Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I recently informally accepted a new position. I am scheduled to start in January, and the month of December will be devoted to visiting family and getting my affairs in order. I will be back with new posts at the beginning of 2015.

Until then, Happy Holidays!!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Does Your Database Need A Law Degree?

While contemplating the major legal database algorithms recently, I realized that the current generation of searchers might rely too heavily on the results without really understanding how those results are generated. 

There could be a point in time when the algorithms become sophisticated enough with an artificial intelligence (AI) to rely on them more in this way. Especially because algorithms tend to get stronger over time by relying on external cites and the number of clicks, for example, to generate results. 

But we are not there, yet. For example, with a current natural language search, the databases may look for synonyms for a particular keyword. But the synonym may be replacing a term of art for which a synonym should not be used, and this "helpful" function of the database actually becomes a hindrance offering irrelevant results. 

This is good news for lawyers and librarians because the algorithms do not have the AI necessary to interpret case law, evaluate it, and contextualize it. This means that librarians and lawyers will be necessary well into the future. 

That is unless our databases get the AI equivalent of a law degree. There is a new book out called "The Formula" by Luke Dormehl that "tackles the rise of algorithms and artificial intelligence in art, politics, online relationships, and the law."

The book provides a high level view of how algorithms are changing our world. For lawyers, there are obvious political and legal implications that will need to be hammered out in the coming years.
As Dormehl notes, we need to educate the public on what exactly algorithms are and how they work, which is one of the major new roles of a librarian

Ultimately, Dormehl went on to discuss the ability for computers to replace lawyers and judges. He said that "if you were able to build a conceptual model of Judge Posner that would be 99 percent accurate in forecasting how he would decide a certain case, you could rely on that to decide cases rather than the person himself. But we're not there yet—and perhaps we never will be. As a nonlawyer, one of the great realizations I had while writing “The Formula” was the degree to which laws are not static entities that can easily be automated. The judicial process is less about a kind of mechanical objectivity than it is a high level of subjective agreement. It takes a human to resolve multiple parties' grievances, and to reconcile different interpretations of laws that are often written in such a way that their meaning can be argued. Machines can't do that yet."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Convenient Searching In Library Catalogs

An ongoing concern for librarians is the ease at which a user can search a library catalog. If the search is too convoluted, researchers will generally resort to resources that they are comfortable using, such as Google and Wikipedia, and forego the use of the library catalog and library resources.

To that end, "Yale Library Information Technology will beta test a new search system called Quicksearch, slated to replace the current Orbis catalog in September 2015. According to library administrators, the new platform will streamline the different search engines available across schools into a unified Yale library site. Library administrators said they hope the new system will resolve inconveniences in searching for texts. 'The library always had a multitude of systems that don’t necessarily talk to each other,' Chief Technology Officer for Yale Libraries Michael Dula said. 'We are aiming to pull the resources available at Yale under one umbrella, starting with main library catalogue and law library catalogue.'"

This is a wonderful improvement and makes a search in the library catalog much more convenient. The new platform will have a search window that "will appear as a split-screen, in which one column will display the merged catalog results and the other column will show academic articles accessible and licensed through Yale." This type of federated searching allows researchers to see all of the resources available to them and alleviates the needs to individually search separate catalogs or separate databases.

Yale noted that it used code created from Columbia University library to create the database. But the baseline code was specific for Columbia and had to be revised to make it work for Yale.

One Yale law student said that since he does not use the library catalog to search for law documents, he's not sure that the change will impact him. This bring to light the fact that not only do libraries and librarians need to create these type of catalogs, they also need to go a step further and promote the use of the catalogs. Once students understand that the library catalog will generally vet out reputable information automatically, they may see the importance of using it as a resource.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Decline In Bar Exam Scores Causes A Stir

We're seeing a national decline in bar exam scores, and it's causing a stir. The WSJ Law Blog reported that "[t]he overall passage rate for the Texas exam given in July, for example, was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results. Idaho, Iowa, Oregon and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops." And we'e already seen drops in other states.

In response to the lower scores, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners sent out a memo a memo addressed to law school deans across the country that defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it. "The NCBE is a national Wisconsin-based non-profit that prepares widely used standardized portions of the bar exam, including the Multistate Bar Examination, a multiple choice test that typically counts for half of a test-taker’s score."

The memo stated in part, “[w]hile we always take quality control of MBE scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors. The results are correct. . . All point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.:

One dean at Brooklyn Law School fired back on Monday with a letter to the NCBE. The dean "said he found the assertions unconvincing and demanded a 'thorough investigation of the administration and scoring' of the July 2014 exam.'" The dean disagreed that the group that sat in July 2014 was less capable than the group that sat in July 2013 because "the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases." But "the passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July [2014] was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year's rate."

With scores dropping all over the country, it is a good idea for the NCBE to look at the credentials of the students to determine if there was a significant drop in the capability of the takers. If not, the test should be called into question.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The LSAT & The Upward Trend In Transfers

The National Jurist reported that LSAT takers have hit a record low.

LSAC reported that "the number of students who took the October LSAT dropped to 30,943, down from 60,746 in 2009, when it hit a high mark. The numbers are off 8.1 percent from last year. It was the lowest number of test-takers in October since prior to 1987. The July exam was also off from the prior year, dropping from 23,997 to 21,803. The number of test-takers is on pace to be the lowest number since prior to 1987, when there were fewer law schools."

As law schools compete for fewer students, it may be easier than ever to get into law school even with a less-than-stellar LSAT score.

For prospective students who do score low on the LSAT, say in the high 130s, there is a good chance that you can start law school at a lower ranked school and transfer to a higher ranked school after your first year.

The ABA Journal reported "as law school enrollment declines nationwide, competition for transfer students is growing. Transfer students can benefit law schools, which increase revenues by accepting students whose LSAT scores don’t impact rankings by U.S. News & World Report. And transfer students benefit when they 'trade up' to a higher-ranked school after spending an initial year at a school that may be less expensive."

If it is your dream to attend law school, now may be the perfect time to play the odds and get into a school that may not have admitted you in years prior or to take advantage of the increase in transfers.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

July 2014 Michigan Bar Exam Results

Last week, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners released the seat numbers of the most recent Michigan bar exam passers.

The passage rate was 73% for first time takers with 563 people passing on their first try. The total passage rate for all applicants (including retakers) was 63% with 604 total passers.

The breakdown for Michigan law schools for all takers is as follows:

Thomas M. Cooley:  44 percent passed, 56 percent failed. (140 passed)

Michigan State University: 80 percent passed, 20 percent failed. (123 passed)

University of Detroit Mercy: 55 percent passed, 45 percent failed. (68 passed)

University of Michigan: 87 percent passed, 13 percent failed. (33 passed)

Wayne State University: 74 percent passed, 26 percent failed. (115 passed)

University of Toledo: 79 percent passed, 21 percent failed. (11 passed)

Others: 75 percent passed, 25 percent failed. (114 passed)

These are pre-appeal. It looks like the Michigan Board of Law Examiners has figured out a way to keep the test passage rate in the 60% range.

