• Legal Research,  Legal Technology,  Legal Writing

    Does Internet technology influence the way lawyers and judges think? Should it?

    The answer to both questions in the title of this post is “no,” judging from this abstract of a paper by Michael Whiteman, Associate Dean for law Library Services & Information Technology at Northern Kentucky University – Salmon P. Chase College of Law, titled Appellate Jurisdiction in the Internet Age: A close examination of the citation practices of the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries reveals that appellate jurisprudence in the Internet age closely resembles that of the pre-Internet age. These findings, coupled with the continued criticism of legal researchers in the Internet age, call for a retrenchment in training future lawyers in…

  • Briefing,  California Courts,  Legal Research,  Legal Writing

    It is important to keep up with the law while your appeal is pending

    Most lawyers I know — at both the trial level and the appellate level — keep up with the daily “advance sheets,” which provide a brief summary of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions published the day before. It is an important habit, because you never know when a great decision for your pending case is going to come up. For a great example, see Miranda v. Anderson Enterprises, Inc., case no. A140328 (1st Dist., Oct. 15, 2015), where the plaintiff/appellant gained the benefit of a Supreme Court decision that came out while his appeal was pending. The Supreme Court case, Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, required reversal of the judgment that…

  • Legal Education,  Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    Apparently, the law library of the future is going to be one big Kindle

    The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute has just published a short essay by Professor Ronald E. Wheeler of Suffolk University Law School, titled “Is This the Law Library or an Episode of the Jetsons?” The big takeaway: the library is going to resemble a super-advanced Kindle and its patrons will look like they are parts of the Borg Collective: It will include technologies that we know about and technologies that are beyond our imaginations. Things like retinal and holographic displays are predicted to be in use in the next 5 to 10 years. Lawyers, law professors, and other law library patrons will be browsing touchable, holographic shelves to select volumes instead…

  • Legal Research

    Real legal research on your iPhone

    If you are an iPhone-using lawyer, you really should subscribe to the iPhoneJD blog, where New Orleans attorney Jeff Richardson keeps you updated not only on specific legal uses for the iPhone, but on all things iPhone. Yesterday, he reviewed Fastcase, an iPhone app for legal research, and the opening paragraph could hardly have been more glowing: I will start this review with what probably belongs in my conclusion:  Every single lawyer using an iPhone should download the Fastcase app.  Moreover, the availability of the free Fastcase app is a compelling reason for any attorney not using an iPhone to purchase one today.  This app is that useful. The rest…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology,  Legal Writing

    Citations of the future

    Duke University professor Joan A. Magat has an article up at SSRN suggesting changes in footnote use in academic legal writing, but the future she predicts for legal journals in “Bottom Heavy: Legal Footnotes” may be the future of all legal authority: No more paper: just electronic journals with links to sources. That’s what’s ahead. All this current, Bluebook-inspired preoccupation with small caps and spacing initials and the like will go the way of the mastodon. One of these days, we’ll have just URLs. They’ll have to be correct, or they won’t work. And they’ll have to last. If you’re an academic writer, you should check out the article. Here’s…

  • Legal Research

    Google Scholar’s legal database

    Image via Wikipedia I’m a little late on this . . . OK, I’m a lot late. Last month, Google announced a searchable database of case law and legal journals on Google Scholar: Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the “Legal opinions and journals” radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology,  Legal Writing,  Web Resources

    A Great Resource: Social Science Research Network

    I’ve occasionally downloaded scholarly papers from the Social Science Research Network, usually after seeing them mentioned at the Legal Writing Prof Blog. But until that blog’s recent post about how to stay up-to-date with the latest articles on legal writing, which provides links for subscribing to legal writing articles, I hadn’t really poked around SSRN very much. I took the time to do so this evening, and discovered there are some terrific features. Besides the subscriptions, there is a “briefcase” feature that allows you to accumulate articles of interest for later access. Going though the subscription list, I flagged about 30 papers published just this year. I’ll probably be posting…

  • Blogging,  Legal Research

    Welcome, California Lawyer Readers!

    Welcome to all first-time visitors led here from the mention of me and the blog in the May 2008 California Lawyer article, Debate Heats Up Over Unpublished Opinions. (For those who haven’t seen the piece, it highlights the recent case of Hild v. California Supreme Court (No. C-07-5107-JCS (N.D. Cal. filed Oct. 4, 2007)), which the article describes as arguing “that the state’s publication rules violate Californians’ due-process and equal-protection rights by creating ‘a de facto policy of refusing review of unpublished decisions in civil cases.'” The piece discusses the case in the context of the ongoing debate over whether the rules should allow citation to unpublished opinions.) My original…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    Update on Free Online Legal Research

    Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites has this update on free on-line case law resources. The most notable link is to a review of PreCYdent, which may be living up to its hype as “the Google of legal research.” Says the reviewer: I was stunned by the results of my search [for “in personam jurisdiction”] on PreCYdent. The top six cases were the leading U.S. Supreme Court cases I studied in Prof. Reimann’s jurisdiction class. Each of them is fundamental to an understanding of the application of personal jurisdiction in federal courts. I have never seen a such a highly relevant set of search results on any electronic case search engine. Not in…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    Get Googly with It

    Image via Wikipedia This Month’s California Lawyer has a terrific “how to” article on uses of the Google search engine that many of us perhaps never thought of. Learn how to use Google to search a specific domain, research a patent, search for files by file type, and even search across all U.S. Government sites — and only U.S. Government sites. Some nice little gems in there!

