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:  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:

2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

Patrick Meyer

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

Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers

Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers
The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver.

The site includes examples of innovative courses and and a respurces page with strategic plans, teaching strategies, and surveys.

From the description and press release:

“Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” provides a platform to encourage law schools in the U.S. to showcase innovative teaching to produce more practice-ready lawyers who can better meet the needs of an evolving profession.

Rebecca Love Kourlis is the Executive Director of IAALS and a former Colorado Supreme Court justice.

“Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers leverages the Carnegie Model of learning,” Kourlis says. “Our project provides support for shared learning, innovation, ongoing measurement and collective implementation. We are very excited to launch this project to encourage new ways to train law students and to measure innovation in the years to come.”

William M. Sullivan is the Director of “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.” He also is the lead author of the 2007 Carnegie Foundation report, Educating Lawyers.

“Our goal is to encourage law schools that are already committed to innovation to share what they know in a structured, collaborative place so that other law professors may discuss and develop new teaching techniques,” Sullivan says.

IAALS will manage this initiative, the first of its kind in the country. The initiative is partnering with a growing number of law schools (including Stanford Law School) in a consortium committed to innovative teaching The initiative is fully funded by IAALS, the consortium, and the University of Denver.

Martin J. Katz, Dean of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver serves with Kourlis and Sullivan on the initiative’s Executive Committee.

“We want to help law schools integrate three sets of values or what the Carnegie Foundation calls ‘apprenticeships,'” Katz says. “They are knowledge, practice, and professionalism. We believe this initiative can change how law professors and deans, students, and ultimately the legal profession respond to our changing world.”

WordPress and Law Libraries

I recently attended a fantastic conference: WordCamp San Francisco.

I came away feeling very inspired by the event and the community.  As a ‘frugal’ person, I was also super impressed at how they managed to pull off such a polished affair for only $50/person for full registration — that included lunch and caffeinated drinks for 3 days!

I thought that the name tags were pure genius.   Instead of getting a bulky brochure with all the program details (many more than I’d ever want), the name tag

was actually a small booklet attached to a lanyard.  And, everything you *really* needed to know was inside.  It had the mini-schedule, conference hash tags, maps, etc.  Very nifty.

I was also wowed by the numbers shared (and artistic, jazz inspired slides) during Matt Mullenweg‘s State of the Word address on Sunday.  Two statistics that were really impressive:

This made me wonder: how do these numbers relate to the .edu domain slice?  And, in particular, the law school environment?
So, although highly unscientific, if you do work in the law school/law library world, would you take a moment to answer the following question.  I’ll be happy to share results.

The FTC should begin an investigation into U.S. law schools

That’s the conclusion reached by Joel Murray in his paper “Professional Dishonesty: Do U.S. Law Schools That Report False or Misleading Employment Statistics Violate Consumer Protection Laws?.”

From the conclusion:

The FTC should begin an investigation into U.S. law schools. Many law schools are violating the FTC Act by reporting false and misleading employment statistics. The FTC has jurisdiction over law schools because they are professional schools oriented towards preparing students for legal careers and therefore, provide pecuniary benefits to students. If a law school reports false or misleading employment statistics in marketing materials or to U.S. News and World Report, the law school engages in deception and false advertising in violation of the FTC Act. Reporting false employment statistics is deceptive as prospective law students have limited, or no, resources to determine a school’s actual employment statistics. These employment statistics play a material role in a prospective law student’s choice to attend a law school. . . .

And here’s the paper’s abstract:

This paper examines the potential legal application of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) to American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. In recent years, evidence has emerged indicating that many law schools are misreporting or falsifying employment statistics in marketing materials and to the U.S. News Rankings and World Report law school rankings, the preeminent rankings for United States (U.S.) law schools. The reporting of false or misleading employment statistics to prospective students may violate provisions of the FTC Act that prohibit deceptive practices and false advertising. This paper reviews evidence that U.S. law schools are misreporting employment statistics, examines how the FTC Act applies to U.S. law schools, and argues that U.S. law schools that misreport or falsify employment statistics violate multiple provisions of the FTC Act.

And here’s the complete cite:

Murray, Joel, Professional Dishonesty: Do U.S. Law Schools That Report False or Misleading Employment Statistics Violate Consumer Protection Laws? (May 27, 2011). Available at SSRN:


“Why do we need law libraries when ‘everything is available online?'”

Volume 1, number 1 of UC Irvine Law Review just landed upon my desk.  It’s a symposium issue “Training for the Practice of Law at the Highest Levels: Reflections from UC Irvine” and it includes an article by library director Beatrice A. Tice, “The Academic Law Library in the 21st Century: Still the Heart of the Law School.”

I. The Information-Knowledge-Action Paradigm
II. Heart of the Law School, 1783 to 2000
III. The Academic Law Library in the 21st Century
IV. Still — and Always — the Heart

I always enjoy inaugural issues, and this one is a keeper.

Professional Adjunct Instructors Association (PAIA)

Professional Adjunct Instructors Association (PAIA)

Dr. Allison Friederichs, co-founderDr. C.J. Remmo, co-founder

The site includes a “Resources” page with links to information on teaching, publishing and classroom  assessment.

From the PAIA mission statement:

The Professional Adjunct Instructors Association is a nonprofit organization founded on the principle of recognizing and enhancing the value of the adjunct instructor’s role in higher education.  We believe that many adjunct instructors possess a wealth of knowledge, experience, and passion to offer higher education institutions and their students.  PAIA exists to facilitate the processes by which institutions maximize the potential adjunct instructors bring to higher education.

PAIA is committed to teaching as an art form, care for students, and improving the adjunct-institution relationship.  Our primary focus is to provide adjunct instructors with resources to continually improve teaching and curriculum design skills with a student-oriented focus.  Additionally, PAIA is dedicated to developing strong relationships with colleges and universities to ensure that our professional adjunct members meet the high standards set forth by these institutions.


New Web Resource: SCOCAL: The Supreme Court of California, Annotated

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Supreme Court of California website, SCOCAL (

SCOCAL is a joint project between the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford Law School, and  Justia, Inc.

The site provides free access to the full text California Supreme Court opinions from 1934 to the present, along with detailed annotations of selected cases written and edited by students in our Advanced Legal Research class here at Stanford.  For selected cases related California Supreme Court briefs, other documents and news items are also available, all free of charge. Users may subscribe to separate RSS feeds of new opinions, annotations, Court news and follow the site on Twitter.

Special thanks to FastCase for providing a large number of the California Supreme Court opinions available on the site.

Teaching without a textbook

A benefit of being here at Stanford for a long time is to see how teaching evolves.  Back when I started it seemed like everyone taught from a textbook.  Today approximately 40% of the courses being offered at the law school do not require a text and I predict that percentage will only increase. 

My own course, Advanced Legal Research, does not require a textbook.  We (I co-teach with Erika Wayne) are very fond of several books, and we were going to assign Murray and DeSanctis’s Legal Research Methods (it’s very good – great explanation of Boolean, useful “Practice Pointers,” and more) but I just couldn’t bring myself to make our students buy a slim, paperback book with a “Suggested Retail Price” of $67.00.  If the book was $ 19.99 or less, we probably would have required it.  But $ 67?  That’s just too expensive in my mind.    So instead we search the Web for relevant readings and find great material in places like the Legal Scholarship Network and throughout the Free Web.