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

Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact or Fiction?

Ken Strutin, director of legal information services at the New York State Defenders Association, has an article in the September 27th issue of the New York Law Journal, “Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact of Fiction?,” calling for a need to create “forensic bibliometrics” tools, similar to law citators.

The author points out that “In the scientific publishing lexicon, three levels of caution, which resemble Shepard’s signals, are the most salient: Retraction, Expression of Concern and Correction.”

From the article:

   It was Frank Shepard’s methology that paved the way for Eugene Garfield’s creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI), and ultimately, the page ranking protocols used by Internet search engines. [footnote omitted]  Most legal opinions can be Shepardized, and along with a full court press of bibliometric analysis in multiple sources, this tool can provide a high level of quality assurance.  The same is not easily accomplished in the scientific disciplines.

   Aside from the tools already noted, quality control of scholarly literature would benefit from something resembling a Shepard’s for scientific research.  It would be a universal mechanism that flags retracted articles in peer review journals and treatises, in all formats and at all access points, clearing indicating which ones should not be cited or relied upon.

The article clearly sets out the reasons why “. . . an expert in the citation analysis of scientific literature can play a crucial role in litigation.”

Bloomberg Law’s discounts challenge information suppliers

“Bloomberg Law’s discounts challenge information suppliers” is the headline to a story in today’s Financial Times (p. 19) by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

The story quotes Lou Andreozzi, the new head of Bloomberg Law, on the company’s efforts to persuade attorneys to consider at least replacing one of their “Wexis” accounts with Bloomberg Law, since Bloomberg’s flat rate pricing (quoted at $ 450 per attorney) is preferable to the “more expensive and unpredictable sums” charged by the competition.

The story also reports how “Bloomberg has recruited ‘hundreds’ of lawyers to create a citation system, which advises users whether cases are still in use, to rival those owned by Westlaw and Lexisnexis.”

The story quotes analyst David Curie who says that “Bloomberg looked unlikely to make big inroads in the short term, but its ‘deep pockets’ made it a long-term challenger.  ‘The pricing definitely is the most challenging and disruptive thing about it,’ he said, predicting that others may follow its flat fees . . .

The story  includes a sidebar, “Legal services industry continues to expand” which includes this information:

Law firms and corporate legal departments once looked to legal research services for basic case law, newspaper articles and public records.

As such information has become more freely available, companies such as Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw division and Reed Elsevier’s LexisNexis have concentrated to turning their databases into online tools to enhance clients’ productivity.

The sidebar goes on to use Thomson’s acquisition of Pangea3 as an example.