Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Non-Competes Everywhere!

The Findlaw blog noted that "[a]ccording to the NYTimesnoncompete agreements are on the rise even in industries which have been traditionally light on paperwork. Case in point: a Massachusetts man whose job involves spraying pesticide on laws had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement."

From the NYTimes, "[t]he United States has a patchwork of rules on noncompetes. Only California and North Dakota ban them, while states like Texas and Florida place few limits on them. When these cases wind up in court, judges often cut back the time restraints if they’re viewed as unreasonable, such as lasting five years or longer. In most states there has to be a legitimate business interest, and it has to be narrowly tailored and reasonable in scope and duration."

Ethics rules generally preclude noncompetes for attorneys, but some states are allowing them within reason.

Although noncompetes are popping up everywhere, not all businesses actually need one. To determine if your business actually needs a noncompete, Findlaw recommends looking at the following:

  • Protecting Trade Secrets - can you use a nondisclosure agreement instead?
  • Is There a Legitimate Business Interest? -  such as protecting trade secrets or confidential information or protecting long-standing customer or client relationships.
  • Be Reasonable - noncompete agreement should allow ex-employees to continue their careers while still protecting your business.
If you are a potential employee asked to sign a noncompete agreement, Lifehacker offers some basic questions you should ask before signing the agreement. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Research Libraries Are Big Business

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its Almanac of Higher Education 2014.

"The Chronicle's 27th annual collection of data on colleges answers perennial questions like how much faculty make and which colleges are growing the fastest. This year's Almanac also gives you new ways to compare institutions. Which colleges have the most students enrolled in online courses? Which have the highest percentages of nonresident aliens?"

A data set that I find particularly interesting is the spending by university research libraries 2012-13. "Six universities on the Association of Research Libraries' Library Investment Index had more than 500 professional and support staff members in 2012-13, and 19 spent more than $10-million on salaries and wages for their professional staff. Eleven had total library expenditures exceeding $50-million."

Those are impressive numbers for library involvement at a major research university.

Some examples of data are:
Institution        Library Expenditures     Salaries of Staff         Materials              Staff
Harvard U.           $117,316,662           $39,049,607           $42,824,113              815
U. of Michigan      $67,289,114             $14,296,308           $24,708,760              535
Michigan State U. $30,898,942             $6,078,705             $15,851,193              199
Wayne State U.    $19,647,678             $6,418,127             $9,410,721                141

It's great to see that the institutions listed in the Index value their libraries and that the libraries are still so relevant to the output of important research.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Researching Across The Curriculum

InsideHigherEd ran a piece this spring that discussed the need for faculty to teach writing across the curriculum (WAC). "Most agree that Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), in which the task of teaching writing is one assigned to all professors, not just those who teach English or composition, is an important academic concept. If we had a WAC playbook, it would sound something like this: students need to write clear, organized, persuasive prose, not only in the liberal arts, but in the sciences and professional disciplines as well."

The same ideal rings true for researching across the curriculum in law school. Law schools generally require one or two research & writing courses before graduation. Some students will actively seek electives that provide additional training with a research & writing component, but many students shy away from these courses.

Like writing, students need as much practice with research as possible before graduation to really understand the concepts and develop a research strategy. After all, nearly 30% of a new attorney's time is spent doing legal research.

It's important for law faculty to understand how integral legal research is to the success of graduates and faculty should "buy in" to legal research instruction across the curriculum.

For example, many law schools are starting to assess students throughout the term instead of relying on one comprehensive final exam at the end of the term. These assessments, which take place in each law school class, can easily require a legal research component to offer more research practice for the students. The students will continue to hone their legal research skills by contextualizing and evaluating information based on the class's subject area.

Law faculty - see your nearest law librarian for more information!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Legal Scholarship Blog Facilitates Dissemination

If you are about to embark on a legal scholarship endeavor but are having a hard time choosing a topic, you may want to refer to a call for papers to narrow your focus. There are a few great resources for this, and one that I particularly like is The Legal Scholarship Blog.

The Legal Scholarship Blog features law-related Calls for Papers, Conferences, and Workshops as well as general legal scholarship resources.

