Category: Library and Legal Trends

High School Legal Research

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By , January 2, 2014 12:18 pm

by Tal Noznisky

On Tuesdays, I work with young people at Seattle 826, a non-profit tutoring center. Recently, a high school student needed help drafting a position paper on capital punishment. The student already planned to argue for capital punishment and against its most common renunciations. He wanted to play the contrarian and discover both sides of the capital punishment debate. I was game to assist, and delighted to facilitate legal research using free and accessible Internet resources. But where to begin?

The student came in with a focused set of ideas, but was two large steps shy of stable outline. He needed factual support for his argument and he needed to organize a persuasive flow. Fortunately he had a powerful secret weapon to get things rolling: a list of sources recommended by none other than the teacher who would grade the paper. I suggested, “Let’s look some of these up.”

The list had some favorable “greatest hits” on the subject, including Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2008 statement denying a rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana and a link to Pew Research Center’s Death Penalty topic page. Starting there, the student branched out through embedded or cited links and Google. A big picture view of the essay appeared. We talked it out and discovered what exactly he wanted to say. The details started coming together as well.

Through some rapid structured Googling, the student found that similar statistics about public opinion and cost of capital punishment were used for opposing opinions. He weaved the data from those arguments into his own, founded on Scalia’s, and addressed counter-arguments based on the same info. He was in the advantageous position of recognizing both sides and knowing which persuasion to take as his thesis statement.

I really hope that, besides an A+ paper outline, the student took away a process for researching hot-button and legally-oriented opinions. Those can easily drift toward fringe or inflammatory ideas that, while intriguing, do not make strong persuasive essays. Google is full of crazy ideas, but with a reliable base camp of, say, sources your teacher wants to see mentioned in your paper, good research just got easier.

On Staying Informed (Or, How Do You Keep Up?)

By , December 3, 2013 11:27 am

by Anna Endter

I think it’s the time of year that has me considering, as I often do, how I can rearrange things in the new year, how I can do a better job at the tasks that require effort above and beyond my normal work duties.  Right now, I’m thinking about how best to stay informed professionally and how to make time for current awareness in an already crowded workday.  I could be wrong, but I think that many of us are in the midst of a season where simply keeping up with life’s demands and not letting too many things slip through the cracks is the goal, whether that be at work, home, or in some other capacity.  Does this ring true for you?

AALL Publications

Recently, in a flurry of I-must-keep-up like thoughts, I subscribed to a number of different legal newsletters and blogs.  I’m making an effort to skim them, in addition to the usual AALL messages and such, because I don’t want to focus my current awareness efforts solely on law librarianship.  It’s important to know about what’s afoot in the broader legal profession, as well.  (And I suppose that, two paragraphs in, I should also note that here I’m focusing on my own current awareness efforts but there’s also the topic of current awareness on behalf of our patrons.  Do you participate in finding current awareness resources for your attorneys or faculty?  A topic for another time, perhaps.)

Now obviously, as librarians, we are not short on information.  Sifting through that information, for our own professional development purposes, can be tricky.  How do you, Librarian, decide what to keep up with and what to let fall away?  I would love to see a discussion about this topic but I know that isn’t likely to happen.  And that’s okay, we are all keeping up in one way or another, whether it’s with the Kardashians (do you see what I did there?), a busy workload or, especially at this time of year, our friends and family.  If I do receive responses, I’d be glad to include them within a longer summary in the newly revived LLOPSCited.  Send me an email, stop me at the LLOPS holiday party, or get in touch with me via the comments.

Courthouse Dog “Speaks” at LLOPS Meeting

By , November 4, 2013 9:03 am

by Grace Feldman 

If you missed the LLOPS meeting last week, this blog post (and its embedded cuteness) may serve as consolation.

Molly B (a Courthouse Dog) with LLOPS member, Mary Whisner

Molly B (a Courthouse Dog) with LLOPS member, Mary Whisner

Foster Pepper hosted the meeting and invited Celeste Walsen, DVM and Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, JD of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation to speak to LLOPS members with their courthouse dog, Molly B.  Their presentation covered how Ellen O’Neill-Stephens came up with the Courthouse Dogs Foundation and its touching impact across the country and beyond!  The Courthouse Dogs Foundation was recently nominated for a HiiL ( Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law) Innovating Justice Award – winners will be announced next month!  If you’d like to learn more about the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, visit their Facebook page and check out their website for more information!

Molly B with Courthouse Dogs Foundation founder, Ellen O’Neill-Stephens

Molly B with Courthouse Dogs Foundation founder, Ellen O’Neill-Stephens

If you’re still dying for more Courthouse Dogs (and who wouldn’t be?), consider attending the 2013 International Courthouse Dogs Conference in Seattle on November 8!

What has your state bar association done for you lately?

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By , October 28, 2013 8:40 am

by Grace Feldman 
This post has been reposted on the Gallagher Law Library blog

What has your state bar association done for you lately? Quite a bit, actually! (Unless you’re in California, Delaware or Montana).  For attorneys in the other lucky 47 states, state bar associations provide access to Casemaker or Fastcase or InCite! If you’re curious to see which service different state bar associations provide, check out this fantastic map created by J. Michael Goodson Law Library at Duke University School of Law!

A screenshot of the State Bar Association - Provided Legal Research Services map.  Thank you Goodson Law Library!

A screenshot of the State Bar Association – Provided Legal Research Services map. Thank you Goodson Law Library!

Here in Washington, the WSBA provides access to Casemaker. Casemaker provides access to case law, statutes, and other materials from all 50 states as well as a large federal data set that includes Supreme Court Opinions, Circuit and District Court Opinions. More information can be found on the WSBA Casemaker page!

Gallagher Law Library Creates Washington State LLLT Program Guide

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By , September 5, 2013 1:24 pm

by Cheryl Nyberg

This post has been reposted on the Gallagher Law Library blog

Reference librarian Anna Endter has created a new guide to Washington State’s LLLT program. It chronicles the history and development of the concept and its adoption by and through the Washington Supreme Court and the Washington State Bar Association.

The guide describes and links to court orders, Board of Governors’ meetings, magazine articles, and a YouTube video.

This fall, the University of Washington School of Law will offer a family law curriculum to qualified applicants.

A companion guide covers State Activities Related to Limited License Legal Professionals. This page addresses developments in California, New York, and Oregon.

Both sites will be updated as additional developments occur.

New Web Technology Affords Libraries More Awesome

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By , July 22, 2013 2:08 pm

by Tal Noznisky

Sunday morning’s keynote speech drew in a pretty full house. Hundreds sat and listened to presenter David Weinberger discuss the state of libraries’ metadata. It’s a mess, he said, but something can be done about that: it can be ordered and repackaged as regular data. This begs the question: what is the difference between data and metadata? That’s a squishy topic. Libraries may objectively nonetheless repurpose data generated by means such as description or use into discoverable and shareable content. Doing so would, in Weinberger’s terms, be awesome. Awesome stuff gets the word out about a library’s resources and value.

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Experiences of the Self-Represented

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By , May 23, 2013 8:00 am

by Mary Whisner

This post has been adapted from a post on the Trial Ad (and other) Notes blog.

It’s tough enough to handle litigation when you’re a lawyer, but it’s incredibly stressful and daunting when you don’t.

CBC’s Day Six has a 15-minute story on self-represented litigants (May 18, 2013). It begins with a moving interview of middle-class Vancouver woman who ran out of money for her lawyer about five months and $50,000 into her case. She’s well-spoken and well-educated (master’s degree) and was still overwhelmed.

Next the host interviews Julie Macfarlane, a law professor who conducted a study of unrepresented litigants in three provinces (BC, Alberta, Ontario). The report: Julie Macfarlane, The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants: Final Report (May 2013). One of the researchers on the report was a librarian who surveyed the court materials available to self-represented litigants.

Report Cover

I have just scrolled through the report quickly, but it looks very interesting. Canadians and the Canadian court system are similar enough to US folks and the US legal system that the report is very relevant to our access-to-justice issues.

Julie Macfarlane teaches law at the University of Windsor. Her faculty bio is here.

San Francisco Law Library and Friends Challenge City’s Relocation Plan

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By , May 20, 2013 3:47 pm

by Tal Noznisky
The San Francisco Law Library is facing a less than desirable relocation. Scheduled for eviction from its current location, it has stayed put by challenging the legal grounds of the city’s plan. Last month, however, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance subcommittee approved a decision to grant the library 20,000 square feet, significantly less than the 30,000—35,000 requested.

San Francisco Law Library

According to San Francisco’s City Charter, the library must be allotted adequate space for its collection of 250,000 books. All of those books and print materials, argued the library and its supporters, are essential, costly, and potentially unattainable.

The Law Library currently lives at the War Veterans Memorial Building, across the street from City Hall. It landed there almost 20 years ago as a temporary arrangement. The Memorial Building location only has 14,310 sq. ft. Two-thirds of the library’s collection must be stored in a nearby basement facility. When the city secured funds to renovate the Memorial Building in 2010, finding a sustainable storage and location solution became urgent.The Law Library is currently awaiting a judge’s decision on whether it may remain at its current location until some significant issues are permanently resolved. Though the city-approved 20,000 sq. ft. would seem like an improvement, Jon Streeter, another supportive voice from San Francisco’s legal community, disagrees. “It is not a matter of a stack of old dusty books being warehoused somewhere,” he said, “It is a matter of providing basic access to the courthouse to the public.”

Library and Archives Canada vs. Librarians and Archivists in Canada

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By , April 22, 2013 9:00 am

by Tal Noznisky

Last March, Canadian libraries got caught in a quick swell of fear and worry over the freedom of expression. The Library and Archives Canada (“LAC”), employer of public service librarians, served their staff with a new set of professional guidelines. Many who commented on the new rules, entitled “Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics”  reviled it. Boing Boing’s (and former Canadian library-worker) Cory Doctorow tagged it “censorship” and “surveillance.” Library Journal’s Annoyed Librarian called it totalitarian. What happened?


National Archives of Canada

National Archives of Canada


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A Game of Terms

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By , April 2, 2013 5:51 pm

by Tal Noznisky

Library-publisher relations reappeared slightly in the tech news circuit last week. The Journal of Library Administration’s editorial board resigned amid a stalemate with their publisher, Taylor and Francis, over licensing terms. Tech-happy blogs inferred hacktivist intent behind the board’s decision. They vilified T&F and praised JLA’s editors as open access heroes. A thin parallel to Aaron Schwartz was also drawn into the narrative.
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