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Showing posts from May, 2015

ABA Approved Online JD Programs Have Arrived

It feels like we are on the cusp of a real revolution in JD programs offering online options. Law schools first started dabbling in online LL.M. programs because LL.M. programs are outside of the auspices of ABA oversight and do not have to comply with the ABA limit dealing with online hours.

But that limit seems to be loosening. In January 2015, William Mitchell started the first hybrid JD program that the ABA conceptually approved in 2013. From WM's website: Each semester has a clear and carefully designed curricular focus. Students spend 11 or 12 weeks a semester completing online coursework that culminates in a week-long, on-campus Capstone week focused on experiential learning.
This new hybrid-degree program requires only 2 weeks on campus for the academic year. It is, in effect, an online, ABA-approved JD degree.
At this point, it's either move forward with the trend or get left behind. Law school, in its current form, is well suited for online education. Generally, the …

Can We Have Too Much Collective Knowledge?

More to the point is can we have too big of a record of collective knowledge that it is no longer useful? Barbara Fister recently discussed some of the pitfalls of publishing. Specifically, she mentioned an article by Luc Rinaldi that exposes the issues with peer review:
Some journal publishers are allowing papers to go to the head of the peer-review line if they are paid for the expedited service. This undermines the purpose of peer review by creating a limited pool of reviewers who will turn their reviews in quickly if the authors pay for the service. This is, in part, to satisfy those who need CV lines stat and can afford it in journals that carry a prestigious publisher’s brand (such as Springer/Nature) but publish anything that passes the review process.Scammers have set up loads of pretty obviously fake pseudo-journals and conferencesReviewing articles is a lot of hard work, gets little recognition, and often fails to spot problematic scholarship. There may be better ways to filt…

ExamSoft Settles For $2.1 Million With Test Takers Receiving $90

The NYTimes is reporting that ExamSoft has been approved to settle the class-action lawsuit arising out of a computer glitch during last July's bar exam for $2.1 million.

"Last summer, law school graduates racked up some of the lowest scores in nearly a decade on the all-important bar exam. As the test takers and several law school deans viewed it, the poor results were not the fault of the graduates. Rather, it was a computer glitch that prevented them from uploading their completed exams on the first day of the multiday test."

Now, those test takers are being offered a small amount for their suffering: about $90 a person.

"Writing in a legal blog this month, Prof. Jerome M. Organ, at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis, asks that because takers spent a night 'completely anxious and stressed out trying repeatedly and unsuccessfully to upload their essay answers, should it be a surprise that they might have underperformed somewhat' the next…

Librarians At Risk For Automation

The Wall Street Journal recently asked, is your job creative enough to resist robot automation?
“Jobs that are considered creative today may not be so tomorrow,” according to the report, Creativity versus Robots, written with Nesta, a London-based non-profit research and innovation group. The paper, published last week, delves into the possible effects of automation on the workforce.

The Nesta /Oxford report tries to handicap which occupations are creative enough to avoid near-term automation. Of the  702 occupations categorized in the U.S., 21% ranked as “highly creative,”–offering the most protection against automation. Such jobs included artists, architects, web designers and IT specialists.

Jobs that are highly susceptible to computerization, according to the report:  office administrators, call-center staff, librarians, cattle and crop farmers, loggers, miners, car salesmen and hotel staff.

“The results strongly confirm the intuition that creative occupations are more future– proof t…

Law-Lib Listerv

If you are new to the law-librarian profession, you may want to consider subscribing to the law-lib listerv. It's a very active email listserv where law librarians come together to send each other news, job postings, and share materials.
To subscribe, send an email to sympa@ucdavis.edu with subscribe law-lib in the subject line. 
You should leave the body of the message blank, and delete any signature information from the end of the message. Note that Sympa prefers commands in the subject line, rather than in the body of your message.
I receive up to 10 emails a day from the listerv - many asking for help with material. And our library has used the listerv to gather hard-to-find resources from other libraries outside of the traditional ILL system. The listerv is extremely useful and a great network. 
For more information, see the Law-Lib Listerv FAQ.

Experiential Legal Education

Practical legal education is all the rage right now. After years of complaints by practitioners that law students were graduating without the skills necessary to actually practice, law schools en masse have finally started listening. 
This trend also coincided with the fact that fewer firms were willing to mentor law graduates in the practical side of practice. With so many law students graduating into a depressed market, law firms could pick and choose those graduates who needed less formal mentoring and could "hit the ground running" so to speak. 
This begs the question, if we make legal education more experiential, would it really matter? This was the exact title of a post on the Law Professor's Blog last year, and Bill Henderson thinks that the answer to this question is yes. "A competent lawyer needs domain knowledge + practical skills + a fiduciary disposition (i.e., the lawyer’s needs are subservient to the needs of clients and the rule of law).  Since practi…

Practical Legal Writing Akin To Scholarly Writing

Since 2012, I have taught eight sections of a scholarly writing course for law students. For fall 2015, I have been tapped to teach a different type of writing course. I will teach research & writing to international LL.M. students. I am excited to try something new - and also a little apprehensive.

For the LL.M. course, I will teach the students how to research, write an objective memo, write a persuasive brief, and do an oral argument. That is a lot to fit into one semester. Practical-legal writing is different than scholarly writing, and I have to refresh my own memo and brief-writing skills to effectively teach the process to students.
This made me happy to run across the following article:  Adam G. Todd, Teaching “Scholarly Writing” in the First-Year LWR Class: Bridging the Divide between Scholarly and Practical Writing, 22 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Res. & Writing 35 (2013).
From the article:  The divide between “academic writing” as is found in seminar papers or law jo…

ABA Drops 20-Hour Work Limit

It appears that the ABA has quietly dropped the limitation that full-time law students only work up to 20 hours per week.

