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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Law Librarian As Academic Writer

The tenure-track law library faculty requirements at my school include my everyday library duties as a faculty services librarian, as well as teaching, service, and scholarship. As I grapple with these requirements and try to find a way to make it all fit, I find myself pondering the scholarship aspect a lot. Yesterday, I came across a new post on InsideHigherEd discussing academic writing.

Ulf Kirchdorfer makes some valuable observations. He notes that many of his academic colleagues are unable to write. "When I say unable, I mean those who seem to never manage to sit down and write anything that they can share with colleagues, friends, family or even the least-read publication. One of the reasons can be lack of time, or at least that is one often given. Another could be that one is working at a college that emphasizes teaching and so writing is not a priority, or, if one is very cynical, that one has tenure and so does not have to write, which often seems to go hand in hand wit…

RIPS Law Librarian Blog: Law Library Administered Legal Research Programs

Typography Matters

A recent story on NPR about the importance of type font for a resume reminded me about the importance of typography for lawyers.

The NPR story notes that "[b]efore you even get your foot in the door of your next job, your resume can say a lot about you — starting with typeface.Using Times New Roman is the typeface equivalent of wearing sweatpants to an interview." The recommended font picks are Helvetica or Garamond.

Not only is typography and type font important for hiring purposes, it is also important for legal writing. Mathew Butterick's Typography for Lawyers is the quintessential guidebook for desktop publishing. Butterick also maintains a wonderful companion website that offers great tips on all things typography.

The website offers information on why typography matters, what is good typography, and discusses things like type composition, text formatting, font samples, page layout, and sample documents.

Some things to note:
White space is your friend: The eye can t…

Bibliotech To Spawn A Library Revolution?

There's a new book out called Bibliotech by John Palfrey where Palfrey argues that libraries still fulfill a necessary function - just maybe not the function that you are nostalgic for.

"Palfrey, the former head of the Harvard Law Library and the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America, wants a library revolution, one that remakes the institution’s technology, goals and training. Libraries are in peril, he writes, facing budget cuts and a growing perception that technology has rendered them less necessary. All that’s at stake, Palfrey argues, is America’s experiment in self-government. 'If we do not have libraries, if we lose the notion of free access to most information, the world of the haves and the have-nots will grow further and further apart. Our economy will suffer, and our democracy will be put at unnecessary risk.'"

That is a great foundational argument for why libraries are still necessary. We need libraries to fill digital divides an…

The LOC's Constitution Annotated

The Library of Congress, through its website Congress.gov, has a great resource for constitutional law scholars: The Constitution Annotated.

From the website:
"The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. The Featured Topics and Cases page highlights recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate pivotal interpretations of the Constitution's provisions."

The annotations are categorized by article or amendment. The first part of the PDF is the text from the Constitution followed by the analysis from SCOTUS cases on point.

Along with the Constitution Annotated, Congress.gov also has the U.S. Founding Documents to view.

There's also an …

Casetext From The Stanford Center For Legal Informatics

While at SWALL, I learned of a great new FREE legal-research tool called Casetext. Pablo Arredondo was on hand from Casetext and The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics to tell us about some of the exciting new things happening in this open-access legal research platform.

From Casetext's "About Us" section:
"Casetext is a public legal research tool and online community that’s quickly becoming the best place to discover and share legal knowledge. Search millions of cases and statutes, for free, annotated with insights contributed by the legal community. Linking commentary to a legal database gives authors a platform to demonstrate thought leadership to the roughly 250,000 people researching on Casetext each month. Together we’re changing legal research."

Like Ravel, Casetext is a next-gen legal-research platform. It allows for sophisticated searching with both natural language and boolean searching. You can sort and filter your results based on area of law, for…

Bloomberg Law Updates: PLI Content & 50-State Chart Builders

Yesterday, I sat in on a Bloomberg Law update, and there are a couple of things to note: 
Bloomberg Law has limited PLI treatises. This is great news because you may remember this: "From November 1st, 2012 onwards, no PLI content will be available on Westlaw. After a twenty-five year partnership with Westlaw, PLI content will no longer be accessible via the Thomson Reuters Westlaw site. PLI was unable to reach an agreement for ongoing distribution by Westlaw of PLI content, including both PLI Course Handbooks and PLI Treatises."  
PLI materials have become notoriously hard to find, and it's great that Bloomberg Law has at least some of the PLI content.
One of the other features that is particularly helpful from Bloomberg Law is the 50-State Charts feature. Under the Practice Centers tab, there are 50-State Charts for Health, Labor & Employment, Tax, and Banking & Finance. If you choose one of these practice areas and then click on the Practice Tools link, you wil…

Federal Depository Library Program Academy

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All libraries participating in the Federal Depository Library Program should be aware of the FDLP Academy.

Last fall, the FDLP launched the FDLP Academy with the goal to:
Inform and educate the Federal depository library community about Federal Government information resources;Assist Federal depository libraries in better serving their communities; and Advance Government information literacy. FDLP Academy, a service of GPO, enhances Federal Government information knowledge through:
Events and conferences coordinated by GPO;Webinars and webcasts on a wide variety of Government information topics, presented by GPO, other Federal agencies, or from the FDLP community; andA collaborative training repository tool that brings together training materials and resources from FDLP libraries across the nation. These resources are invaluable to any library participating in the FDLP. The GPO materials can be hard to navigate, and the FDLP Academy offers training to guide in the navigation. The FDLP Ac…

Justia Consumer Recalls Website

Justia, the trusty regulation tracker, has just released a recalls website.

Recall Warnings contains over 50,000 consumer recalls collected from different US Government Agencies. Auto Recalls contains recall information and RSS feeds for every car make, model and year.

