Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Uniform Electronic Material Act

With continued support from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Uniform Electronic Material Act (UELMA) is starting to take hold.

What is UELMA, you ask?

"The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, also known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), approved the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in July 2011, recommending that it be enacted in all states. The act sets forth language, provisions, and parameters that require government publishers of primary legal materials in electronic format to authenticate, preserve, and provide permanent access to those resources."

UELMA "addresses many of the concerns posed by the publication of state primary legal material online. UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. It furthers state policies of accountability and transparency in providing legal information to the public. As of August 2014, UELMA has become law in ten states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Currently ten states have adopted UELMA as law."

"Increasingly, state governments are publishing primary legal material such as state statutes, regulations, and court opinions online. Online publication is often accompanied by the decision to stop providing print copies of the legal material. Although online publication has facilitated public access, it has also raised a number of concerns about ensuring that the electronic material will be preserved in unaltered form and will be available permanently. UELMA offers a framework for providing the official legal material online with the same level of trustworthiness traditionally given by print publication."

AALL has a great website devoted to UELMA with material covering:

There is also material devoted to helping advocate for UELMA:

There are also sections on letters & testimony, chapter resolutions, articles & blog posts, and reports & papers. 

AALL has been a strong advocate for UELMA. With ten states officially adopting UELMA, it's great to see state legislatures taking heed of these concerns and passing measures to protect primary legal authority online. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Press Pass For SCOTUSblog

Earlier this summer, news outlets like the ABA Journal and the NYTimes reported on the denial of a press pass for SCOTUSblog.

"As the Supreme Court began to issue the final rulings of the term, 60,000 people — including journalists at major news outlets around the country — were following the live feed of Scotusblog, a website devoted to covering every warp and woof of the court’s complex litigation. Since its inception in 2002, the site has become required reading for Supreme Court news and analysis, winning multiple awards.

Yet Scotusblog’s ability to cover the court remains precarious because it has repeatedly been denied a press credential."

As the NYTimes noted, "[t]he Supreme Court has traditionally recognized credentials issued by the Senate’s Standing Committee of Correspondents, which is made up of journalists from mainstream news organizations. In April, the committee denied Scotusblog’s latest request for a credential because its founder and publisher, Tom Goldstein, is a lawyer whose firm argues regularly before the court. The committee said that that violates its rule against lobbying the federal government. It also said the site is not independent from Mr. Goldstein’s firm."

The paper went not to say that "litigating is not lobbying," and Mr. Goldstein "has erected firewalls to assure that the firm’s work does not editorially influence the blog." There are other credentialed folks who are much closer to breaking this lobbying rule than SCOTUSblog.

And SCOTUSblog meets any professional standards as evinced by its audience. "Its importance is demonstrated by its audience, which is not just top journalists and members of the public. According to the site’s internal data, Scotusblog’s single biggest user is the Supreme Court itself."

It is time for SCOTUSblog to have a traditional press pass. It has proven to be very reputable since its inception in 2002. It's a wonderful research tool and aggregates Supreme Court content in a user-friendly way. It is invaluable for the Supreme Court, lawyers, and law students in Moot Court, among others.

Monday, September 29, 2014

State Bar of Michigan's 2014 Economics Of Law Practice Survey

The Michigan State Bar's Economics of Law Practice Survey was released in July 2014.

"The survey is conducted every three years and the results are used daily throughout the state in courtrooms, law firms and by lawyers in all occupational areas. As referenced by the Michigan Supreme Court in Smith v. Khouri, it is the primary resource used by trial courts to determine attorney fees. It provides the benchmark for more than 50 specific fields of practice by geographic location.

Survey results also contain data about salaries, benefits, hours worked and job satisfaction for attorneys in non-private practice occupations, such as those working as in-house counsel, in government service, non-profit organizations, academia, legal services and more."

The survey has two practical objectives:

  • To provide timely, relevant and accurate information to inform and guide the practical management decisions of Michigan attorneys
  • To track and illustrate changes and trends within the legal profession

The survey monitors and reports on several points of information useful to attorneys:

  • Attorney income
  • Prevailing average hourly billing rates by several indicators including fields of practice, judicial circuit, and geographic location
  • Time allocated to billable and non-billable professional activities
  • Management practices
  • Perceptions regarding current and future economic circumstances related to the practice of law

For all private practitioners, the 25th percentile earned $52,900, and the 95th percentile earned $500,000. For all non-private practitioners, the 25th percentile earned $58,000, and the 95th percentile earned $220,000. 

Not only is the survey informative for practical decision making like how much to charge per hour, it is also useful for research purposes. As mentioned above, the survey is the primary resource used by trial courts to determine attorney fees. If you are writing a motion for attorney fees, this is a great finding aid to determine the amount to ask the court to award. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Deep Reading" In Print & Marginalia

For most Americans, print still reigns supreme. The Wall Street Journal Blog noted that the American population still tends to prefer print books over e-books. "Of the people in the U.S. who use the Internet, 46% say they still only read books that are printed, according to data from Harris Interactive that was charted by Statista. Another 16% say they read more printed books than e-books."

