Our good friend Pablo Arredondo shares this great free law development:
By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013). Here’s the abstract:
The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.
This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.
according to the Heard on the Street column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Data Don’t Add Up for Thomson Reuters.” From the story:
a survey of legal-information customers by Claudio Aspesi of Sanford C. Bernstein in January found that 61% of respondents had a subscription to Bloomberg Law, up from 36% the year before. And some respondents said Bloomberg Law was getting closer to offering a breadth of data needed to completely replace a subscription to Westlaw or rival Reed Elsevier’s Lexis-Nexis.
A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees, caught my eye with this paragraph:
Johnson & Johnson has its own strategy for curbing charges for legal-research services. The health-care-products company maintains its own subscriptions to legal databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. It asks law firms to use its accounts when doing work for the company. A J&J spokesman says the practice is one of several used to reduce costs for outside legal work.
Is this a common practice? Comments welcome.
SUSAN NEVELOW MART, Colorado Law, University of Colorado Boulder School of Law
Humans and machines are both involved in the creation of legal research resources. For legal information retrieval systems, the human-curated finding aid is being overtaken by the computer algorithm. But human-curated finding aids still exist. One of them is the West Key Number system. The Key Number system’s headnote classification of case law, started back in the nineteenth century, was and is the creation of humans. The retrospective headnote classification of the cases in Lexis’s case databases, started in 1999, was created primarily although not exclusively with computer algorithms. So how do these two very different systems deal with a similar headnote from the same case, when they link the headnote to the digesting and citator functions in their respective databases? This paper continues an investigation into this question, looking at the relevance of results from digest and citator search run on matching headnotes in ninety important federal and state cases, to see how each performs. For digests, where the results are curated – where a human has made a judgment about the meaning of a case and placed it in a classification system – humans still have an advantage. For citators, where algorithm is battling algorithm to find relevant results, it is a matter of the better algorithm winning. But no one algorithm is doing a very good job of finding all the relevant results; the overlap between the two citator systems is not that large. The lesson for researchers: know how your legal research system was created, what involvement, if any, humans had in the curation of the system, and what a researcher can and cannot expect from the system you are using.
Source: LSN Legal Information & Technology eJournal Vol. 4 No. 29, 07/24/2012
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
September 26, 2011
This article summarizes results from the author’s 2010 law firm legal research survey, which determined what research functions, and in what formats, law firms require new hires to be proficient. This survey updates the author’s 2009 article that is available at this site and which was based on this author’s earlier law firm legal research survey.
These new survey results confirm that law firms need schools to integrate the teaching of online and print-based research resources and to emphasize cost-effective research. The following federal and state specific print-based resources should be taught in an integrated manner: legislative codes, secondary source materials, reporters, administrative codes and digests.
Source: LSN Law & Society: The Legal Profession eJournal Vol. 6 No. 74, 11/16/2011
by Ambika Sagar
Social media, crowdsourced data and other sources of information continue to generate volume and increase complexity.
Leveraging search history, information search providers can start analyzing how lawyers actually search to build artificial intelligence tools for constructing queries based on cases on which a lawyer is currently working.
Deriving context involves analyzing the pleadings to understand the legal issue.
Proactive search is an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of paid content. By providing relevant free content and abstracts of paid content, the legal information industry can target upgrading of customers.
Better value propositions such as pay-per-result and assistance in discovery of relevant results can improve conversion rates.
Ideally, a single-sign-in, cloud-based solution that provides access to various tools and ensures maximum integration of research and case data with litigation tools will benefit lawyers the most and also help to attract users and keep them loyal to one platform.
Be sure to check out the article itself and its many useful illustrations.
Mainly for its debate team – see below.
There are numerous ways to keep up with developments in legal bibliography and legal research. Blogs bring lots of news about legal research plus more. Twitter is great for breaking developments and news (some of my favorites here include @aabibliographer, @EJWalters, @glambert, @jasnwilsn, and the amazingly good @lawlib). Visiting the vendor booths and demonstrations at the conference exhibit hall, while one of my very least-favorite things to do, is also useful for learning the latest and greatest.
But there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings with vendor representatives. Here at Stanford we always look forward to our more-or-less annual visit from Steve Roses, our HeinOnline representative. Steve is personable, highly intelligent, and shares his passion for his products with us — he’s less a salesperson and more a partner in our research efforts. And we always learn something new. During Steve’s last visit here, while we were chatting about this and that, Steve mentioned that Hein had just acquired its first high school customer, a high school in Texas. I found that tidbit intriguing and shared it with my class; one of the students later e-mailed me a note, “I have a friend who went to [that high school*]. It’s a very achievement oriented high school!”
*The school wishes to remain anonymous.
I shared that information with Steve and he recently wrote to me that Hein now has its second high school customer: Loyola High School in Los Angeles.
The school’s library director, April Hannah, reports that the school acquired the database primarily for its debate team and she is delighted that she can provide an affordable legal database to the team and its coaches (they just can’t afford LexisNexis she wrote in an e-mail).
I’m really impressed. How many times have we reference librarians received a request from a patron who was looking for a certain law review article and threw up their hands saying “I couldn’t find it in Lexis or Westlaw.” So many students find LexisNexis and Westlaw to be the be-all and end-all for, well, everything. It’s always a pleasant revelation when we show the students (and faculty) how they can locate secondary sources plus a huge corpus of law review content, read compiled legislative histories, find the Federal Register going back to the beginning of time, plus lots more, and all without worrying, or even thinking about, search charges.
And I just can’t wait until the kids from Loyola High School make their way to law school!
(The high school, by the way, was the subject of a MSNBC segment on community service – you can watch the clip here:
A student asked me this question. Since I live and work in the beautiful bubble known as Stanford University,and have no idea how things work in the Real World, I turned to outside help to answer the student’s question.
I first asked our Westlaw representative, who provided this interesting and useful piece of information:
Based on a recent article about Thomson Reuters revenue, “The WestlawNext legal database has been sold to more than 18,500 customers since its launch in February 2010, representing 34 percent of Westlaw’s revenue base.”
But I knew that our students would want to know more specific information, so I sent out a quick request on the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) listserv. I received 21 replies — 6 from Biglaw law firms, 8 from small/midsize firms, 2 from county law libraries, 4 from the courts (U.S. District, United States Court of Appeals and California Appellate), and 1 from a state agency. Of the 6 Biglaw law firms, 4 have WestlawNext (although one, at present, is only making it available to firm librarians — see comments below) and 2 do not.
Of the 8 small/midsize firms, 5 have WestlawNext and 3 do not.
None of the public sector law libraries have WestlawNext. The state agency reports that it might be added this summer. I did find it a little ironic that the court libraries do not have WestlawNext — didn’t West get started by wooing the judiciary and treating judges extra special nice?
The comments I received were also very useful and I read many of them to my students, since they contain some great research tips and insights.
Here are a few of the comments:
I know that when firm librarians first saw the marketing materials, we were worried that the quality of search results would go down due to the one-box searching, but if anything the opposite has happened. The result ranking is much better than it was previously, and you can see a lot more information before clicking into a document, which is great.
Our firm has a flat rate contract, so even though there is a cost for the original search ($50), the amount billed back to the client is significantly lower. They shouldn’t be scared to use the resource due to the cost (at our firm anyway). It’s in line with Lexis and the old version of Westlaw. But of course, books are still cheaper.
Of course, they should still use good search practices so we’re not charging the client needlessly – searching broadly and then narrowing the focus, thinking before clicking into documents, checking before getting material from outside our pricing plan. You can refer back to materials saved to a folder for a year, for free. I’m saving a ton of material to folders.
The “price triggers” that incur costs: initial search, opening a document, clicking on the keycite materials.
Our firm’s flat-rate contract doesn’t cover the PDF images of reporters – that’s the only place where you’re not warned before getting material outside of our contract.
We did a firm survey last year, and honestly, most of our attorneys start their research process on Google because it’s free. Once they have useful information (like a case name or a statute or a law review article), they’ll go online and find all the related documents and secondary sources. WestlawNext does a really good job of that, and the new format for KeyCite makes it easy to trace between material types.
One more caveat: Keycite and Shepards both may say a case is good law when underlying statutes or cases have been invalidated (not always, but sometimes). They don’t always catch it when a case has been invalidated by new legislation, as well. Knowing how far to trust citator services is important.
and then you can open as many docs as you want until you hit your research budget ($15/doc. or so). It relieves some the pressure they feel when going in. I think it is here to stay. Even [after] I have cancelled Lexis access here, cut my print budget and staffing, the WLN contract was added without blinking an eye. . . .
I think Next can be a valuable tool and time-saver for attorneys who understand what the algorithm is doing and what the resources are it is returning in the results, but I worry if students start learning how to research using Next, they will not be able to do any research when they leave school unless they are using, and paying a steep price for, Next.