Category Archives: News

Breaking news and opinions.

How Legal Apps Rank: Part 2, the Success Stories

In Part 1 of How Legal Apps Rank, available here, I examined the Apple App store category rankings of the WestlawNext and Lexis Advance apps. In this post, I will examine the legal apps we should all be paying attention to: the success stories.

In searching for as many legal apps as I could find, I stumbled across many legal app pathfinders, bibliographies, and “best of” lists, but a special thanks goes out to the two lists that especially stood out: the often-updated libguide created by University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School Reference Librarian Jenny Zook and UCLA School of Law Reference Librarian Vicki Steiner’s guide. Also, I tried to be as inclusive and search for as many apps as possible–from apps produced by the big publishers, to those put together by the start-ups and the little guys.

My methodology was to, again, plug the apps into App Annie, and examine the apps’ historical, categorical rankings. Again, I have limited myself to the Apple App store/apps designed for the iPhone or iPad.

Time for the big reveal–here are the apps that surprised and stood out:

trialpad

TrialPad, published, in name, by Saurian Communications, Inc., though really by Lit Software, is an award-winning trial presentation app. To simplify its features: while users are at trial or mediation TrialPad easily connects to TVs and enables attorneys to display documents, play videos, and more, all with a host of great annotation tools. TrialPad is for the iPad only, and costs $89.99. Here’s its “Grossing Ranks” chart:

TrialPad_Grossing_Better
First, we can see this app has hit the #1 position in the “Business” category on a number of occasions (note that the y-axis on this chart has been reduced to 1-30, showing how frequently this app ranks highly). The “Business” category in the app store is generally the domain of scanning apps, .pdf readers, invoice/timesheet creation apps, and other esoterica–TrialPad genuinely sticks out for having such a specifically defined audience. Also notable, this is the “Grossing Ranks” chart, as opposed to the “Download Ranks” chart. TrialPad, again, costs $89.99 which is higher than most apps and means less downloads are required to lead to higher grosses and therefore a higher ranking in the “Grossing Ranks” chart.

With all of this said, here is the “Download Ranks” chart:

TrialPad_Downloads

On this chart, I have extended the y-axis values to 1-100; we can see TrialPad is not consistently in the top 30 like it is in the Grossing Ranks, but it still is a very high-performing app, and one that law librarians and information professionals need to have on the radar (as an aside, it appears this app has been on our radar as, beyond the times I saw it in app patherfinders and guides, I also recall this app being demo’ed at the 2014 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Cafe by Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian from the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Library).

Turns out TrialPad isn’t the only Saurian Communications, Inc./Lit Software, app to have on the radar–the other?:

transcriptpad

TranscriptPad provides attorneys with a bevy of annotation and review tools for use with legal transcripts. TranscriptPad, too, is only for the iPad and costs $89.99. Below, I have pulled TranscriptPad’s “Grossing Ranks” chart:

TranscriptPad_Grossing

Though slightly outperformed by its brethren TrialPad, TranscriptPad still exhibits stellar results. I reduced the y-axis to 1-30 in the above “Grossing Ranks” chart, which shows how often TranscriptPad is located near the top of the “Business” category. TranscriptPad even hit the #1 ranking on  July 17, 2014. TranscriptPad’s “Grossing Ranks” positions are aided by the fact this app also costs $89.99, meaning the grossing rank can be accentuated with less downloads. To that end, here is the download chart with the y-axis extended to 1-250:

TranscriptPad_Downloads

All in all Lit Software must be commended for producing two of the most successful legal apps on the market, even more impressive that this coming from a start-up and not one of the big legal publishers.

ijuror

Our next success story app is also another victory for the little guys, or in this case, guy. iJuror is published by the prolific Scott Falbo, who has 86 other app credits to his name. iJuror helps in the process of jury selection, enabling attorneys to quickly appoint characteristics and notes to potential jurors, as well as compile reports they can easily share with colleagues, among other features. Below is the “Grossing Ranks” chart for iJuror:

iJuror_Gross

This app is ranked in the “Business” category (same as TrialPad and TranscriptPad), and is available for the iPad only. The y-axis is reduced to 1-250 in the above, which shows a consistent placement around the #100 rank. This particular app does cost $24.99, which is more than what usually dots the “Business” category in the app store, and means less downloads equal a higher bump in the “Grossing Ranks” chart. This is an older app, introduced in 2010, and still able to remain relevant, as per the above chart.

Practical Law The Journal – Litigation

Now, to deviate, the next two apps display the importance of current awareness materials. The first is the Thomson Reuters published  Practical Law The Journal – Litigation app, which offers a convenient way for subscribers to read this publication on-the-go. Below is the “Download Ranks” chart:

PLJ-Litigation_Downloads

The above, with the y-axis filtered to 1-250, shows the app’s “Professional & Trade” category rankings; the app hit #1 on January 30, 2014. And, similarly, let’s look at another current awareness app:

ABA Journal magazine

ABA Journal Magazine is the mobile extension of the American Bar Journal’s magazine, ABA Journal. The app is simple, designed to enable on-the-go attorneys the ability to read the contents of the print magazine (subscription required). Below is the all-time “Download Ranks” chart for the iPhone delivery of this app; the y-axis set to 1-50, and this is the “Professional & Trade” category:

ABAJournal_DownloadsABA Journal Magazine has broached the top ten in “Professional & Trade” a few times, even hitting #1 early in its deployment, on Feb. 13th, 2014.

Both Practical Law The Journal – Litigation and ABA Journal Magazine exemplify that iPads (in particular) do an excellent job of displaying the content of serials. Not only are they visually appealing in app form, more than just the current issue is accessible, and navigation is not restricted to leafing through pages. The lesson: current awareness materials translate to tablets really well.

In summation, those are the legal app success stories–thanks for reading!

Big Law, Social Media, and the Library

ATL_Good2BSocial

Big law’s relationship with social media is changing. Above the Law and Good2BSocial have collaborated, once again, on a review of how effectively big law firms use social media. They found AmLaw Top 50 firms have “substantially improved social media performance across the board.”

Good2BSocial_Score

Leading to this overall jump, the firms that were the best at incorporating social media in Above the Law and Good2BSocial’s 2013 study didn’t necessarily get that much better; rather, the average score increased because the firms that fared poorly in 2013 made large jumps in 2014. The previously poor performing firms are catching up.

The macro takeaway of this information is: big law takes social media seriously. But, how is big law social media effectively deployed? And, to take a grander view, law is a service-based industry, yet the preponderance of business/corporate social media success stories focus on goods-based businesses. How does being a service-based industry affect the methods of social media deployment?

It’s easy to assume your individual method of consuming and producing social media is more universal than it really is—at least, in a moment where I can admit my own solipsism, that was my perspective. I am not an active consumer of social media produced by big law—and really, when I even notice corporate social media it’s coming from goods-based rather than service-based companies. Outlets that report top corporate social media success stories bare this distinction out, as do sites oriented towards improving corporate social media presences. So, who is consuming social media created by big law?

One answer: big law social media gets followed by news media. Lindsay Griffiths on Zen & The Art of Legal Networking  reported how Nixon Peabody’s Twitter feed’s followers include a heavy percentage of media; journalists are always trying to find stories to break, and big firms generate stories. Twitter is really the perfect vehicle for news story dissemination: a close, or even friendly, relationship does not have to exist between content creator and consumer, and topical news blurbs are perfect, succinct-yet-noteworthy content for Twitter distribution. Twitter serves as social media newswire, providing a constant stream of potential stories to media.

LinkedIn and blogs are the other big winners for big law social media, according to Rhonda Hurwitz of HMR Marketing Solutions. Hurwitz reports on a 2013 study by Greentarget entitled In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey that found “blogs and linkedin as the two most influential platforms for lawyers to use in order to build influence and business relationships”. Unlike the institutional-level orientation of Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs really broadcast the expertise and skills of individuals who comprise a firm. The audience is not the news media, but typically other lawyers and potential business partners; accordingly, this audience has different goals in consuming social media. Hurwitz reports lawyer-authored blogs are trusted by other lawyers, and LinkedIn is tops in professional usage and credibility. Rather than search for content for a news story, the audience of lawyer LinkedIn and blog media is seeking expertise and credibility from particular, individual content creators that they may collaborate in the future with.

Facebook does not really work for law firms because it is not really business-driven. According to Michael Denmead of kscopemarketing, Facebook has “been slow to get traction [at law firms]. It seems to be the general interest posts that people want to see – for example, we do a Charity Run at Christmas and posted some photos. We got a lot of likes and comments on that!”. Social events trump business in Facebook, and accordingly, Facebook is the more social of social media.

Just like law, law librarianship is a service-based industry. The “libraries-as-a-service” philosophical perspective has really emphasized individual librarians and their skills over the idea of a library space. Therefore, it stands to reason librarians can learn and incorporate big law social media methodologies into their own social media deployments. By correlation, libraries should be distinguished by the expertise of their librarians. Just as lawyers can broadcast granular examinations of very specific areas of law, librarians can broadcast granular examinations of very specific areas of research. The emphases should be to blog and then cross-market using other social media. Institutional-level social media is more striated for law librarianship; for private libraries, I struggle to see the efficacy of producing news-oriented exploits via twitter–more internalized broadcasting avenues would be better, as, by default, all potential patrons are already internal. As for governmental and academic law libraries, digitally publicizing newsworthy items is more logical as the patron-bases are broader, and can include even the public. However, the difficult question to answer is: what is news? Luckily, one of the real beauties of social media is implementation costs are practically nil, so tweet away and study what content gets likes and replies.

Reliving the Past with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

WaybackMachine

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is a godsend to law librarianship. My undergraduate professors would be slowly shaking their wizened heads at me for starting a piece of writing with a “universal superlative,” but, count literary composition as just another thing the internet has changed forever. As transient and mutable as the internet is, however, it does a bafflingly horrible job of preserving its own history. How the internet handles its past is actually terrifying: content disappears as if it never existed, dead links accumulate, and information is continually extinguished — overwritten in 1s and 0s in remote, humming server farms. Making a personal logical leap to questioning what this suggests about our own, personal histories is inevitable, but, rather than tread down the depressing path of existentialism, let’s jump back to how great the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is, and how it can be a feather in the cap of any law librarian. Jill Lepore, writing for the New Yorker, chronicled the origin story of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and its founder Brewster Kahle. This feature is fascinating, touching on the development of the internet, how foreign countries archive websites, the implications of U.S. Copyright Law on digital archiving, and–similar to what we law librarians sometimes have to do–how to prove the existence of deleted web sites and posts. Lepore’s article is structured around a story involving a quickly deleted post made by a Ukranian separatist leader; this leader boasted about (and included a video of) downing a Malaysian passenger airplane, resulting in the death of 298 people. Again, the post was quickly removed from the site where it was posted; but instead of it being lost forever, archived versions of the post were made and retained in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Turns out archiving the past can be a really important thing to do. My day-to-day job does not generally entail proving the existence of evidence that implicates someone/some group of mass homicide, however, the Wayback Machine has come to the rescue for a number of research requests that have hit my inbox. Looking through my closed reference requests, here are some of the ways I have used the Wayback Machine:

  • Searching old company press releases
  • Cite-checking now dead links
  • Pulling historical editions of a government document
  • Confirming employment of individuals via old corporation sites
  • West Virginia Pattern Jury Instructions
  • Locating historical weather information

THE INTERFACE

The interface is very easy to use–merely type in the address of the site you wish to find historical versions of: WaybackMachine_Interface If the site is archived, your results will include a timeline of captures. Clicking on the different captures enables you to access various incarnations of the site–for example, if you wished to access 2009 or 2010 captures of our iBraryGuy site, you would be able to do so by clicking into the year columns below (the vertical bars signal when, in the year, the captures were made): WaybackMachine_Timeline Clicking into a year column leads to a calendar view, where you can choose the specific date of the capture: WaybackMachine_CalendarView After clicking the date, the capture will load. For example, here’s how the iBraryGuy website looked on January 16th, 2010: WaybackMachine_iBraryGuyCapture To be noted, the captures themselves are not always complete–some pictures will load and some will not have been captured. Also, dynamic sites (those coded with queries to an underlying database or host, and with forms) will often lack some functionality. For further information regarding what is and isn’t captured and why, the Wayback Machine’s FAQ is a great resource. Enjoy reliving the past!

What’s in a Name: Does the GPO’s Name Change Impact Librarianship?

GPO

As of Wednesday, December 17th, the GPO is now the Government Publishing Office, a name change undertaken due to “the increasingly prominent role that GPO plays in providing access to Government information in digital formats”. Why did the GPO change their name and does this name change impact the library profession, which, similarly, has managed the transition from print to digital?

The key phrase from the GPO’s press release is “digital formats”: the standard format of information has changed, and so have the responsibilities of the GPO. This governmental agency now manages works born digitally, information disseminated electronically, and older works becoming digitized. As Davita Vance-Cooks, the Director of the Government Publishing Office states: “The name Government Publishing Office better reflects the services that GPO currently provides and will provide in the future.”

Upon the agency’s formation, in 1861, the dissemination of information required physical printing, the Printing of the GPO’s name referring to an actual printing press. Reading portions of 44 U.S. Code Chapter 3 – Government Printing Office, reveals various references to bookbinding, printing machinery, printing supplies, and other physical objects required, again, to physically print and distribute governmental information. Nowadays, the printing press has given way to the computer; the Printing in Government Printing Office did not properly reflect the agency’s workflow. And because digital publishing has largely trumped physical printing, the Government Printing Office name became a misnomer: the rebrand shows the GPO wanted to be seen as an agency that publishes, not an agency that prints.

From a perceptional standpoint, the librarian profession is linked to the physical library building. In reality, libraries are going digital, the physical spaces are becoming downsized and/or re-purposed, and librarians are managing these changes by developing skills suited for a new, digital world. The public opinion issue is when those outside the field assume a consequence of disappearing library buildings is disappearing librarians.

Though the economic crash of 2008 and subsequent downsizing certainly took their toll in the library (and every) industry, in its Occupational Outlook Handbook  United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7% increase in library positions for the period from 2012 to 2022 (though it must be noted average growth is 11%).  We are looking at future predicted to have librarians, but perhaps not the physical libraries from where the profession takes its name.

The GPO’s response to a physical-to-digital transition was to rebrand itself with a name change—given its similar digital transition, is this something librarianship should explore? Does the profession need some type of macro re-branding? The issue has been explored before: recall the Special Libraries Association’s unsuccessful 2009 proposal to change its name to Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASKPro). Why did that initiative fail, and what will be the ultimate consequences of the GPO name change? Are there other options to explore, like rebranding the actual concept of “the library” by promoting the concept of digital spaces? Again, our profession has responded well to a constantly changing digital world, but the question is how proactive do we have to be in letting the rest of the world know about it?

The Implications of Bestlaw

Bestlaw2--headlogo

On September 24th, Joe Mornin, a Berkely Law School student, released Bestlaw to the public-at-large (see the The Lawyerist‘s and The Recorder‘s admirable coverage of this story). In a nutshell, Bestlaw is a browser extension that improves upon the Westlaw Next interface. Remarkably, Joe Mornin designed the browser extension himself, and makes this piece of software freely available to download on his website (http://www.bestlaw.io/). Bestlaw’s website states the software accomplishes the following:

Bestlaw1--listOfFeatures

THE CURRENT VENDOR SYSTEM

Legal research procedures are driven by vendors. At a basic level, getting to be a good researcher involves memorizing two bodies of knowledge: what legal information resources exist out there, and which vendors create those resources. Dovetailing into all of this, access of resources is controlled by the vendors as well; each vendor has their own, unique, separate interface. This environment makes practical sense because legal research is a commercial enterprise. Accordingly, vendors resemble information silos: their information is their capital. Would legal research be more efficient and effective if there was an incorporation of federated searching, which would enable searching across all of the vendor interfaces simultaneously? Of course! But, the current legal research business model necessitates individual, isolated research interfaces, with individual content collections accessible only via one point of access.

This current legal research business model introduces various problems for the user. Two of the more salient problems are: what information is actually unique inside a vendor interface, and how do vendors charge the user for non-unique content. Westlaw and Lexis, for example, charge transactionally, meaning every pull of information comes with a price tag. This is acceptable when a user pulls information that is absolutely unique to these specific vendors. However, users do not always pull unique information; commonly, they incur extra transactional fees by pulling information they could get for free from somewhere else. The issue, really, is the convenience of the interface: users are already inside a vendor’s specific pay environment, and it becomes really easy and convenient to pull resources inside the pay environment, rather than jump out and search for a free (and trusted) copy of the same resource.

PULLING INFORMATION FOR FREE

Bestlaw, remarkably, incorporates the ability to jump out of the Westlaw Next environment in order to get free copies of resources. As stated above, while inside the Westlaw Next interface, a user can pull free documents from free services like CourtListener, Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, Casetext, and Google Scholar. The convenience factor of being in Westlaw Next’s environment becomes partially moot. Just to step back: Bestlaw adds a toolbar to the Westlaw Next interface, when a user is viewing a document. The toolbar enables the user to pull the exact same document they are currently viewing from one of the above mentioned free resources (so, in my understanding, a user would have already induced a find and view charge, but could circumvent the print charge).

IMPLICATIONS OF BESTLAW

Again, federated searching is the concept of inputting a single search into a single interface, and having that search performed across a multitude of databases. Think of inputting a case law terms and connectors search into an interface, and having that particular search run across Westlaw Next, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, and Bloomberg Law simultaneously. The results could be sortable by some combination of relevancy and cost, meaning the user would get highly relevant results at a lower cost. Rather than be information silos that require users to log into their specific, isolated interfaces, vendors would have to compete in a new technological environment, one where open competition would require the highest relevancy at the lowest cost. The user experience would be improved.

Bestlaw’s ability to jump out and pull from free resources while the user is in the Westlaw Next environment is a step in the direction towards federated searching; Bestlaw is forcing a mash-up of Westlaw Next and a handful of free legal information sources. The user, despite being in the Westlaw Next environment, is no longer restricted to pulling just Westlaw Next content, thus enabling the user the ability to circumvent “print” fees they would typically incur. This is a very intriguing development, and all credit has to go to Joe Mornin for getting the ball rolling.

Perla Makes a Point on PACER

filestackFew things have raised such hue and cry in our industry this year as the announcement that PACER was going to be without certain courts’ materials.  The concern expressed by law librarians and legal researchers clogged newsfeeds for weeks and made its way – all the way – into the halls of politics.  Yet while many saw an immediate challenge to the way we work, others saw an opportunity to turn an old model on its head.  Bloomberg BNA president, David Perla, in a recent article for Law Technology News, was among those not only seeing the glass as half-full but also thinking of newer, better ways to make it overflow. Continue reading

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

Vendor Trends: Interactive Data Visualizations

The Exhibit Hall at AALL showcased a clear trend towards vendors offering visualization tools to improve the process of legal researching. From a macro level, legal research has transitioned from being a chiefly print-based medium to a primarily electronic-based medium, and, encouragingly, vendors have developed tools to really exploit this shift. Continue reading

SLA Offers 2014 Contributed Papers

SLA Logo

Original scholarship is an often over-looked part of many annual conferences. It tends to get lost iin the chaotic shuffle between presentations, continuing education, time in the exhibit halls, and, of course, the need for social interaction with colleagues. It often seems that the heroes who work so hard on contributed papers end up having ther praises unsung. Luckily, the Special Libraries Association is belting out a tune of praise for its scholars from this year’s annual conference. Continue reading

iBraryguy Releases “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” List from SLA2014! Who made the cut?

60SitesCapture

It was another big year for “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” at the 2014 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO. Hosted by the Legal Division of SLA and generously sponsored by LexisNexis, the panel once again shared their top picks with a full house. From search sites to news, travel, and even a bit of irreverent fun, there was something for everyone! What sites made the cut? You can find out here. Continue reading