  • Blogging,  Legal Research

    A Hunger for Grammar Guidance?

    Image from Wikipedia My biggest day of blog traffic to date (and this blog is nearly a year old) was last Thursday, and more than half of the hits were to my post complaining about the misuse of “which” for “that.” Curious, I checked my Sitemeter stats and saw that a tremendous number of those hits were referred from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, to which I linked in the post. I was ready to attribute the traffic spike to some sort of automated web crawling by the school’s servers, but there were also a huge number of clicks out from my post to several of the links in it.…

  • Legal Research

    Legal Research for Non-Lawyers

    Last week, a commenter at Lifehacker described LawHelp, which looks extraordinarily useful for non-lawyers: LawHelp.org will link you to your state’s legal information web site. Supported by legal aid organizations, pro bono programs and courts, these web sites generally cover information that is applicable to low- and middle-income people in areas such as divorce, orders of protection, landlord-tenant law, and debt collection. The information is generally written in plain language. The site describes itself as “your gateway to America’s nonprofit legal services providers.” The home page links to self-help sites in all 50 states. Clicking the California link, for instance, takes you here. When I must turn away prospective clients,…

  • Legal Research

    More Free Legal Research

    Crediting Lifehacker for the tip, Jeffrey Lewis at Nota Bene links to The Public Library of Law, which describes itself on its home page: What is the Public Library of Law? Searching the Web is easy. Why should searching the law be any different? That’s why Fastcase has created the Public Library of Law — to make it easy to find the law online. PLoL is the largest free law library in the world, because we assemble law available for free scattered across many different sites — all in one place. PLoL is the best starting place to find law on the Web. What is available on PLoL? Cases from…

  • Legal Humor,  Legal Research

    Try Tackling All of This Case Law

    “S. COTUS” at Appellate Law & Practice suggests heading over to this link at Public.Resouce.org, where, according to Robert Ambrogi, more than 1.8 million pages of case law have been released in what AL & P calls “somewhat raw form” (raw enough to title his post “XML case law”), apparently as an invitation to developers to catalog them in more usable form.  He adds there are some “fun” videos there as well, and includes a link to a re-enactment of Marbury v. Madison.

  • Blogging,  Legal Research

    How Do You Use Legal Blogs?

    NOTE: I am going to keep this post at the top of the blog for a few days, probably until the end of the week. New posts will appear below this one until then, so if you see this post at the top, scroll down to make sure you haven’t missed anything. How would you like your name up in lights? Or at least mentioned in a presentation? I can’t promise either, but you have a shot at the latter if you respond to my call for assistance at the end of this post. I am preparing a presentation for a section of the local bar on the use of…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    The Google of Legal Research?

    Crime & Federalism recently posted about a new research service called “PreCYdent,” the function of which he briefly describes: It appears to “rank” cases much in the way Google ranks web sites. For example, typing in “qualified immunity” in PreCYdent doesn’t just give you a random list of cases. It gives you the leading cases. Saucier v. Katz, for example, is the leading modern day case on qualified immunity. It’s also the first result. Not all searches run that well, as the writer points out in what amounts to a mini-review, but the service shows promise. You can read more about the service at Right Coast in a post authored…

  • Legal Research

    Free Online Constitutional and other Federal Research Resources

    2/65/17 Update: A reader alerted me that these links don’t seem to work anymore. Sorry! Thanks to Fifth Circuit Blog for this link to The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation: Analysis of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.  It is provided by the Government Printing Office at its GPO Access website. The site has a great index page.  Took me all of five seconds to find online versions of the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register, and United States Code that are searchable, browsable, and have a find-by-citation function. That’s barely scratching the surface.  There’s plenty more, and all of it…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Writing

    Footnote Guidance

    Footnotes. Some people love ’em, and some people hate ’em. And if you don’t know which way the judges deciding your appeal lean on the issue, and you can’t resist using footnotes, you’ll want to at least use them “correctly” — if there is such a thing. In this post at the (new) legal writer, New Orleans appellate attorney Raymond Ward notes an article by The John Marshall Law School’s Prof. William B.T. Mock, Jr. entitled When a Rose Isn’t ‘Arose’ Isn’t Arroz: A Student Guide to Footnoting for Informational Clarity and Scholarly Discourse, which, according to Ward, divides footnotes into three types and describes the appropriate use of each…

  • Legal Research,  Standard of Review

    New Book on Federal Standards of Review

    West has published a new book on federal standards of appellate review: H. Edwards and L. Elliot, Edwards and Elliott’s Federal Courts – Standards of Review: Appellate Court Review of District Court Decisions and Agency Actions (West 2007). Here’s the description from the book’s page at the West website: This sophisticated but easy to understand exposition of the standards of review offers an invaluable resource for law students, law clerks, and practitioners. Decisions of the U.S. Courts of Appeals invariably are shaped by the applicable standards of review. “Fill[ing] a huge gap in the literature,” Standards of Review masterfully explains the standards controlling appellate review of district court decisions and…

  • Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    Threats to Westlaw and Lexis

    Adjunct Law Prof Blog has a post linking to information on upcoming internet repositories for federal case law, and wonders whether new services coming on line will spell the end of Lexis and Westlaw.  I suspect these venerable pay services will stay one step ahead for some time. I remember seeing a debate in an internet forum once over whether it might be considered malpractice not to conduct computer-aided research.  If there is a big gap in services, or the newer services cannot replicate book research, then perhaps that debate will turn to whether it is malpractice to use a less powerful computer-aided research tool.

  • Legal Research,  U.S. Supreme Court

    Online Supreme Court Resources

    Th Ross-Blakley Law Library Blog has posted links to some Online Resources to Follow the Supreme Court. It’s not a bad set of links. But it neglects to mention SCOTUSblog and its new, super-cool feature, SCOTUSwiki. What’s a wiki, you ask? I posted this several months ago about the growth of legal wikis and the potential for court citations to wikis. A wiki with the stature of SCOTUSblog behind it makes that even more likely.

  • Ethics,  Law Practice & Marketing,  Legal Research,  Legal Writing

    Plagiarism Sanctions Issue, Blog Readers React, and How this Relates to Value Billing

    This post at The Volokh Conspiracy post and this one at Tax Prof Blog both provide extended excerpts from an Iowa bankruptcy case in which the court sanctioned an attorney — quite stiffly — for submitting a brief that was almost entirely (15 of 17 pages) lifted word for word from an article written by two other attorneys, without attribution.  The attorney charged the client $5700 for the brief. Both posts have lengthy comment threads (Volokh’s is longer), with a great many defenders of the attorney — not for the billing, but for submitting the brief.  Many are also upset (rightfully so, to my mind) with the court’s apparent position…

  • Ethics,  Legal Research,  Legal Writing

    Arguing against Binding Authority

    What do you do when your only hope is to take a position that has been soundly rejected by the same appellate court in a prior case?  Well, you don’t do it by arguing for that position as if that bad case never happened and without citing it.  The Ninth Circuit is clearly a little peeved with the Department of Justice for doing just that in Singh v. Gonzales, case no. 04-70300 (9th Cir. Sept. 7, 2007): It is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and its lawyers to be aware when its positions have been rejected by the court. While it is acceptable to make a rejected argument…

  • Blogging,  Legal Research,  Legal Technology

    A Plug for “Old School” Research

    Thanks to the Second Opinions blog, I found Law Dawg Blawg today, which has this post summarizing an article at Legal Times by a Big Law partner about his concern that young associates rely too much on online legal research tools, and what his firm did to encourage young associates to get into the library and utilize print resources.  This should be of particular interest to “old school” attorneys. I suspected that some lawyers were moving away from print because this blog gets hits from law firms running searches in Google.  I don’t expect to replace Westlaw anytime soon, but I find it interesting that the searchers at these firms…

  • Legal Research,  Statutory Construction

    The Dictionary’s Role in Statutory Interpretation

    Remember the response you got every time you asked your teacher how to spell a word? “Look it up on the dictionary.”  To which we all mumbled under our breath, “How am I supposed to look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?” Well, there may be another question that gets the same answer to “look it up in the dictionary.”  That question is, “How do I interpret this statute?” Honest.  Check out University of Louisville’s law school Library Director Kurt X. Metzmeier’s paper at SSRN (Social Science Research Network) entitled “You Can Look it Up: The Use of Dictionaries in Interpreting Statutes.”  No mumbling, now. Here’s…

  • Legal Research

    Free U.S. Case Law Database Launched at Columbia

    Columbia Law School issued this press release last week regarding its launch (in conjunction with University of Colorado Law School) of a free database of U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals decisions dating back to the early 1990s.  The school plans to expand the database in the future and says that its AltLaw.org service “has the potential to transform the national landscape of case law resources.”Thanks to Legal Writing Prof Blog for the link.UPDATE (8/30/07):  More on the project at Info/Law.  Thanks to Law School Innovation for the link.