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.

Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

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.

 

 

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
Abstract:    
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

. . . a good tailor, a good priest, and a good librarian.

From The Conglomerate:

 We Have Winners! – and a Paean to Law Librarians

Posted by Peter Conti-Brown
 
. . .
 
First Peter gives a well-deserved “e-high five to Erika Wayne” (read his post for the reason) and then concludes his blog posting thusly:

Last of all, I cannot restrain myself from praising our extraordinary librarians at Stanford Law School. I have a bucketful of examples of their extraordinary sleuthing (the Martin speech is only the latest), one of which includes going through repeated FOIA requests and appeals, losing each one, and then still securing the key document from an 80 year old researcher who had it in his own files in some barn in Vermont, or something like that. I only know SLS, so if you have other examples of librarian sleuthing that made your research possible, I’d love to hear them, as I think they are the sometimes too-well-kept secret of the academy. After all, an eminent legal authority — I think it was Ronald Coase, but it may have been Moses himself — once said that every great scholar needs a good tailor, a good priest, and a good librarian. I have no experience with the first two, but can vouch emphatically for the third.

 

Hip High Hires Hein

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

http://vimeo.com/13773712 )

War Cry of the Tiger Librarian?

Tiger mom I am not.  Just spend an hour with my family.  Garbage describes the stuff that doesn’t get recycled or composted.  And, the closest we get to music lessons are our regular iPod dance parties.

That being said, I think I might be a bit of tiger librarian (or would it be lion?).   And, I think it is a good thing.

Tiger librarians love the hunt: the hunt for information; roaming the stacks or the web.   Stalking the answer is half the fun.

Tiger librarians also ferociously scrutinize invoices and bills.  Double-digit increases make us roar and complain and nag in a way that makes most tigers look like house cats.

Tiger librarians spend their ‘free’ time doing things like building web sites, blogging, advocating for better access to government information.

Tiger librarians aren’t quiet, either.

Are you a tiger librarian?  Tell me why in the comments below.  (We’ll talk t-shirts later.)

U.K. Librarians Loud About Price Increases

“British research libraries are protesting price increases by journal publishers, which come amid severe budget constraints in the U.K.”

From the Marketplace section of today’s Wall Street Journal:

Price Hikes Put U.K. Libraries in a Bind

Publishers Increase Fees for Research Journals as Government Issues Budget Constraints; ‘We Just Don’t Have the Money’

By Paul Sonne

From the report:

The concern among British librarians comes as the model for scholarly-journal pricing is under pressure. Many big education institutions buy huge packages of journals, in both print and digital versions, under bulk pricing deals that are steadily ratcheted up over time. With flat or declining budgets, some institutions are now looking for ways to save money without seriously curtailing access for students and researchers.

. . .
The situation could pose a challenge to publishing companies. “You can’t assume that you are going to raise your prices faster than the budget of your customers forever,” said Claudio Aspesi, senior media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “One day or another, this was going to be a problem.” . . .

 

To that I say:  Here, here.

Law libraries as innovation centers

Harvard Law Library director John Palfrey is quoted in this story from today’s Boston Globe:

Boston Globe, Monday, May 24, 2010

Home / News / Education  

Harvard’s paper cuts
School library works to maintain stature in the shift to digitalBy Tracy Jan

The thin, tattered book, an 1899 dissertation on Homer, written in French, is tucked into one of the more than 40 shelves devoted to the epic poet in the stacks of Widener Library. Collecting obscure works like this one has helped Harvard amass the world’s largest university library…”Libraries have to think of themselves as innovation centers, and not just repeat what we have done in the past, “said Harvard Law professor John Palfrey, who is a leading a project to shape the future of the school’s libraries.

. . .

Palfrey has added engineers, statisticians, and graphic designers to the law school library staff. His team is working on a Web application that browses a virtual bookshelf with works stacked against one another to re-create the experience of wandering through musty stacks and serendipitously stumbling upon titles.

The library is also planning to build a virtual reference desk, where students who rarely seek the help of librarians can solicit research advice without having to set foot in a library. Librarians would assist students through e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and Skype.

. . .

And Harvard Law School is in discussions with other law schools about having each school collect in specialized areas.

. . .