Congrats to all who passed. For more information on what to do after you passed, check out the State Bar of Michigan's website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database

For those interested in human rights legal research, you should be aware of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database.

The Organization of American States established the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 1979 to enforce and interpret the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Its two main functions are thus adjudicatory and advisory. Under the former, it hears and rules on the specific cases of human rights violations referred to it. Under the latter, it issues opinions on matters of legal interpretation brought to its attention by other OAS bodies or member states.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) Project of the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review has released its Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database. This freely-available database produced by the editors and staff of the IACHR Project under the supervision of Professor Cesare Romano allows users to search Inter-American Court decisions by case name, country, and topic. Advanced search features include the ability to search by specific violation of various Inter-American Conventions.

Search results include a brief description of the case, information on judges, and violations found by the Inter-American Court. When available, the database includes a link to a detailed case summary which includes case facts, procedural history, merits, and state compliance with the Inter-American Court's judgment. To date, 74 detailed case summaries are available.

The IACHR Project welcomes comments and suggestions and can be reached at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tips For Archival Research

It's great to have an understanding of the necessary tools of the trade to make research more efficient.  Gradhacker recently posted six tools that make archival research more efficient.

It's important to do archival research efficiently because "grant budgets can only go so far, it’s important to make use of every minute when visiting faraway libraries and repositories, capturing as much information as possible."

6 tools for efficient archival research include:

1. Apps for managing finding aids: Store a copy of the finding aid for each collection in GoodReader on an iPad in PDF format. GoodReader allows for annotating and highlighting, noting material that the researcher would like to find in a particular resource. Next, use trusty old Google Drive to make master plan and stay one task.

2. Camera: A DSLR or iPhone depending on resolution needs.

3. Wireless SD card: Eyefi, for example, makes an SD card that fits right into your camera and then, via wifi, automatically uploads your images to your phone (and even the web) as you shoot them. The point is to make your camera operate more like your smartphone, making it easy to share images instead of relying on cords to upload them to your computer.

4. Table grip:  Invest in a table mount for your camera

5. Remote control: In order to use the table grip efficiently, you can rely on a simple remote control.

6. Scanner apps: ProfHacker featured a post on digital workflow in the archives last year, and the author recommended using Turboscan, an iPhone app that allows you to convert images to PDFs.

It's great to learn from another's efficient archival research process to understand what works well.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Perils of Focusing On ROI

Over at InsideHigherEd, Library Babel Fish (aka Barbara Fister) posted an interesting 'stream of consciousness' article discussing the perils of assessing return on investment in libraries.

Fister started thinking more about ROI because she was alerted to a new position for a "librarian whose role would be assessment and marketing. The library is seeking a librarian who is 'interested in using the results of library assessment to promote the value of the library to the university as part of our our strategic communications program.' The audience is the higher administrators who probably don't use the library but hold the purse strings."

As Fister notes, there is a conflict of interest when doing assessments. "When we do assessment, are we honestly trying to find out what is going on with our students so that we can figure out what practices improve or inhibit learning? Or are we simply trying to demonstrate a good return on investment?"

In a perfect world, libraries would do assessments to determine the library's value to the students. In other words, we would determine if our collections, instruction, and other student interactions are effective. If not, we would take our findings and try new things to reach our audience. These assessments would not be evidence to argue that the library should not lose funding or shut down. After all, most academics can admit that the library is at the heart of all higher education.

But we find ourselves in a time when administrators are interested on return on investment and assessment to determine if libraries are still needed. The library is often a huge expenditure for a university, and rightly so, and it's a tempting place to tighten the purse strings.

The problem with assessing for market value is that we often lose the opportunity to assess if we are getting it right. Because "[i]f participants thought they were being judged, they would be less inclined to take risks or admit that they see room for improvement." And this stifles the ability to ask honest questions about the effectiveness of the library.

As Fister points out, "[i]t seems [that] there needs to be a line drawn between honestly assessing how well various campus units fulfill their missions and making a case for their very existence to upper administration. When assessment becomes market research - or evidence that we shouldn't be shut down - I think we're losing the opportunity to ask honest questions."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Is An Open Source Bluebook On The Way?

Is it true? Is The Bluebook really in the public domain? 

The Lawyerist reported that "Harvard Law Review who has been aggressively protecting the copyright of the Bluebook against all those who would let legal citation free into the wild forgot to renew the copyright on the 10th Edition."

Professor Christopher Jon Sprigman from New York University School of Law sent a letter stating that his client, Public Resource, intends to publish an electronic version of the 10th edition in light of its public domain status. 

In addition, Professor Sprigman calls the copyright protection of the 19th edition into question. "[N]umerous courts have mandated use of The Bluebook. As a consequence, The Bluebook has been adopted as an edict of government and its contents are in the public domain. But even if we lay that point aside (which, of course, we would not), very little of the 19th edition can be construed as material protected by copyright. Many portions of the 19th edition are identical to or only trivially dissimilar from public domain material contained in the 10th edition. Other portions of the 19th edition are comprised either of material entirely outside the scope of copyright, or material which merges with the system of citation that The Bluebook represents. These portions of the 19th edition are likewise available for public use."

The new public edition project is called Baby Blue. The "project will mix public domain portions of the 19th edition with newly- created material that implements The Bluebook’s system of citation in a fully usable form. In short, The Bluebook will soon face a public domain competitor. And when Baby Blue comes to market, The Harvard Law Review Association is likely to face questions regarding why the public – including pro se and indigent litigants – are obliged to pay for access to a resource that is indispensable to all those who seek justice from our courts."

The letter is an attempt to inform the Harvard Law Review Association of Public Resource's intentions. With a final plea to the Harvard Law Review Association to "recognize the important place our legal citation system plays in our system of democracy and not stand in [the] way."

Monday, November 3, 2014

HLS & Berkman Center's Free Online CopyrightX Class

Both lawyers and librarians are on the front lines of enforcing copyright. If you are interested in learning more about copyright from preeminent scholars, you may be interested in Harvard Law School and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society's free online class called CopyrightX.

"CopyrightX is a networked course that explores the current law of copyright; the impact of that law on art, entertainment, and industry; and the ongoing debates concerning how the law should be reformed. Through a combination of recorded lectures, assigned readings, weekly seminars, live interactive webcasts, and online discussions, participants in the course examine and assess the ways in which the copyright system seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression."

Three types of courses make up the CopyrightX Community:
  • residential course on Copyright Law, taught by Prof. Fisher to approximately 100 Harvard Law School students;
  • an online course divided into sections of 25 students, each section taught by a Harvard Teaching Fellow;
  • a set of affiliated courses based in countries other than the United States, each taught by an expert in copyright law.
If you are interested in participating in the online session, make sure that you apply soon. "Participation in the online sections is free and is open to anyone at least 13 years of age, but enrollment is limited. Admission to the online sections will be administered through an open application process that opens on October 15 and closes on December 15. For details, see CopyrightX:Sections."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Statutes In WestlawNext

WestlawNext is an amazing product. The new interface is very user friendly. And although I generally prefer to use terms and connectors searching, the natural language algorithm does have a benefit for the up-and-coming Google generation.

