Novalawcity is moving over to Wordpress as of 8/17/2011.
Please join us over at: http://nsulltc.wordpress.com/ to continue our discussion.
The Office of the Law Revision Counsel is seeking comments on the new beta version of its website for the U.S. Code. The Office is looking for feedback from law librarians and members of the public about the site’s features, content, and ease of use.
The beta site is located at http://uscodebeta.house.gov and the current site is located at http://uscode.house.gov/. Your comments will help the Office make changes to the website to better meet user needs. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
Some key features of the new website are:
Prospective features include:
Hat tip to Emily Feldman, Advocacy Communications Assistant at the American Association of Law Libraries for sharing this exciting news with us!
Where did you grow up? How did you come to be here?
South Florida—I was five when my parents and I moved here from Brooklyn. Nonetheless, I’m not a Floridian—"You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy." I have a long, synchronicitous connection with this cluster of schools NSU is part of here in Davie (the South Florida Education Center). I went to Nova’s University School from kindergarten through 8th grade, then off to the public Nova High School. I went away to college, then dropped out (it took me 11 years to get my B.A.!). During this time, I took classes at Nova, one a legal research and writing class. I worked in a computer software store for two years, then came back to Broward Community College (now Broward College) to get my A.A. Off to finish my B.A., at New College of Florida (on a trivia scholarship—really!). I went to law school at FSU (though my loyalty is completely to New College). Then I practiced law for a while—which was not my cup of tea, really. So I went back to school to become a librarian… and now here, back home again.
When did you begin working for the LLTC?
I started working here in November 2009, as a temporary reference librarian, and became a permanent employee in May 2010.
What do you do at LLTC?
As Outreach and Emerging Technologies Librarian, I’m the LLTC’s point person for reaching out to and helping students, alumnae/i, and local practitioners. I work a lot with our faculty and their research assistants as well. I guest-teach in and prepare materials for law school classes, help library patrons with questions at the Reference Desk, and also do longer research consultations.
What do you like best about your job?
All of the above. (No, really.) A lot of what I love about the law is doing research and pulling all the information together. This is the part of the law that few lawyers do much of, and that librarians do all the time. I get to work with many different topics and areas in the law—I love variety and being exposed to different things. I like to say that I can get interested in any area of the law for half an hour! Helping students, especially, is a blast—when the “light bulb” lights up over their heads. I had a student tell me “I just enjoyed doing legal research—who’d have imagined it?” That made my year.
Also, I really like the “Emerging Technologies” part of my job. Part of my job is like playing a huge computer game called “the Web”—news, blogs, software, email, Facebook (which I do use for work). I even use the so-called “deep Web”—databases, like Westlaw and PACER, that aren’t indexed by search engines like Google. I have a new iPad that I am seriously grooving on—I thought it would mostly be a tool, but it’s turning out to be a serious workhorse as well. (Plus, my wife and I watched an episode of “House” on it—an amazing experience, watching TV on something that has the form factor of a book.)
What are your proudest accomplishments on the job?
The way my outreach to our students has blossomed. I put together a collection of research resources that I presented in Professor Jarvis’s American Legal History class. I volunteered to help his students with their research for their papers, which was helpful for them and rewarding for me. I started telling other students about consulting with me—and Professor Jarvis’s students told their fellow students too!
Also, because I love this job, I’m always networking with students, practitioners, and even our faculty—“selling” myself, offering whatever help I can provide. I’m already on my second box of business cards!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I read a lot, though not as much fiction lately as I would like. I love Web browsing—I get a lot of technology information that way (a busman’s holiday). My wife and I love live theatre—we’ve seen plays, excellent, professional local theatre, and all very different—the last four weekends in a row. I love good food—not necessarily gourmet, a good hamburger can be a wonderful thing—but excellent, unpretentious food of just about any style and from just about anywhere is wonderful.