Product recalls are notoriously hard to find, and Justia has created this website as part of its Public Interest and Pro Bono series.

The product recalls at Justia are organized into sensible categories to find the correct product.

Study Finds Public-Service Lawyers Happiest

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The ABA Journal reported on a recent study about lawyer well-being that shows "that lawyers in 'prestige' jobs, who had the highest grades and incomes, aren’t as happy as lawyers working in public-service jobs for substantially lower pay. Judges, however, were happiest of all. 'Prestige' jobs included lawyers working in firms of more than 100 lawyers and those working in areas such as corporate, tax, patent, securities, estate-planning and plaintiff’s tort law. Public-service lawyers included legal-aid lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and in-house lawyers for nonprofits."

And to reaffirm that money doesn't buy happiness, "[t]he survey of lawyers in four states found that satisfaction of psychological needs—including the need for autonomy and to feel competent and connected to others—is far more important to happiness than external rewards such as money."
Law school should take note: "The study by Florida State Univ…

Lexis For Microsoft Office Enhancements

Lexis will release enhancements to Lexis for Microsoft Office, an application that provides direct access to Lexis research and citation tools and Web search tools from directly within Microsoft Word and Outlook.

As LawSites mentions, one of the new features will be integration with Lexis Search Advantage. Lexis Search Advantage "enhances search capabilities across a firm’s internal document management collection, incorporating Shepard’s Signal Indicators and embedded links to citations in a firm’s internal documents. From within Word and Outlook, users can perform a single search across internal firm content, external content in Lexis Advance, and the open Web, or narrow the search to any of those types of content."

Another great feature of version 4.9 of Lexis for Microsoft Office is the "ability to directly download into CaseMap, the Lexis case analysis litigation software. Users can choose to have documents delivered in a format compatible with CaseMap, so that they …

Accredited Online JD Programs Coming Soon?

Unaccredited-online JD programs have existed for years, but the ABA recently took an unprecedented approach to accreditation when it decided to approve William Mitchell College of Law's hybrid online program.

As CNBC reports, "[i]n January, 85 students from 31 states and two countries began taking classes in the first-of-its-kind hybrid program, according to the William Mitchell College of Law." This approach is unique in that "'[e]very class is half online and half in person,' said law professor Greg Duhl, the hybrid J.D. program's director."

This creates much more flexibility than what was previously allowed under the ABA Rules for Accreditation. Before only 12 credits could be taken via online or distance education. But with this new accreditation, it appears that as long as 50% of any given class is in-person, then it will comport with ABA Rules.

"Like many online MBA programs, tuition for the William Mitchell College of Law's hybrid ver…

Leveraging Library Data

Libraries keep a lot of data. As David Weinberger, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, notes, libraries should leverage this data to create search applications that include context to evaluate sources.

But privacy concerns and the lack of interoperability of the data makes leveraging the data across libraries a challenge.

By leveraging the data, "[l]ibrary search engines [can] be tuned to what ... is relevant to the community. Researchers could explore usage patterns over time and across disciplines, schools, geographies, and economies. Libraries could be guided in their acquisitions by what they’ve learned from the behavior of communities around the corner and around the globe."

As Weinberger notes, "[t]here are many types of relevant data: Check-ins. Usage broken down by class of patron (faculty? grad student? undergrad?). Renewals. Number of copies in the collection. Whether an item has been put on reserve for a c…

Beware The Knowledge Bubble

NPR recently reported on a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General that shows that "[s]earching for answers online gives people an inflated sense of their own knowledge. It makes people think they know more than they actually do."

The researcher, "Fisher, began with a simple survey: he asked questions such as 'How does a zipper work?' or 'Why are there leap years?' He allowed just half of his subjects to use the Internet to answer the questions. People who had been allowed to search online tended to rate their knowledge higher than people who answered without any outside sources."

"To reveal factors that might explain why the Internet group rated their knowledge higher, [Fisher] designed follow-up experiments using different groups of people. First, he asked people to rate their knowledge before the test; there was no difference between subjects' ratings. But afterwards, the Internet-enabled subjects again rated their k…

Legal Industry Sees Improvement

The NYTimes recently posted an article from a law professor at UC-Berkeley noting that the legal industry is seeing improvement, which is good news for law schools and recent graduates.

One of the factors that will help law students is that "[t]he smaller classes will begin graduating this year and continue to shrink through 2018. Fewer lawyers are likely to mean better first-job numbers, assuming the employment market does not keep declining."

And according to the article, "several new studies ... point to signs of vigorous life in the legal job market, at least toward the higher end. The top global law firms ranked in the annual AmLaw 100 survey experienced a 4.3 percent increase in revenue in 2013 and a 5.4 percent increase in profit.
At the top law schools, things are returning to the years before the financial crisis. Last year, 93.2 percent of the 645 students of the Georgetown Law class of 2013 were employed. Sixty percent of the 2013 graduates were in the privat…

Audio Files On PACER

Yesterday, I had an interesting research request from a faculty who needed access to audio recordings of hearings from PACER (or Bloomberg Law, for that matter). 
When I went searching for the audio files, I could find them in the docket and download the PDF file, but I could not figure out how the audio was attached to the PDF file to actually listen to the audio. 
A simple Google search for "listen to audio from PACER" turned up a handy guide from the United States Bankruptcy Court - District of New Jersey that explains exactly how to listen to the audio files attached to the PDF files in the dockets. 
Essentially, you open the file in Adobe and click on the paperclip icon on the left-hand side of the document. Once you click on the paperclip, you can see the audio-file attachment. Once you click on the audio-file attachment, your media player should open, and you should hear the audio file. Voila!