Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Attorneys Respond To AI

The ABA's new Law Technology Today series kicked off with a series of questions about artificial intelligence in the legal profession.

In the inaugural roundtable of a Law Technology Today series, we asked the LTRC Board, and other lawyers and legal professionals, five questions about AI and lawyers. Their answers range from skeptical to optimistic.

What does artificial intelligence mean to you?

To me, as a full-time practicing lawyer, artificial intelligence is sophisticated computer programming that allows your smart devices to provide more relevant responses to your inquiries. This could include narrowly tailored legal research results or more accurate search capabilities in document management programs. Artificial intelligence also means smart devices that learn more as you use them more.

What area of your practice, or of the law, has benefited the most (or could benefit) from artificial intelligence?

In my experience, legal research has benefited the most from artificial intelligence and, in the near term, will continue to do so. The legal research experience for lawyers has changed and will continue to change dramatically as artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant research results for natural language inquiries. I also expect that these research capabilities will increase to allow functionality where your device will monitor and update your research by alerting you to possibly relevant changes in the law. I also see a future design whereby you can directly tailor your research to the judge who presides over your case.

I would suspect that AI use in data mining for e-discovery might be one of the most helpful advancements. This would include the ability to examine data for contextual relevance.

Where in your practice, or in the legal profession, is artificial intelligence being underutilized?

Online dispute resolution, predictive outcomes, game theory—whatever terms of art you like to use, I believe that these areas will explode as artificial intelligence enjoys more common application by lawyers. I see tremendous value in the time-efficient, cost-effective synthesis of data and relevant law to assist lawyers and clients in risk evaluation and case-outcome analysis. I expect that programming applied in this format will be beneficial across all price structures and case values and will even address access to justice concerns.

What practical AI applications should lawyers be watching out for?

In the litigation arena where I practice, aside from predictive outcomes and online dispute resolution, lawyers can expect to see programming that allows their smart devices to synthesize complaints or answers in a matter of minutes and provide them with an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law. This will be particularly useful as a first step in narrowing the lawyer’s time and focus spent preparing or responding to litigation filings.

Should lawyers be afraid of or encouraged by AI?

Whether lawyers are afraid of or encouraged by the use of artificial intelligence in legal applications, artificial intelligence is here to stay. I believe lawyers should embrace artificial intelligence and other technologies that make our practices more efficient. Lawyers are often slow to adapt to technology, but when we do adapt, we adapt quite well. I strongly believe that as lawyers embrace technologies they will find that the resulting practice efficiencies will free their time so that they can use their intellect, knowledge and skill to truly add value for their clients—something all lawyers desire. This is a real chance to re-elevate our prestigious profession.

It's interesting to see the practicing lawyer's perspective on AI. The above answers focus more specifically on legal research implications. While this attorney notes that legal research has changed significantly as "artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant search results for natural language inquiries," it is a mistake to think that we are at the point where we can rely solely on the algorithms to determine relevancy for us.

AI is not at the point where it provides total relevant results that are also contextual to the issue at hand. When the lawyer notes that we should be watching out for AI applications that provide "an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law," that's exactly the type of thing that we are currently nowhere near. AI can search for keywords in a document and knows how many times a particular case, for example, has been cited by other cases (all very valuable), but it cannot analyze the law to determine a complex issue.

Not to say that we won't be there in the future.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Continuing Decline Of Bar Exam Pass Rates

States have been reporting their (generally lower) bar pass rates from the July examination, and the debate about what is the cause and what should be done is intensifying. In that vein, the NYTimes Room for Debate asks, Is the Bar Too Law to Get Into Law School?

Bar exam scores have declined over the past few years, and last summer, graduates had some of the lowest scores in a decade. This years scores could be even worse. The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which creates and scores the multistate, multiple-choice portion of the exam, maintains that the quality of incoming law students has declined, while many law professors blame the bar exam itself.

Why are so many law students failing the bar exam?

A variety of debaters weighed in on the matter with advice to the ABA to create a more meaningful exam and law schools to better prepare their students.

One debater noted that the incoming students have weaker credentials, and another opined that the bar exam should be dropped altogether.

And still another said that while we do have a shrinking pool of lawyers, they are as committed as ever.

It's likely a combination of all of these things and the addition of a 7th topic to the MBE portion. It's difficult to assess exactly how to fix these issues, especially when bar exam results tie into US News rankings and, generally, the ability to find employment, which also affects rankings.

As one debater noted:
It is imperative, however, that law schools not overreact to the bar exam decline by limiting access to legal education. Instead, let’s keep the door open and provide the support students need to succeed in law school and at the bar, as well as to serve the public in and outside of the legal profession.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Real State Of AI

We now know that Ross is in development for legal research, but we we are still a long way from being replaced by machines.

This was confirmed by an recent NYTimes article about the current state of artificial intelligence:

An artificial intelligence software program capable of seeing and reading has for the first time answered geometry questions from the SAT at the level of an average 11th grader. The achievement, in which the program answered math questions it had not previously seen, was reported in a paper presented by computer scientists from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the University of Washington at a scientific conference in Lisbon on Sunday. The software had to combine machine vision to understand diagrams with the ability to read and understand complete sentences; its success represents a breakthrough in artificial intelligence.

Despite the advance, however, the researchers acknowledge that the program’s abilities underscore how far scientists have to go to create software capable of mimicking human intelligence.

For example, Ali Farhadi, a University of Washington artificial intelligence researcher and a designer of the test-taking program, noted that even a simple task for children, like understanding the meaning of an arrow in the context of a test diagram, was not yet something the most advanced A.I. programs could do reliably.

Within the A.I. community, discussions about software programs that can reason in a humanlike way are significant because recent progress in the field has been more focused on improving perception, not reasoning. The Allen Institute researchers said these techniques fell short in developing technologies to match human skills such as abstract and common-sense reasoning.

Moreover, the Allen Institute researchers said, machine-learning techniques have continued to fall short in areas where humans excel, such as problem solving.

These folks are on the cutting edge of AI software development, and they are saying that AI is still far from full-on problem solving. The type of problem solving that it takes to conduct relevant legal research and synthesize information.

Hubert Dreyfus may have said it best in the 1960s: “Believing that writing these types of programs will bring us closer to real artificial intelligence is like believing that someone climbing a tree is making progress toward reaching the moon.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pew Survey Highlights Disconnect For Libraries

A new Pew survey called Libraries at the Crossroads finds that while people report feeling strongly about the importance of public libraries in their communities, those people are actually using libraries less and less.

Atlantic's take is that overall, perhaps people aren’t visiting libraries as much because their relationship to the printed word, still a library’s core offering, is dramatically changing.

Nearly one-third of [Pew survey] respondents who were 16 and older said libraries should “definitely” remove public access to some of their print books and stacks in order to free up space for technology hubs and other more customizable workspaces like reading spaces and meeting rooms. Many more were open to the idea: 40 percent of those surveyed said libraries should “maybe” reconfigure space to include fewer printed books. On top of that, almost half of those surveyed said libraries should “definitely” make 3-D printing technologies available to patrons who want to use them to make their own objects.

Although the libraries that we know today are changing rapidly, it will take time. Even at the Library of Congress, people are still designing the cataloging infrastructure for a fully digitized system—actually getting materials online is a separate and ongoing challenge. At many institutions, changes will likely depend on the actual behaviors of patrons, not just ideas about how a library should be from those who aren’t using libraries as it is. “Even though people strongly believe in the role of libraries in digital inclusion, relatively few library users actually used libraries for this purpose,” Pew wrote of its latest findings. “Just 7 percent say they had taken a class on how to use the internet or computers when asked about their use of the library in the past 12 months.” [And] it’s not as though paper books will disappear overnight. Traditional publishers are still printing, on paper, some 300,000 original titles annually.

This latest Pew survey, then, seems emblematic of a broader disconnect between the way people view the written word and perceive their relationship to it. Which mirrors how people see libraries, it seems: A library is a critical institution for the kind of community people say they want to live in, a space where those people could—theoretically, anyway—learn and gather. With or without printed books, and certainly with a smaller collection of them, a library can still be that.

As the Atlantic article points out, there may be a time in the near future when a public library looks more like small coffee shops spread throughout a community. These would be spaces for people to gather, learn, and create while mostly downloading books from their e-readers.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fastcase Acquires Loislaw

Robert Ambrogi over at LawSites just reported that Fastcase has acquired Loislaw.

LoisLaw subscribers began receiving notices over the weekend informing them of the news. The letter stated that WK will sunset the Loislaw product effective Nov. 30, and that “we are collaborating with Fastcase so they can offer comparable subscription plans on the Fastcase platform, including Loislaw treatise libraries, at the same or lower prices as your current Loislaw subscription.”

Reached by phone, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters confirmed the acquisition. He said that it was an assets-only purchase that includes the Loislaw brand and domain name and that will move Loislaw’s subscribers to Fastcase. He declined to disclose the purchase price.

Wolters Kluwer ... is increasingly focusing its products on the larger-firm market and on highly regulated and specialized areas of law such as corporate finance, securities, tax, banking and health. Given that focus, it no longer makes much sense for the company to spend resources on a product such as Loislaw that does not fit with its market.