Before the latest iteration of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools, this was the pertinent standard:

Standard 304. COURSE OF STUDY AND ACADEMIC CALENDAR
(f) A student may not be employed more than 20 hours per week in any week in which the student is enrolled in more than twelve class hours.

For 2014-2015, Standard 304 is now Standard 311, and there is no mention of the 20-hour work limit.

If you are interested in working, beware that while the ABA seems to have dropped the limitation, law schools may still impose the restriction through the honor code. If your law school does have a 20-hour limitation, you may want to discuss it with the powers that be and notify them of the change in the ABA Standards.

And although you may be able to work more than 20 hours per week while going to law school full-time, it may not actually be advisable. Law school is suppo…

Library Discovery Tools & Bias

Discovery layers in library catalogs offer a simple way to search across library content. But there are issues with discovery layers because the companies that make the search tools are also in the content business. And one fear is that these companies might favor their own content in the results generated by the discovery layers.

Discovery layers in library catalogs generally mean that patrons are finding reputable content because they are using the carefully curated collections of libraries. One study looked at how the adoption of a discovery tool changes the use of articles from publisher-hosted online journals. "Based on data from 33 libraries and 8,765 journals from six major publishers, their analysis showed 'an overall increase in usage for the entire set of journals in the year after implementation, though the extent of change varied by discovery service and publisher.'"

This is good news. We want students to use highly reputable, peer-reviewed articles that …

Millennials' Research Skills Lacking

After reading a very depressing article in the latest issue of the Law Library Journal about the demise of law libraries, this article gives me hope that people will continue to see the value of a librarian.

Time recently reported on a study that exposes the myth of the digital native conducted at Illinois Wesleyan, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois’s Chicago and Springfield campuses in 2011. InsideHigherEd discussed the study in detail.

The most alarming finding in the ERIAL studies was perhaps the most predictable: when it comes to finding and evaluating sources in the Internet age, students are downright lousy. Only seven out of 30 students whom anthropologists observed at Illinois Wesleyan conducted what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search.

Throughout the interviews, students mentioned Google 115 times -- more than twice as many times as any other database. The prevalence of Google in student research is …

ALA's State Of America's Library Report 2015

During National Library Week, the American Library Association (ALA) released its annual report on the state of America's libraries.

"Academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society. No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces. This and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the American Library Association’s 2015 State of America’s Libraries report, released during National Library Week, April 12– 18, 2015."

The Executive Summary provides an overview of the trends shaping all libraries.

As an academic law librarian, I am particularly interested in ALA's report on academic libraries. From the report, in part:
In the past three years, 62.6% of academic libraries reported repurposing space for group study, student success areas (writing/tutoring centers), quiet study space, technology learn…

Law Libraries As Laboratories

The new RIPS Blog by Janelle Beitz alerted me to a thoughtful piece by Sarah Glassmeyer at Slaw discussing the continuing need of a law library.

You should read Glassmeyer's article, which specifically addresses the recent uproar over Washington & Lee's new Strategic Transition Plan where “[o]perating budgets will be reduced by 10 percent in 2015-16 with the exception of the library budget, which will grow by 2 percent.”

There were many comments about this 2-percent increase that are so disheartening for law librarians.

As Glassmeyer eloquently responded:

While, in the above example, the library budget is increasing by 2%, I can almost guarantee that its material costs are going up 10% or more. Annually.The subscription databases that are “replacing libraries” are actually paid for from the library budget. They are not a competitor to the library, but rather they are a digital branch of it.Yes, even books are on the databases. But not all are. Also, depending on the agreeme…

Google Proximity Connector

Thanks to Carole A. Levitt, co-author of Google for Lawyers and Internet Legal Research on a Budget, I now know the secret Google proximity connector.

The elusive Google proximity connector is AROUND(n).

From Levitt's explanation:
Many paid legal research products such as LexisNexis and Westlaw offer the ability to search for keywords within a certain number of words from one another (a number that you define). For example, some pay databases allow you to search w/ (within any number of words that you indicate, such as w/2), /s (in the same sentence), and /p (in the same paragraph). Google does offer an analogous, but nearly unknown, proximity connector - AROUND(n).

The Google proximity connector AROUND(n) must be placed in upper case as illustrated in this explanation. By replacing the “n” with a number, you determine how many words you want your keywords to be from each other. For example, when we searched for carole AROUND(2) levitt, we retrieved 281,000 results where carole was…

The Joys Of Google Scholar

Having come from an independent law school that was not fully keyed into Google Scholar search results, it is with amazement that I relish in the delights of Google Scholar.

"Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research."

The beauty of Google Scholar is that it is performing a federated search of all of your libraries' databases to provide full-text results on one screen. You do not need to search the library catalog or individual databases. Google Scholar is doing it all for you!

The major benefits of Google Scholar include:
Search all scholarly literature from one convenient placeExplore related works, citations, authors, and pub…

SSRN & Institutional Repositories

In a previous post, I discussed using SSRN in lieu of an institutional repository to make faculty publications more accessible.

As mentioned in the previous post, it's ideal to use both SSRN and an institutional repository, but not all schools have institutional repositories (like my previous school), so I was promoting the use of SSRN in that case.

My new school does have an institutional repository, which is great. And we also utilize SSRN to promote faculty scholarship. Inevitably, when we discuss this with faculty, we get the question, "will the institutional repository hurt my SSRN rankings or downloads?"

An article that appeared in the AALL Spectrum in 2012 discusses this very issue. "Librarians have every reason to support the creation of an institutional digital repository (IR). An IR preserves the output of the intellectual life of the school, enables anyone with internet access to enjoy the benefits of the new knowledge, and promotes the institution and sch…