Lately I’ve been craving spicy food, and really vinegary pickled vegetables. I love Jewish ethnic food—lox, chicken soup. My wife is from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and I get to eat a lot of neat stuff that she’s introduced me to (I’m a recent mango addict). Indian, Italian, Greek, Irish, pan-Asian, Vietnamese (I’m very partial to phở, the Vietnamese soup), Latin (anything from Argentinean to Colombian to Mexican, which are not even similar), barbecue… I could go on, but now I’m getting hungry.
I love reference books—surprising, right? (One thing I love about my wife is that she owns and uses more dictionaries than I do—she’s a professional translator.) Fiction, well, I love John Sandford, the science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson, and the fantasist Neil Gaiman—his story “A Study in Emerald,” a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft, is amazing. Speaking of Lovecraft mash-ups, Charles Stross’s Laundry series, a mash-up of, get this, Lovecraft and Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) is astoundingly good, funny and terrifying both. I’m reading Susan Collins’s book Hunger Games, at Becka’s recommendation—slow going for me right now, but very good.
Do you have any other interesting connections to NSU Law?
I’ve known Professor Richmond, Mike, and his wife, Professor Fran Tetunic, for at least twenty years. I was in a play Mike directed at the synagogue I used to go to, “The Convertible Girl” (written by Neil Simon’s older brother). I played a rabbi. That was an experience, let me tell you.
Is there any particular advice you would like to share with students?
Two things. First, the research and writing skills you learn in LSV and improve in your upper-level classes and seminars are critical in the practice of law. Lawyers write all the time: memos and letters, some of which are painstaking, time-consuming efforts, like demand letters; but also motions and briefs. This sort of writing is required in federal court: the local rules for the Southern District of Florida (S.D. Fla. L.R. 7.1(a),(c)) mandate that memoranda of law in support and in opposition be filed for almost all motions. Florida state-court motions on many substantive and procedural matters will also need to include case law and arguments, or be supported by separate briefs.
Writing a seminar paper—a good seminar paper—involves the same skills as writing a legal brief. Finding and evaluating materials, analyzing them in written form, using those materials to construct an argument, refining your analysis and arguments through successive drafts, citation-checking, even proofreading—these are all an important part of lawyering. Even in transactional work, skill at researching, analyzing, synthesizing, arguing, drafting, and revising all require practice. One of the most difficult—and potentially problematic—things a transactional lawyer will be called upon to do is to draft an opinion letter, which very much requires these skills.
And now for something completely different. Storytelling is very important to lawyers also. The process of laying out a case—from demand letter, to complaint, to discovery, to pretrial practice, and especially arguing a case to a judge or jury—is all about the story you tell and who you portray as the good guy and who as the bad guy. Even as a transactional lawyer, when negotiating, for instance, you want to craft a narrative with the other lawyers and businesspeople you work with in which everyone wins.
One of the hardest things I’ve done here was when an LSV professor asked me to teach her students about storytelling research. I despaired of where to start. But once I was reminded of how important storytelling is, and how ingrained into and essential it is in our legal system, I was able to approach the class in an effective, useful manner.
Oh, and a third piece of advice (if any of you have gotten this far). This stuff you’re getting thrown at you in law school is hard—confusing, terrifying even. And sometimes it makes no sense. Ask questions—lots of questions. Ask your professors—even in class. (It's a good way to avoid being called on when unprepared!) Ask other students. Law is a very collaborative profession; you should get used to cooperating with your peers now; that kind of cooperation is essential to being an effective lawyer. Also, ask us—that’s what we’re here for. Ask us research questions. Ask for advice—if you talk to me about your interests, I might be able to suggest a seminar class you might like, or help you find a paper topic that might work for you. I might even be able to offer a bit of career advice (or give you one of Career Center Associate Director Denise Corin’s business cards).
The concepts you are learning in your subject-area classes are very important in practicing law. You may not really get them, or see how they interact, until you use them in practice—and that's okay. But your practical skills are also very important. Research and writing (learned earlier and improved in law school), active listening (including asking appropriate questions at the right time), storytelling, networking, and accounting—all of these skills will help you to be a better lawyer. Anything I can do to help you develop these skills—to become, or be, a better lawyer—is not just my job, but a real pleasure.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Champaign-Urbana, IL, home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (yes, really). My parents are university professors/administrators, so I spent a fair amount of time in university-run schools and walking around campus.
