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Showing posts from 2018

Ravel View for Lexis Advance Visually Showcases Case Data for Faster Searching

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Context: Daniel Lewis was just in his second year at Stanford Law School when he had an idea for a different way to do legal research. His idea was to display search results visually, along a cluster map that shows the relationships among cases and their relative importance to each other. Shortly after he graduated in 2012, he and classmate Nicholas Reed had launched the legal research platform derived from his idea, Ravel Law. Last June, five years after its founding, Ravel was acquired by legal research giant LexisNexis.

Ravel View for Lexis Advance is here!

In the latest iteration of Lexis's push to sift through massive amounts of data and provide meaningful results, Ravel View provides additional metrics and a visual, data-driven view for legal research results.

The programmers' constant tweaking of Lexis Advance to aid users is wonderful, but Ravel View showcases a truly innovative step in legal research visualization that meets users where they are likely to look.

The tra…

Using the Servant-Leadership Style in Law Libraries

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The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When you are lacking in faith,
Others will be unfaithful to you.

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!’ -- Lao-Tzu

Over the past 10 years working in law libraries, I've gone from Student Circulation Assistant to Student Reference Assistant to a general Reference Librarian to a more specialized Faculty Services & Scholarly Communications Librarian to Associate Director to Interim Director. For the first 8 years or so, I spent my time honing the front-line skills necessary for exemplary library work. As I've entered middle and now upper management, there's an entirely new set of skills necessary to effectively perform these roles.

Needless to say, I've …

A Legal Framework for the "Information Apocalypse"

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In 2009, a CNN article noted that the law is "at least five years behind technology as it is developing."

In late 2016, Aviv Ovadya was one of the first people to see that there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

Ovadya — now the chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility and a Knight News innovation fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journ…

Creatively Harvesting Bluebook Data

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As late as 2016, I was ready to join Justice Posner and give up on The Bluebook. After research into the use of algorithms in the era of big data, however, my thinking has changed.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article articulating the concerns with following a particular citation style. The problem with the rules-heavy approach to teaching [citation] isn’t just the rigidity with which students are taught those rules or follow them. It’s that too often students are taught rules without any context or justification. That’s just "the way things are." Students are left following rules just because a [law review editor] told them to, none the wiser about their function or history. It’s a recipe for seeing writing as foreign or external — something a student is supposed to do but not necessarily understand. Just follow the rules, kid, and there won’t be any trouble.

Instead of taking this approach to citation, the author leads a discussion not about citation st…

Aligning the Law Library Strategic Plan with "Program of Legal Education"

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In addition to ABA Standard Chapter 6 concerns, as the ABA continues to focus on a law school's "program of legal education," it is wise for law libraries to take note and align their strategic plans directly with the "program of legal education."

Accordingly, Standard 601 states:
Standard 601. GENERAL PROVISIONS
(a) A law school shall maintain a law library that:
(1) provides support through expertise, resources, and services adequate to enable the law
school to carry out its program of legal education, accomplish its mission, and support
scholarship and research;
(2) develops and maintains a direct, informed, and responsive relationship with the faculty,
students, and administration of the law school;
(3) working with the dean and faculty, engages in a regular planning and assessment process, including written assessment of the effectiveness of the library in achieving its mission
and realizing its established goals; and
(4) remains informed on and implements…

Proposed Change to ABA Standard 601: Written Assessment of Law Library Effectiveness

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The recent proposed change to ABA Standard 601(a)(3), calls for the removal of a written assessment of the effectiveness of the library in achieving its mission and realizing its established goals. 

Standard 601. Library and Information Resources, General Provisions

Explanation of Changes:

The current version of Standard 601(3)(a) was developed during the Comprehensive Review as a method of involving a law library in the process of strategic planning required of a law school. It was envisioned that the planning and assessment taking place for a law school (under what was then Standard 203) would incorporate the work done by the library under this new Standard. To ensure that incorporation, it was decided that a written assessment should be completed by the library. However, when the requirement for strategic planning for a law school was removed during a later phase of the Comprehensive Review, no change was made to the new Standard 601. As a result, the library community has been left…

Empirical Study Shows Algorithmic Bias in Library Discovery Layers

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Discussions surrounding algorithmic bias are fairly common. We've even seen discussion of algorithmic bias in library discovery tools. Most of this discussion, though, has been theoretical. In what is purportedly the first empirical study to analyze algorithmic bias in library discovery systems, Matthew Reidsma put ProQuest's Topic Explorer to the test to review potential biases affecting results.

More and more academic libraries have invested in discovery layers, the centralized “Google-like” search tool that returns results from different services and providers by searching a centralized index. The move to discovery has been driven by the ascendence of Google as well as libraries' increasing focus on user experience. Unlike the vendor-specific search tools or federated searches of the previous decade, discovery presents a simplified picture of the library research process. It has the familiar single search box, and the results are not broken out by provider or format but…

The Information Business; The People Business

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Law libraries are in the information business. To act as superior guides to this information, we must also be in the people business. We must be concerned with the people who seek our information. And we must be concerned with the people who guide those seekers to the information (i.e., our staff).

Contrary to popular belief, it's not easy to be a staff person in the rigid hierarchy of an academic law library. Particularly at a time when law libraries are facing increased budget pressures that require staff to do much more with much less. This is especially challenging with longtime staff who have seen their jobs change dramatically since they were hired. Many of these folks were not formally trained in librarianship, and they may be resistant to the flexibility needed in today's law library.

Given these challenges, how do we motivate our staff to be the very best guides to our information?

