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.

image: http://pixabay.com/p-112117/?no_redirect

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. 

image: http://th03.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2011/316/1/8/bright_technology_stock_06_by_rockstock-d4fy76w.jpg

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. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Judge Calls Out BP Lawyers For Using Trickery

NPR reported that the judge in a case related to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not amused when the BP lawyers manipulated the spacing in a brief to comply with the page limit.

"Back in school, did you ever fudge the spacing on a report to meet the teacher's page-length requirement? Lawyers representing oil company BP tried something similar in a recent court filing connected to the company's 2010 drilling rig accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

Judge Barbier reprimanded the lawyers for the tactic. "BP's counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP's counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. ... Counsel's tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here."

As one of Judge Barbier's former clerks mentioned, "[t]he subtext seems to be Judge Barbier saying, 'Look, every time I give you an inch you take a mile, and I'm tired of it.' BP is lucky because some judges would have stricken the entire brief for not following the rules."

This is a good lesson for any future attorney. Judges are savvy enough to know when a brief has been manipulated. If a judge has been on the bench long enough, he or she has probably seen lawyers try every trick in the book to comply with a page limit, including changing font or spacing. It's just not worth it to upset judges over something as silly as spacing in a brief.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Visit The Library For An Experience

When most people think library, they think of a quiet warehouse full of books. Of course, that's all changing as libraries continue to transition to a digital collection.

Some libraries are continuing to step outside of the traditional role of the library by offering cutting edge technology like Google Glass or 3D printers to their patrons.

The other programming happening in Colorado libraries include:

  • Anythink created The Studio at Wright Farms, which has HD cameras, a green screen, tripods, lighting kits and editing software. And that's just for video. There's an audio recording studio, graphic design software and gaming computers
  • A programmable Finch to learn computer code
  • Seed libraries to offer up cheaper ways to cultivate plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • In Denver, you can stream and download music from local bands
  • In JeffCo, a library card also gets you a Culture Pass, where cardholders can reserve passes to access local museums and attractions

The Communications Director of Anythink Libraries said, "[w]e are really shifting and think of the library less as a place to warehouse books, and more of a place where you can come and interact with information in a new way and actually participate in a new experience."

And how users interact with information should be more of a focus for librarians today. It's great to see public libraries taking such an active role in their community.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lexis Advance Is Here

Lexis released the new interface, Lexis Advance, on Monday, September 8.

From the promotional literature:
It's cleaner, simpler and easier to use than ever before. Some of the new Lexis Advance features include:

  • A new streamlined interface
  • Tab-less, uncluttered results
  • More intuitive filters get you to the answer faster
  • Improved Alerts, Tables of Contents, Mobile Apps and more
  • The same great search functions that you already know
For more information on the Lexis Advance interface, see the following YouTube videos:
On first impression, it looks like Lexis Advance really listened to user comments and recommendations for improvement.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Twitter Account Announces Changes To SCOTUS Opinions

Earlier this year, I posted about SCOTUS continuing to edit opinions after release.

From the NYTimes, "[t]he Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include 'truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,' said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon."

In June, the ABAJournal noted that there is a Twitter account that is tracking the changes made to opinions after release.

"Lawyer David Zvenyach, general counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia, looked for a solution [to notifying the public of changes to the opinions]. He used an application called Node to crawl slip opinions from the Supreme Court’s website every five minutes. The changes are automatically noted on Twitter at the account @Scotus_servo."

A a caveat, "TechDirt points out that the system only works when the Supreme Court updates its website with the latest changes, and that doesn’t always happen."

But this alert is better than nothing.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Find A Little Help From My Friends (Reading First-Year Cases)

As law school heads into the first few weeks of class, it is probable that 1Ls will run across the most famous cases in the first-year subjects.

The Findlaw Blog has a series of helpful posts for the classic law school cases.

Torts:

  • Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928)
  • Summers v. Tice (1948)
  • MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916)
  • Garratt v. Dailey (1955)
  • United States v. Carroll Towing Co. (1947)

Criminal Law:

  • R. v. Dudley and Stephens (Queen's Bench, 1884)
  • M'Naghten's Case (House of Lords 1843)
  • R. v. Cunningham (Queen's Bench, 1957)
  • People v. Ceballos (Calif. Supreme Court, 1973)
  • Lawrence v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, 2003)

Property:

  • Pierson v. Post (New York, 1805)
  • Ghen v. Rich (Massachusetts, 1881)
  • Duke of Norfolk's Case (House of Lords, 1682)
  • United States v. Causby (U.S. Supreme Court, 1946)
  • Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh (U.S. Supreme Court, 1823)