Subscribers will be migrated to the Fastcase service sometime before Nov. 30, when the current Loislaw site will be shut down. Existing subscriptions will be grandfathered at their current or better prices, Walters told me.

This seems like a great move by Fastcase to improve its platform by including the substantial resources available through Loislaw -- after all, Loislaw was one of the first databases geared toward small firms with a lower price tag than WEXIS.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Materials For Research & Writing For International Students

As the 5th week of law school classes comes to a close, I can say that teaching legal research and writing to international LL.M. students is a great joy (and a challenge). For a law school population that is fairly homogenous, it is wonderful to be among 13 students from 10 different countries, and this also poses the types of challenges one could expect from such a diverse class. 

While looking for additional resources on point, I recently came across this list from the Legal Writing Institute:

The Global Legal Writing Skills Committee has created a video library and webinar series on teaching international students, which was awarded the 2015 Global Legal Skills Conference award for Outstanding Programming in Global Legal Skills Education.  The presentation slides and webinars are available at http://www.law.msu.edu/glws/.   Contact the committee co-chairs, Sammy Mansour (mansou25@law.msu.edu) or Cara Cunningham Warren (cunnincl@udmercy.edu), for more details.

Online Resources
  • Audio Activities from NPR's Justice Talking website
  • Article on materials adaptation for Legal English classes
  • Stoller, F. L. & Reilly, K. (1999). Rules and Laws: Language and Civil Society: Civic Education. English Teaching Forum Online. U.S. Department of State. http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/journal/civ6background.htm
  • Stoller, F. L. & Reilly, K. (1999). Individual Freedoms, Freedom of Expression. Language and Civil Society: Civic Education. English Teaching Forum Online. U.S. Department of State. http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/journal/civ2background.htm
  • The Global Legal Writing Listserv is devoted to sharing information and discussing issues about advancing legal writing skills globally, including teaching legal writing to international law students, teaching abroad, and conferences focusing on relevant topics. Those interested in subscribing to the listserv should contact the listserv administrator, Cynthia Adams, cmadams@iupui.edu.
  • The LWI's Global Legal Skills Committee is dedicated to helping legal writing professors teach law students and lawyers whose native language is not English. Useful references for this audience, including conference information and teaching opportunities, can be found here.
  • Teresa Kissane Brostoff, Using Culture in the Classroom: Enhancing Learning for International Law Students, 15 Mich. St. J. Intl. L. 557 (2007).
  • Teresa Brostoff, Ann Sinsheimer, and Megan Ford, English for Lawyers: A Preparatory Course for International Lawyers, 7 Leg. Writing 137 (2001).
  • Simon Chesterman, The Globalization of Legal Education, 2008 Sing. J. Leg. Stud. 58 (2008).
  • Matthew A. Edwards, Teaching Foreign LL.M. Students About U.S. Legal Scholarship, 51 J. Leg. Educ. 520 (2001).
  • English for Legal Studies, ESP for Law Students, English for Specific Purposes: Case Studies in TESOL Practice (TESOL 2002).
  • Christine A. Beer Feak, Susan M. Reinhart, and Ann Sinsheimer, A Preliminary Analysis of Law Review Notes, 19 English For Specific Purposes 197 (2000).
  • Julia Hanigsberg, Swimming Lessons, An Orientation Course for Foreign Graduate Students, 44 J. Leg. Educ. 588 (1994).
  • Elizabeth L. Inglehart, Teaching U.S. Legal Research Skills to International LL.M. Students:  What and How, 15 No. 3 Persps.:  Teaching Leg. Res. & Writing 280 (2007).
  • Katerina P. Lewinbuk, Can Successful Lawyers Think in Different Languages?  Incorporating Critical Strategies that Support Learning Lawyering Skills for the Practice of Law in a Global Environment, 7 Rich. J. Global L. & Bus. 1 (2008).
  • Robin Nilon, The Calculus of Plagiarism:  Toward a Contrastive Approach to Teaching Chinese Lawyers, 2 S.C. J. Int’l L. & Bus. 1 (2006).
  • Jill J. Ramsfield, Is "Logic" Culturally Based? A Contrastive, International Approach to the U.S. Law Classroom, 47 J. Leg. Educ. 157 (1997).
  • Carole Silver, Internationalizing U.S. Legal Education:  A Report on the Education of Transnational Lawyers, 14 Cardozo J. Int’l & Comp. L. 143, (2006).
  • Julie M. Spanbauer, Lost in Translation in the Law School Classroom:  Assessing Required Coursework in LL.M. Programs for International Students, 35 Int’l J. Leg. Info. (2007).
  • Margaret Y.K. Woo, Reflections on International Legal Education and Exchanges, 51 J. Leg. Educ. 449 (2001).
Textbooks on Legal Writing for ESL or Non-U.S. Law Students
  • Deborah H. McGregor & Cynthia M. Adams, The International Lawyer's Guide to Legal Analysis And Communication in the United States (Aspen Publishers 2008).
  • Nadia E. Nedzel, Legal Reasoning, Research, and Writing for International Students (2d ed., Aspen Publishers 2008).
  • Laurel Oates and Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook (Aspen Publishers 2006) (includes a section for ESL students).
  • Jill Ramsfield, Culture to Culture:  A Guide to U.S. Legal Writing (Carolina Academic Press 2005).