One of the best features of WestlawNext and West products, in general, is the editorial process that cases and statutes go through to organize the content and connect cases and statutes to other helpful content. For example, statutes have annotations that cross reference to secondary sources, give the history of the statute, and offer Notes of Decision, which are cases that interpret a particular statute.

While researching recently, I noticed that WestlawNext does not update the Notes of Decision for a particular statute after a statute has been amended. There may be cases attached to the amended statute that interpret the older language of the pre-amended statute. This was confirmed by Westlaw through one of their Research Attorneys: "Generally, our policy is not to remove Notes of Decisions from statutes, even if the case has negative history or may discuss language that is no longer specifically within the statute. Sometimes these cases can be useful for providing information on the prior language or previous interpretations, and may give insight into why or how the statute changed as a result."

I also noticed that older cases generally link to the current version of a statute. For example, a faculty was interested in an older version of a statute from the late 1980's. I found cases from the late 80's interpreting the older statute with hyperlinks to the statute. But the hyperlinks to the statute took you to the current version of the statute - not the pre-amended version.

Instead, I had to use the Historical Statutes Annotated to find the older version of the statute that was interpreted in the case. Keep in mind that the most of the Historical Statutes Annotated on WestlawNext go back to 1989. If you need a pre-1989 statute, you may have to rely on HeinOnline, print, or microfiche.

It is very helpful to have the older cases attached to a statute to see how a statute's interpretation has changed over time, and  it is also helpful for a case to include hyperlinks to the material cited in the case. But it's important for researchers to understand West's editorial process and also understand WestlawNext's functionality when it comes to searching to be able to successfully evaluate and contextualize information. It is important to know, for example, that you may have to go from a case that interprets an older version of a statute to the Historical Statutes Annotated to find the correct version of that statute.

Happy Halloween! And the winner for the best costume goes to baby Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Evolving Role Of The Academic Library

Libraries must constantly evolve to meet the demands of a changing patron base. For most academic libraries, that means evolving from a repository of print material to a dynamic, technologically advanced institution.

An article posted on Coexist highlights the changes taking place in academic libraries. "Despite all the dire predictions for the future of academic libraries in the digital age, when people believed the digitalization of print and other emerging technologies would make them irrelevant, universities around the country are evolving their libraries and intellectual centers into catalysts for discovery, learning, collaboration, and scholarly breakthroughs."

The article goes on to highlight 4 ways that academic libraries are adapting for the future:

    • The library is a part of the overall institution and needs its strategic plan to coincide with the overall strategic plan and mission of the university. For example, if the mission of the law school is to have practice-ready grads, then the library might need to collect more practice guides and instruct on real-world resources. 
    • Research is so intertwined with technology that it only makes sense for the library to lead the way in technology innovation. Our patron base generally prefers using electronic resources, and we need to respond to this preference in our instruction and service. 
    • Libraries and librarians must be comfortable with change. The role of the library is constantly changing, and libraries and librarians must adapt quickly and constantly. 
    • As libraries have evolved from a quiet tomb for books, it is important that the library be seen as a dynamic place for academic discovery. In the legal field, this may mean that an academic law library offers space for a law school incubator or other program. 
Libraries are primed for the future of academic discover. Make sure to visit yours today!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alternative Lending In College Libraries

College libraries are starting to circulate interesting technology as an alternative lending scheme. Alternative lending is not a new phenomena as libraries continue to transition from print to digital and have more space at their disposal. With alternative lending, libraries are also trying to reach a wider patron base.

I have blogged about alternative lending here, here, and here. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted about college libraries and alternative lending. Georgia Institute of Technology has a "program at the library that lets students and professors check out a growing catalog of computers, cameras, and other electronics—a selection more akin to a Best Buy store than a lending library."

CHE goes on to offer a few of the more unique tech items that "[c]olleges and universities across the country now lend ... in addition to books":

• Drones. Colgate University’s library is among several around the country that offer what are known as 'drone loan' programs. Students and professors can check out a remote-controlled 'quadcopter' equipped with a camera that can beam back video to a computer.

• Google Glass. A few college libraries have managed to get their hands on the gadgets and make them available for checkout. North Carolina State University is among them, though an announcement on its website notes that, at first, only 'selected faculty and graduate students with an urgent research need for the technology' may borrow the device.

• iPhone power cords (and other chargers). Drones and wearables are trendy, but a popular item for checkout at some college libraries is the mundane power cord. Georgia Tech offers a range of chargers for students who need to power up their smartphones.

These are just a few more items in a growing list of alternative lending trends. We have seen things such as therapy dogs, umbrellas, frisbees, and many more handy items available for check out. Libraries are in the business of meeting patron demand, and these alternative lending items are just another way for a library to offer impressive service to its patron base.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Law Firm Transitions To Digital Library

The NYTimes reported that when the law firm Kaye Scholer moved to Manhattan, it left a lot behind, including most of its library.

"Shelves full of uniformly bound legal volumes — beloved of any photographer, videographer or cinematographer who needs a background that instantly proclaims 'law office' — are headed to oblivion in the digital era. Kaye Scholer’s library just got there faster because of the exigencies of the move."

When Kaye Scholer moved, "[n]early 95 percent of a library that numbered tens of thousands of volumes was discarded. Outdated books were recycled. Updated books were donated. Some were kept, like 'New York Jurisprudence, 2d,' which costs $19,963 for a new hard-bound set."

The new library in the Manhattan office has 700 ft of linear shelving compared to 10,000 ft in the old library. As one partner said, "[w]e have an account with an online library. That’s all that’s used.”

From the NYTimes article, it sounds like Kaye Scholer no longer needs the resources, but that is not the case. As the President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) notes, "[g]iven the author’s rhetorical strategy, one might conclude that Kaye Scholer’s library was 'left behind' in the firm’s move. To the contrary, the law library was transformed into a comprehensive, firm-wide digital repository of legal information and resources."

The AALL President goes on to say in a Letter to the Editor that "[l]aw libraries, like newspapers, are going through major transitions as they adapt to changes in technology and culture. Our members are helping to lead the way—reconceiving the library as a service, a virtual clearinghouse of legal knowledge, not just a physical space.

Kaye Scholer, the first New York-based firm to implement a fully digital legal library, is an important example. Under the leadership of Shabeer Khan, Director of Information Services, the library staff worked to replicate the firm’s physical collection in digital format, successfully leveraging technology to support this new law library paradigm.

While not easy, these transformations are necessary. Librarians are meeting the future head on, serving as managers, facilitators, and, most importantly, curators of knowledge."

