Friday, March 27, 2015

LLSDC Federal Admin Law Overview

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (llsdc.org) is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “Federal Administrative Law: A Brief Overview.” The site, which had been available only in PDF, has been substantially revised and its subheadings, each with numerous links, include the following:

1) A Brief Explanation of Federal Administrative Law,
2) Current Major Federal Government Regulatory Agencies,
3) General Federal Agency Directories,
4) Major Federal Administrative and Rulemaking Laws,
5) Some Other Federal Administrative Laws,
6) Types of Agency Rules and Notices Published in the Federal Register,
7) Federal Rules, Non-Rules and Other Terminology
8) Researching Federal Agency Orders, Decisions, Interpretations, and Letters
9) Selected Administrative Law Treatises
10) Selected Supreme Court Opinions on Federal Administrative Law
11) Selected Web Sites on Federal Administrative Law

The new website is part of LLSDC’s Legislative Source Book website.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Watch Out For These Improper Phrases

Inc.com recently listed 10 improper (but common) phrases that can make you look bad. Of the list, I thought that 5 were particularly common:

Must of, should of, would of, and could of
All those "of"s should be "have." As one reader points out, the proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as "must've."

Worse comes to worse
Another reader points out this should be "when worse comes to worst," which indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible.

Unthaw
Think about this one for a minute. How exactly is it possible to un-thaw something? Putting the item in the freezer would work, but probably won't produce the results you intended, which is to "thaw" it.

(Someone) and I
You probably know to use the other person's name first when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Brandon and I put the presentation together." But many people don't understand that when you're talking about yourself and someone else toward the end of the sentence you should use "me" instead. For example, it would be "The CEO awarded bonuses to Brandon and me." An easy way to remember this: If you remove the other person's name it would sound weird to use "I," right?

Irregardless
Spell check should catch this one, but it won't help you with verbal communication. Just know "irregardless" is not a word. It's simply "regardless," as in "Regardless of what you think about grammar, you'll look silly if you use it incorrectly."

This also goes to the point that if a phrase is common enough, it merely becomes part of the language. So although unthaw is technically not correct, it's general usage has likely made it part of the lexicon. I use the trick to remember "(someone) and I" all of the time. If the sentence sounds weird when you leave out the other person's name and just use I, then I should not be used. As for irregardless, I was in law school before I understood that irregardless is not a word. I used it in a sentence with my mentor, and he instantly corrected me. That's what mentors are for, right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Skip The Bar Exam?

After the kerfuffle created last summer when the scores of the July test-takers showed a dramatic decrease nationwide, "[s]ome states, including Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire, are exploring or have adopted other options, questioning the wisdom of relying on a single written test as the gateway to legal practice."

The NYTimes notes that last November, about 80 law school deans "jointly asked, for the first time anyone remembers, for details on how test questions were chosen and scored. The situation was already touchy after remarks made the previous month by a top bar exam official, who defended the [July] results as indisputably correct, and then, in what the deans viewed as verbal dynamite, labeled the test takers as 'less able' than their predecessors."

This is just the latest criticism of the bar exam, as "critics have long questioned not only the expense and time devoted to taking the exam but also whether clients benefit from an admissions standard that is largely based on rote memorization."

Currently, "[a]ll states but one, Wisconsin, require passing the bar exam to become a licensed lawyer, but bar associations in states including Arizona and Iowa have been exploring alternatives. The Iowa State Bar Association proposed an in-state 'diploma privilege,' similar to neighboring Wisconsin’s, that would allow graduates of local law schools to skip the bar exam and begin practicing immediately."

Another big concern is the time and expense it takes law schools to prepare students to take the test. "Eliminating or curtailing the current bar exam would give law schools more leeway to create programs and conduct testing that determines who becomes a lawyer. The schools say the exam’s outsize importance forces them to devote more resources, including bar-specific courses, to prepare graduates for the crucial test rather than focusing on legal principles or hands-on law practice."

New Hampshire's new alternative licensing model seems like a better predictor of lawyering skills. "Its University of New Hampshire School of Law allows second- and third-year students to participate in a kind of apprenticeship where they learn basics like taking depositions. Those accepted to the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program create portfolios of their written work and record their oral performances, which are reviewed by state bar examiners after each semester. Those who pass the review can skip the bar exam and go directly into practice."

It may be time to take a good, hard look at the bar exam. But as noted in the article, New Hampshire's alternative model took 17 years to be fully adopted. The great thing is that we now have other models to work from. If New Hampshire's model is successful, then it may take other states less time to adopt a similar model.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Globalex For Foreign, Comparative & International Law Research

When it comes to foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) research, you can't beat Globalex.

From Globalex's website:
GlobaLex is committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world. The information and articles published by GlobaLex represent both research and teaching resources used by legal academics, practitioners and other specialists around the world who are active either in foreign, international, and comparative law research or those focusing on their own domestic law. The guides and articles published are written by scholars well known in their respective fields and are recommended as a legal resource by universities, library schools, and legal training courses. The tools available in GlobaLex will continue to expand to cover international law topics, countries and legal systems thus providing a coherent and encompassing research tool for all constituencies.

When I have to do research on another country's laws, Globalex is always my first stop. The information is very comprehensive and covers many of the legal systems throughout the world.

In March, there were many updates to Globalex documents, including:
Research Guide to International Weapons Law by Gudrun Monika Zagel
Gudrun Zagel is Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of the Federal Army Munich. She received her legal education from the University of Salzburg Law School as well as from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. Previous work places include the Department of International Law at the University of Salzburg, where she held the position of an Assistant Professor, and consultant at the Office of the Legal Advisor of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Gudrun is the author of a treatise and numerous articles on international economic law and co-editor of Smit & Herzog on The Law of the European Union (Matthew Bender).

UPDATE: Canon Law Research Guide by Don Ford
Don Ford is Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian at the University of Iowa College of Law. He holds a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law (1985), an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences (2002), a BA (International Relations) from the American University (1980), and a BA (German Area Studies) from the American University (1980).

UPDATE: A Guide to Legal Research in Costa Rica by Roger A. Petersen
Roger A. Petersen  is an Attorney at Law, member of both the Costa Rican Bar and Florida Bar Association.  He is the author of The Legal Guide to Costa Rica and a partner with Petersen & Philps of San Jose, Costa Rica.

UPDATE: Japanese Law Research Guide - Update by Keiko Okuhara
Keiko Okuhara is a librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law Library.

UPDATE: Guide to Legal Research in Nicaragua  - Update by Andrea M. Vidaurre Lovo
Andrea M. Vidaurre is a Nicaraguan lawyer who holds a law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She obtained an L.L.M in Corporate Law from New York University School of Law in 2012  She currently works as a corporate and litigation attorney in the firm of Munguía, Vidaurre, Zúniga in Managua, Nicaragua.

UPDATE: Philippine Legal Research by Milagros Santos-Ong 
Milagros Santos-Ong   is the Director of the Library Services of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. She is the author of  Legal Research and Citations  (Rexl Book Store) a seminal book published in numerous editions and a part-time professor on Legal Research in some law schools in the Metro-Manila.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SCOTUS Internships & Library of Congress Positions

The Supreme Court of the United States has openings for 3 summer interns in the Library:
Technical Services and Special Collections Department
Technology and Collections Management Department
Research Department

The Library is willing to consider course credit eligibility for these internships.
Any questions may be addressed to our Personnel Office (contact info listed at the bottom of the announcements).

The Library of Congress also has quite a few open positions. Check out the LOC Job Openings website for more information. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Proximity For Partner

The NYTimes reported on a new study that shows that law school proximity matters for big-law partner prospects. And it may matter more than the rank of the law school. "The study is called Does Law School Still Make Economic Sense? An Empirical Analysis of ‘Big Law’ Firm Partnership Prospects and the Relationship to Law School Attended [and] will be published in the May issue of the Buffalo Law Review."

The study looked at "33,000 lawyers at the largest 115 law firms in the country [and] found that the dozen highest ranked law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Northwestern, had a high correlation between their status and the number of alumni who made partner." No surprise there.

"But some of the other 100 schools examined showed greater differences between their ranking and their alumni partner numbers.... For example, Suffolk University Law School in Boston is not ranked nationally but it has 167 graduates who are partners in top law firms.... Over all, it trails Harvard, Yale and two other New England law schools in partner numbers, but its strong performance ... shows that geographical proximity to a major legal market may be a good predictor of 'big law' career success."

As further indicia that proximity matters for partner prospects, "[a]lumni who are law firm partners in New York were from, in descending order, law schools at Columbia, Harvard, Fordham, Georgetown, Brooklyn, Yale and University of Pennsylvania. In Washington, the greatest number of partners found in the study came from Georgetown, Harvard, George Washington, University of Virginia and Catholic University. Similarly, in Chicago, the partners graduated from Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Illinois."

And "Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, for example, is ranked nationally as No. 108 among the 200 accredited law schools, but is listed in the study as No. 32 for the number of alumni who become partners at the largest law firms."

Ultimately, the study found that "[t]aking everything into account, students double their chances of law firm partnership by attending Harvard or the University of Chicago rather than any school with annual tuition of less than $50,000." 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Using A Memo Proposal To Organize Scholarly Writing

After an enlightening conversation yesterday with a colleague concerning the creation of a scholarly writing course, I thought I would share her method for organizing a scholarly article: The Memo Proposal.

I have adapted the memo for academic legal writing purposes.


To: Professor X
From: John Smith
Subject: Proposal for a Study of _________________
Date:


Background:
Provide a brief overview of the history of the law leading up to the problem.

Statement of the Problem:
Describe the problem.

Thesis/Proposed Solution:
Describe the workable standard, new legislation or court interpretation that will help alleviate the problem.

Scope:
State the focus of your article. What are the primary elements that you will concentrate on to substantiate your arguments?

Methods:
Describe where/how you will gather your information.

Schedule:
Note due dates for topic selection, preemption checks, outlines, drafts, and final paper.

Cost: 
Will there be costs associated with your research?

Specifications:
What are the parameters of the paper? What is the length and citation format?

My Qualifications:
Describe what makes you qualified to write this article.

Conclusion:
Why is this research necessary?


This is an exercise to make sure that students are on track and understand the task at hand. If the students can succinctly articulate the memo, it means that they understand the main parts of the writing process and practicalities associated with working under a deadline.

I plan to incorporate this exercise into my class as the narration to the detailed outline.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Law Library Times They Are A Changin

Last fall, Robert Ambrogi posted on his blog, Law Sites, about the challenges and opportunities facing information professionals.

He noted the current time of unprecedented innovation "when two guys in law school who think they have a better idea for a legal research site can run with it and create the company Ravel Law by the time they graduate."

So what does this mean for information professionals?

According to Ambrogi, "[f]or too long, librarians were defined in the public consciousness by the place in which you work. Many now believe that that place is irrelevant, unnecessary and too expensive to keep around. At both law firms and law schools, there are some who argue for doing away with the physical library altogether."

While this can cause worry and panic, "it also provides an opportunity to examine what it is [information professionals] provide. As soon as you begin to look at it that way, you see immediately that what you provide is something that cannot be done away with. You, more than anyone else in your firm or institution, holds the key to information. Your skill set is not about shelving, but about knowing how to find and manage information."

In terms of managing information, "[t]here is way too much information, making it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. It is more difficult to assess the quality and reliability of information.
It is still difficult to find many forms of very specific information – the very kinds of information lawyers often need. The nature of information is changing. In particular, data has become information, and in this era of Big Data, many are struggling with how to manage and make sense of it."

