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Showing posts from November, 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 …

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 lib…

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 sco…

The LSAT & The Upward Trend In Transfers

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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 i…

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…

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, c…

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 up…

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 per…

Recent RIPS Post - Law Library Involvement In Law School Incubators

Please see my recent Research Instruction & Patron Services (RIPS) Blog post on law library involvement in law school incubators.

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 id…

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, …