Books on Legal English
  • Teresa Brostoff and Ann Sinsheimer, Legal English:  An Introduction to the American Legal Language and Culture of the United States (2d ed., Oceana Publications 2003). 
  • Debra S. Lee, Charles Hall, & Susan M. Barone, American Legal English: Using Language in Legal Contexts (2d ed., U. Mich. Press 2007). 
  • Craig Hoffman and Andrea Tyler, U.S. Legal Discourse:  Legal English for Foreign LL.M.s (Thomson West 2008). 
  • Amy Krois-Linder and TransLegal, International Legal English:  A Course for Classroom or Self-Study Use (Cambridge University 2006).
  • Susan M. Reinhart, Strategies for Legal Case Reading and Vocabulary Development (U. Mich. Press 2007).
  • Mark Wojcik, Introduction to Legal English: An Introduction to Legal Terminology, Reasoning, and Writing in Plain English (2d ed., Intl. L. Inst. 2001).
 Other Books
  • Burnham, Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States (4th ed. Thomson West 2006).
  • Dana R. Ferris and John S. Hedgcock, Teaching ESL Composition, Purpose, Process and Practice (2d ed., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 2005).
  • Toni Fine, American Legal Systems:  A Resource and Reference Guide (1997).
  • John Gibbons, Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language in the Justice System (Blackwell Publishing 2003).
  • George Gophen, Sense of Structure:  Writing from the Reader’s Perspective (Pearson Longman 2004).
  • Margaret Z. Johns & Rex R. Perschbacher, The United States Legal System:  An Introduction (2d ed. Carolina Academic Press 2007).
  • Ruth Ann McKinney, Reading Like a Lawyer (Carolina Academic Press 2005).
  • John M. Swales & Christine A. Beer Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students (2d ed., U. Mich. Press 2004).

Reference Materials
  • ALWD & Darby Dickerson, ALWD Citation Manual (3d ed., Aspen Publishers 2006).
  • Douglas Biber et al., Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Pearson Educated Limited 2007), including a workbook.
  • Bryan A. Garner, The Redbook: A Manual of Legal Style (West 2002).
  • Bryan A. Garner, Legal Writing in Plain English (U. Chicago Press 2001).
  • Bryan A. Garner, The Elements of Legal Style (2d ed., Oxford U. Press 2002). Ann Hogue, The Essentials of English: A Writer's Handbook (Pearson Educ. 2003).
  • Ken Hyland, English for Academic Purposes, An Advanced Resource Book (Routledge 2006).
  • Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary (Cambridge Univ. Press 2008).
  • Cambridge Dictionary of American English (2ed ed. 2007).
  • Henry Saint Dahl, McGraw-Hill's Spanish and English Legal Dictionary, Diccionario Jurídico Inglés-Español (McGraw-Hill 2004).
  • Bryan A. Garner, Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed., West 2004).
  • Longman Advanced American Dictionary (2d ed., Pearson Educated Limited 2007).
  • Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Int’l Ed. (4th ed., Pearson Educated Limited 2005).
  • Richard A. Spears, McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs (McGraw-Hill 2005).
Some of these resources have been updated since this list was created, for example, I am using Deborah McGregor and Cythia Adams's newest edition called The Guide to U.S. Legal Analysis and Communication. It builds on the previous edition and offers additional information on persuasive writing, among other things.

In planning my conference travel, I also came across the Legal Writing Institute's 2016 Biennial Conference to be held in Portland July 10-13. This is one that you certainly don't want to miss. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Utility Law School v. Utopia Law School

The NYTimes recently ran a piece asking "What is the Point of College?" The author put college in two categories: utility university and utopia university.

One vision focuses on how college can be useful — to its graduates, to employers and to a globally competitive America. When presidential candidates talk about making college more affordable, they often mention those benefits, and they measure them largely in dollars and cents. How is it helping postgraduate earnings, or increasing G.D.P.? As college grows more expensive, plenty of people want to know whether they’re getting a good return on their investment. They believe in Utility U.