Reading in print is still considered important for comprehension. One Chronicle of Higher Education author opines that "deep reading" is almost always best done in print. "Digital reading encourages distraction and invites multitasking. Among American and Japanese subjects, 92 percent reported it was easiest to concentrate when reading in hard copy. (The figure for Germany was 98 percent.) In this country, 26 percent indicated they were likely to multitask while reading in print, compared with 85 percent when reading on-screen. Imagine wrestling with Finnegan’s Wake while simultaneously juggling Facebook and booking a vacation flight. You get the point."

Some of the respondents to the survey about deep reading also commented that they liked print because they could write on the pages. Which brings to light another interesting crowdsourced project called Book Traces.

This project seeks books from 1800-1923 that have writings in the margins. The project organizers were concerned that this part of history would be lost as libraries move from print to digital. “[The] focus is on customizations made by original owners in personal copies, primarily in the form of marginalia and inserts.”

And there's some good news for the younger generation of readers. The Atlantic recently reported that Millennials are out-reading older generations. The article notes a study from the Pew Research Center that shows that Millennials are reading more books than the over-30 crowd. Who knows? If Millennials are reading in print and making notes in the margins, we may one day look to archive examples of their interactions with print books as some of the last.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Law Library Involvement In Law School Firms & Incubators

In recent years, many law schools have started incubator programs to help graduates transition to practice. According to the ABA, CUNY started the first incubator program over 10 years ago, and incubator programs have really started to pop up since late 2012. Currently, there are around 28 programs nationwide.

The Akron Legal News recently reported on Cleveland-Marshall College of Law's incubator program. Like other institutions, Cleveland-Marshall decided to create an incubator program because of the stagnant economy and because many of its graduates go into solo practice. "According to a report by the National Association for Law Placement, 84.5 percent of the class of 2013 secured [employment]. Despite the slight improvement over the last two years, the employment rate still remains quite a bit behind the all-time high of 91.9 percent in 2007, which was reached prior to the financial crisis. The less than rosy job market means more young attorneys are hanging out their own shingle. In May [Cleveland-Marshall] unveiled its solo practice incubator, joining a small number of other institutions around the country with similar programs. Housed in a portion of the existing law library, the incubator offers low-rent office space with all the trimmings, along with many other benefits, to recent graduates who choose to go it alone."

One of the major things that a law library can offer to a law school incubator is space. As the dean of Cleveland-Marshall said, “[a] large portion of the [law library] space had been freed up because of the conversion to electronic materials, leaving room for an incubator.” And this conversion to electronic material is happening all over the country. Ultimately, the law library will house 15 offices, a large conference room and two small ones, a break room and a reception area. Those who sign on are asked to commit to a two-year lease. 

Like most of the other law school incubators around the country, "[t]he main idea behind the program [at Cleveland-Marshall] is that the attorneys are also providing a service to the community by offering lower-cost services to those who may not be able to otherwise afford to hire an attorney or don’t qualify for legal aid."

As Sonal Desai discussed in a paper titled, "Law School Firms and Incubators and the Role of the Academic Law Library," law libraries may have an obligation under the ABA Standards to support the incubators. If the incubators are considered a service program under the auspices of the law school, then the law library must support the incubators as required by Standard 601. When Desai surveyed law library directors from law schools with incubators, Desai found that none of the law libraries had a formal relationship with the incubators. Most law libraries were providing reference, as needed, and only one of those surveyed was providing instruction. Desai recommends embedded librarianship and library involvement in workshops. 

What the incubators really need is a formal library liaison. Desai's embedded librarian idea is closely akin to a formal library liaison. The library liaison should be designated to train and instruct various sessions to the new attorneys in the incubator.  

For the latest developments in law school firms and incubators, see the ABA's website

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Helping Law Students Help Themselves - Creating Flowcharts

Part of a law librarian's job is to have a hand in teaching technology to law students. Generally law students are so focused on what is immediately in front of them that they do not have time to seek out additional information about technology and resources that may be helpful to their learning.

The Chicago-Kent Law Library blog has a great post about creating visual outlines through mind maps and flow charts.

Many law students find visual outlines helpful to really learn the subject matter and see how it all fits together. Historically, mind maps and flow charts had to be created with pen and paper, and it wasn't unusual to see a law student's study area plastered with visual outlines on the wall.

Going the pen and paper route is just fine - whatever gets the job done. But some law students might find mind mapping or flow chart software helpful to get them started and save precious wall space.

The Chicago-Kent Law Library blog goes on to mention these helpful tools:
These are just a few of the resources listed. Thanks to Chicago-Kent's Debbie Ginsberg for this information!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Google Maps & Map It In Law Libraries

For large, expansive law libraries with hundreds of thousands of print volumes, it is easy for any library goer to get lost looking for a book.