It is important to note that the library did not get left behind. It merely transitioned to a digital library with the same or similar electronic resources. It's no surprise that bound volumes will become less important as libraries continue to rely on electronic sources and as licensing and ownership gets sorted out. But this doesn't mean that libraries and librarians are any less important. Librarians will continue to be curators of knowledge and navigators of information, whether print or electronic, well into the future.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Copyright Case Update: Cambridge v. Patton (Georgia State)

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Cambridge v. Patton, the Georgia State course reserves case.

As InsideHigherEd noted, "proponents of fair use said the opinion in Cambridge v. Patton recognizes that colleges and universities can legally create digital reserves of books in their collections," but the appeals court reversed the lower court's decision creating a bright-line rule for fair use.

"[T]he appeals court instead issued a stern warning against quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions to legal disputes -- specifically, the idea that copying less than a chapter or 10 percent of a book automatically protects an institution from a lawsuit."

Cambridge v. Patton "concerns an initiative created by Georgia State University, which in 2004 began letting faculty members scan book and journal excerpts and host them in the university’s e-reserves. Instead of waiting in turn for their classmates to finish an assigned reading on hold in the library, students could read the digitized version online. Three publishers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publications, said Georgia State’s actions, similar to those used at many other colleges, constituted copyright violations. Judge Orinda D. Evans in May 2012 endorsed the university's practices, ruling in its favor on 94 of 99 instances of alleged copyright violation. As long as the university didn’t make too much of the copyrighted books or articles available -- up to 10 percent or one chapter, whichever is less -- the digitized copies were considered fair use of the works, she ruled."

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals "dismissed the 'blanket 10-percent-or-one-chapter benchmark.' Instead, the opinion reads, each excerpt should be considered on its own."

While it's great that libraries can create digital reserves of books, the 11th Circuit recognized past precedent that fair use is not a simple determination. Fair use requires a case-by-case analysis that will inevitably result in continued litigation.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Law Office Or Law Offices?

To name your PLLC "Law Office of ______" or "Law Offices of _______," that is the question.

When I was in law school, I noticed that many attorneys named their law office, "The Law Offices of ______ _ _____" even though they only had one office. So when it was time for me to create and name my own professional limited liability company (PLLC), it seemed prudent to name it "The Law Offices of Jamie J. Baker." It seemed like a common market use, and I didn't think twice about it.

Then I came across a blog post from Findlaw that discussed the pitfalls of this issue. "The baseline rule, per the ABA's Model Rule 7.1, is that a lawyer 'shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services.' So, dropping the plural 'offices' when you only have one location might fall under that broad rule." Although there doesn't seem to be an ethcis opinion on point, other "[e]thics opinions ... warn against using 'and Associates' when you have no associates."

After reading this post, I decided to edit the name of my PLLC to "The Law Office of Jamie J. Baker" because I only have one designated office. While it may have been unlikely that the the plural use of offices would have resulted in any negative ramifications, it's an attorneys job to be prudent and comply with professional rules. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tarlton Law Library Seeks Fellow

For JDs interested in a career in law librarianship, you may want to consider applying for the Tarlton Fellowship.

"The Tarlton Fellowship was created to encourage law graduates to pursue careers in law librarianship and, especially, to focus on the academic and scholarly side of law librarianship. Fellows are employed in the public services department of the Tarlton Law Library while they attend the University of Texas’ School of Information."

The Fellowship is generally a two-year appointment, and "Tarlton Fellows, as members of the library's public services staff, engage in a wide variety of activities. Much of their time is spent providing reference services to the University of Texas Law School faculty and students and the general public. As part of their duties, they work closely with faculty members on in-depth research projects, assist student journals in a variety of activities, and offer bibliographic assistance, instructional programs, and current awareness alerts. Fellows participate in these activities under the supervision of, and with the support of, the library’s lawyer-librarians, gaining important insights into a range of scholarly and academic programs."

Applicants must have earned a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school and must have been admitted to the University of Texas School of Information’s Master of Science in Information Studies program.

This is a great opportunity to learn first hand what it means to be an academic law librarian under the supervision of a team of exceptional lawyer-librarians. For more information about the application process, visit the Tarlton Fellowship informational site.

Monday, October 20, 2014

FREE Webinar For Public Librarians: Connecting Patrons With Legal Information

Webinar: Connecting Patrons with Legal Information
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Time: 2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT

Every day, public library staff are asked to answer legal questions. Since these questions are often complicated and confusing, and because there are frequent warnings about not offering legal advice, reference staff may be uncomfortable addressing legal reference questions. To help reference staff build confidence in responding to legal inquiries, the American Library Association (ALA) and iPAC will host the free webinar “ Connecting Patrons with Legal Information” on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, from 2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT.

The session will offer information on laws, legal resources and legal reference practices. Participants will learn how to handle a law reference interview, including where to draw the line between information and advice, key legal vocabulary and citation formats. During the webinar, leaders will offer tips on how to assess and choose legal resources for patrons. Register now as space is limited.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coherently Reporting Research In Emails

Garner's On Words series in the ABA Journal is very useful. Each month, he offers great tips for better legal writing.

Garner's September post is about coherently reporting research in emails. As noted, "[i]n the rushed exigency of modern law practice, with the expectation of nearly immediate responses to all manner of queries, emails are overtaking formal memos as the standard method for communicating research to senior colleagues and to clients."

As Garner mentions, email is often seen as a more informal means of communication, which means that many emails are rushed and may lead to more questions than answers.

He advises that "[b]efore hitting 'send,' step back and ask yourself exactly how clear you’re being. Avoid answering in a way that is sure to beget further queries. You might be well-advised to make your summary at least as clear as it should be in a formal memo."

To paraphrase Garner, this means instead of replying to a research question directly, you may want to lay it out fully in an email with a question presented and brief answer. After all, research queries are often put aside until needed, so it may be awhile before the email is read for comprehension. This could lead to frustration of having to sift through a long email exchange to fully understand the final answer.

While this advice is generally useful for associates and attorneys reporting research to senior counsel or clients, it resonated with me (a law librarian) because I often get research queries from law students in emails. I usually restate the question as I understand it (sometimes law students have a difficult time articulating exactly what they need), and I lead the student through my research process, as well as the final answer. The research process is important for law students because any research query from a student should be seen as a teaching moment so that they can effectively perform their own research. Although I make sure to include all of this information in a response to a student-research query, I could do a better job of organizing the information according to Garner's advice.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chemerinsky's Preview Of New SCOTUS Term

Erwin Chemerinsky recently reported to the ABA Journal his preview of the new SCOTUS term. SCOTUS will review many familiar issues this term like executive power, bankruptcy, religious freedom, voting rights, employment discrimination, and the Fourth Amendment. There is one novel issue on the docket this term: "true threats" and the First Amendment.

As Chemerinsky noted, "[t]he U.S. Supreme Court’s summer recess is over and the justices will return to the bench for oral arguments. The court traditionally sets half the docket for the coming year before it adjourns in early July, and grants the remaining cases between late September and mid-January."