To that end, there was an enlightening program at the AALL Annual Conference in 2013 t…

Law Librarian Status as Gender Equity Issue

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There's been much written about gender bias in legal writing and how legal writing instructors inhabit what is referred to as the "pink ghetto" of the legal academy (see, e.g., here, herehere, and here). The pink ghetto of the legal academy refers to the lower status, lower paid positions that women often occupy. What's interesting is that law librarians are often left out of this discussion (though, not always).

Historically, law librarianship has been a field dominated by women.In the 1999-2000 academic year, for example, 52 percent of law school library directors were women (up from 44 percent in 1994-95). ' In 1999, 67 percent of all academic law librarians were women. If directors were subtracted from that figure, the female percentage of nondirector librarians would be substantially higher than 67 percent. 

Historical statistics on law library directors are instructive in another way. In 1950, 55 percent of the directors were women, but at that time only …

The Importance of Using Reasonable Care When Relying on Algorithms in Law: A Case Study

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Given the issues with the "Google Generation" and seeming ease of using algorithms in law, there are increasing challenges in using reasonable care to comply with the newer Duty of Technology CompetenceAs noted in a previous post:The Duty of Technology Competence requires lawyers to keep abreast of “changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” To date, 28 states have adopted the duty.
Using reasonable care to understand the benefits and risks associated with relevant technologies is increasingly difficult as society moves beyond the abundance of information that defined the Information Age to increasingly rely on algorithms that sort big data in the Algorithmic Society.
However, reasonable care is essential when using algorithms in law. Take the COMPAS risk-assessment tool, for example. Developed by a private company called Equivant (formerly Northpointe), COMPAS—or the Correctional Offender Management Profilin…

Coming Full Circle: Law Library as Laboratory

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As we consider an innovative law library of the 21st Century, a few things are self evident:
Law libraries are less about physical materialsLibraries, in general, are much more focused on creating inviting spaces for collaboration and studyAcademic law libraries tend to have at least some hand in supporting experiential learning Couple these fairly universal truths with a recent article in Inside Higher Ed about an academic library creating an artificial intelligence lab, and there seems to be something there for law libraries, as well.

The 600-square-foot AI lab will be located on the library’s first floor and will offer beginner- to advanced-level tutorials in areas such as robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the internet of things, and big data.

The lab will also provide a space for faculty members, students and the local community to discuss the social and ethical implications of these technology developments. Faculty may also use the space for teaching…

Disruption in Law: Algorithms that Doubt Themselves

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After learning more about AI systems and their predicted disruption in law and legal research, one of the most compelling arguments against blindly relying on algorithms is the lack of transparency and underlying probability for error. 
This may be less of a concern going forward as the MIT Technology Review reports that Google and others are building AI systems that doubt themselves
Researchers at Uber and Google are working on modifications to the two most popular deep-learning frameworks that will enable them to handle probability. This will provide a way for the smartest AI programs to measure their confidence in a prediction or a decision—essentially, to know when they should doubt themselves.
The work reflects the realization that uncertainty is a key aspect of human reasoning and intelligence. Adding it to AI programs could make them smarter and less prone to blunders, says Zoubin Ghahramani, a prominent AI researcher who is a professor at the University of Cambridge and chief…

Williston's Resilient Labor of Love

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A colleague sent me the following image of Samuel Williston with the research -- drafts and notes -- for his venerable treatise:


This is an impressive image of a labor of love. We'll likely never see anything like it again (nor should we, poor trees). Just imagine the countless hours of toiling in the books that Williston (or his research assistants, as it were) undertook to develop the preeminent contracts treatise. This was certainly a golden age for the print-lined walls of the law library. 
It's interesting to look at the tangible work product and understand the research behind it and compare it to what we're likely to see today. While we won't see piles of papers, we'll see documents stored in electronic folders. And while we won't, generally, toil in books, we are still toiling in electronic databases doing the creative analysis required of effective legal research. 
After seeing the image, I was intrigued to read the accompanying article in Harvard Magaz…

The Duty of Tech in the Algorithmic Society

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The age of legal tech is upon us. The possibilities are endless, and the potential access to justice benefits have never been greater. One thing is certain: law will never be less technologically oriented than it is today.

This certainty may induce excitement or fear, but we all should proceed with reasonable care. In fact, it may be an ethical violation not to. The Duty of Technology Competence requires lawyers to keep abreast of “changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” To date, 28 states have adopted the duty.

Using reasonable care to understand the benefits and risks associated with relevant technologies is increasingly difficult as society moves beyond the abundance of information that defined the Information Age to increasingly rely on algorithms that sort big data in the Algorithmic Society.

The difficulty is in how easily algorithms retrieve "relevant" information. Couple this perceived ease with the…

Top 17 for '17: A Year-End Roundup

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Happy New Year! As I plan for the year ahead, it's always interesting to review The Ginger (Law) Librarian's top posts for the previous year. Here is the top 17 for 2017: 
1. Law School Rankings & Law Libraries: When administrators consider programs that directly affect rankings, law libraries are often left out of the equation. Rankings need to change. The perception of a law library's affect on rankings also needs to change.
2. Is It Time For a Legal Research Component on the Bar Exam?: While this would require reconceptualizing the bar exam, it would more fully represent what a lawyer actually does in practice. It would also adjust the test to the digital age where the current crop of law students grew up with the ability to find (and USE?) information at their fingertips. 
3. Rombauer Method of Legal Research: Instead of focusing on the various platforms, we should make the students comfortable with a process that works in any database — a process that will become…