Showing posts from 2017

Law Librarian Status & Academic Freedom

We know that law librarians lack status in the status-obsessed legal academy. Some could argue that this is a gender equity problem, with females making up the overwhelming majority of law librarians (another post for another time).

But the lack of status also confers a lack of academic freedom to engage in tough conversations. This is particularly difficult for law librarians because we are not protected to fully engage with and advance our field. A field that is wrongly pegged as supplementary or secondary.

In the era of big-data algorithms with no accountability and the "fake news" phenomenon, librarians must tackle tough, controversial subjects that affect information. And law librarians take the ethical use of information very seriously with the  ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizing the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards stating that a successful legal researcher “distinguis…

Artificial Intelligence in Law Schools: Busting the Silo

As we further consider how to train future lawyers for the Algorithmic Society and develop the quality of thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning that will define smartness in this new age, law schools must reach beyond their storied walls.

In law, we must got beyond talking about algorithmic implications to actually help shape algorithmic performance. We need lawyers and programmers to work together to create a sound "machine learning corpus." There's potential for an entirely new subfield to emerge if given the right support. With many law school attached to major research universities, it's a great place to start this cross-pollination and interdisciplinary work.

This type of interdisciplinary work would help to satisfy the career aspirations of advanced-degree seekers but also the wishes of many college presidents, deans, and faculty members who see an interdisciplinary professional education as a path to greater relevance, higher enrollments,…

2018 A Legal Research Odyssey

Law Library Journal has accepted my manuscript for 2018 A Legal Research Odyssey: Artificial Intelligence as Disruptor

The abstract:
Cognitive computing is revolutionizing finance through the ability to combine structured and unstructured data and provide precise market analysis. It is also revolutionizing medicine by providing well-informed options for diagnoses. Analogously, ROSS, a progeny of IBM’s Watson, is set to revolutionize the legal field by bringing cognitive computing to legal research. While ROSS is currently being touted as possessing the requisite sophistication to perform effortless legal research, there is a real danger in a technology like ROSS causing premature disruption. As in medicine and finance, cognitive computing has the power to make legal research more efficient. But the technology is not ready to replace the need for law students to learn sound legal research process and strategy. When done properly, legal research is a highly creative skill that requires …

Training Lawyers for the Algorithmic Society

After delving deeper into how AI will affect legal research, it's natural to develop a healthy fear about what is being dubbed the "Algorithmic Society." In the Algorithmic Society, we will continue to increasingly rely on algorithms to govern populations.

While we're not at a point where algorithms can understand natural language processing akin to the human brain, it's not inconceivable that with technology's exponential rate of acceleration that computers will one day be able to master the highest levels of natural language processing and "think" like a human brain.

As computers get closer to thinking like humans, where does that leave us?

According to the Harvard Business Review (sub req'd), What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collabor…

Law Librarians Practicing Gratitude

Warning: Personal Post Alert

This blog started in 2013. I was 3 years into my career as a law librarian. Throughout that time, the public has been privy to an evolution. As with any career, the things I struggled with at year 3 are much different than the things I struggle with at year 7.

At year 3, I was mastering the practical side of law librarianship: sound legal research instruction and pedagogy, performing quality faculty research, mastering the effective reference interview, doing Michigan legislative history research in the books, recalling helpful resources, best practices for organizing and delivering content, curating a law library collection, etc... 
While I continue to hone many of these skills, the practical side of law librarianship is much easier now. This comports, I suppose, with Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule of mastery. 
My current focus is on learning the administrative side of law libraries, as well as forwarding the profession as a whole, particularly o…

The ABA Self-Study: Law Library Leadership Must Articulate Contributions to Program of Legal Education

If you haven't gone through an ABA Site Visit recently, it may be interesting to know that the ABA has revised its guidelines on the ABA Self-Study, which is made up of the Site Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ) and Self-Assessment. 
The SEQ is fairly straightforward; the Self-Assessment -- not so much. In the Managing Director’s Guidance Memo (revised March 2017), it states that the Self-Assessment will focus “on evaluation of the educational program and efforts to improve it.” It also mentions that  the schools should report descriptive data only once – in the SEQ portion  of the Self-Study.
At the conclusion of the Site Visit, the Site Team will review the law school's Self-Study as it prepares a report using the Site Evaluation Report Template

The Site Evaluation Report consists of the following sections:  Organization, Administration, Institutional Planning, and Finances: Questions 1 – 10  Program of Legal Education: Questions 11 – 38  Faculty: Questions 39 – 56 Students: Questions…

Preventing Law Librarian Burnout

More recently, there's been a consistent pattern to my conversations with law librarians where the law librarians have mentioned, often through exhausted tone, that they are doing more with less in the face of shrinking budgets and ever-changing expectations.

I find this to be true, as well, but it's also led me to examine societal changes regarding productivity and the extension of work into all areas of our lives. Lately, it's felt more acutely like everything is work.

A recent NYTimes article discussing the death of leisure provided some insight about why more things feel like work. In analyzing the recent purchase of the Lord & Taylor retail space in NYC by a company called WeWork, the article stated, Today, of course, shopping is something else entirely, not a diversion but just an extension of our working or “productive” lives. At our desks and laptops we buy our avocados, face creams, bathing suits, boxer shorts, coffee tables, routers, sport coats, ski clothes. …

Facilitating Law Library Sponsors

After another session in a longstanding conversation with my wonderful colleague, Alyson Drake, about the state of the profession, she made the brilliant connection that law libraries need sponsors. In the past 5 or so years, there's been quite a bit of discussion surrounding sponsorship for career advancement. You'll find relevant articles here, here, here, here, and here.

While many of the articles discuss sponsorship in terms of individuals, the notion, as well as the need, is similar for law libraries.

So what is a sponsor? 
A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move you . . . forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case. A sponsor has been described as “an influential spokesperson for what you are capable of doing.

And what’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? 
Mentoring is a gift. A sponsor, on the other hand, is more transactional. . . . A senior person is not going to go out…

Teaching Legal Research in the Books: Necessary or Not?

Over the course of the last week or so, there's been a lively discussion on the LRW-PROF listerv about teaching legal research using books.

The discussion started from this post:

At SCU, we have traditionally held one or two class sessions in which students conduct legal research in the library in books.  

Some of us are considering modifying, shrinking, or even eliminating these exercises to make more time for additional electronic research practice. We identified some theoretical pros and cons to this approach. We are curious to hear about practical effects from anyone who has gone through this process of shrinking or eliminating book research. What effects, good and bad, have you seen in your students' ability to research? Any flak from librarians or employers? I appreciate any ideas. 

Here is a sampling of the responses:
Sample Response 1: I have always taught a modicum of book research each year, and, at the very least, I introduce my students to the existence of the books an…

Librarians Guiding the Use of Classroom Technology

As librarians, we are often the go-to institutional source for teaching technologies. In law, the faculty often look to us to help train on and maintain these technologies for the benefit of the law school community. And with a 21st Century library's focus on service, we are happy to help.

To that end, The Teacher's Guide to Tech 2017 is an invaluable resource. It’s a 265-page digital binder you’ll use all year: Keep it on your desktop, laptop, tablet — even your phone — to help you navigate the tech world with confidence. Like having a tech-savvy friend on call to explain things in plain language, the guide will give you a sense of control over all the options.

The guide explains over 150 tools in clear, simple language. All tools are grouped into categories based on what they do. Each section starts with a discussion of classroom applications.

Then it takes one tool at a time, explaining what it does, how you can use it in the classroom, what it costs, and what platforms it w…

The Continued Evolution of WEXIS Graduate Access

In a continued effort to attract longterm users, both Westlaw & Lexis have modified graduate access to offer generous extended access.

As to Westlaw, currently, if you are a "Practice Ready" school, meaning that you subscribe to the Practice Ready suite, Westlaw sends the following message to impending graduates:

Don’t miss out! Enable your extended access now:
·Sign in at ·If you have not already enabled your access, you should see a prompt asking you to extend. Click on “I agree” and you are all set. 
Not seeing the prompt? ·Use this link -
What do I get with my extended access?
·Know How - Access to helpful sample documents and checklists with Practical Law & Practice Point ·Research - Westlaw access to understand the law and find authority  ·Drafting Tools - Access to contract review, citation formatting and authority review tools with Drafting Assistant.
You’ll have 60 hours of access to the t…

The 21st Century Law Library: Focus on Service

As we continue to talk about the ABA's watering down of law library standards, as well as the impending squeeze from artificial intelligence, Law Librarian Dan Odenwald reminds us to focus on the fundamental service tenet of our profession. 
In a recent AALL Spectrum article titled "Transforming Customer Service in the Post-Digital Law Library," Odenwald notes that [w]e may be a long way from the day when artificial intelligence discerns legislative intent for us, or drones drop deskbooks at our doors, but we ought to contemplate that future and the critical role that customer service will continue to occupy in it. 
He further articulates rules for law library customer service in the post-digital age: 
1. Stop Selling Yesterday's Fish:Next-generation legal research platforms, linked data and Watson long ago replaced the perfunctory, will-you-pull-a-statute-for-me duties of law librarians.
2. Anticipate Needs Before They Arise:As the practice of law transforms, so too …

Our Changing Role: A Survey of Law Firm Librarians

As this study indicates, the legal profession is nearly a decade into fundamental, structural change. And perhaps no single role has seen greater impact than the law firm librarian. Budget pressures, shrinking law library footprints, a decreasing reliance on print, a greater push for online resources, and the advent of new job responsibilities are just a few of the factors that have combined to push law librarians into new territory.

So how much change, exactly, have law firm librarians endured? According to the survey’s 123 respondents from a combination of large and medium law firms, more than half of respondents said their role had undergone substantial change within the past three years, with 15 percent reporting “extreme change.” Forty-eight percent of respondents reported spendingmore than three-quarters of their time on activities that were not part of their job descriptions three years ago. 

A few of the most-identified changes include:
Conducting research, as opposed to facili…

The Dark Side of Open Access Publishing

Normally, I am a staunch advocate for open-access (OA) publishing. See previous blog posts on OA here, here, here, here, and here. But with a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req'd.), it became clear that advocating for OA publishing without mentioning the possible pitfalls is irresponsible.

The CHE article follows the recent demise of Beall's List -- the list created by a librarian to warn researchers about predatory publishers. CHE provides the following possible causes for the demise:

[Beall's] fellow university librarians, whom Mr. Beall faults for overpromoting open-access publishing models.A well-financed Swiss publisher, angry that Mr. Beall had had the temerity to put its journals on his list.His own university, perhaps fatigued by complaints from the publisher, the librarians, or others.The broader academic community — universities, funders of research, publishers, and fellow researchers, many of whom long understood the value of Mr. Beall…

Competitive Intelligence in Academic Law Libraries

Competitive intelligence (CI) is decidedly in the law firm setting. Law firms use CI to:
gather and analyze information about a competitors’ activities and general business trends to further their goals;gather, analyze, and manage external information that can affect a firm's plans, decisions, and operations;monitor competitors within a specific marketplace; andcollect information pieces that have been filtered, distilled, and analyzed and turned into something that can be acted upon.
While it is natural for law firm libraries to create a CI cycle and process within their firms, it can be more difficult to see how CI affects academic law libraries. But academic law libraries certainly have a part to play in teaching CI techniques to prospective lawyers. 
One of the key components of CI is that the information can ultimately be acted upon. And the prospective lawyers will, at some point, be the ones acting upon the information. So it follows that prospective lawyers would do well t…

Law Libraries Retaining Talent

While at AALL Management Institute last spring, one of the other attendees asked Maureen Sullivan, our fearless leader and management expert, how law libraries can stop "hemorrhaging talent."

This question struck a chord. I love this profession, and it feels like a calling. But I often find myself asking "is it time for something else?" The sense from the room at Mgmt Inst was that I am not alone. And we are at a continued risk of losing talented, valuable librarians.

We have to consider why we're losing folks to create change. I'll highlight a few reasons here:
Librarianship is generally considered a "pink collar" profession. And we face many of the same issues that legal writing instructors face across the country. Like legal writing instructors, our positions are disproportionately occupied by women in less secure (generally staff), low-status positions. As such, we are subjected to various microaggressions that are commonplace in strict hierarc…

Analysis in Legal Research

Too often, searching for relevant information and the ultimate analysis of facts to law is disjointed. That's because teaching the analysis of the law is often left up to the doctrinal professors or the writing professors.

But analysis is inherent to the legal research process. Using the 4-step legal research process to find relevant information requires that the researcher has the ability to analyze the law to select the material that will aid in their arguments. 
Legal research is inevitably a back-and-forth process. The researcher starts with secondary sources to get a better understanding of the cause of action. The researcher moves onto the codified law to understand what needs to be analyzed in light of the facts of the case. The researcher then continues with binding and persuasive precedent to craft arguments by comparing facts and analogizing or distinguishing from case precedent. 
A researcher cannot begin to know what types of binding and persuasive precedent to find wi…

Law Librarians Improving the Profession

During Bryan Stevenson's keynote at AALL in Austin (login req'd), he noted and expounded on 4 things that will improve justice:
Get proximate to injusticeChange the narratives that sustain injusticeStay hopefulDo uncomfortable things His message is an important one, and law librarians certainly have a role to play in improving access to justice. 
Throughout his keynote, I couldn't help but connect these 4 things to the issues facing law librarianship, in general. Like improving justice, law librarians need to work to improve the state of our profession to ensure that we can continue to assist with access to justice issues, among other things, for years to come. 
In that regard, we can do similar things to improve law librarianship: 
     1. Get proximate to the issues facing law librarianship
There is a myriad of issues facing law librarianship: budgets, staffing, librarian supporttechnology, public perception. We need to face each of these head on and work to create solu…

AALL 2017 Poster Session: Scholarly Research & Writing Programs

AALL in Austin is just around the corner. I'm excited to be surrounded by my favorite cohort of humans and feel inspired by all of the wonderful programs! 
If you're in Austin, please drop by the Austin Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall 4, Poster #29: You Can't Write Without Research: Developing a Scholarly Research Writing Program at Your Law School. 

Safe travels to Austin!