From the website:
"The Legal Scholarship Blog seeks to facilitate the legal academy’s development and dissemination of scholarship, and so does not feature events such as Continuing Legal Education programs or regional bar association meetings.

Created in 2007, the Legal Scholarship Blog is a free, non-profit service managed by faculty and staff at:"

  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • University of Washington School of Law
You can use the site to:
  • Read about new conferences, workshops, and calls for papers as they are posted
  • Look for conferences, workshops, and calls for papers in your field
  • Use the calendar for upcoming events
  • Publicize your conferences, workshops, and symposia
The "Research Deans" tab on the website is a wealth of information on legal scholarship with topics covering:
  • Law Review Submissions
  • Articles: Law Review Studies
  • Articles: Legal Scholarship
  • Articles: Research Deans (promoting scholarship)
  • Miscellaneous (how to write abstracts)
The Legal Scholarship Blog also offers a list of the various law review online companions. This is a great resource for those in the legal academe, as well for law journals seeking submissions. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Library Assistant's Manual - A Retrospective

Sometimes it's a good idea to look back and see where we have been to know how we have gotten to this point and find additional insight into where we are going.

The Paris Review recently ran a post about a Library Assistant's Manual issued on the occasion of the 61st annual meeting of the Michigan State Teachers’ Association, Ann Arbor, October 30–November 1, 1913.

The Manual includes a portion on the qualities necessary to be a library assistant. "Qualities that unfit one for library work in general are physical weakness, deformity, poor memory, a discontented disposition, egotism, a lack of system in one’s method of work, and inability or unwillingness to take responsibilities, a tendency to theorize, criticize, or gossip, inability to mind one’s own business, fussiness, and long-windedness."

As I see it, many of these qualities unfit for library work still ring true. The Manual goes on to list questions to ask an aspiring library assistant:

Has she tact?
Has she enthusiasm?
Has she method and system?
Is she punctual?
Is she neat?
Is she kind?
Is she a good disciplinarian?
Is she sympathetic?
Is she quick?
Is she willing to wear rubber heels?
Is she a good worker?
Is she accurate?
Has she a pleasing personality?
Has she a sense of responsibility?
Is she patient?
Is she courteous?
Has she self control?
Is she cheerful?
Has she a knowledge of books?
Are her vibrations pleasant?
Has she executive ability?
Can she speak French, German, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish?
Has she social qualifications?
Can she keep a petty cash account?
What are her faults?

Notice the sexist language. Librarians are still seen as pink collar so not much has changed to that end since 1913. A lot of these qualities are still good qualities to have in the library-service profession. Although, I'm not sure what they mean by "vibrations." In my view, the necessity of speaking French and German has diminished, while the ability to speak Spanish has increased to facilitate the library use of a larger Spanish-speaking population.

While the field of librarianship has changed dramatically since 1913, the characteristics necessary to work in a library remain largely the same when taken in context.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Selecting A Case To Cite

A question that comes up pretty often from law students in legal writing classes is, "how do I know which case to cite?"

This is a good question and one that really depends on what cases are found during the research process. I ran across a succinct article a few years back that does a pretty good job of discussing how to select cases to cite.

From the article:
"Most legal writers seem to have developed an instinct for which cases to pick and which to discard. Moreover, the considerations that the writer consciously or subconsciously brings to bear on which cases to include in legal citation are more complicated than merely citing to the most recent case from the highest court. These considerations probably begin with an informal categorization of all the cases found in the process of researching a given issue."

The article then goes on to discuss categorizing cases. "The cases supporting a given proposition of law might roughly be categorized as follows:

Seminal Case--This is generally the first case from the highest court to have decided the issue and stated the proposition of law in question. If the proposition was itself a reversal or revision of earlier authority, the seminal case is the reversing or revising case. As the first case to have stated the proposition in question, the seminal case has generally gone into some depth in analyzing the issue and the court's rationale in a manner that might not be repeated in later cases.

Parroting Cases--With a common proposition of law, numerous cases will have simply parroted the language of the seminal case, adding little or nothing to the analysis.

Bolstering Cases--In addition to parroting seminal authority, the bolstering case adds new reasoning and analysis to support the underlying proposition of law.

