"Keeping Current Can Be Hard to Do for Law Librarians"

I bet! In fact, I've often thought that being a law librarian would be a most interesting job. Just think about everything you would learn!

"Librarians are curious people. We like to skim magazines and books, we like to surf the Web and we have some interest in a lot of topics. A former co-worker used to say that librarians are 'trivial' in that we are always picking up trivia -- a definite asset when one needs to keep current in their profession.

"I was familiar with blogs, wikis and social software before I wrote 'The Many Hats of a Law Librarian: Part 3.'

[snip]

"So, keeping current has two parts: awareness of new or changing resources/activities and appreciation of possible uses or impact in your institution. Or, there may not be a use in your library. Mash-ups look to be a fun technology, but I do not see a need for it at my institution at this time. Law firm librarians may find it more interesting.

"Keeping current is not just for technology advances, although technology does drive much of the change and activity. My 'Hats' series [of articles] is an attempt to describe how the Internet and electronics have impacted and continue to impact our profession. Our traditional hats as modified by technology means current awareness crosses more lines and covers more topics than ever."

Author Tricia Kasting is a reference/government documents librarian at Hofstra University School of Law's Deane Law Library in Hempstead, N.Y.


Website: Famous Trials

This admittedly bare-bones website was created & is maintained by professor Douglas O. Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas Law School. Linder says:

"My vision was to create the Web’s largest collection of primary documents, images, essays, and other materials relating to famous trials from Salem to Simpson. Trials have long struck me as wonderful vehicles for exploring history and human nature. What better way to understand the 20s than reading about the Scopes, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Leopold and Loeb trials? What provides better insights into the nature of evil than reading the transcripts of the William Calley court-martial or the Nuremberg trials? Would not the Amistad, Shipp, Scottsboro Boys, Sweet, and “Mississippi Burning” trials provide an excellent launching point for a discussion of racism in America?  I wanted these materials to be made readily available, in an easily digestible form, for everyone from junior high students to law professors."

Professor Linder told The New York Times that "...the most important trial of our age occurred in a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., in the summer of 1925, when a jury was asked to decide whether a high-school biology teacher violated a new state law that banned the teaching of evolution." The Scopes "Monkey" Trial took place in 1925.

Being a baseball fan, my favorite event described (& richly annotated) is the Chicago Black Sox Trial (1921).

If you like history, you will definitely enjoy this site...


"Cognition Launches New Linguistic Search Engine"

This new search engine could be very helpful for litigation support paralegals:

"Every searcher's fear is that a search will produce too little of what you want or too much of what you don't want. And, even if you get a nice collection of the right stuff, is it all the right stuff out there or does it omit things you need to see? In technical terms, does your search strategy balance precision and recall effectively? Linguistic and semantic search engines have long held out the promise of helping computers "understand" concepts, rather than just search for terms. Cognition Technologies has launched CognitionSearch [PDF link], a linguistic search engine that supports ontology, morphology, and synonymy, tapping one of the world's largest computational dictionaries. Initially, the company will market a vertical enterprise service for legal litigation support and for life science and health research. It also offers an open Web service to demonstrate the technology as applied to MEDLINE and PubMed content, to judicial and legislative sources, and to political blog content." [Emphasis added.]

Find more info about the company & its products here.


"Superior Legal Web Sites to Watch"

This article from our friends at Law Technology News offers a bunch of helpful law links:

"We delve into our browser's bookmarks this month, to review the recently launched Web sites of interest to individuals in the legal profession.

BLAWG SEARCH

"Several sites help you search the content of blogs, but offer no way to limit your search to law-related blogs.

"A new tool solves this search shortfall by indexing only the content of legal blogs.

"Called BlawgSearch, it is the creation of Tim Stanley and his team at the Web site design company Justia. (If Stanley's name sounds familiar, it's because he was cofounder of the original FindLaw).

It launched in November, with an index of some 600 blawgs, and as of this writing, has more than 1,000, with more being added regularly.

"The site includes a directory of blawgs arranged by categories and locations, as well as a directory of other blawg directories. The site's front page lists the most popular blawgs, highlights recent blawg posts and highlights a 'featured blawger.' Clouds display tags and search terms."

There's much, much more in the complete article....


Digitization of Print Materials

We all prefer digital over paper-based information, right? Right!

"Companies from Google to The Thomson Corporation, from Microsoft to LexisNexis, are all undertaking large digitization projects focusing on better access to paper-based resources. Undeniably, many law firms have a need for some of the digitized products on the market today, and there will soon be many more sources available.

"In acquiring access to new digital collections, law firms and other information consumers need to think about issues of cost, technology requirements and ease of use. Beyond that, merely acquiring a new collection will not ensure that all people who need the information will know it exists when the need for that information arises. This article addresses several topics relating to digitized collections, framing the discussion by first discussing two legal-specific digitization projects available for private law firms.

[snip]

  1. Hein Online. This is a collection of scanned law reviews and primary federal materials, such as the Federal Register and the Statutes at Large.
  2. LLMC-Digital [registration req'd]. The Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC) was chartered in 1976 as a nonprofit library cooperative at the University of Hawaii.

"Google launches search engine for US patents"

This news from Google sure sounds smart to me. But will patent paralegals be impressed?

"Google was live [12/14/2006] with a service enabling Internet users to search through the more than seven million patents granted in the United States.

"The beta, or test, version of Google Patent Search lets people sift through patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office as long ago as 1790 by using inventors' names, filing dates, patent numbers or key words.

"Searches return information about the inventor and provide patent details online page-by-page."

I've never worked in this field, but was completely fascinated by the cool stuff I found!


NY Trial Court Online Case Access

Legal Dockets Online describes new enhancements to New York State's case information databases:

"Supreme Court and County Clerk dockets, decisions, monitoring, and calendar access is finally consolidating and improving. If you practice in New York, be prepared to be impressed. Here is a summary of the state's major case information databases now available to the public:

"This system provides past, present and future case information for New York State Civil Supreme Courts. WebCivil provides online access to information about cases in Civil Supreme Court in all 62 counties of New York State. You may search for cases by Index Number or the name of the Plaintiff or Defendant, look up cases by Attorney/Firm name, and view Calendars for each court.

"Case Search - Find all New York State Civil Supreme Court cases by index number, party and firm name.

"Court Calendar Search - Find calendar information by county, justice and part.

"Attorney/Firm Calendar Search - Find calendar information for an attorney or firm.

"Document Search - Find published decisions by index number and county."

Find much more helpful info in the full article...


"The Making of a Public Records Researcher"

This most helpful article was written by Genie Tyburski of The Virtual Chase:

"What constitutes public record, public information and private information sometimes is as clear as mud. (For a discussion of the differences, see The Art of Public Records Research.) [link in article] In a recent e-mail exchange concerning a proposal for a distant education course for journalism students on public records research, one professor expressed concern that students wouldn't have access to commercial databases containing personal information. She also commented that drivers' records 'are available to private investigators, but not to reporters.' How, then, should the faculty handle the instruction of the use of such records in journalism research?

"In a nutshell, students and journalists don't have full access to commercial personal information aggregators because the vendors forbid it. Arguably, these groups would not have a permissible use for the data protected by two major privacy laws – the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Drivers' Privacy Protection Act. But, just because journalists don't have access to private or sensitive information through these research systems, doesn't mean they can't find what they seek – legally."

Originally published in The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research (February 2006).


"Half of government documents 'born digital'"

Wow, this is amazing info (pointed to by The Virtual Chase):

"Public Printer Bruce James recently returned to the Rochester Institute of Technology, his alma mater and the school that launched his 40-year publishing career, to talk about printing.

"After nearly four years of leading the U.S. Government Printing Office into the Digital Age as its chief executive officer, James recently announced he will go back to his home in Nevada by year’s end.

[snip]

"'We estimate that as many as 50 percent of all federal government documents are now born digital, published to the Web, and will never be printed by the GPO,' James said."


"Pushing Legal Research Beyond Google"

Good article about Internet research, specifically for paralegals:

"When it comes to sleuthing for information there are no hard and fast rules for paralegals, except maybe this one: Don't ignore the Internet.

"The courts may notice if you do.

"Last year, an Indiana appeals court agreed to dismiss a lawsuit because the plaintiff took three years to find a postal address and serve notice of his complaint. In a footnote [fn 3, p 13] to that published opinion [PDF link in article], Judge Michael Barnes noticed there was no evidence the plaintiff had tried looking on the Internet to find defendant Joe Groce. And the court was Google-savvy.

"'In fact, we discovered, upon entering 'Joe Groce Indiana' into the Google search engine, an address for Groce that differed from either address used in this case, as well as an apparent obituary for Groce's mother that listed numerous surviving relatives who might have known his whereabouts,' Barnes pointed out.

"Mark Rosch likes to highlight cases like that when he leads seminars about online research for Internet for Lawyers, the Southern California consulting firm he and his wife, Carole Levitt, have run since 1999."