The changes to information access also create opportunities for librarians. Ambrogi notes many opportunities - a few of which I will highlight here:
  • Librarians as publishers: Help your firm or institution use blogs and social media to help push it knowledge and resources to its constituents. 
  • Librarians as facilitators of access to justice: Librarians have a critical role to play in helping to expand access to and understanding of legal information.
  • Librarians as trainers: Training lawyers and associates on how to use research services is as important now as it ever was – maybe more so.
  • Librarians as drivers of change: You can help drive efforts to increase open-source publishing and open access to legal information.
  • Librarians as experimenters: Out of those experiments will come the future course of your profession. And that means the future is in your hands.
Ambrogi's commentary is right on. As libraries transition beyond the physical space, librarians have many new opportunities to redefine our role. We should see it as the best of challenges and continue to market our value and resources to create a perception that libraries and librarians are invaluable

Friday, March 13, 2015

Libraries Are Not Like Football

Library Babel Fish (aka Barbara Fister) alerted me to a recent NYTimes article discussing college for a new age.

Joe Nocera of the NYTimes recently profiled Kevin Carey and Carey's new book, "The End of College." “'The story of higher education’s future is a tale of ancient institutions in their last days of decadence, creating the seeds of a new world to come,' he writes. If he is right, higher education will be transformed into a different kind of learning experience that is cheaper, better, more personalized and more useful."

A telling quote from the book: "You don’t need libraries and research infrastructure and football teams and this insane race for status,” he says. “If you only have to pay for the things that you actually need, education doesn’t cost $60,000 a year.”

It's not a new criticism that universities have gone beyond the necessary to the lavish, which ups the cost for all. But libraries? Really? Libraries are more in line with the necessary for educational purposes than the lavish.

Carey makes a case that universities focus too much on the research and scholarship of faculty rather than focusing on teaching, which is what the consumer is paying for. And it seems that because, in Carey's mind, the faculty should not focus on research, it means that libraries can go.

Libraries go beyond research for research's sake. They provide professional development for the faculty to stay on top of their given field - ultimately making the faculty better teachers. And can a student truly get through a tough academic curriculum without ever using the library?

Librarians are open to the idea that the need for the physical space of the library may be changing, but the resources and support are still very much a part of the true academic experience.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SEO To Maximize Discoverability

The ABA Journal recently posted an article on search engine optimization (SEO) geared toward attorneys with websites (nearly everyone this day and age).

We know that the Internet is generally the first place people go to find an attorney, and maximizing your website's SEO is a great way to make yourself even more discoverable. If you maximize your SEO for Google, say, the Google algorithm will favor your content and your website will move higher on the results list.

As ABA notes, "[s]taying current about what Google Search is favoring—and adjusting the design and content of your website—can be critical for getting your name at the top of search engine returns. (Not an easy task, since the search goliath often changes its algorithm to combat those who try to game its system.) These days, that means ensuring your website offers text and longer articles that reflect quality writing about a specific topic, according to experts in search engine optimization."

Here are a few suggestions for SEO optimization:
1. Go with a frequently updated blog offering truly useful content: Generally, search engines only re-index your website every two weeks. So if you only have time to update your blog every two weeks, you'll still enjoy higher search engine returns as a result,

2. Use keywords judiciously, but use them. Plug a keyword or phrase into your headline, subhead and opening sentence of your text, and in the captions for your multimedia

3. Go with deep content. Aim for pieces that are 1,000 words minimum. And ensure your text is not blatantly generic or easily found on any number of other law firm sites.

4. Practice good website address/tag hygiene. Choose page title tags carefully. The title tag—the word or phrase that describes your page to the search engine—is one of the most important choices you can make to attract Web traffic. Be equally choosy with page header tags. Header tags are also major guides Google and other search engines use. Don't forget image tags. When naming your image, use your tags to finely describe what your image is about—and reap the reward of an overall higher ranking in the search engines.

These are really good suggestions. And evidence of the Google algorithm show these to be some of the most essential SEO tools for discoverability.