Reformulation Cases--These cases take the proposition of the seminal case and either restate it in different terms or refine the analysis in some way that may be more or less helpful to the reader. When, for example, the seminal case was written in the legalistic jargon of the past, the reformulation case may delete the jargon and restate the proposition in plain English.

Pseudo-Seminal Case--When the seminal case has been forgotten or lost in the chain of citation, a more recent case will often emerge as the one most courts presently cite as the oldest or most reliable case to support the given proposition. This case effectively takes the place of the lost seminal case.

Companion Cases--As I use the term here, companion cases (not to be confused with the more technical use of this term) are parroting cases that have over time been so consistently cited together with the seminal (or pseudo-seminal) authority that they achieve a certain perceived legitimacy and it would now seem awkward to break the habit of citing the companion case together with the seminal authority.

Parallel Cases--Occasionally, separate lines of authority for the same proposition develop without any common source; or, perhaps more likely, the original source or seminal case is buried so far back in the chain of citation that it has been all but forgotten. This then leads to two or more lines of cases standing for the same proposition, with different courts typically preferring one or the other of the parallel lines of authority.

Storehouse Cases--It sometimes happens that, when there are multiple parallel cases with no clear seminal or pseudo-seminal case to which they all refer, somewhere down the road a particular case will attempt to collect or "storehouse" all of the parallel lines. If this storehouse case is reliable, it is a prime candidate to be cited from then on as pseudo-seminal authority.

Application Cases--Some cases that have only marginal value as support for an abstract proposition of law, have great value in their application of the proposition to facts similar or analogous to the facts of your own case."

After categorizing cases, it is time to select the cases to cite. The article offers guidelines for selection:
  • Provide Both Seminal and Recent Authority
  • Generally Omit Parrots
  • Use Vertical Strings To Show Continuity Within a Court
  • Use Horizontal Strings To Show Continuity among Courts
  • Reconcile Parallel Lines of Authority
  • Use Bolstering and Reformulation Cases to Strengthen and Better Explain
  • Use Application Cases For Similarity and Analogy
As the author notes, improper case selection may cause the reader to reject the underlying legal proposition, which could be the death knell for a case. This advice is sound, and it's the best explanation of selecting a case to cite that I've seen. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Become A Lawyer Without Going To Law School

The NYTimes recently reported on the lawyer's apprentice and the ability to become a lawyer without going to law school.

This isn't a new phenomena, and the most famous lawyer's apprentice was probably Abraham Lincoln. "Before the prevalence of law schools in the 1870s, apprenticeships were the primary way to become a lawyer." And there is still "[a]n obscure California rule that allows people to 'read law' much as Lincoln did, studying at the elbow of a seasoned lawyer."

California is not the only state that still allows people to read the law. "California is one of a handful of states that allow apprenticeships in lieu of a law degree as a prerequisite to taking the bar and practicing as a licensed lawyer. In Virginia, Vermont, Washington and California, aspiring lawyers can study for the bar without ever setting foot into or paying a law school. New York, Maine and Wyoming require a combination of law school and apprenticeship."

The more popular route, today, is to attend law school as state bars generally require a J.D. from an ABA accredited institution as a prerequisite to taking the bar. "The [apprenticeship] programs remain underpopulated. Of the 83,986 people who took state or multistate bar exams last year, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, only 60 were law office readers (so-called for the practice of reading legal texts as preparation)."

As noted, "there are obstacles. None of the states help prospective law readers locate a supervising lawyer, and finding one willing to take on the responsibility of educating a new lawyer can be difficult (supervising lawyers are expected to instruct their students in all areas of law covered by their state’s bar exam, and administer and grade tests). Bar passage rates for law office students are also dismal. Last year only 17 passed — or 28 percent, compared with 73 percent for students who attended schools approved by the American Bar Association."

But as the cost of law school continues to rise, this might be an alternative for someone really looking to serve the community without the staggering debt that often accompanies a law degree. As one lawyer's apprentice in California noted, "[t]here is very little that would entice me to go $100,000 or more into debt for a credential."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Electronic Resource Management

As a reference librarian, my focus is on instruction, reference, collection development, and faculty research. I have honed my skills in these areas, and I am excited to start learning about other aspects of law librarianship. As a law librarian, it is important to be well-rounded and understand how the various facets work together to provide the best end-user experience.