What year did you begin working for LLTC?
Where did you work prior to LLTC?
Immediately before I started working at LLTC, I worked at the University of Illinois Law Library helping to process withdrawals, shelf pocket parts, and design a website to display new books by subject area. Before that, I worked at the University of Illinois-Chicago assisting the Dean of the College of Educaton with education policy research, including making maps, database/data analysis, and marketing. Prior to that, I taught elementary school, including special education and gifted classes; worked in tech support (Mac and PC); helped create online communities at a dot-com back when they were booming; created websites; was a stringer for a newspaper's youth section; and graded/tutored calculus and statistics.
What do you do at LLTC?
As the Deputy Director, I work with Technical Services, Outreach Services, Circulation, and Reference to help the library run smoothly. I also help faculty with their research, teach students how to do all different kinds of research, help figure out what books to buy for the collection, teach/design workshops, present in classes, and help Eric stay sane.
What do you like best about your job?
I like that, when I go into work in the morning, I never know for sure what the day is going to bring. I'm constantly learning something new and problem-solving and even when I get asked the same question repeatedly, I'm always learning new ways to answer it. I also love teaching and that my curiosity is constantly being rewarded.
What is your proudest accomplishment on the job?
There are two accomplishments that I'm really proud of.
One is that I was able to help a 1L who was really struggling to understand how legal research worked get on the right path after she came into my office panicked.
The other is revitalizing the faculty liaison program and creating materials for faculty about what the library could do for them. We've already seen some increased activity from faculty (and students) due to the marketing and I think it will be useful for everyone.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Exercise-wise, I enjoy swimming. There's just something wonderful about being in the water.
Additionally, I am a news junkie and a prolific YA (Young Adult) Fiction reader.
Last, but not least, my best friend Pam and I, along with our cats Wilbur and Kato, enjoy watching some TV shows like Royal Pains, Dr. Who, Glee, and Castle.
Strawberries, broccoli, and chocolate.
There are too many books to choose from! Lately, I have been trying to get everyone to read the Hunger Games by Susan Collins. Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the Jell-O Syndrome would all top the list. My secret vice is that I also read everything by Katie Macalister.
Is there any particular advice you would like to share with students?
Breathe. Remember that eating, sleeping, and taking care of yourself can play as much a role in your success as studying. There is life after law school. Always use advanced search. WestlawNext is not Google. Everytime you don't ask a question that you should have asked, I am very sad. And, lastly, one of my favorite quotes:
"Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" -- she always called me Elwood -- "In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." -- Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey
Where did you work before you came here? I’ve worked as a librarian at the University of Baltimore Law Library, and at the Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University. Before I got my Master of Library Science degree, I worked as a library assistant at the Eisenhower Library, and at the Perkins Library of Duke University. My very first job out of college was with the IRS!
What do you do at the LLTC? My title is Associate Director for Technical Services. Technical Services (or Collection Services, as it is sometimes known) is the department in the LLTC which is responsible for ordering, receiving, paying for, cataloging and processing all library materials. This includes print and electronic books, journals, audio and video materials, and microforms, as well as reference databases such as Hein Online, Lexis and Westlaw. Our department creates up-to-date information about the LLTC’s collections in the University Libraries’ online catalog, NovaCat. In addition to these responsibilities, I provide in-person, telephone and online chat reference assistance to information-seekers near and far!
What your favorite part of your job? As a librarian, I get paid to do what I love to do: satisfy my intellectual curiosity, and help people at the same time!