The cases on the docket this term include:

  • Executive power: Zivotofsky v. Kerry is back before the court for a second time. Earlier the court ruled the case did not pose a political question and now the court will consider whether Congress impermissibly intruded upon executive powers by enacting a law that directs the U.S. secretary of state, on request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as having “Israel” as a birthplace.
  • Bankruptcy: In Wellness Intern. Network Ltd. v. Sharif the court will again face an issue of enormous importance to the federal courts that it ducked last year: May a bankruptcy court issue a final judgment as to a state law claim with consent of the parties? In Stern v. Marshall the court held that bankruptcy courts cannot issue final judgments over state law claims unless they stem from the bankruptcy itself. The circuits have split, though, as to whether consent can cure this.
  • Religious freedom: Having ended last term with a major issue about religious freedom, the court will return to it in Holt v. Hobbs. The court granted review to decide whether the Arkansas Department of Corrections grooming policy violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in prohibiting a prisoner from growing a half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
  • Voting rights: Once more, the court will have a voting rights case on its docket. In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama the court will return to the issue of when the government may use race in drawing election districts. The challengers argued that Alabama “packed” minority voters into districts where they already were in political control, thus reducing their chance of having influence elsewhere in the state. The question is whether this denied minority voters equal protection.
  • Employment discrimination: Although last term there were no employment discrimination cases, in Young v. United Parcel Service the court will consider whether it violates the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act when an employer provides accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations, but refuses to accord the same accommodations to pregnant employees. 
  • Fourth Amendment: And, of course, as always, there is a major Fourth Amendment case. In Heien v. North Carolina the court will consider whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires for a traffic stop. 
  • First Amendment: The Supreme Court long has held that “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment. But the court never has developed a standard for determining what is a true threat. It is an issue that has come up with ever greater frequency because of the Internet and social media. In Elonis v. United States the court will consider whether a conviction for threatening another person requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten, or whether it is enough to show that the reasonable person would regard the statement as threatening.

Thanks to Dean Chemerinsky for this comprehensive preview of the issues facing SCOTUS this term.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SCOTUS Updates Website

Last Monday, SCOTUS unveiled an updated website. Findlaw reported on the new website noting  that "[a] new carousel of images greets visitors to the Court's main page, along with a more conspicuous calendar, a list of recent decisions, and a table of recent arguments with accompanying transcripts and audio recordings."

Here are some highlights of the Court's new website (and compare with this version of the website as it was archived on August 29):

  • It's responsive. Page elements automatically change size when the window is resized. This also means that the site is finally mobile device-friendly.
  • The menus have been simplified. Instead of over a dozen menus and submenus, there are only six on the new website, and they fit into fairly logical categories: "Opinions," "Oral Arguments," "Case Documents," "Rules & Guidance," "News Media," and "About the Court."
  • The image carousel on the main page shows many pictures of the Court, including the Courtroom and the Main Reading Room of the Library. And when you reload the main page, you get a different set of images in the carousel.
  • Irrelevant ancillary buttons are gone. For example, the button to view a "printer-friendly version" of the main pages.

Although the updated website is an improvement, there are still no briefs. "[I]f you want to learn anything substantive about a Supreme Court case, you must go to SCOTUSblog, which isn't officially affiliated with the Court and yet keeps a repository of information -- including comprehensive docket sheets showing every document filed, with links to the important ones (petitions and responses, amicus briefs, and merits briefs)."


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Use Adverbs Sparingly In Legal Writing

Adverbs and legal writing go hand in hand. For example, statutes that deal with criminal intent use adverbs to describe the essential state of mind. "Words such as 'knowingly,' 'intentionally' and 'recklessly,' which deal with criminal intent, pop up most frequently, but plenty of other adverbs have enjoyed the spotlight." One of the most recent adverbs litigated was "[w]hen the U.S. Supreme Court recognized religious protections of closely held companies, justices pondered the significance of an adverb in a 1993 federal statute that guards against laws that 'substantially burden' the exercise of religion."

Because statutes are often written with adverbs, it means that the exact meaning of a particular adverb is litigated fairly often. In fact, the Wall Street Journal notes that "[t]he number of adverb-dense disputes over how to properly construe a criminal statute has surged since the 1980s, according to a case-law search conducted by Brooklyn Law School professor Lawrence Solan, author of 'The Language of Judges.'"

Although the meaning of adverbs is litigated regularly, lawyers should watch their use of adverbs in briefs. "According to a 2008 study by two scholars at the University of Oregon School of Law and Brigham Young University, lawyers who stuff so-call intensifier adverbs in their legal briefs—words such as 'very,' 'obviously,' 'clearly,' 'absolutely' and 'really'—are more likely to lose an appeal in court than attorneys who avoid those."

As Justice Kennedy said, "avoiding adverbs 'forces you to confront the significance of your word choice. You just discipline yourself to choose your words more carefully.'”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Library of Congress's Guide To Law Online

When a legal issue presents itself from a new state or country, librarians must acquaint themselves with the legal materials from that state or country to do proper legal research. Understanding the courts within the jurisdiction or if the jurisdiction has an administrative code, for example, may be essential to proper legal research depending on the focus of the issue. 

One of my go-to resources for information about state, federal, or international resources is the Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online. The Guide aggregates and offers a portal to information from each of the jurisdictions. 

"In compiling this list, [the LOC emphasized] ... sites offering the full texts of laws, regulations, and court decisions, along with commentary from lawyers writing primarily for other lawyers. Materials related to law and government that were written by or for lay persons also have been included, as have government sites that provide even quite general information about themselves or their agencies."

When externs call from other jurisdictions wondering, for example, how to do legislative history in a particular state, this Guide offers links to the information that is available online from the jurisdiction. 

The Guide to Law Online offers the following information from the states:
  • Constitution
  • Executive (admin code or executive orders)
  • Judicial (court opinions)
  • Legislative (code and bills)
  • Legal Guides 
  • General Sources
This is just one tool in a librarian's arsenal to become acquainted with law from jurisdictions that she may not be familiar with. And it's a wonderful tool for legal research, in general. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Privacy, Privilege, & The Cloud

According to the 2013 ABA Tech Survey, over 90% of attorneys use smartphones in practice. The most popular smartphones (Androids & iPhones) generally have default settings that store material directly in the cloud. This should be a major concern for attorneys who must protect client confidentiality and adhere to the attorney/client privilege.

The ABA Journal recently reported on ways for attorneys to protect their privacy following recent iPhone updates. "Lawyers must be especially vigilant about securing their mobile devices to guard any potentially sensitive client data." For iPhones, make sure to change your '"Diagnostics & Usage Data,' which can be found in the 'Settings' icon, under 'Privacy.' If you don’t check off the 'Don’t Send' option, 'pretty much everything you do on your iPhone or iPad' is tracked by Apple."

To further protect sensitive data, "Apple provides more suggestions on ways to guard your devices and offers a deeper explanation of their privacy policy on its website."

The ABA Journal also reported on the perils of using of Gmail and other Google Apps for practice. "Imagine that a direct marketer has offered a lawyer free services, such as photocopying, in exchange for being allowed to scan client files for research purposes. Is client consent required? Is this project a good idea, even if clients do consent? The answers to those questions are obvious, and it is nearly as clear that lawyers may be taking a risk by using Gmail and Google Apps for Business."

According to Chris Castle, "[l]awyers are arguably required to obtain express client consent to Google’s data harvesting under Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 1.05. [The rule] says attorneys cannot use 'privileged information of a client for the advantage of the lawyer or of a third person, unless the client consents after consultation,' and Google’s free email and business apps arguably constitute such an advantage for the lawyer."

There may also be consequences for violating client confidentiality. "[I]n order to maintain attorney-client privilege, communications need to be confidential. Does Google’s scanning of email and data harvesting violate this requirement? That question has not been definitively answered, according to Castle, but risk-averse lawyers may want to rethink if they are relying on Gmail."

These are important points, and this shows that attorneys need to be aware of the ways that technology intersects with the law in order to protect their clients and against malpractice claims.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tell Your Library Story

Gale has started an online community called My Library Story to combat the impression that libraries are past their prime or doomed to irrelevancy.

From the promotional material:

"Let's get the good news out about libraries!

Visit and share the brand-new online community, My Library Story, to talk about the great things libraries do every day. How they are an essential institution in your community or on your campus. How all ages use libraries to thrive. How libraries make a significant impact on positive user outcomes like greater student performance, job placement, and more."

There's a great story about a high school dropout who credits his local library, the Detroit Public Library, for educating him for "free." He never completed high school, never went to college, but he was admitted to the Detroit College of Law and practiced as a lawyer for 30 years (at the time when more law schools would admit nontraditional students without undergraduate degrees if they had relevant experience). Librarians have always considered libraries as the "people's university," and it's wonderful to see someone who took full advantage of the resources available to him through his local library.

Please share your library story and help spread the word that libraries are still relevant and doing great things for their communities.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Luring Attorneys To Rural America

In recent years, there's been a push to get more attorneys to underserved rural areas. As I mentioned in April 2013, "[n]early 85% of law students graduate with $100,000 in debt, and it is nearly impossible to service that type of debt by offering low-cost legal services in rural areas."

Like South Dakota's stipend to get lawyers to its rural areas, a small town in North Dakota is doing something similar. The ABA Journal reported that "Wishek, [ND] took the unusual step of offering to pay for office space and other business expenses if a young lawyer agreed to move to town. The city got two: Cody Cooper and Mary DePuydt, a married couple who both finished law school in 2013 and moved to Wishek from the Twin Cities in April. They planned to set up separate law offices to avoid potential conflicts of interest."

Wishek's offer to pay for office space and other business expenses was just one thing that lured the attorneys to town.

"The two were interested in Wishek because they want to try growing and making much of their own food. They also liked the idea of living in a small community because it provides more opportunities to take on leadership roles. Cooper hopes to eventually run for McIntosh County state's attorney. 'That's also a thing that attracted us to Wishek—the possibility that we're going to be able to do good out there,' Cooper says. 'In a big town like Minneapolis, you feel like there's not so much to do to really make an impact.'"

It's great to see young attorneys who are small-community oriented willing to move to rural areas and offer their services in a mutually beneficial way. And it looks like this will continue as "[n]early 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, but the New York Times says just 2 percent of small law practices are in those areas. Those still practicing law in small towns are often nearing retirement age, without anyone to take over their practices."

Friday, October 3, 2014

New RIPS Blog Post - Researching Across the Law School Curriculum

Please check out my new blog post on the Research, Instruction, & Patron Services (RIPS) Blog about incorporating legal research instruction across the law school curriculum.

Libraries Lend The Internet

NPR reported on a cool new alternative lending service available at some public libraries. "The public library systems in New York and Chicago won funding from the Knight Foundation to experiment with the idea of hot-spot lending. Both say they hope the move will help them expand Internet access among low-income families."

As the New York Public Library's pitch reads, "'[b]ecause many Americans find themselves unable to afford quality Internet at home, they are caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.' This chasm presents an obstacle to participation in America's $8 trillion digital economy and deprives the Internet of contributions from these individuals."

With so many people unable to afford Internet at home, "[g]iving patrons — particularly those who are low income — the ability to 'check out' the Internet seems a simple solution to improving Internet access across the country, particularly if the program expands beyond these two metro areas."

This is a wonderful new service for libraries to offer. It would be fairly easy to monitor hot spot devices and manage Internet access remotely, and it bring a much-needed service directly into a library patron's home.

And with that, I am headed to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to take in the fall foliage, which means I will be without Internet for a long weekend (if only I could "check out the Internet" in Michigan). I am excited for the short break and to "hit the reset button in my brain," so maybe it's not so bad to have a forced vacation from electronic activity.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Access JSTOR Material With JSTOR Daily

InsideHigherEd reported on JSTOR's new daily magazine - JSTOR Daily. "Much of the world’s knowledge is contained in JSTOR, a vast digital academic library. But most of that content is behind a subscription wall. And if you’re not looking for something specific -- or even if you are -- attempting to take in all that knowledge can be an overwhelming experience. Wanting to make JSTOR's content a little more digestible and to engage a different kind of audience, the library is officially launching its new online magazine, JSTOR Daily."

The content on JSTOR Daily links to the JSTOR library with free access to articles and other material. 

"JSTOR Daily offers a fresh way for people to understand and contextualize their world. Our writers provide insight, commentary, and analysis of ideas, research, and current events, tapping into the rich scholarship on JSTOR, a digital library of more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs, and other material. In addition to weekly feature articles, the magazine publishes daily blog posts that provide the backstory to complex issues of the day in a variety of subject areas, interviews with and profiles of scholars and their work, and much more."

Currently there are articles on a wide variety of topics:
The JSTOR Daily content is intriguing and digestible, and the fact that it links to free JSTOR articles is wonderful. Thanks to JSTOR for continuing to allow more of the population to access material. It's especially wonderful for law students at a standalone law school who are writing comments and case notes and need access to multidisciplinary material.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Uniform Electronic Material Act

With continued support from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Uniform Electronic Material Act (UELMA) is starting to take hold.

What is UELMA, you ask?

"The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, also known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), approved the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in July 2011, recommending that it be enacted in all states. The act sets forth language, provisions, and parameters that require government publishers of primary legal materials in electronic format to authenticate, preserve, and provide permanent access to those resources."

UELMA "addresses many of the concerns posed by the publication of state primary legal material online. UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. It furthers state policies of accountability and transparency in providing legal information to the public. As of August 2014, UELMA has become law in ten states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Currently ten states have adopted UELMA as law."

"Increasingly, state governments are publishing primary legal material such as state statutes, regulations, and court opinions online. Online publication is often accompanied by the decision to stop providing print copies of the legal material. Although online publication has facilitated public access, it has also raised a number of concerns about ensuring that the electronic material will be preserved in unaltered form and will be available permanently. UELMA offers a framework for providing the official legal material online with the same level of trustworthiness traditionally given by print publication."

AALL has a great website devoted to UELMA with material covering:
There is also material devoted to helping advocate for UELMA:
There are also sections on letters & testimony, chapter resolutions, articles & blog posts, and reports & papers. 

AALL has been a strong advocate for UELMA. With ten states officially adopting UELMA, it's great to see state legislatures taking heed of these concerns and passing measures to protect primary legal authority online. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Press Pass For SCOTUSblog

Earlier this summer, news outlets like the ABA Journal and the NYTimes reported on the denial of a press pass for SCOTUSblog.

"As the Supreme Court began to issue the final rulings of the term, 60,000 people — including journalists at major news outlets around the country — were following the live feed of Scotusblog, a website devoted to covering every warp and woof of the court’s complex litigation. Since its inception in 2002, the site has become required reading for Supreme Court news and analysis, winning multiple awards.

Yet Scotusblog’s ability to cover the court remains precarious because it has repeatedly been denied a press credential."

As the NYTimes noted, "[t]he Supreme Court has traditionally recognized credentials issued by the Senate’s Standing Committee of Correspondents, which is made up of journalists from mainstream news organizations. In April, the committee denied Scotusblog’s latest request for a credential because its founder and publisher, Tom Goldstein, is a lawyer whose firm argues regularly before the court. The committee said that that violates its rule against lobbying the federal government. It also said the site is not independent from Mr. Goldstein’s firm."

The paper went not to say that "litigating is not lobbying," and Mr. Goldstein "has erected firewalls to assure that the firm’s work does not editorially influence the blog." There are other credentialed folks who are much closer to breaking this lobbying rule than SCOTUSblog.

And SCOTUSblog meets any professional standards as evinced by its audience. "Its importance is demonstrated by its audience, which is not just top journalists and members of the public. According to the site’s internal data, Scotusblog’s single biggest user is the Supreme Court itself."

It is time for SCOTUSblog to have a traditional press pass. It has proven to be very reputable since its inception in 2002. It's a wonderful research tool and aggregates Supreme Court content in a user-friendly way. It is invaluable for the Supreme Court, lawyers, and law students in Moot Court, among others.

Monday, September 29, 2014

State Bar of Michigan's 2014 Economics Of Law Practice Survey

The Michigan State Bar's Economics of Law Practice Survey was released in July 2014.

"The survey is conducted every three years and the results are used daily throughout the state in courtrooms, law firms and by lawyers in all occupational areas. As referenced by the Michigan Supreme Court in Smith v. Khouri, it is the primary resource used by trial courts to determine attorney fees. It provides the benchmark for more than 50 specific fields of practice by geographic location.

Survey results also contain data about salaries, benefits, hours worked and job satisfaction for attorneys in non-private practice occupations, such as those working as in-house counsel, in government service, non-profit organizations, academia, legal services and more."

The survey has two practical objectives:
  • To provide timely, relevant and accurate information to inform and guide the practical management decisions of Michigan attorneys
  • To track and illustrate changes and trends within the legal profession
The survey monitors and reports on several points of information useful to attorneys:
  • Attorney income
  • Prevailing average hourly billing rates by several indicators including fields of practice, judicial circuit, and geographic location
  • Time allocated to billable and non-billable professional activities
  • Management practices
  • Perceptions regarding current and future economic circumstances related to the practice of law
For all private practitioners, the 25th percentile earned $52,900, and the 95th percentile earned $500,000. For all non-private practitioners, the 25th percentile earned $58,000, and the 95th percentile earned $220,000. 

Not only is the survey informative for practical decision making like how much to charge per hour, it is also useful for research purposes. As mentioned above, the survey is the primary resource used by trial courts to determine attorney fees. If you are writing a motion for attorney fees, this is a great finding aid to determine the amount to ask the court to award. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Deep Reading" In Print & Marginalia

For most Americans, print still reigns supreme. The Wall Street Journal Blog noted that the American population still tends to prefer print books over e-books. "Of the people in the U.S. who use the Internet, 46% say they still only read books that are printed, according to data from Harris Interactive that was charted by Statista. Another 16% say they read more printed books than e-books."

Reading in print is still considered important for comprehension. One Chronicle of Higher Education author opines that "deep reading" is almost always best done in print. "Digital reading encourages distraction and invites multitasking. Among American and Japanese subjects, 92 percent reported it was easiest to concentrate when reading in hard copy. (The figure for Germany was 98 percent.) In this country, 26 percent indicated they were likely to multitask while reading in print, compared with 85 percent when reading on-screen. Imagine wrestling with Finnegan’s Wake while simultaneously juggling Facebook and booking a vacation flight. You get the point."

Some of the respondents to the survey about deep reading also commented that they liked print because they could write on the pages. Which brings to light another interesting crowdsourced project called Book Traces.

This project seeks books from 1800-1923 that have writings in the margins. The project organizers were concerned that this part of history would be lost as libraries move from print to digital. “[The] focus is on customizations made by original owners in personal copies, primarily in the form of marginalia and inserts.”

And there's some good news for the younger generation of readers. The Atlantic recently reported that Millennials are out-reading older generations. The article notes a study from the Pew Research Center that shows that Millennials are reading more books than the over-30 crowd. Who knows? If Millennials are reading in print and making notes in the margins, we may one day look to archive examples of their interactions with print books as some of the last.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Law Library Involvement In Law School Firms & Incubators

In recent years, many law schools have started incubator programs to help graduates transition to practice. According to the ABA, CUNY started the first incubator program over 10 years ago, and incubator programs have really started to pop up since late 2012. Currently, there are around 28 programs nationwide.

The Akron Legal News recently reported on Cleveland-Marshall College of Law's incubator program. Like other institutions, Cleveland-Marshall decided to create an incubator program because of the stagnant economy and because many of its graduates go into solo practice. "According to a report by the National Association for Law Placement, 84.5 percent of the class of 2013 secured [employment]. Despite the slight improvement over the last two years, the employment rate still remains quite a bit behind the all-time high of 91.9 percent in 2007, which was reached prior to the financial crisis. The less than rosy job market means more young attorneys are hanging out their own shingle. In May [Cleveland-Marshall] unveiled its solo practice incubator, joining a small number of other institutions around the country with similar programs. Housed in a portion of the existing law library, the incubator offers low-rent office space with all the trimmings, along with many other benefits, to recent graduates who choose to go it alone."

One of the major things that a law library can offer to a law school incubator is space. As the dean of Cleveland-Marshall said, “[a] large portion of the [law library] space had been freed up because of the conversion to electronic materials, leaving room for an incubator.” And this conversion to electronic material is happening all over the country. Ultimately, the law library will house 15 offices, a large conference room and two small ones, a break room and a reception area. Those who sign on are asked to commit to a two-year lease. 