As the Georgetown blog noted, "[t]his is an all-too familiar scenario for Georgetown Law students who have gone hunting for books in remote corners of [the] two library locations. The library has over half a million print volumes spread out over 100,000 feet of shelves across seven floors and two buildings. Locating a book by its call number can be a challenge for even the most dedicated library dweller."

Georgetown is utilizing a new service called Map It that links the catalog to a map of the law library. The map will pinpoint the exact location of a book.

Google is also starting an indoor mapping project. "In November 2011, Google Maps released an indoor navigation tool as part of its Google Maps for Android smartphone and tablet applications. Google has partnered with many airports, casinos, convention centers, hotels, hospitals, landmarks, libraries, religious centers, restaurants, large retailers, museums, sports venues, transit stations, and universities throughout the world."

It's a great service for libraries as "Google Maps can guide a library visitor with point-by-point navigation on his smartphone or tablet who wants, for example, to get from the library’s main entrance to a certain reference desk, computer lab, reading or study area, restroom, or even a labeled bookshelf."

Computers in Libraries has an article outlining St. Petersburg College's implementation of Google Maps in its buildings.

In a nutshell:
  • Get the proper approval
  • Use the PDF, JPG, PNG, BMP, and GIF file of a building’s floor plan can and align over existing Google Map satellite imagery
  • "Submit for Processing" and wait for confirmation
  • Google visits and collects "walks"
  • Customize level of map detail
  • Work out kinks
  • Promote new service
This is a wonderful service for large libraries with minimal staff. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Technology In Libraries

The focus of my career thus far has been on reference, instruction, collection development, and faculty liaison work. But I am starting to take an active interest in library technology.

These are a few resources that I have found particularly helpful for technology in libraries:
Each of the resources offer insight into new technology for all types of libraries. 

A law library that is doing a wonderful job incorporating new technologies is Georgetown. They are using citation software and Map It. They also offer instruction on mobile apps for law faculty and students, as well as how to download documents from the legal databases to an e-reader. 

It's great to see some of these technologies in practice and commentary about the implementation. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

New Title In United States Code - Voting & Election

For any die-hard researcher, the news of a new title in the U.S. Code offers a rare kind of excitement. 

As of September 1, the United States Code has extended to Title 52 “Voting and Election."

Title 52 will cover federal election statutes under three subtitles:
  • Voting Rights
  • Voting Assistance and Election Administration
  • Federal Campaign Finance
As George Mason's blog noted, there was no congressional bill needed for the new title. "The U.S. Code is administered by the Office of Law Revision Counsel pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 285. The OLRC has authority over the preparation of the United States Code, including the ability to make revisions. In the case of voting and election laws, the OLRC staff determined that the volume of laws enacted on these topics warranted a separate title."

And now for West & Lexis to pick up the title and start adding the annotations that are so helpful to researchers. 

See the Office of Revision Counsel's website for more information about the reclassification. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Should Law Students Get Credit & Cash?

The reform idea that law student should receive credit and pay for their externships has been around for awhile

This time, it's the NYTimes Room for Discussion series taking up the issue. As the intro to the series mentions, "[t]he American Bar Association prohibits law students from receiving pay for internships and externships that grant them academic credit. Critics have pressured the organization to reverse this standard, as law students face mounting debt and a slow job market."

A law student, a law professor, and a legal professional all chimed in. The law student argues that law students should get paid and receive credit. "While in school, [law] students have to decide whether to accept an unpaid externship and receive law school credit — which could allow them to graduate and find a paying job more quickly — or take a paid legal position, without school credit, which might extend their time in law school."

The law professor argues that the current ABA standard prohibiting pay should stay in place. "Under the current standards, law students cannot be compensated for work they do for school credit. This policy should remain in place because separating compensation and 'study outside the classroom' is a crucial step toward safeguarding the academic integrity of the externship."

The legal professional argues that law students should receive pay. "Most law school graduates, no matter how well schooled, lack significant experiential learning — the firsthand experience that comes from trying a case, arguing in court and advising a client. A major impediment is the American Bar Association rule that prohibits law schools from giving students academic credit for legal work for which they are paid, no matter how valuable the school might think the work experience is. This makes no sense. Medical schools let interns receive compensation."

As the ABA continues to contemplate changing this standard, it must take law school debt into consideration. With a huge percentage of graduates facing six-figure debt, the ABA should do everything in its power to help alleviate some of the burden. Allowing students to receive pay and credit makes sense. 

The argument that the law professor gives, in essence, that the main focus of the externship should be academic and allowing pay would undermine that is offset by the fact that law students would be paid a fraction of what licensed attorneys are paid for similar work. This ensures that the focus remains on the educational component because the employer understands that by getting a deal on the work, the employer has a responsibility to focus on educating the student.