Category: Columns

Apples to Apples

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By , September 8, 2011 4:52 pm

By Philippe Cloutier

Technology in the legal world is funny business. We don’t pride ourselves on being on the cutting-edge or at the head of the line (or the upper middle) for upgrades. In my experience, many firms are squeezing the last bit of value from pre-2003 technology as much as possible. Even though it is often to our detriment- with constant debugging, restarts, freezing, and overall technical service time vacuums. The old adage, we are creatures of habit, largely informs this slow rate of change.  However, I think as our lives require the daily use of blended computers, cell-phones, tablets, etc., and the improvement of software reliability, speedier adoption of new technology will be the norm.
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How Can You Not Like OK Magazine?

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By , July 19, 2011 8:09 pm

by Stina McClintock

The other day, in line at the grocery store, I was debating the proverbial question: “What trashy magazine do I buy to balance this New York Times?”  When I saw that OK Magazine was advertising more content for half the price of US Weekly and that I could read all about Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom on their new free iPad app!  Without question, I was instantly drawn to the promise of more content for less money.

It seems that what is good enough for gossip news must also be good enough for legal news, as Justia.com and Oyez.org have recently announced that they intend to redesign parts of their websites to attract more users in the legal community.  In the coming months these sites will be unveiling new looks along with a slate of free-to-use additional features.  Also on the plate are mobile applications for better access.

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H2O: The Wave of the Future

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By , July 14, 2011 12:51 pm

by Robyn Hagle

During library training, for our first group of summer associates, I was introduced to a new technology that is gaining traction in at least one law school. H2O is a product of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. At its core, H2O is basically a free online digital casebook.  But the concept could easily spread and gain acceptance and popularity outside of law schools as a more general legal wiki, for examples see Communications Decency Act or Remix Culture.

The cornerstone of H2O is the “playlist”. A playlist is a shared grouping of articles and other content on a particular topic, and is a primer or research guide of sorts. Other components of H2O are more specific to an academic or collaborative learning setting. The question tool allows users to submit questions or discussion points to be considered for conferences and classes and provides a more focused approach to connect speakers to audiences.  “Collage”, a tool recently added to H2O platform, provides a way to annotate a primary document (e.g. highlighting specific legal concepts at play in a case and hiding other non-essential text without changing the original document). “Rotisserie” is the discussion or message board component of H2O.
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What is DASH?

By , July 5, 2011 12:17 pm

by Erin Hoffrance

DASH stands for Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard.  It is described as “A central, open-access repository of research by members of the Harvard community.”

A search in DASH for the term “lawyer” generated 235 results.  The results are easy-to-read and when you click on an article title you get a good amount of basic data such as the title, author, citation, abstract, terms of use, link to the full text, other sources, and a citable persistent link.

Library Technology Guides quotes Professor Robert Darnton, “DASH is meant to promote openness in general… It will make the current scholarship of Harvard’s faculty freely available everywhere in the world, just as the digitization of the books in Harvard’s library will make learning accumulated since 1638 accessible worldwide. Taken together, these and other projects represent a commitment by Harvard to share its intellectual wealth.”

It really is a huge resource of scholarship available to all with Internet access.  It is a tool that I hope other schools will look at and take note.  Stuart M. Shieber, who helped construct DASH policy, talks about how he sees DASH evolving, “Our long-term growth strategy for DASH is to integrate it so fully into other faculty tools that self-archiving just becomes second nature… Ultimately, DASH aims to provide as comprehensive and open a view of Harvard research as possible.”

I do not know how often this will come in handy for me but it is another resource in the toolbox!

Fastcase App

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By , June 27, 2011 4:38 pm

by Karen Helde

I’ve been investigating apps for the iPad-toting attorneys in my office. One legal research app has really impressed me with its coverage (national), interface (clean) and cost (free!). Fastcase is the app you’ll wish you had on your desktop–and if you happen to be a member of the Oregon Bar, you do (see the OSB site for more information). It’s a great option when you want to take a quick look at a case or statute without incurring client charges. The interface is intuitive and streamlined, with no cluttered screens to navigate or commands to memorize. You can pull up state and federal cases using keywords or a citation. Too many hits in your search result? Narrow the field by jurisdiction or date, or change the sort order to browse more efficiently. The US Code and most state statutes are available too–get what you need by browsing, searching, or a entering a citation. Tap “Save” if you pull up a document you want to refer to later.

The basic Fastcase app is free to download and use, and works on iPhone or iPad. You’ll need to register for an account, but it’s painless. I’m not the only librarian to be impressed. The Fastcase app won AALL’s New Product of the Year Award  in 2010.

WestlawNext: Everyone’s Got It?

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By , June 16, 2011 2:20 pm

by Kristine Lloyd

Just like the Guess jeans I used to covet in 7th grade–the ones that all the cool girls wore while I was oppressed by the Lee jeans my mother scored at T.J. Maxx–I sometimes wonder if all of the cool law firms out there already have WestlawNext. There have been some interesting postings to AALL chapter list-servs and blogs lately, summarizing polls tracking stats on who has migrated. Fewer than you might think have made the leap. Out of 11 firms that responded to an informal Dallas area poll, only 2 firms provide access. A NOCALL surveyshows that 4 of the 6 Biglaw firms that responded provide access to WestlawNext. Out of 8 mid- to small-sized firms responding, 5 have it and 3 do not. Another pollwhich doesn’t specify a geographic region shows about a 50-50 split in small, medium and Biglaw firms that are planning to or have already migrated to the product. Continue reading 'WestlawNext: Everyone’s Got It?'»

CCH IntelliConnect Updates

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By , June 9, 2011 1:20 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

When CCH made the transition to IntelliConnect there was some uproar. The resistance to change focused on the seemingly dramatic shifts in log-in, interface, navigation, and access. Even though this took place back in 2009, it feels like long ago that weaccessed the Tax Research Network. However, the world didn’t end and our practice groups continue to chug along.

IntelliConnect aimed at a revolutionary legal research step. Whether that has happened or not, the news for now is their next evolutionary upgrade. This update has been sorely needed and will (hopefully) make IntelliConnect a more intuitive system. Interface clutter aside, my issues with IntelliConnect mainly dealt with sorting through research results. The new features help break results up by document type and include jump links to specific document types.  For the last two years the results tray was quite jumbled.

Also available is a CCH mobile appthat might be the best thing for new users and hesitant IntelliConnect adopters. Mobile apps force a minimalistic interface, design, and presentation. The CCH app has a simplicity of use that makes navigating a cinch.  Unfortunately I can’t give a review of the mobile app. I’ve received constant errors when attempting to log-in.

Apps for Lawyers

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By , May 26, 2011 5:19 pm

by Karen Helde

By now we’ve all become used to seeing lawyers with Blackberries and iPhones. But for me at least, an iPad in a law firm still merits a second look. As iPads become work tools for lawyers, there’s an opportunity for librarians to get involved, particularly in navigating the world of apps. There are a few resources which I’ve found helpful. My favorite is the Mobile Applications for Law Students and Lawyers Guide maintained by UCLA’s Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library. Well-curated and sensibly organized, this guide can you help you pull off the illusion that you’ve totally got a handle on this whole app thing. Mobile Apps for Law is a new product from an old friend (Infosources Publishing). It’s fee-based, but reasonably priced right now with a $25/year introductory rate. If you like using 15th century technologies to read about 21st century innovations, pick up a copy of iPad in One Hour for Lawyers published by the ABA and available (as far as I can tell) only in paper. There are a number of legal blogs which cover law-related use of tablets and iPads. This Attorney at Work post is a good jumping off point to start exploring.

Summer Associate Training: What’s Lady Gaga Got to Do with It?

By , May 11, 2011 2:23 pm

by Kristine Lloyd

The blooming of dogwoods and the lengthening of our days signal the time of year when our summer associates will unpack their bags and take residence in our hallowed law firm halls. With a year or two of law school under their belts, they may have mastered the art of googling and picking the proverbial caselaw needle from the haystack, but their awareness of alternative resources is limited.

Westlaw and Lexis are staples of the daily law school diet. Even if summer associates don’t know how to use these resources cost-effectively, they know how to use them. What they don’t know about are all of the practice group specific resources that law schools either don’t subscribe to or do not regularly market to students.  As Laura Justiss laments, law students are rarely exposed to alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis.

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Dialog: Cause for Calgon?

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By , April 15, 2011 2:18 pm

by Kristine Lloyd

Does the thought of using Dialog make you reach for your migraine meds? It may be a trifling claim to fame, but I was once an excellent Dialog researcher, in graduate school, a million years ago. The commands were burned into my brain along with my SSN and pin numbers, but alas, it’s not like riding a bike, you use it or lose it. I find myself heading to the old Rolodex to phone a friendly Dialog rep every time I’m faced with a need to use the service.

Ever since ProQuest acquired Dialog, I have been wondering how this fickle but powerful research tool might evolve. Seems like it was an albatross around Thomson’s neck, one that they were happy to offload. Plus, its cache of educational and academic materials makes it a better fit with ProQuest.   Continue reading 'Dialog: Cause for Calgon?'»

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