Like most of the other law school incubators around the country, "[t]he main idea behind the program [at Cleveland-Marshall] is that the attorneys are also providing a service to the community by offering lower-cost services to those who may not be able to otherwise afford to hire an attorney or don’t qualify for legal aid."

As Sonal Desai discussed in a paper titled, "Law School Firms and Incubators and the Role of the Academic Law Library," law libraries may have an obligation under the ABA Standards to support the incubators. If the incubators are considered a service program under the auspices of the law school, then the law library must support the incubators as required by Standard 601. When Desai surveyed law library directors from law schools with incubators, Desai found that none of the law libraries had a formal relationship with the incubators. Most law libraries were providing reference, as needed, and only one of those surveyed was providing instruction. Desai recommends embedded librarianship and library involvement in workshops. 

What the incubators really need is a formal library liaison. Desai's embedded librarian idea is closely akin to a formal library liaison. The library liaison should be designated to train and instruct various sessions to the new attorneys in the incubator.  

For the latest developments in law school firms and incubators, see the ABA's website

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Helping Law Students Help Themselves - Creating Flowcharts

Part of a law librarian's job is to have a hand in teaching technology to law students. Generally law students are so focused on what is immediately in front of them that they do not have time to seek out additional information about technology and resources that may be helpful to their learning.

The Chicago-Kent Law Library blog has a great post about creating visual outlines through mind maps and flow charts.

Many law students find visual outlines helpful to really learn the subject matter and see how it all fits together. Historically, mind maps and flow charts had to be created with pen and paper, and it wasn't unusual to see a law student's study area plastered with visual outlines on the wall.

Going the pen and paper route is just fine - whatever gets the job done. But some law students might find mind mapping or flow chart software helpful to get them started and save precious wall space.

The Chicago-Kent Law Library blog goes on to mention these helpful tools:
These are just a few of the resources listed. Thanks to Chicago-Kent's Debbie Ginsberg for this information!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Google Maps & Map It In Law Libraries

For large, expansive law libraries with hundreds of thousands of print volumes, it is easy for any library goer to get lost looking for a book.

As the Georgetown blog noted, "[t]his is an all-too familiar scenario for Georgetown Law students who have gone hunting for books in remote corners of [the] two library locations. The library has over half a million print volumes spread out over 100,000 feet of shelves across seven floors and two buildings. Locating a book by its call number can be a challenge for even the most dedicated library dweller."

Georgetown is utilizing a new service called Map It that links the catalog to a map of the law library. The map will pinpoint the exact location of a book.

Google is also starting an indoor mapping project. "In November 2011, Google Maps released an indoor navigation tool as part of its Google Maps for Android smartphone and tablet applications. Google has partnered with many airports, casinos, convention centers, hotels, hospitals, landmarks, libraries, religious centers, restaurants, large retailers, museums, sports venues, transit stations, and universities throughout the world."

It's a great service for libraries as "Google Maps can guide a library visitor with point-by-point navigation on his smartphone or tablet who wants, for example, to get from the library’s main entrance to a certain reference desk, computer lab, reading or study area, restroom, or even a labeled bookshelf."

Computers in Libraries has an article outlining St. Petersburg College's implementation of Google Maps in its buildings.

In a nutshell:
  • Get the proper approval
  • Use the PDF, JPG, PNG, BMP, and GIF file of a building’s floor plan can and align over existing Google Map satellite imagery
  • "Submit for Processing" and wait for confirmation
  • Google visits and collects "walks"
  • Customize level of map detail
  • Work out kinks
  • Promote new service
This is a wonderful service for large libraries with minimal staff. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Technology In Libraries

The focus of my career thus far has been on reference, instruction, collection development, and faculty liaison work. But I am starting to take an active interest in library technology.

These are a few resources that I have found particularly helpful for technology in libraries:
Each of the resources offer insight into new technology for all types of libraries. 

A law library that is doing a wonderful job incorporating new technologies is Georgetown. They are using citation software and Map It. They also offer instruction on mobile apps for law faculty and students, as well as how to download documents from the legal databases to an e-reader. 

It's great to see some of these technologies in practice and commentary about the implementation. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

New Title In United States Code - Voting & Election

For any die-hard researcher, the news of a new title in the U.S. Code offers a rare kind of excitement. 

As of September 1, the United States Code has extended to Title 52 “Voting and Election."

Title 52 will cover federal election statutes under three subtitles:
  • Voting Rights
  • Voting Assistance and Election Administration
  • Federal Campaign Finance
As George Mason's blog noted, there was no congressional bill needed for the new title. "The U.S. Code is administered by the Office of Law Revision Counsel pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 285. The OLRC has authority over the preparation of the United States Code, including the ability to make revisions. In the case of voting and election laws, the OLRC staff determined that the volume of laws enacted on these topics warranted a separate title."

And now for West & Lexis to pick up the title and start adding the annotations that are so helpful to researchers. 

See the Office of Revision Counsel's website for more information about the reclassification. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Should Law Students Get Credit & Cash?

The reform idea that law student should receive credit and pay for their externships has been around for awhile

This time, it's the NYTimes Room for Discussion series taking up the issue. As the intro to the series mentions, "[t]he American Bar Association prohibits law students from receiving pay for internships and externships that grant them academic credit. Critics have pressured the organization to reverse this standard, as law students face mounting debt and a slow job market."

A law student, a law professor, and a legal professional all chimed in. The law student argues that law students should get paid and receive credit. "While in school, [law] students have to decide whether to accept an unpaid externship and receive law school credit — which could allow them to graduate and find a paying job more quickly — or take a paid legal position, without school credit, which might extend their time in law school."

The law professor argues that the current ABA standard prohibiting pay should stay in place. "Under the current standards, law students cannot be compensated for work they do for school credit. This policy should remain in place because separating compensation and 'study outside the classroom' is a crucial step toward safeguarding the academic integrity of the externship."

The legal professional argues that law students should receive pay. "Most law school graduates, no matter how well schooled, lack significant experiential learning — the firsthand experience that comes from trying a case, arguing in court and advising a client. A major impediment is the American Bar Association rule that prohibits law schools from giving students academic credit for legal work for which they are paid, no matter how valuable the school might think the work experience is. This makes no sense. Medical schools let interns receive compensation."

As the ABA continues to contemplate changing this standard, it must take law school debt into consideration. With a huge percentage of graduates facing six-figure debt, the ABA should do everything in its power to help alleviate some of the burden. Allowing students to receive pay and credit makes sense. 

The argument that the law professor gives, in essence, that the main focus of the externship should be academic and allowing pay would undermine that is offset by the fact that law students would be paid a fraction of what licensed attorneys are paid for similar work. This ensures that the focus remains on the educational component because the employer understands that by getting a deal on the work, the employer has a responsibility to focus on educating the student.