (Scotland)

http://www.dundee.ac.uk/cepmlp/mining/indigenous/

From the database description:

This database has been compiled from over 200 cases and articles from courts/tribunals in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. The decisions collated for the database are those that interpret or apply documents involving indigenous parties. The database records, for each decision:

  • a brief summary of the decision (including URL where available);
  • the details of the document(s) involving indigenous parties; and
  • a summary of the court’s/tribunal’s engagement with that document.

The database’s search function allows users to focus and find decisions and articles according to particular need. For example, if researching the relevance of fiduciary obligations in relation to indigenous agreements, the database allows quick collation of all materials relevant to that.