Category Archives: Soapbox

Will PACER’s records removal motivate use of software alternatives?

PACER-Cross

Earlier this month, PACER announced court documents for closed cases from the last decade in the U.S. Courts of Appeals of the Second, Seventh, Eleventh, and Federal circuits, as well as documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California will no longer be electronically available. More details, including the specific date ranges of what cases have been removed, are available here. Will users react to this event by increasing their use of free PACER alternatives currently available on the internet? The immediate reactions to this news have been justifiably critical of PACER’s actions: Continue reading

Thursday’s Musing: Troubleshooting Software and Troubleshooting Attorneys

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(photo (c) 2009 Kordite, available here)

 

In the last few years, have you found yourself answering more software troubleshooting-oriented questions? “How do I restrict my search results in this interface?” “Why does this program make my system crash?” “Why doesn’t this software do this?” “Where can I find this specific information using this software?” “What software should I use?” Clearly, due to technological innovations and big law’s ever-shifting strategic plans, the law firm librarian profession has recently been in a very volatile state. One of the changes I’ve observed, now that the sands have shifted this particular way, is a strong prevalence of people sending me reference questions that entail troubleshooting library information sources—getting various library interfaces and software to play nice or perform some discrete action. Continue reading

Thursday’s Musing: The Value of Perception, the Librarian and the Library Space

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(photo (c) 2009 Dorli Photography, available here)

 

As collections are becoming more electronic, the value of the library space is becoming increasingly questioned. A trend among articles written by non-librarians is to link the edifice with the profession: the librarian works in a library, technology is making libraries obsolete, therefore librarians will also become obsolete (librarians are a dead end job according to this article from Yahoo Education, and librarians are a dying breed according to this article from Digital Book World). Even articles that attempt to exclaim the value of librarianship focus heavily on the library spaces, rather than the professionals in those spaces. For example, this recent CNN article kindly relates how libraries are thriving, but focuses almost completely on the edifices themselves: the architecture of the Seattle Public Library, 27 fascinating buildings, the library as a community space, and a photographer’s book of photos of public libraries are all given substantial ink (pixels?). Again, the perception is the edifice and profession are one and the same, so what actually occurs when the physical space is downsized/eliminated? Continue reading

Academic, County, and Law Firm Librarians: Three Sides of the Same Coin

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Early on in Graduate School, I remember my Professional Adviser taking the time to sit me down and talk about the various career paths law librarians could embark on. Honestly, I was really only familiar with the law school’s library, using its vast, comfortable reading room as my command station to hammer out papers about information sources and using technologies to meet patron needs. Admittedly, I was confused and befuddled when my Adviser stated, beyond academic law librarians, there are also private law librarians and government law librarians. Prior to this, I had no idea law firms employed librarians—little did I know this was where the future me would thankfully find gainful employment. So, even as a future law firm librarian, I was certainly oblivious to the fact the law librarian profession is comprised of three large classes of professionals: academic, government, and private. Continue reading

The Perils of PACER

Anyone involved in legal research is more than familiar with PACER (the name, an acronym, stands for: Public Access to Court Electronic Records). Before we delve into the glaring weaknesses and errors of PACER, let’s just step back and give thanks that there is a way for users to access docket and documents filed in all federal district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts—it could always be worse (and judging by some state court docket site designs, it can be much, much worse). Clearly, this is a massive undertaking, and the volume of information being tracked and made electronically available is absolutely stunning. But, PACER does have its flaws, here are a few of the more conspicuous:

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Majority of AmLaw 200 Firms Do Not Have Mobile Sites

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Jeff Richardson at iPhone J.D. comments on Law Firm Mobile’s recent study showing only 42.5% of AmLaw 200 firms have mobile sites–this, after the ABA’s 2013 Legal Tech survey stated 90% of attorneys use smartphones. Global 100 firms fare even worse: only 39 Global 100 firms have mobile sites. This is perplexing data–the legal industry is characterized by its competitiveness, why are so many firms choosing to willfully disadvantage themselves by not having a mobile site?

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How Are Public Libraries Changing?

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Appearing March 7th in The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye’s article “Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond” (available here) examines how renovations of large, public libraries exemplify how the roles of public libraries and public librarians have drastically changed. Public libraries are moving far away from being dusty book repositories, and toward being airy, open social centers designed with the omnipresence of electronic devices in mind. And, as this role-shifting and repurposing has occurred, public library usage is spiking upward across the county; Boston’s central library alone saw an increase of nearly 500,000 physical visits in 2013.

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The Science of Social Media

The world is addicted to social media. It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this, you probably use Facebook orTwitter—you might be obsessed with social media and post pictures of your to-be-devoured food and your workout schedule on a daily basis or maybe you dabble in it to keep tabs on your loved ones. No matter the level of your involvement, you are familiar with how the services work, but are you doing everything you can do to make your tweets and posts as impactful as possible? Continue reading

InsideLegal Lessons: Examining Technology Purchasing Trends by Firm-Size

Last week, business technology and market research firm InsideLegal put together a graphical chart detailing what various sized law firms spent their tech budgets on in 2013 (available here). The data is coming from ILTA/InsideLegal’s Technology Purchasing Software Survey, a wonderful, free, and highly informative resource both organizations collaborate on and release annually (the latest edition, released in August of 2013, is available here). The data, notably, is organized by the number of responding firms, and not the overarching dollar figures of money spent by the particular firms; it gives insight into how various technological purchasing trends affect different sized firms. The data illustrates many situations where new hardware or software is vigorously embraced by firms of a particular-size but not by other firms of a different size. For example, smaller-sized firms are much more likely to purchase tablet computers. Why would this be? Continue reading

What the ILTA Technology Survey Says About Mobile Legal Research

Recently released, the ILTA Technology Survey offers information professionals great insight into how lawyers are interacting with technology at their firms. The organization, made up primarily of firm IT and KM professionals, produces an annual technology survey, and, thankfully, releases it for free (the AmLaw Tech Survey and the ABA’s Legal Technology Survey Report will run you a few dollars).

Notably, among the many topics it covers, the survey focuses on attorneys’ use of tablet pcs and apps.

The results for the question “to the best of your knowledge, which non-native tablet/iPad apps are most used at your firm for business purposes (choose up to five apps)” are as follow, with a brief/not-all-encompassing description from me on what these apps do:

1. Citrix Receiver – enables access to Citrix environments from mobile devices

2. LinkedIn – social media platform for business professionals

3. Dropbox – cloud-computing storage service

4. Adobe Acrobat – .pdf viewer and editor

5. Skype – remote video and voice or instant messaging platform

6. FaceBook – social media platform

7. Documents to Go – enables users to view Microsoft Office and Adobe files in the iOS environment.

8. Evernote – enables users to take electronic notes

9. GoodReader – annotate and read .pdfs

10. Mimecast – enables access of Mimecast email environment

Interesting results:

14. TrialPad – presentation tool tailored to attorneys

15. Westlaw Next – legal research system

27. iTimeKeep – time tracking utility

39. iJuror – jury selection app

Westlaw Next’s inclusion is notable, in that it signifies tablets are being used for legal research, but its location on the list shows the strong popularity of the more well-known productivity-oriented apps (dropbox, evernote, documents to go, etc.). The answer to the overarching question how much traction is there for tablets and mobile devices to be used for legal research is still a little nebulous. Will user behavior change to where tablets and mobile devices are commonly used to conduct legal research? It’s hard to say. Is there a legal research platform that could really exploit the unique characteristics of tablets or mobile devices, to the point where the mobile-version would offer something valuable that would distinguish it from the desktop version?

Also notable is that attorneys themselves are typically not the respondents to the survey questions–rather, it’s the membership of ILTA who are queried. And, it is important to point out, once again, that those queried were to only chose 5 apps, and not every app they have observed/encountered their attorneys using.