Civil Procedure:

  • Pennoyer v. Neff (SCOTUS 1878)
  • International Shoe v. Washington (SCOTUS 1945)
  • Gray v. American Radiator (Illinois Supreme Court 1961)
  • World Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson (SCOTUS 1980)
  • Asahi Metal Industry v. Superior Court (SCOTUS 1986)

Contracts:

  • Hawkins v. McGee (New Hampshire 1929)
  • Hadley v. Baxendale (English Exchequer Court 1854)
  • Frigaliment Importing Co. v. BNS International Sales Corp. (New York 1960)
  • Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (Queen's Bench 1893)
  • Hamer v. Sidway
These posts offer an overview of the foundational doctrines in these areas of law as laid out by these cases. They are a good refresher for the more seasoned law student and a good overview of the doctrines that a 1L should pull from the cases. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SCOTUS Relies Perilously On Amicus Briefs

The NYTimes reported on a fairly new phenomenon at the Supreme Court level. As the justices look to amicus briefs for help with data, "[t]heir opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs."

While this may not seem problematic on its face, "'[t]his is a perilous trend,' said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary. 'The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,' she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review."

"Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited 'facts' from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all."

The justices must be cognizant of the resources that amicus briefs cite for authority. It is not enough to merely cite to the amicus brief - the justices must also look to the reputability of the sources that the amicus brief cites to determine if the information is unbiased and represents the true nature of the reasoning in an opinion.

While not all amicus briefs cite questionable material, many amicus briefs rely on inferior data. "Some 'studies' presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court." If the justices are going to cite an amicus brief, they should look for information that is, in part, peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal.

"Yet the justices are quite receptive to this dodgy data. Over the five terms from 2008 to 2013, the court’s opinions cited factual assertions from amicus briefs 124 times."

The justices should take heed of Professor Larsen's article and pay closer attention to the reputable nature of the information cited in amicus briefs. Otherwise the SCOTUS opinions are undermined by potentially inaccurate or bias information.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FREE Librarian Webinars In September

The Open Education Database posted a slew of free professional-development webinars for librarians in the month of September. There are 48 webinars in total.

Here are a few of the listings:

Wednesday, September 3
11:00 – 12:00 pm (Eastern)
Resource Description and What? RDA for Non-Catalogers (Nebraska Library Commission)

Thursday, September 4
2:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
20 Questions: Government Information Resources (Florida Library)

Tuesday, September 9
12:00 – 1:00 pm (Eastern)
The Reader’s First Initiative: Fighting for Fair Access to ebooks (Washington State Library)

Tuesday, September 9
3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
The Reference Interview Today: Practical Principles, Timeless Tips (Library Journal)

Thursday, September 18
2:00 – 3:00 pm (Eastern)
Taming Tech Tools for Libraries (WebJunction)

Friday, September 19
11:00 – 12:00 pm (Eastern)
Tech Tools with Tine: 1 Hour of Google Drive (Texas State Library & Archives Commission)

Tuesday, September 23
2:00 – 3:00 pm (Eastern)
Promoting eResources at Academic Libraries (Florida Library)

Tuesday, September 23
2:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Introduction to Mobile Services for Libraries (Florida Library)

Friday, September 26
10:00 – 11:00 am (Eastern)
The Wild, Wild Web: A Labor of Gov (Florida Library)

These are the listings that I found particularly appealing, but there are webinars for all types of librarians. Librarians must be life-long learners, and these FREE resources are very helpful to stay current on trends and technologies in libraries.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Librarian Jobs: Outlook Good

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that librarians may be facing a labor shortage in the coming years. "America may be running out of sea captains and librarians. Those professions, along with occupational therapists, plant operators and scores of others, are likely to report significant deficits of qualified workers over the next 15 years or so, according to a report coming out Tuesday from the Conference Board."

"In the Conference Board report—titled 'From Not Enough Jobs to Not Enough Workers'—the authors analyzed 12 factors that will affect labor supply across industries and professions until 2030, including the Labor Department's growth outlook for different occupations, the proportion of older workers in those fields, the rate at which young people are entering those careers and risks of offshoring and automation."

One of the main factors affecting librarianship is the number of older workers in the field. "By 2030, the youngest baby boomers—those born in the early 1960s—will mostly have retired and the U.S. will face the fallout of a permanently smaller labor force, barring a major change in immigration policy or some other surge in population."

The problem is that library field currently has an over-saturated market. There are too many new graduates and not enough full-time jobs. This outlook should take into account current qualified candidates looking for employment and adjust any future projections. However, if you are currently in elementary school or early high school, and your dream is to become a librarian one day, this outlook is for you.