The Eggplant That Ate the Spokane County Law Library

 

You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he’s still hungry, the whole country’s doomed.

 

The 3 Geeks and a Law Blog pointed me to a story in the Spokane, Washington newspaper Spokesman-Review.  I won’t rehash what he 3 Geeks blog item “Spokane County Law Library Needs Bailout for Westlaw Bills” opines, but the Spokesman-Review story by reporter John Craig, “Spokane County law library falls behind on bills,”  is disturbing to me on several levels.

The story quotes the librarian as saying that her Westlaw fees “are three times as much as the company was charging Pierce County . . . for the ‘exact same’ service.”  I do not know the details, but I can see how a reader might be led to believe that this poor county law library is being gouged by a huge monopolistic corporation. 

What is also disturbing to me is the report that the library is averaging $ 12,000 a month for Westlaw service, while its annual budget is only $ 220,000.  The library’s total labor costs are reported to be $ 78,236, which means that the county is paying Westlaw roughly twice what it’s paying its staff.   At the Stanford Law Library the total we spend for our staff is roughly twice what we spend for all materials (online and print), and that seems right to me — it’s the staff that is our most valuable resource.

The third disturbing element to the story is the suggestion that perhaps the county law library is a “relic” and should be shuttered for more “cost effective approaches” such as having public libraries (and not specialized law libraries) serve the legal information needs of the public.  To me this is short-sighted on so many levels that I could go on and on for pages about why this is a bad direction.

If this story does not help build a case for Law.gov, I don’t know what would.

Many states have discontinued publishing official state reports and rely upon West instead.  Appendix D of Fundamentals of Legal Research, 9th Edition, by Steven M. Barkan, Roy M. Mersky and Donald J. Dunn, includes a table “States That Have Discontinued Publishing Official State Reports” (excerpted below) showing what states have adopted West’s National Reporter System as the official publisher.

Washington is not one of these states.   It appears that Washington is one of the more progressive states in providing decisional law to the public for free.  The Washington State Court website contains free opinions from the last 90 days, and then links to www.legalWA.org ; the LegalWA site links directly to the Municipal Research Services Center of Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free legal resources for Washington where case law from 1854 forward can be found.

There is definitely a place for expensive LexisNexis and Westlaw bills — in the high stakes world of Biglaw litigation (with clients to bill back) for certain, but in a county public law library?  There has got to be a better way.

Here’s an excerpt from that table I mentioned above:

B. STATES THAT HAVE DISCONTINUED PUBLISHING OFFICIAL STATE REPORTS.

Except for Louisiana, all states have discontinued their official reports have adopted West’s National Reporter System, or an offprint of the National Reporter System, as official.  Alaska has used the Pacific Reporter as its official reporter since it became a state.

[Copied below are the states listed in this table, next to the “Year of Last Case”]

Alabama                            1976

Ala. App.                           1976

Colorado                           1980

Colo. App.                        1980

Delaware                           1966

Florida                               1948

Indiana                              1981

Ind. App.                          1979

Iowa                                   1968

Kentucky                         1951

Louisiana                        1972

Maine                               1965

Minnesota                      1977

Mississippi                    1966

Missouri                        1956

Mo. App.                       1952

North Dakota              1953

Oklahoma                    1953

Okla. Crim.                  1953

Rhode Island             1980

South Dakota             1976

Tennessee                   1971

Tenn. App.                  1972

Tenn. Crim. App.      1970

Texas                            1962

Tex. Crim. App.       1963

Utah 2d                        1974

Wyoming                    1959

John Palfrey on libraries in the age of “Digital-Plus”

John Palfrey is a most gifted writer.  I admired his book (with Urs Gasser) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives as much for its artful use of language and clear writing style as its fascinating content.   Read it and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

John just posted an equally well-written article to the Legal Scholarship Network, an article that should be of great interest to all librarians.  It is:  “Cornerstones of Law Libraries for an Era of Digital-Plus.”  Here’s the brief abstract:

Law librarians would be well served by sharing a vision for the future of legal information, one that is informed by the methods of multiple disciplines and that will promote democratic ideals.  This shared vision could guide us as we continue to lay the cornerstones for law libraries in a “digital-plus” era.