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Showing posts from June, 2015

A Collection Of Helpful Tidbits

Here is a collection of helpful tidbits:WestlawNext has a new feature in KeyCite. There is a new Blue Striped KeyCite flag which will pick up State Supreme Court cases that are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The new blue-striped flag appears in the results list and at the top of a case.  The flag will be added to any case appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, including those appealed from state supreme courts.   After 6 years in beta, Gmail formally added the undo sent function. The new tool allows users to choose a delay time from 5 to 30 seconds in case of a change of heart. Atlantic Media's business news website, Quartz, has recently introduced a search engine for the thousands of bar and line charts that Quartz journalists have made since its introduction in 2012. Who knows when and where this information will come in handy. Now you know!

Long, Jargon-Filled Abstracts Win Citation Count

The Chronicle of Higher Education (sub req'd) ran an article reporting on a recent study of abstracts. The study found that articles with longer, jargon-filled abstracts are more likely to be cited across fields.

As CHE noted, Academics are often encouraged to write clearly and concisely, but that imperative may actually limit a paper’s impact on scholarship. A new study out of the University of Chicago has found that papers with longer, jargon-laden abstracts are more likely to be cited in other academic works than are brief, clear abstracts, which researchers are typically taught to write.

In a review of about one million abstracts, the three-person research team analyzed each one for clarity by evaluating metrics such as sentence length, parts of speech, and how much emotion was included in word choice. The researchers drew on that analysis to develop a mean score for each abstract. They then compared that score with how often each article was cited, theorizing that the most-cit…

Law Librarian Cited In SCOTUS Opinion

John Cannan, research and instructional services librarian at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia, made the history books yesterday, June 25. The United States Supreme Court opinion King v. Burwellcites Cannan's Law Library Journal article, "A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History," 105 Law Libr. J. 131 (2013).
Chief Justice Roberts cites Cannan's article on page 14 of the opinion: 
The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act's passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through "the traditional legislative process." Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib…

Student Loan "Tax Bomb" - IBR, PSLF, PAYE & REPAYE

Student loans are confusing. They are particularly confusing for law graduates when nearly 85% of law school students graduate with $100,000 or more in debt.

We started with Income Based Repayment (IBR) that allows borrowers to pay back their student loans based on their income. Then we moved to IBR coupled with Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for borrowers who took out loans between 2007 and 2011 and work at a 501(c)(3). This allows graduates to pay based on their income and after 10 years of repayment while working at a non-profit, the rest of the debt is forgiven without a tax burden.

For those not working under PSLF but utilizing IBR, the terms were adjusted to allow borrowers to limit repayment to 15% of their discretionary income and have any remaining balance forgiven after 25 years of repayment with a tax burden on the amount forgiven.

Then in 2012, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program was created so that graduates could limit their federal loan payments to 10% of their di…

RIPS Law Librarian Blog Post - Promoting Faculty Scholarship

See my new RIPS Law Librarian Blog post about promoting faculty scholarship.

Google Skewing Results To Favor Google

In March, the Wall Street Journal covered "[a] previously undisclosed report by staffers at the Federal Trade Commission [that] reveals new details about how Google Inc. manipulated search results to favor its own services over rivals’, even when they weren’t most relevant for users."

In a lengthy investigation, staffers in the FTC’s bureau of competition found evidence that Google boosted its own services for shopping, travel and local businesses by altering its ranking criteria and “scraping” content from other sites. It also deliberately demoted rivals. For example, the FTC staff noted that Google presented results from its flight-search tool ahead of other travel sites, even though Google offered fewer flight options. Google’s shopping results were ranked above rival comparison-shopping engines, even though users didn’t click on them at the same rate, the staff found.

When confronted about the skewed results, Google spokespeople were adamant that they were not "cooki…

Wikipedia's Slow Decline

The NYTimes recently posted an article asking, "can Wikipedia survive?" The article discusses the issues plaguing Wikipedia, including the rise of mobile computing.

Wikipedia has come a long way since it started in 2001. With around 70,000 volunteers editing in over 100 languages, it is by far the world’s most popular reference site. Its future is also uncertain. One of the biggest threats it faces is the rise of smartphones as the dominant personal computing device. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code. Even before smartphones were widespread, studies consistently showed that these are daunting tasks for newcomers. 'Not even ou…

Law School Reform Taking Shape

Salon recently posted a fairly comprehensive article discussing the generally universal recommended reforms to legal education.

From the article:
Almost thirty years ago, the New York Times ran a Sunday magazine feature titled, “The Trouble with America’s Law Schools.” The piece highlighted many of the curricular concerns common today, particularly the lack of practical training, the inattention to issues of professional responsibility, and the disengagement of upper-level law students.

And as noted, we're still dealing with many of the same issues today. Here are some of the highlights from the recommended reforms:

Finances:
Schools also need to look for more ways to cut costs and to diversify their revenue streams. More programs for nonlawyers, undergraduates, practicing attorneys, and foreign graduate students are obvious options. Debt burdens for students could also be reduced by allowing them to attend after three years of college, as a few law schools now do.

Structure:
A further…

A Well-Optimized Abstract

One of the services that I offer to my faculty is writing abstracts optimized for search engines. I recently came across an article from Wiley that illustrates the benefits of a well-optimized abstract.

Optimizing your article for search engines will greatly increase its chance of being viewed and/or cited in another work. Citation indexes already figure in many disciplines as a measure of an article's value; there is evidence that article views/downloads are also beginning to count in the same way. The crucial area for optimization is your article's abstract and title, which are freely available to all online. We have compiled these guidelines to enable you to maximize the web-friendliness of the most public part of your article.

And as I have mentioned in the past, SSRN only indexes the title, abstract, and keywords, so a well-optimized article is essential for discoverability.

A few suggestions from Wiley on how to optimize:
Step 1: Construct a clear, descriptive title
In sea…

Law Librarians Upping Efficacy Of Faculty Scholarship

Is your faculty's scholarship reaching its intended audience? Is it truly having an impact?

Most law schools are in the zero-sum game of the USNews ranking system. The quality assessment by peers and lawyers/judges makes up nearly 40% of the overall score. One of the ways to help this score is by upping the reputation of the school - say, through the promotion of impactful faculty scholarship.
Currently, we have impact factors for the individual journals, but there is no widespread system of comparing the schools' overall faculty scholarship. One (of a few) impact factors for the individual journals is from the Washington & Lee Law Journal Submissions & Rankings Database is based on "the average number of annual citations to articles in each journal (rounded to two decimal places)."
One (imperfect) method of comparing scholarship for an entire school's faculty is to base it on the number of downloads from SSRN &/or the institutional repository. Bepres…

Legal Technicians Have Arrived

The first seven people have passed the exam in Washington to become the country's first legal technicians.

The ABA Journal reported on this trend in January. The legal technicians will be licensed by the state to provide legal advice and assistance to clients in certain areas of law without the supervision of a lawyer. The first practice area in which LLLTs will be licensed is domestic relations.

"So far, Washington stands alone in formally licensing nonlawyers to provide legal services. But California is actively considering nonlawyer licensing, and several other states are beginning to explore it. New York has sidestepped licensing and is already allowing nonlawyers to provide legal assistance in limited circumstances while also looking to expand their use."

As for the practicalities, the legal technicians "will be free to set their own fees and work independently of lawyers, even opening their own offices. The laws of attorney-client privilege and of a lawyer'…

The Bluebook 20th Edition Is Available For Purchase

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The 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (ISBN 978-0-692-40019-7) is now available for purchase!

Click the "Purchase" link in the top menu of The Bluebook's website to buy the book in print or to buy a subscription or renewal to the Bluebook Online.

From the website:
We are no longer able to sell the 19th edition (ISBN 978-0-615-36116-1) through our website. If you wish to purchase the 19th edition, send an email to orders@legalbluebook.com. Please indicate if you are a bookstore, how many copies of the book you wish to purchase, and the billing and shipping addresses. You may also fax your order with your credit card number and expiration date to 617-495-2748. Make sure you indicate clearly whether you wish to purchase the 19th or 20th edition on the fax. We do not accept orders over the phone. Sorry for any inconvenience.

If you purchased a subscription to the Bluebook Online before the release of the 20th edition, you will have access to the 20th…

Ways To Prevent Link Rot

As mentioned in other posts, there is a serious problem with link rot in legal sources online. Nearly half of the links in SCOTUS opinions no longer work, and these opinions shed light on a much larger issue. "According to the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, a collaborative archiving program, the average life span of a webpage is between 44 and 75 days."

The problem with link rot was brought to light when Jonathan Zittrain from Harvard studied the SCOTUS opinions mentioned above. As he and the other authors of the study noted, “[t]he link, a URL, points to a resource hosted by a third party,” the authors explained. “That resource will only survive so as long as the third party preserves it. And as websites evolve, not all third parties will have a sufficient interest in preserving the links that provide backwards compatibility to those who relied upon those links.”

After this study, the Harvard Innovation Lab created perma.cc to help scholars protect and preserve the …