What is your most memorable contribution on the job? In 2004, the Law Center hosted a symposium called Centuries of Commerce : Law, Trade, Spain and the Americas. My part in the activities around the symposium consisted of helping to mount a display of rare books and manuscripts, on loan from the Barcelona Bar Association. In collaboration with the Bar Association’s Rare Books Librarian, I translated descriptions of each item on display, which were compiled in an exhibit catalog. The exhibit featured bilingual self-guided audio tours, and I also translated the scripts for the tour, which were recorded by the first class of students in NSU’s dual degree program with the University of Barcelona.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work? Reading goes without saying, right? I love listening to many different kinds of music, especially classical and jazz. I also watch old movies whenever I can. My favorite outdoor sport is snorkeling, which I do as often as I possible in our beautiful Florida Keys!
What do you like to read best? Fiction! My favorite novel for the past few years has been The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. For beach reading, Alexander McCall Smith tops my list.
What is your favorite meal? I love tapas, especially tortilla española and gambas al ajillo.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with students? Don’t be shy about asking questions! Everyone in the library is here to help you get the most out of your law school experience, and we do that best when you let us know what you need.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Middletown, Ohio. Middletown is about 40 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio and 30 miles south of Dayton, Ohio. My parents were both college professors at Miami University in Ohio, so I also spent a lot of my time running around the town of Oxford, Ohio.
I began at the LLTC as Assistant Dean for Law Library & Technology Services and Assistant Professor of Law in January 2010.
3. Where did you work prior to the LLTC?
I've been around quite a bit. My first professional librarian job as Reference Librarian at the Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University. I worked there for a number years progressing to the Assistant Director for Technology Services. I also worked a start-up, for-profit law school in far western Kentucky that, unfortunately, shuttered its doors. I also worked in private practice as a commercial litigator with a large (for Dayton, Ohio) law firm, as a federal judical law clerk, as an attorney for the Social Security Administration, and as an attorney for an insurance defense firm. Back in my early 20's I managed a Domino's Pizza near my hometown.
4. What do I do at the LLTC?
As noted above, I am the Assistant Dean for Law Library & Technology Services and Assistant Professor of Law. In this capacity, I manage approximately 25 employees and direct the Law Center's library and technology efforts.
5. What do you like best about your job?
Meetings. I realize that is hard to believe, but I actually love meetings and committee work. I also enjoy working with my colleagues on the Law Center faculty and the other Law Center administrators as well as working with the other staff members of the LLTC. The Law Center is blessed with a great group of employees and everyday I look forward to coming to work.
6. What is your proudest accomplishment on the job?
As a manager, my proudest accomplishments are the accomplishments of my staff. When a staff member accomplishes something and is proud of the work he or she did, I'm proud too. I'm also very proud of the efforts I've made since my arrival working with so many others to push through the new classroom technology upgrades. The Law Center needed these upgrades and I'm very proud to have played my part in making the upgrades happen.
7. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my partner of 10 years Heath as well as our two dogs, Tank and Piper, and our three cats, Spike, Ms. Meepers, and Grumpy. Heath and I have a number of TV shows we like to watch together. I own a 1957 red Ford Thunderbird that I enjoy tooling around in on the weekends.
8. Favorite food?
I'm not a picky eater - I like everything except coconut.
9. Favorite book?
I enjoy reading a lot different stuff. As a teenager, I read every horror and science fantasy book I could get my hands on, and I still enjoy picking something up in those genres every once in while to read. It is tough for me to point to one single book. Lately, I've enjoyed the author Patrick McGrath. If you decided to pick up one of his books, start with his first The Grotesque. I also enjoy all things David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs.
10. Is there any particular advice you would like to share with students?
In my opinion, law school is largely about time management. If you are willing to manage your time wisely, with a lot of it put aside for class preparation and study, you will do just fine. Don't get behind.
An interesting blog post appeared on the Dewey B Strategic blog (the blog subhead: “Risk, value, strategy, libraries, knowledge and the legal profession”), posted by attorney and DLA Piper Director of Research Services and Libraries Jean P. O'Grady, on May 5, 2011: “The Myth and the Madness of Cost Effective Lexis and Westlaw Research Training.” It may be impossible to teach cost-effective legal research using Westlaw and LexisNexis in the manner the author describes. That said, I think the problem Ms. O’Grady is addressing is as much an result of her approach as it is a reflection of reality.
I think that there are (at least) three problems with Ms. O’Grady’s blog post. First, the tone of Ms. O’Grady’s blog post is rather negative: It criticizes, but suggests no better approaches. There may be a straw-person problem here as well: I don’t really recognize or understand the extremely detail-oriented model of cost-effective legal research instruction she discusses. She mentions that her solutions to the problems she diagnoses will be in a subsequent post, so I hope she describes her model further then. Second, her post is oriented toward large law firm research, and takes a trees-for-the-forest approach. And third, Ms. O’Grady seems never to have worked outside of BigLaw firms (that is, firms ranked in the American Lawyer 100, or of similar size), where the vast majority of lawyers do (see some numbers on firm size, below). Her approach to legal research and to cost-effective legal research teaching, reflects this: if more information, be it legal research or cost effective rules, is good, then more is better. BigLaw litigation tends to be massive, with massive discovery, trial--and legal research--budgets.
Law Practice and Overly-Expensive Memos
According to our Westlaw educational representative, there are some frightening numbers associated with computerized legal research. BigLaw firms spend approximately $150,000 a month on their Westlaw accounts. By comparison, if it were even possible to buy the equivalent of law-student Westlaw access, that sort of account alone would cost about $100,000 a month.
Such huge legal-research budgets presents a false picture of legal research in the real world of lawyering. As one of the commenters on Ms. O’Grady’s post, Chicago-Kent Law professor and Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program Mary Rose Strubbe (who practiced for four years with a small law firm doing complex federal litigation), wrote, “you imply that all or most lawyers are working at large firms, with librarians. In Illinois, for example, far fewer than 20% of the licensed lawyers work at private firms having more than 25 lawyers.”
These numbers are close to Florida’s. According to the Florida Bar’s 2010 Economics Survey, 65% of Florida attorneys work in firms of 1-5 attorneys, and 77% work in firms of ten attorneys or fewer. (DLA Piper, according to their website, has “4,200 lawyers located in 30 countries and 76 offices.”)
Given the costs of computerized legal research, it is extremely unlikely that small-firm lawyers have access to resources even approaching those available at BigLaw firms--unless they go to a library with free (limited) Westlaw or LexisNexis access.
At the run-of-the-mill small law firm, unlike BigLaw firms (which almost certainly pay a flat rate for their legal research), when a lawyer does legal research using Westlaw or LexisNexis, the meter is running. This can have frightening results. The $1,300 to $6,000 memo is real. A student of University of Arizona Law reference librarian and adjunct assistant professor Sarah Gotschall ran up about a $6,000 legal-research bill (but at least got an iPad for the $800 he eventually had to pay out of pocket). A friend of mine did it to the tune of $2,000. Even I spent $1,300 doing some in-house research, unaccustomed as I am to having to account for the cost of Westlaw access.
Granularity and “Easing In”
A major problem with Ms. O’Grady’s approach to cost-effective legal research training is this: She thinks that the solution to trainee lawyers learning cost-effectiveness is to give them a lot of detail. So much so, in fact, that she cites the number of databases that Westlaw and LexisNexis have between them, about 100,000--and implies that new legal researchers should ideally have some idea about the pricing of all these available modes of research.
How can newly minted legal researchers be expected to do this? They don’t understand some of the resources they are accessing, and certainly not their importance. New lawyers have all heard about the importance of running their cases through a citation index, but what percentage have internalized the importance of making sure all the cases they rely upon are good law? (It may take a courtroom loss for that to sink in.) Given that, how can a new lawyer figure out whether the importance of a resource justifies its cost? Law students and new lawyers should be “scared straight” slowly, and, to begin with, given a framework for understanding the costs of Westlaw and LexisNexis legal research. But that framework shouldn’t be more complicated than “This is expensive—BOO!”, with the “BOO,” of course, being the $6,000-memo story and its equivalent.
The most important example of the importance of a resource justifying its cost is, of course, citation indexing. And unfortunately, this is one area where there is no way around the Westlaw and LexisNexis duopoly. Their databases are the only ones set up for making sure that a case is still good law. Fortunately, the cash prices for this per case are not too excessive: $15.00 to Shepardize a case--cheap compared to losing a case through incomplete research. (KeyCite pricing varies by type of material.) Fastcase apparently gets asked about this a lot, and has talked about it internally. And, to speculate, doing so would let them put a big wedge into the duopoly. But that kind of database analysis, perforce done at least in part by hand, is obviously a huge undertaking. Access to ALR or forms or even headnotes is nice. But if a case is not good law, then much of the research that involves it is worthless.
BigLaw--Part of the Problem
Ms. O’Grady several times suggests that there are two sides to this dispute: The terrible information vendors, who are the true culprits in the spiraling, pathological cost of computerized legal research, and us, the virtuous law firms bearing the brunt. She even says so in a bold-faced statement: “Subscribing to the myth of cost effective research training keeps the focus off the true culprits and keeps us from demanding a real solutions [sic].” But how can BigLaw be expected to help solve the cost-effective legal research problem--boycott Westlaw and LexisNexis? The BigLaw machine would stop--obsessively over-researching issues, and the attendant huge amounts of time for which their model allows client billing, encourages Westlaw and LexisNexis, not discourages. BigLaw is part of the problem, not of the solution—for the moment, not even potentially.
Market forces may solve or help solve this--but only when the full-fee model that BigLaw firms hew to are replaced by different practice models and more sensitive billing models, as the economy changes. (The Economist ran an excellent article recently about how law firms are becoming more nimble and international, changing focus more rapidly, and retrenching, on May 5, “A Less Gilded Future.”)
A Conclusion and Some Solutions
Ms. O’Grady’s analysis is interesting and relevant. Nonetheless, she does have issues: a rather contrary tone, an over-detailed approach to cost-effective legal research instruction, and an overwhelmingly BigLaw background, far from the much more common small-firm law practice environment. Any one of those issues would be worrisome. Given all three factors, I think her perspective is somewhat unrealistic.
I do have some student-tested solutions of my own:
But I will go into more detail about these ideas, and examine some other possibilities later, especially after I can examine Ms. O’Grady’s proposed solutions.
Over the next couple of m onths, you will see QR Codes appearing next to the names of librarians, faculty, and at the ends of stacks to provide additional information of who we are and how best to use resources.
QR Codes (short for Quick Response Code) direct you to websites, videos, or other content using your mobile phone and its camera.
QR Codes were originally created for inventory, but their appearance and ability to encode more data than a traditional barcode has lead to them being used in creative ways.
A separate application is necessary to read them on most mobile phones.
To install a QR Code reader (and get in on the fun!), go to your phone's app store just as you would for any other application (The App Store, Android Market, Blackberry App World, etc.) or visit one of the following URLs on your phone:
(Previously posted by me @ RIPS Law Librarian Blog)
With the ongoing events in the Middle East and the Ka Nefer Nefer case going on, we’ve received several questions on how to locate Middle Eastern law. I thought that perhaps some of you might also be interested in the resources I’ve been putting together for our students. Slate has put together a great infographic about what’s going on in the Middle East, complete with links to news stories and a moving timeline. Several libraries have already put together some great guides to law in the Middle East. LLRX has also put together a guide on finding Islamic law. The Pitt Jurist and the Law Library of Congress are also great sources for links to legislatures, executives, bodies of law, and other information. Where a Law Library of Congress page exists, it tends to link to the most primary sources and be the most comprehensive, but I’ve included several other sources as well because, depending on the research project and the languages the research speaks, different sites will be more helpful. Of course, not every country is mentioned in every source. The CIA World Factbook has great information on government and legal structure for countries without a lot written about them. While they’re a great source, and I’ve linked them in each spot, I believe that the other sources are more comprehensive and helpful from a legal research angle most of the time. For the main countries involved: