2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

Patrick Meyer

Thomas Jefferson School of Law
September 26, 2011
Abstract:    
This article summarizes results from the author’s 2010 law firm legal research survey, which determined what research functions, and in what formats, law firms require new hires to be proficient. This survey updates the author’s 2009 article that is available at this site and which was based on this author’s earlier law firm legal research survey.

These new survey results confirm that law firms need schools to integrate the teaching of online and print-based research resources and to emphasize cost-effective research. The following federal and state specific print-based resources should be taught in an integrated manner: legislative codes, secondary source materials, reporters, administrative codes and digests.

 

Source:  LSN Law & Society: The Legal Profession eJournal Vol. 6 No. 74, 11/16/2011

The Future of Legal Search

Here’s a White Paper from Cognizant 20-20 Insights (September 2011) that should be of interest to many readers of this blog:

The Future of Legal Search:

Meeting Lawyer Requirements by Delivering More Contextually-Sensitive and Relevant Results

by Ambika Sagar

Some highlights:

Social media, crowdsourced data and other sources of information continue to generate volume and increase complexity.

Leveraging search history, information search providers can start analyzing how lawyers actually search to build artificial intelligence tools for constructing queries based on cases on which a lawyer is currently working.

Deriving context involves analyzing the pleadings to understand the legal issue.

Proactive search is an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of paid content.  By providing relevant free content and abstracts of paid content, the legal information industry can target upgrading of customers.

Better value propositions such as pay-per-result and assistance in discovery of relevant results can improve conversion rates.

Ideally, a single-sign-in, cloud-based solution that provides access to various tools and ensures maximum integration of research and case data with litigation tools will benefit lawyers the most and also help to attract users and keep them loyal to one platform.

Be sure to check out the article itself and its many useful illustrations.

How to Use Legislative History to Teach Grammar

Anyone teaching the importance of legislative history in legal research need only point to a single punctuation mark: the mighty comma.  As a disclaimer, I strive to put my years of Latin classes to good use, but do not profess to be punctuationally-perfect.  (Interestingly, the Romans did not use modern punctuation, but I digress…)   One thing I do know, however, is that other people’s grammatical shortcomings sure can wreak a lot of havoc… making them a great teaching tool.

This past week, I was researching a state statute that, among many other things, imposed conditions on persons who had committed a “felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”  At first blush, one would read this to mean that the conditions apply to persons involved in domestic violence felonies and misdemeanors.  Get this:  That provision actually governs anyone who commits either a “felony” or a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”  In other words, we should really be reading a comma into the statute between “felony” and “misdemeanor” where the legislators neglected to put one!

Uncovering the latent comma was not easy.  News articles referred to the imposition of the conditions on felons, but without citing the supporting statutory clause.  Secondary sources referred to conditions emanating from the “domestic violence clause” of the statute, failing to illuminate that the clause also covers all felonies.  Case law cited the statute as creating certain conditions, but decided matters on other grounds.

The best recourse was to trace the historical progression of the clause, which I was able to do through older versions of the statute and the legislators’ own analysis.  Earlier iterations made no reference to domestic violence whatsoever, as the clause originally pertained to persons who had committed any felony.  Years later, the legislature added “or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” but failed to demarcate this clause with a comma that would have resolved ambiguity.  If the legislators had simply written “any felony, or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” I would have spent fifteen minutes on a project that instead took five hours!  (Note:  I do not require legislators to bold, italicize, or underscore the comma; any font or stylization will do!)

Do you have any grammar-related teachable moments you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them and pass them along to our classes.  To that end, I particularly enjoyed Prof. Susan J. Hankin’s “Statutory Interpretation in the Age of Grammatical Permissiveness:  An Object Lesson for Teaching Why Grammar Matters,” which references recent literature on the subject and also offers some great case law examples to use in class.

Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook

Together with my Stanford Law School colleague George D. Wilson and our friend and Danish legal scholar Henrik Spang-Hanssen, we have just published the third edition of our legal research book, a revision of Legal Research Methods in the U.S. and Europe, 2nd Edition.  But with the inclusion of short but good (in my opinion) chapters on legal research in China and Russia and some other materials, we have changed the title to Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook.

The book, now weighing in at 453 pages (and bargain priced at $ 55.00), is rich with illustrations and peppered with legal research tips.  My contribution is mainly Chapter 5, about legal research methods in the United States, and it is based upon and follows the advanced legal research class that I co-teach here at Stanford.  New to this edition, in addition to other updates, is the inclusion of research exercises that we have found most useful from the class.  I did not include the answers — because I hope to continue to use these exercises — but I would be very happy to share the answers and my thoughts on approaches with other instructors of legal research.

The legal world is certainly getting smaller, and it is our shared belief that this would be handy book for any attorney to have as he or she deals with lawyers from other countries and their legal cultures.

The book should be available from Amazon.com; but if not, or if you want to order copies in mass quantities, the U.S. distributor is International Specialized Book Services.  For other countries, the distributor is Marston Book Services.

We also have a corresponding website here.

Law libraries as innovation centers

Harvard Law Library director John Palfrey is quoted in this story from today’s Boston Globe:

Boston Globe, Monday, May 24, 2010

Home / News / Education  

Harvard’s paper cuts
School library works to maintain stature in the shift to digitalBy Tracy Jan

The thin, tattered book, an 1899 dissertation on Homer, written in French, is tucked into one of the more than 40 shelves devoted to the epic poet in the stacks of Widener Library. Collecting obscure works like this one has helped Harvard amass the world’s largest university library…”Libraries have to think of themselves as innovation centers, and not just repeat what we have done in the past, “said Harvard Law professor John Palfrey, who is a leading a project to shape the future of the school’s libraries.

. . .

Palfrey has added engineers, statisticians, and graphic designers to the law school library staff. His team is working on a Web application that browses a virtual bookshelf with works stacked against one another to re-create the experience of wandering through musty stacks and serendipitously stumbling upon titles.

The library is also planning to build a virtual reference desk, where students who rarely seek the help of librarians can solicit research advice without having to set foot in a library. Librarians would assist students through e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and Skype.

. . .

And Harvard Law School is in discussions with other law schools about having each school collect in specialized areas.

. . .

Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom

“Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom”

University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-05

JOOTAEK LEE, University of Miami – School of Law

The Global financial crisis has been discouraging legal researchers and practitioners from accessing high-cost databases.Many legal professionals and researchers are under financial pressures mainly because of the increased kinds and cost of subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis; thus, many legal professionals and researchers started considering free or less expensive internet resources for their research and classes. On the other hand, the number of these free or less expensive internet resources is increasing every year, and their coverage for legal sources is also expanded. Furthermore, just as the creation of a list of hypertext links to internet resources is not an easy task anymore because of the gigantic number of resources available, so simply providing created list to the law students will likewise irresponsibly confuse and intimidate them.

First, this article attempted to define internet legal research and to show the difficulty of distinguishing internet legal research from other online searches. Next, pros and cons of free or less expensive internet resources were discussed. Lastly, this article attempted to introduce and apply usability to various internet resources, criticizing Lexis and Westlaw by the principle of usability web-design.In conclusion, the necessity and prospective plan to establish evaluation standards for free internet resources including coverage, currency, accuracy, authority, appropriateness, and perspective will be explored

Source:  LSN: University of Miami School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
Series Vol. 4 No. 2,  04/21/2010

Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, Westlaw — New, Improved

From today’s New York Times:

The New York Times, Monday, January 25, 2010, p. B5

Technology

Legal Sites Plan Revamps As Rivals Undercut Price

By Ashlee Vance

Westlaw and LexisNexis, the dominant services in the market for computerized legal research, will undergo sweeping changes in a bid to make it easier and faster for lawyers to find the documents they need.

And in the February issue of the ABA Journal:

Legal Technology
Exclusive: Inside the New Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg Platforms
By Jill Schachner Chanen

After decades of Westlaw and Lexis rolling out incremental improvements, real innovation has become the watchword in online legal research. At stake: billions in revenue and a big piece of your computer desktop.

The ABA Journal article quotes yours truly.   A point I was trying to make, but it didn’t make the article, was how useful I find added features such as Westlaw’s ResultsPlus and Lexis’s Related Content.  These features steer students to what could be very valuable secondary source material that they wouldn’t necessarily think to search since many have the inclination to jump feet first into the case law databases.

New article on West Publishing

From the November 2009 issue of Twin Cities Business:  “Thomson Reuters’ Brain,” by Dave Beal

The Eagan business that was once West Publishing now supplies its parent company with the intellectual firepower to outmaneuver Bloomberg and LexisNexis in the financial and legal content wars.

Lede:

There may be no more concise way to sum up the changed nature or ambitions of the former West Publishing Company than what Roger Martin says:  “We are sort of the next generation of Google — without the garbage — for professionals.”

The article discusses how successful the legal division is for the company:

Legal . . . is just one of seven primary business units . . . , but it’s a big contributor to the bottom line.  In 2008, it accounted for 27 percent of Thomson Reuter’s $ 13.4 billion in revenue and 39 percent of its operating income. . . .   In the first quarter of 2009, the legal unit had an operating margin of 32.1 percent versus 20.7 percent for the entire company. . . .

The article goes on to discuss the work of the company’s many “information technologists” and quotes chief scientist Peter Jackson on “the right balance of natural and artificial intelligence is a product-development key.”

One such product is ResultsPlus, which I have found extremely useful at time.  Acccording to the article,

ResultsPlus is built on machine learning and natural language processing, . . . but also central to its effectiveness is that it uses the primary search results — those guided by the user — to shape the secondary search. (The “metadata” fed into the secondary search also include “West key numbers,” . . . ).

Other sections of the article include:

Thomson Sells Reuters and Vice Versa

An Edge on LEXISNEXIS?

Westlaw’s war with LexisNexis has shifted back and forth for a generation, since a version of LexisNexis launched in 1973, two years ahead of Westlaw.  Lately, the clash is tilting in Westlaw’s favor.

Battling BLOOMBERG: Terminals, News, and Datafeeds

The article concludes:

Given potential growth in emerging markets and more opportunities being generated by Jackson’s R&D group, [Peter] Warwick [CEO of Thomson Reuters Legal] puts the annual revenue potential of the legal division alone at $ 14.3 billion — four times Thomson’s Reuters Legal’s revenues in 2008.

But growth will depend on how adept the company is at continuing to add value to its massive collections of data.  Google searches, after all, are free; Thomson Reuters is a Google for professionals who are willing to ante up for it.  As the company . . . has discovered, information itself is merely a commodity in the information age.  Information as a service — infinitely searchable, sortable, and customizable — is what’s in demand.

Is searching the best way to retrieve legal documents?

This paper from Norway suggests that legal information sources ” have a rich and homogeneneous structure which makes it possible to establish chronological, alphabetical and systematic indexes,” something we tell our students over and over and over again.

Is searching the best way to retrieve legal documents?

By Trygve Harvold

Lov&Data nr. 98 – Juni 2009

Abstract:

Legal texts have a rich structure and a large number of links which can be utilized in retrieving documents.  This paper is based on a numerical study of the link structure in approximately 200,000 documents in the Lovdata database.  The hypertext structure is analyzed and it is suggested that it should be possible to navigate the database on the basis of indexes and links.  Analysis of the use of Lovdata also indicated that utilizing chronological and alphabetical indexes and the hyperstructure of links might in many cases be a more efficient and use-friendly way of finding documents than the traditional search.

 

Conclusion:

While searching is a necessary and powerful tool, it may not always be the most user-friendly way of locating documents in a legal information system.  In this paper we have shown how the rich structure and numerous links of legal documents allow for the construction of indexes, buttons and links which makes it possible for users to navigate the system without searching.  User statistics from Lovdata show that users often prefer this alternative way of navigation in situations where it is possible and practical.

 

The paper is rich with persuasive illustrations.