Thursday, July 27, 2017

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 without analysis. And this analysis must be part of the discussion in any legal research course. 

Many legal research courses teach the mechanics of finding certain types of content without focusing on the analysis that works to bridge the "knowledge in action gap." This means that the research becomes disconnected from the analysis while in law school, but it is very much connected in practice. And practicing lawyers are left to bridge this gap themselves when they should be prepared, instead, to hit the ground running. 

The creative analysis that is required during competent legal research also means that legal research will be difficult to automate. Sure, some types of legal research could be automated for efficiency. But when it comes to searching case precedent to make creative legal arguments for clients, a machine is just not capable of that level of deep thinking

As law librarians design courses for AY2017-18, please keep the very important analysis portion in mind. To that end, see a previous post on selecting a case to cite

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Law Librarians Improving the Profession

Image from AALL Twitter
During Bryan Stevenson's keynote at AALL in Austin (login req'd), he noted and expounded on 4 things that will improve justice:
  1. Get proximate to injustice
  2. Change the narratives that sustain injustice
  3. Stay hopeful
  4. Do 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 solutions. 

     2. Change the narratives that sustain the misunderstandings re: law librarianship

Lately, it seems that we need a wide array of elevator speeches to explain our importance. It's tough to constantly explain in a clear, meaningful way when our importance seems so obvious to us. But it's necessary. I will forever regret letting a faculty member confidently tell me that the only thing that the law library needs is a subscription to Westlaw & Lexis. Law librarians know that there are pedagogical concerns, licensing issues, and many other things wrong with that statement. On this day, I let the comment pass with no retort because I was exhausted from a long day in the office and didn't feel like engaging in the discussion. But we must engage in these discussions. We must advocate for the profession.

     3. Stay hopeful

After attending AALL and talking with other law librarians about our work, it is clear that we are all very busy. And when we get too busy by being asked to do more with less, coupled with feeling underappreciated, it's easy to lose hope. I love this profession, and I, for one, need to do a better job of remembering the intrinsic value of law libraries

     4. Do uncomfortable things

We can't sit still; we must engage. And that's inherently uncomfortable given our responsibilities. 

One of the best things about AALL is meeting all of the wonderful people in the profession and feeling re-energized about tackling these issues. Let's use the momentum until we meet again next summer in Baltimore (with John Waters!). 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

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!