One of those facets is the management of electronic resources. It's safe to say that most law-library patrons prefer electronic access to resources. And most libraries are transitioning from print to digital. With the continued push toward digital, it is a challenge to keep track of access rights, licensing information, statistics, renewal date, proxy information, and the vendor contact information for the multitude of databases.

Electronic resource management (ERM) is complex because "unlike their print counterparts, e-resources may be accessed via a diverse array of data formats, delivery systems and interfaces. They may be acquired individually or as part of packages, and can be sourced direct from providers or indirectly through aggregator services. Pricing models and licensing terms for e-resources are legally intricate and largely non-standard. E-resources also entail administrative activities not applicable to print resources, including the management of user authentications, trial subscriptions, contractual restrictions, archival and preservation issues, and technical troubleshooting." 

This information is all pertinent for a library to run seamlessly and provide an efficient end-user experience. My library uses an in-house Excel spreadsheet to manage electronic resources. And I consult this spreadsheet often to evaluate sources for collection development and to enforce licensing agreements when I am working with students, faculty, and public patrons.

Smaller libraries may be able to use an in-house solution, but third-party providers have created software to help manage electronic resources. One particular module is Innovative Interfaces, Inc.'s ERM module. This module provides a template to enter all of the pertinent e-resource information. It works with the integrated library system to provide a seamless end-user experience and allows a library to easily track its e-resources.

Understanding ERM ensures that a law librarian is better able to provide instruction and reference services. It is very important that when working with particular e-resources, a reference librarian understands the access and licensing restrictions - for example, can this resource be used for document delivery or interlibrary loan?

ERM also makes it easier to perform proactive collection development. ERM allows a librarian to run usage stats and cost per search information for the various e-resources. The collection development librarian can then evaluate the e-resource and determine if it is valuable to the library's collection. If the librarian determines that the e-resource is valuable for curriculum purposes but the e-resource is not seeing a lot of use, the librarian can work to promote the e-resource to the patrons. 

This is an exciting new area to learn, and it is making me a better librarian. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Funday - Fun Uses For Old Card Catalogs

Mental Floss recently blogged about fun uses for old card catalogs. "The library catalog has gone digital, but that doesn’t mean all the old oaken card catalog cabinets have been flung on the ash heap of history." There are many ways to renew the card catalog.

A few creative ways to reuse card catalogs include:


I particularly like the sewing supplies, wine warehouse, and coffee table ideas.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Browsing Wikipedia Akin To Browsing Print Stacks

A big criticism of getting rid of print-library collections is that digital collections don't allow for those happenstance finds that spur creativity like browsing print stacks. Now there's an argument being made that the new Wikipedia app might be the answer to our problems.

"For years, critics have feared that the Internet will kill interestingness, offering us only what we’re looking for with none of the happy accidents that can spur creative thought. Might a solution to this problem come from the kind of browsing we do on Wikipedia?"

Wikipedia allows for these happy accidents by "warp[ing] time and space to send you down a rabbit hole [that] has been a central part of its long-term success." The new Wikipedia app will make this even easier by adding "a new sidebar that allows users to jump easily to different sections of a single article. Vibha Bamba, an interaction designer at Wikipedia, says: 'We understand that readers love reading on Wikipedia, but they don’t often get past the first section. They read two sentences, and then they hit a link.' She adds: 'We want you to jump around the article to find different entry points. We wanted to support curiosity in a design sort of way.'"

The "emphasis on Wikipedia’s ability to promote lostness is interesting, since getting lost — and happening upon things we didn’t think we’d find — is an experience critics fear the Internet has stolen from us." The early argument was that “[e]verything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes. It won’t deliver that magic moment of discovery that we imagine occurred when Elvis Presley first heard the blues, or when Michael Jackson followed Fred Astaire’s white spats across the dance floor.”

This is an optimistic view of how users will interact with the new Wikipedia app and one that we should all consider and embrace. Librarians, in particular, should have the same active interest in user interaction with information as the app developers in this case.