Another vision of college centers on what John Stuart Mill called ‘‘experiments in living,’’ aimed at getting students ready for life as free men and women. Here, college is about building your soul as much as your skills. Students want to think critically about the values that guide them, and they will inevitably want to test out their ideas and ideals in the campus community. (Though more and more students are taking degrees online, most undergraduates will be on campus a lot of the time.) College, in this view, is where you hone the tools for the foundational American project, the pursuit of happiness. Welcome to Utopia U.

Together, these visions — Utility and Utopia — explain a great deal about modern colleges and universities. But taken singly, they lead to very different metrics for success. at Utility U., one obvious way to better your ‘‘value proposition’’ is to cut costs. 

If Utility U. is concerned with value, Utopia U. is concerned with values. At Utopia U., the aim is to create a safe space, to check your privilege and suspend the prejudices of the larger world, to promote human development and advance moral progress.

Neither Utility U. nor Utopia U. has the full run of any one campus.

While reading this article, the evolving vision of law school kept creeping in. Law school is a professional school where lawyers should learn the nuts and bolts of practice and be mindful of ROI. In this way, law school should be seen as an investment of value. But law school is also about learning to "think like a lawyer" and develop the values that society needs in its bar. In this way, law school should be seen as an investment of values.

What we're seeing in the downturn is that many law schools are starting to look like something more akin to Utility U. With slashed budgets, it's hard not to touch the programs that add intrinsic values when monetary value is at stake. In other words, it's difficult to be utopian in austere times. As mentioned, neither Utility U. nor Utopia U. totally encompasses any one school, but we need to be mindful of the balance to guide the law school well into the future.

The Chronicle of Higher Education put it best when a recent article sad:
[T]he only plausible raison d’être of a college is to nourish a world of intellectual culture: a world of ideas dedicated to what we can know scientifically, understand humanistically, or express artistically. In our society, this world is populated mainly by members of college faculties. Law, medicine, and engineering are included to the extent that they are still understood as "learned professions," deploying practical skills that are nonetheless rooted in scientific knowledge or humanistic understanding. Support for our current system of higher education makes sense, therefore, only if we regard this intellectual culture as essential. Otherwise we could provide job training and basic social and moral formation for young adults far more efficiently and cheaply.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Suffolk Law Drastically Cuts Library Budget In Favor Of Digital Library

Newswire is reporting that Suffolk Law has drastically cut the Law Library's budget by 50% in favor of a digital library provided, in part, by LexisNexis.

Founded more than 100 years ago, Suffolk University Law School in Boston is the seventh-largest law school in the United States. By complementing its existing physical library with the LexisNexis Digital Library solution, the law school provides students and faculty with 'anywhere, anytime' access to more law library titles than ever before, including electronic versions of course materials at no additional charge.

Ron Wheeler, director of Law Library & Information Resources and associate professor of legal research at Suffolk University Law School, led the charge for digital change, driven by a number of factors: a 50 percent reduction in the law library's budget over a two-year period, the need to reduce the library's physical footprint, a desire to increase access to its collections, and the ambition to create a modern library experience for students and faculty.

“Technology offers the opportunity to convert libraries from static repositories into dynamic resources that increase access to content, provide cost-effective ways to expand collections, and position librarians as experts on technology as well as titles,” said Wheeler. “A solution like LexisNexis Digital Library breathes life back into the very idea of what a library can be, and helps deliver 21st century value.”

Through the implementation of Digital Library, Suffolk Law Library increased the number of volumes available, while simultaneously meeting budget challenges by purchasing fewer hard copy books and consolidating the library's physical footprint from three floors to two.

This seems to be the trend for law libraries nationwide. This model might work well as a cost-saving measure for a law school that is connected to a larger university but leaves much to be desired in the way of content ownership and legal research instruction. Law librarianship will likely continue to evolve in this direction as the purse strings are pulled with just a few large academic libraries continuing to purchase and house print resources.

It will be interesting to see what happens when we are completely reliant on the various vendors/publishers for our information. Will this mean a spike in price for electronic content? Hopefully the contract allows for expansive access rights, and this will be a model we can all learn from.

Friday, September 11, 2015

College Students & Instructors On Library & Research

According to a study done by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), 64% of college graduates believe they are well-prepared to locate, organize, and evaluate information while only 29% of employers agree.

In spring 2015, Gale's parent company, Cengage Learning, issued its Engagement Insights survey to some 3,000 students and nearly 700 professors, gathering feedback on different topics including how both audiences valued the library, how they often they took advantage of its resources and more: