The CRIV Sheet

As our last post of the “Getting to Know CRIV” series, we are highlighting THE CRIV SHEET this week. 

THE CRIV SHEET is the newsletter of the AALL Committee on Relations with Information Vendors. It is published three times a year (November, March, and June) and is available online. Check out the latest issue which contains information about various AALL programs next month, an article by Jacob Nunnally, Getting Ahead of It: “Post-Pandemic” Contracts and Invoices, and an article by Carol Ottolenghi, The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: IP Resources That Support Innovation, Inclusion, and Your Library.

THE CRIV SHEET is always looking for writers! The deadline for articles is the last Thursday two months before the issue is scheduled to publish. Interested writers should contact THE CRIV SHEET editor Ashley Arrington at



As part of the “Getting to Know CRIV” series, we are highlighting the CRIV Blog this week. Members of CRIV, and occasionally guest authors, try to write a couple of posts each month highlighting news, updates, or other information about various vendors, vendor products, or resources. Sometimes we highlight resources in particular subject areas.

The CRIV liaisons for Bloomberg, Lexis, Thomson Reuters, and Wolters Kluwer post after their semi-annual calls with vendors. We may write about a new product that has hit the market, changes in content, new search features, or more.

If an AALL member submits a request for assistance, we may post about the issue and how it was resolved or handled.

We welcome guest authors! If you would like to write a post, please reach out to the CRIV Blog coordinator, Christy Smith at

Vendor Liaisons and Requests for Assistance

Another week in May, and we continue highlighting the CRIV website and the tools available there for the AALL membership. This week’s focus is on resources established for addressing specific vendor relations issues — CRIV’s Vendor Liaisons, and the Request for Assistance Form.

Vendor Liaisons

The Vendor Liaisons were established by the Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) to maintain a channel of communication between AALL and the four largest vendors of legal information resources. These four vendors were chosen because they have the most customers among the AALL membership: Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters, and WoltersKluwer. Each year the CRIV Chair determines the assignment of a member of the committee to each vendor. Since CRIV membership is three years, often a vendor liaison is appointed in their second year on the committee, and the assignment will continue into their third year. This helps with continuity of relationships and institutional memory.

Each Vendor Liaison meets twice per year with their assigned vendor. Each vendor typically assigns its own employee contact to communicate with the liaisons and coordinate the semi-annual meetings, which typically take place in May/June and November/December. When there are issues of interest to the CRIV Advocacy Subcommittee, or when there have been Requests for Assistance submitted by the membership, these topics are added to the agenda for the next Vendor Liaison meeting. The meetings also usually include updates from the vendor about new products, new features, changes to their business practices, and anything else they would like to inform the membership about. The AALL Executive Director and the CRIV Board Liaison also attend these meetings. Notes about the meeting are shared with the AALL Board and published on the CRIV Blog and in the quarterly CRIV Sheet.

Members are welcome to contact Vendor Liaisons with questions or issues they would like to propose for the semi-annual meetings. You can also use Vendor Liaisons as a channel for providing comments or feedback to the “big four” information vendors.

Request for Assistance Form

The Request for Assistance Form (RAF) is available on the CRIV website, and serves as a conduit for members to document their disputes with any legal information vendor and request the aid of the committee in achieving a resolution. Ideally, a person considering using this form would contact a member of CRIV to discuss their problem, especially if the issue is time-sensitive, but anyone can use the form at any time, for any issue.

The RAF asks you to describe your issue and the actions you have taken to attempt to resolve it on your own. Everyone has disputes with a vendor from time to time, and it is our own responsibility to work them out; however, when there is an impasse, or when a vendor fails to respond to an issue (or does so unfairly), this is when the committee can attempt to assist. Use the form to explain the issue and what has happened so far. Someone from CRIV will respond to your request for assistance and discuss options with you for moving forward. The committee does not promise to fix everyone’s problems with vendors! But they will try to assist with finding a solution. Sometimes merely filing the request for assistance will get things moving toward a satisfactory resolution.

Up next week — The CRIV Blog!

Principles & Practices for Licensing E-Resources

May is the month we are highlighting the CRIV website and the tools and information that were created for the AALL community. This week features one of our CRIV Tools: Principles & Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources.

Do you manage e-resources for your library? Are you new to the role or do you need a refresher? CRIV is here to help! Check out the Principles & Practices for Licensing E-Resources.

Finding the AALL CRIV Principles & Practices for Licensing E-Resources

Hover under the Advocacy link on the AALL homepage, click on CRIV Tools, and then Principles & Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources.          

AALL CRIV Principles & Practices for Licensing E-Resources

These principles and practices provide guidance to both librarians and vendors engaged in the licensing process. There are nine sections covered:

  1. Licensing preparedness
  2. License components
  3. Authorized use and authorized users
  4. Copyright and intellectual property
  5. Archiving
  6. Usage tracking and user privacy
  7. Termination/renewal
  8. Dispute resolution
  9. Warranties/quality of service

In addition to the principles, the following materials, intended as a toolkit for anyone involved in library procurement, are supplied:

Appendix A—Checklist for Licensing Electronic Resources

Appendix B—Resources for Licensing Terms and Definitions

Appendix C—Resources for Sample Clauses and Model License Agreements

Appendix D—Bibliography Licensing and Procurement of Electronic Resources

Appendix E—Bibliography: Accessibility of Electronic Resources

Appendix F—Procurement Process Checklist for Law Libraries

Up next week — Liaisons to Vendors & Request for Assistance.

AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers

Did you know that AALL through CRIV provides the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers?

You can find this guide on the list of CRIV Tools on the AALL Website.

The guide was first published in November 2002 and has been updated a few times since then. The latest update was 2018. The Federal Trade Commission encouraged AALL to take over providing guidance to Legal Publishers, after rescinding their publication, Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Law Book Industry.

The Guide provides Five Principles for Legal Publishers to follow:

  • Principle 1: Truthful and Accurate Communication
  • Principle 2: Disclosure
  • Principle 3: Fair Dealing
  • Principle 4: Customer Satisfaction
  • Principle 5: Product Quality

Each of the Five Principles is expanded on in the guide with Sub-Principles, Comments and examples. For example, Principle 1 introduces the sub-principle Truthful Advertising. There is a comment stating that a legal publisher should be able to substantiate any claim in their marketing. Then there is a Practice to Avoid, which give the example of stating that a product has been thoroughly tested, when beta testing has not been completed.

Up next week — Principles & Practices for Licensing E-Resources!

Getting to Know CRIV

Over the next few weeks, the CRIV Blog will focus on … CRIV! We’ll be highlighting our website and the vendor tools and information that have been created for the AALL community.

This week’s post spotlights the AALL “Vendor Relations Policy.” Future posts will highlight “Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers,” “Policies & Procedures for Licensing Electronic Resources,” CRIV’s vendor liaisons and Request for Assistance form, and the CRIV publications, the CRIV Blog and The CRIV Sheet.

Finding CRIV Information Generally

Finding CRIV information is easy from the AALL homepage. Scroll over the Advocacy tab at the top right of the screen. A popup box provides links to the Liaisons to Vendors, The CRIV Sheet, CRIV Tools, CRIV Blog, Policies, and the Request for Assistance form.

Finding the AALL Vendor Relations Policy

Scroll over the Advocacy tab on the AALL homepage and select, “Policies.”

AALL Vendor Relations Policy

The purpose of the Vendor Relations Policy is to direct AALL’s advocacy on issues related to legal publishing and legal publishers. The goal of the policy is to provide the AALL community with information that helps them in their interactions with suppliers to the profession.

The Policy consists of 4 parts: part I, an introduction; part II, issues supported by the AALL Government Relations Policy; part III, other AALL policies that support vendor relations activities; and part IV, issues identified for advocacy with legal publishers.

The Government Relations Policy monitors proposed legislation and regulations, evaluating the impact on members, access to justice, and the legal information industry. In part II, you’ll find a list of issues and principles relating to public policy and the publishing industry that support areas related to vendor relations.

In part III, other AALL policies that support vendor relations, you will find, among others, AALL’s Preservation Policy, which supports standards and guidelines to ensure preservation of legal materials, and AALL’s Sponsorship Policy, which outlines parameters for sponsorship to ensure a mutually beneficial exchange. This part also provides a statement encouraging legal publishers to provide usage statistics in compliance with the COUNTER Code of Practice.

Many publishing and customer service issues are addressed in other CRIV documentation, but part IV identifies 10 additional issues identified for advocacy with legal publishers. Some issues mentioned: more pricing transparency, simplified licensing models, and assignment of customer reps who have knowledge and understanding of all product lines and individual library accounts.

Antitrust Questions

A number of years ago, AALL developed a list of antitrust frequently asked questions, which have been posted on the CRIV website along with the Vendor Relations Policy. In recognition of the need to review the questions, the FAQs have been removed from the website. In the meantime, the AALL Executive Board is moving forward to develop and adopt a full antitrust policy for the community.

For readers who are interested in what other associations state about antitrust, see the American Library Association’s ALA Legal Framework: Twenty Questions (questions 13, 14) and Part 10 of the Special Libraries Association’s 2019 Unit Recommended Practices (page 47).

Up next week — Fair Business Practice for Legal Publishers.


Switch It Up!: Changing IR Workflow

Way back in 2012, I had just graduated from library school in Queens and was toiling away at three (!!!) part-time jobs in the city. Out on Long Island that same year, my future employer Hofstra University School of Law adopted bepress Digital Commons as its institutional repository.

After moving forward with an IR, one of the things to figure out is: what is the workflow going to be? Who is going to do what, when? Some institutions allow faculty to upload their work; others have full-time institutional repository managers who obtain copyright permissions, upload faculty works, and perform other IR tasks. 

In 2012, the individual who preceded me as IR supervisor at Hofstra Law implemented a workflow that centered on union staff performing most of the work. She created a Faculty Publications master spreadsheet and obtained copyright permissions; this constituted the “set up” work. But after these managerial efforts, the staff then began the “nuts and bolts” work – they obtained PDFs, entered metadata, and performed quality control checks both before and after posting faculty publications.

The work the union staff performed was guided by a color-coded Faculty Publications master spreadsheet: one color meant “needs to be quality checked”, another color meant “ready for upload”, still another meant “copyright pending”. Back then, this workflow made sense because there were hundreds of faculty publications that needed to be worked on, and the “color coded spreadsheet” approach allowed everyone to be equally active in his/her IR work. With this workflow, everyone performed his or her task concurrently.

However, when I was hired at Hofstra Law in 2018 and took over managing the IR, I discovered that the color-coded spreadsheet approach had become confusing – there were so many cooks in the kitchen that staff weren’t sure at what point who needed to do what. It then became easy for staff to shrug off IR work since they weren’t really sure “whose turn it was.” Since so much faculty scholarship had already been uploaded in the preceding 6 years, and since we didn’t need to have everyone working on everything concurrently by that point, I created a new workflow that I call “Batches of Five.”

This new workflow is streamlined, linear, and direct: rather than everyone concurrently working on their assigned IR task, I identify (from the Faculty Pubs spreadsheet) what has not yet been posted and send an email out to the staff: “Please begin working on these 5 articles. Thank you!” The email I send includes the spreadsheet row number, the author name, and the article (or book chapter) title for each of the five items. After the first person in the workflow enters metadata, he replies all to my email saying “Done, QC up next”. Then, the first of two employees who does quality control works on the five and replies all to the email; then the employee who does the second quality control does her work.  After the quality controls, another employee posts the items so they are live on the site. After the five items are live on the site, another employee does a quality control check from the front end.

The switch from “working on everything” to working on the specific “Batch of Five” made sense based on the six years of IR work that had preceded it. The staff appreciated this change: they said they like the new workflow because it’s simpler, more direct, and everyone knows whose turn it is and what is expected of them. This workflow requires that I follow up with the staff (everyone forgets from time to time), but nevertheless this streamlined workflow has simplified things and ensured staff are working productively.

A few years ago, bepress rolled out a new feature of Digital Commons that allows the IR manager to harvest faculty publications from PubMed, Scopus, and other databases. I have not yet been able to explore this relatively new feature, but this could very well constitute the next phase of our evolving IR workflow. 

Consistent User Statistics – Not Always Easy to Obtain

A question that comes up for libraries when evaluating whether to renew a digital resource is usage statistics. Libraries want to know if the resource is being used often enough to merit the amount of money that the resource costs. Budgets are not, no surprise, limitless. Libraries must make informed digital collection development decisions. Part of that decision-making process is governed by how much a resource is used by library patrons.

Vendor-supplied data can assist libraries in making informed decisions. However, libraries generally have found it difficult to obtain this electronic data from vendors. If data is provided, it may not be easy to interpret, it may not cover relevant time periods, or it may require special programmed software to retrieve.

In efforts to address this issue, one organization, COUNTER, has created a Code of Practice that vendors and publishers can use to report usage statistics in a consistent way. COUNTER is the acronym for Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources. It is a non-profit organization sustained by fees from its member organizations.

The organization’s vision is simple: “Consistent, credible, and comparable usage data.” Their mission is “to develop and maintain the standard for counting and reporting use of electronic resources. It will ensure that content providers can implement the code of practice efficiently and their library customers and users will receive relevant usage reports in the format they need.”

COUNTER promotes collaboration and dialogue, as well as openness. The COUNTER Code of Practice is an open standard. Membership in COUNTER is open to all libraries, institutional repositories, publishers, and vendors globally.

COUNTER for Libraries includes resources, including Foundation Classes, Friendly Guides, and a Manual for Librarians. The COUNTER Code of Practice for libraries “ensures that librarians are able to compare usage statistics from different vendors, calculate cost-per-use, and make better informed purchasing decisions.”

For publishers and vendors, COUNTER provides a guide to becoming a COUNTER compliant content provider. Paul Meehan, part of the Journal Usage Statistics Portal, offers top tips for COUNTER compliance for vendors, including comments on challenges with compliance. Some notable publishers and vendors who support COUNTER include Springer Nature, Sage Publishing, Atmire, HighWire, Wolters Kluwer, Scholarly IQ, IOP Publishing, ABC, JISC, and BPA Worldwide.

While some vendors may resist providing information, whether they lack the sophisticated technology to pull data or fear that low usage statistics may result in losing an account, ultimately an awareness of how often a resource is used can only serve to improve the information being provided and thus the greater likelihood of libraries purchasing the resource because of its enhanced value. COUNTER may be the solution that works for everyone.

Women’s History Month Resources

March is Women’s History Month and the CRIVblog would like to highlight some sources of information related to Women’s History and legal rights for women.  

First up is The National Women’s History Alliance. This group spearheaded the movement to have March declared Women’s History Month and their page has a summary of the process. In addition, the site contains a detailed timeline regarding the history of women gaining rights in the United States. The site provides links to many other useful resources related to women’s history.  

Next is the National Women’s Law Center, per their website they “fight for gender justice.” Their site contains information about the historical legal struggles of women in the United States. NWLC is often involved in litigation that affects the rights of women, so the site provides detailed information about current issues. 

The National Organization for Women is another organization that provides resources and useful information about the current issues related to women’s rights. NOW publishes advisories related to their core issues to help everyone understand those issues in more depth.  

HeinOnline has a specific collection known as Women and the Law. This collection provides resources related to Women’s History and their legal rights. This collection has many primary sources related to historical women’s movements as well as analytical sources on these movements.  The collection also covers information related to the struggle for women’s rights.   

Most of the resources above deal specifically with the history and rights of women in the United States. However, the issues covered in the resources above affect women all over the world. The International Resource Justice Center has a section that summarizes the various issues that affect women worldwide. This resource is found under the heading Women’s Human Rights. The page also connects some primary resources through its summation of the issues.  

E-books and Open Book Exams

By: Emilie Menzel, Jane Bahnson

The advent of ChatGPT has left many faculty members uneasy with allowing student access to the internet while taking law exams and many are considering switching back to in-person timed exams. Considering the in-person administration of state bar exams, a switch back to the traditional methods may be a pedagogically sound choice, regardless of the new text writing programs. But what does this mean for open-book exams, and for the many students who have switched, at the urging of publishers, to e-casebooks?

Publishers offer a varying menu of formatting options for purchasing textbooks. Some students will prefer e-books solely for the convenience of transporting them. This is not insignificant, considering the sheer weight of a typical constitutional law, torts, civil procedure, or contracts casebook. Publishers of 1L casebooks such as Aspen Publishing, Foundation Press, and West Academic actively promote e-book editions of their casebooks, although older editions are often not available electronically. Format options can include connected e-book or connected e-book plus print, often with an extra charge for including the print copy.

For those opting to purchase electronic access only, it is important to understand the type of access being purchased. The digital preservation is another question, as this may limit long-term access. For example, Aspen’s Learning Library offers a collection of digital study aids through an institutional subscription, which can be accessed by students through an application of the same name. However, these files will only stay on a device for 120 days.

There are often limitations when it comes to downloading electronic casebooks, due to restrictions imposed by publishers and by copyright laws. Aspen’s Casebook Connect does not allow downloading by students and only 30% of the book can be printed. However, those books published by Aspen that can be purchased through the VitalSource eReader can be downloaded and accessed offline. CasebookPlus, the West Academic and Foundation Press e-book platform, allows titles to be downloaded, and it also comes with a print copy. If you opt out of the print copy, you can print up to 10 pages at a time. However, a “learning library” accompanying a purchase includes study aids that cannot be downloaded, and access expires after 12 months.

So, what should faculty members consider when assigning casebooks? If an open book exam is contemplated, assigning a book available through a platform that allows downloading and use offline will avoid problems for students who purchase e-books. At a minimum, students should be aware of the issue upfront before they purchase their course textbook so they can choose a format that can be used in an open book exam. If assigning an older casebook with electronic versions that have limited downloading options, consider asking colleagues or former students to loan spare print copies for the open book exam. Alternatively, when selecting a textbook, consider some of the free and low-cost casebooks available on a variety of legal topics, and choose ones that can be used offline or printed out for exam use:

CRIV / Bloomberg Law Semiannual Call

Jeanne Frazier Price
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Director of the Wiener-Rogers Law Library
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Participants: Jeanne Frazier Price (CRIV Liaison to Bloomberg Law), Lauren Kaplan (Head of Strategy, Bloomberg Law), Michelle Hook Dewey (AALL Executive Board Liaison to CRIV) & Ross Pendley (Customer Experience Manager, Bloomberg Law)

Updates from Bloomberg Law

Mike Bernier, former Director of Library Relations at Bloomberg Law, had long served as Bloomberg’s liaison to CRIV. Mike retired at the end of November 2022. While we very much miss Mike’s helpfulness, good nature, and kindness, we look forward to working with Lauren and Ross.

The update on Bloomberg Law products centered on (1) improvements in findability and accessibility of materials on Bloomberg; (2) enhancements to docket information and the discoverability of information about dockets and the documents in them; (3) additions to practical guidance resources; and (iv) an increased presence on the part of Bloomberg Law in trending issues important to the legal community. Highlights from Bloomberg Law follow.

Improvements in Findability/Accessibility

  • Users can now search by phrase within a document, rather than having to sift through appearances of the individual words that make up the phrase
  • Sorting options have improved
  • Recommendations based on past use are suggested

Docket and Litigation Enhancements

  • New courts added (additional state and local courts; Puerto Rico Court of First Instance) and some progress on lifting access restrictions in other courts
  • New filtering options for search results (e.g., resolution, settlement noted, class action, county court)
  • Patent Trial and Appeal Board cases can now be filtered by inter partes review, covered business method, post-grant review
  • Improved docket search functionality from the initial search option
  • New fields for filtering within docket search results: case outcome, case settlement, potential class action, case status, case length in days
  • Causes of Action field and complaint summaries added to Docket Alerts for federal district court cases

Practical Guidance Improvements

  • Labor & Employment
    • New customized chart-builder functionality for local paid leave and local minimum wage information
    • Enhanced practical guidance on pay equity
    • Updated 8th edition of ABA-jointly published The Developing Labor Law: The Board, the Courts, and the National Labor Relations Act
    • Additions to resources on employee immigration issues, including docket tracking and updated practical guidance on employee hiring
  • Transactional Drafting Tools
    • Additions of different types of agreements to the Draft Analyzer
    • Additions to sample contract clauses to cover trending issues related to, among other things, supply-chain challenges
  • Environmental, Social, and Governance Issues
    • New toolkit for the health industry, including specific information focused on drug retailers, health care delivery and manager care
    • New toolkit for the manufacturing industry, including specialized guidance for companies engaging in mining, oil and gas activities, electronics-related activities, and technology
  • Privacy and Data Security
    • Updated home page and enhanced alert features
    • Enhancements to functionality for building state bill proposal searches for biometric and consumer privacy initiatives
    • Enhanced access to information on Edgar filings and transactional precedents, dockets and court opinions, state privacy resources, international materials, and federal statutes, regulations, and agency materials
    • Enhanced client alerts related to the General Data Protection Regulation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • Banking and Finance
    • New practice pages on fintech compliance and the UCC
    • Updated practice center features including new state banking and finance regulation and federal banking and finance regulation trackers, each with alerting and filtering functionality
    • Improvements to state and federal securities coverage and enhancements to the functionality of the Rule 506 Form D Filings Chart Builder
  • Emerging Issues
    • Three new In Focus features
      • One that enables discovery of A.I.-related information and documents across practice areas, including an interactive state map linking to a comparison table of A.I.-related legislation and regulations
      • A second focusing on federal and state developments in abortion law arising out of the Dobbs decision
      • And another on pay transparency at state and local levels

Engagement in Current Issues

Bloomberg continues its support of both:

  • The Law School Innovation Program which identifies and honors law schools and faculty that implement programming designed to advance new methodologies in teaching
  • The DEI Framework which recognizes law firms that meet standardized and transparent criteria in measuring diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Requests for Assistance

Since the last liaison call, CRIV had received only one request for assistance involving Bloomberg products. That request related to the sometimes unavailability of downloads from particular dockets; users would receive an error message to the effect that the particular document required courier retrieval (which was inaccurate – the document was available for download on PACER). Bloomberg had acknowledged the problem but had shared no timetable for resolution. Similar concerns had been voiced on the law library directors listserv. Mike Bernier was contacted, investigated the problem, and quickly got back in touch with both the CRIV liaison and the librarian who had submitted the request. The problem, which had to do with multi-part pleadings in particular courts, was identified and largely fixed. The requestor described Mike’s responsiveness and help as “fantastic.”

Questions from CRIV

The call concluded with questions raised by the CRIV liaison. First, with respect to print materials, Bloomberg continues to publish only tax materials in print. There are no current plans to change that approach. As to the availability of stand-alone access to the ABA/Bloomberg Law Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct, Bloomberg representatives believed that such access is available and intend to follow up with additional information. Some concerns were raised about the difficulty of accessing Bloomberg News / Bloomberg Terminal articles in the Bloomberg Law platform. Lauren and Ross acknowledged that this was a known issue, that improvements were underway, and that, in the meantime, there were work-arounds. Finally, the Bloomberg representatives were asked about the reception to the changes in access and pricing for Pacer materials for academic customers that were instituted some time ago in order to curb some unexpectedly high use. Lauren and Ross suggested that those changes seem to now be fairly well-accepted among the academic user community.

CRIV / Thomson Reuters Semiannual Call

Elizabeth Outler
eResources Librarian
LAC Group

Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Participants: Elizabeth Outler (CRIV Liaison to Thomson Reuters), Mark Baker (Director of Product Management, Thomson Reuters), Blythe McCoy (Thomson Reuters Information Management Consultant), Michelle Hook Dewey (AALL Executive Board Liaison to CRIV)

Thomson Reuters provided an overview of their new platform, Westlaw Precision.

  • Thomson Reuters developed Westlaw Precision because legal research still takes a lot of time and lawyers are often worried they’ve missed something important.
    • Searches inevitably miss relevant documents due to language variation because courts use different terms than your search to refer to the same concept.
    • How to improve research outcomes and time spent for researchers?
    • Addition of new Precision Attributes to improve case law research in Westlaw Precision: legal issues and outcomes, facts, motions and outcomes, causes of action, party types.
    • New and intuitive classification systems to use these attributes for searching, browsing results, and filtering.
  • Added 250 attorneys to editorial staff and trained them to capture the Precision Attributes from cases (in selected topics for the first phase rollout of Westlaw Precision).
    • Machines still can’t do it at the level of quality and reliability needed.
    • Attorney-editor tagging followed by extensive quality control process.
  • New Browse Boxes in search result display help researchers quickly and confidently determine whether to read each case – Browse Box includes legal issue and outcome, material facts from the decision, causes of action and motion types (with outcome) from the decision.
  • Build a Precision Search by selecting issues and facts in the Precision Search template (on the home page), or run a search in the main search box and then use the new Precision filters to limit your result to cases with your issue, facts, and outcome.
    • Can also use Precision filters to assist with issue-spotting (helpful for law students or more junior attorneys).
  • Launched with 8 topics (Antitrust, Commercial Law, Employment Law, Federal Civil Procedure, Federal Class Actions, Federal Discovery and Evidence, Federal Remedies, and Securities Law); post-launch released 3 more: Insurance, Arbitration and Real Estate. State Civil Procedure coming soon.
  • Back to 2010 for all published cases in each topic, plus older leading cases (frequently cited).
  • Results from a large test involving over 100 attorneys showed that Westlaw Precision users were twice as fast at finding relevant cases compared to Westlaw Edge.
  • Significant quality improvements – 90% of participants said Westlaw Precision helped them find cases they might not have found otherwise.
  • Rollout to law schools in January.
  • Developers are very interested in feedback from users.

Additional features available in Westlaw Precision rollout:

  • KeyCite Cited With – what other cases are cited alongside my case?
    • Adjust how closely together the cases are cited.
    • Citing relationship filter – allows you to filter out cases that don’t cite your case or are cited by your case.
  • KeyCite Overruled in Part – attempts to solve the “red flag problem,” where a red flag makes a case look like bad law just because one point was overruled.
    • Helps navigate directly to that point of law and highlights the operative language so you don’t have to hunt for it.
  • Graphical view of research history
    • Helps navigate research history so you can reconstruct your steps.
    • Highlights documents where you spent a lot of time or returned multiple times.
  • Keep list
    • Each item in search result you can bookmark to add to your list (up to 50).
    • Remains across research sessions – move to folders if you want to organize or retain.
  • Hide details
    • Click and it will minimize the info displayed in search results so that you can tell you already looked at the case.
  • Outline builder
    • Create a research outline in Westlaw and drag language from a case or other document into it.
    • Can submit it to Quick Check and find related case law.
    • Can export to Word.

Guest post by: Amber Cain, Technology and Research Services Librarian & Assistant Professor, Seton Hall Law is a free legal research database that provides public access to U.S. case law (archival, present, and newly released slip opinions) both at the state and federal level. While other free resources and databases also do this, what makes AnyLaw interesting is that it includes proximity operators in its search engine. Users can also run filtered searches for case law narrowed by topic and/or jurisdiction, save their searches, and download cases. AnyLaw’s post-search features include a search within results function, date range and court filters, and a sort option to sort by relevance, citation count, and date. When accessing cases, users can see hyperlinked cases that are cited by the case they are examining, as well as hyperlinked cases that the case they are examining is cited by.

AnyLaw also includes features such as topic pages (which include topics such as Intellectual Property and Cannabis) and case summaries, and it aggregates news articles and blog posts from various sources. Additionally, it hosts its Law Thoughts, which publishes articles such as: 4 Services Your Law Firm Should Outsource and An 11-Step Guide To Writing A Will At An Early Age.

For more information, visit: . Additionally, an interview with Steven Tover, the CEO of AnyLaw can be found in Forbes.

Sydney and Friends – Legal Research, A.I., and Chat GPT

ChatGPT and OpenAI, Bing and Sydney (it sounds like a movie!), Google Bard . . . all references (sometimes to the same thing) to tools (or something more than tools . . . intelligent tools? . . . sentient tools? . . . or not tools at all but some sort of quasi-human intelligence?) that, at least in the minds of some real humans, “trace the outer bounds of human creativity” and usher in “a new dawn in how we build.” [Thompson]  Creepily deep conversations can be had with Sydney (the real name of the AI/chat function on Bing); Sydney can fall in love – somewhat obsessively; Sydney uses emojis to excess; and Sydney wants to be human. [Roose]

We’ve been inundated with articles about the dangers – and benefits – of artificial intelligence and resources like ChatGPT in law practice and in the academy.  ChatGPT can write essays about law; it can tell you what the law is (albeit without citations); and it can get a decent grade on a law school exam and pass the bar exam.  Reaction from lawyers, law scholars, and teachers to ChatGPT has focused on, among other things, its potential for cogently summarizing massive amounts of law-related information and providing a clear and at least sometimes accurate description of the law, its potential for data mining and extracting information from files and documents; its ability to draft contracts and add increasingly complex provisions upon request; and its facility in writing text, titles, captions, etc., for blog posts, briefs, memos, reports to clients, whatever.    

I wanted to think about A.I. in the context of the legal research databases that law publishers (if we can still call them that) make available to us and, more specifically, in the context of traditional (at least in substance if not in form) legal research itself.  We all know that vendors have long incorporated A.I. tools into their resources, whether it’s to, among other things, accommodate natural language searching, analyze and compare briefs and contracts, explore and predict the decisions of particular judges, characterize the kinds of expertise of particular attorneys and experts, identify authorities whose value has been questioned, or predict whether proposed legislation will be enacted.  But in a time when ChatGPT – in its relatively early form – can adequately – albeit, again, without any indication of sources – answer questions like what are the elements of negligence in Nevada; what do I need to do to do a Regulation D offering; how do I set up a generation-skipping trust; or what’s the liability for dog bites in California, what does that mean for legal research databases going forward?  And is the kind of technology on which vehicles like ChatGPT depend well adapted to answer the legal research questions that lawyers – and law students – pose?

None of our familiar – and not-so-familiar – legal research databases do anything quite like what Sydney does.  As a general rule, we enter a query and we’re referred to authorities that the database technology has determined apply to what we asked.  There’s no generation of text by the resource itself.   Sometimes – if we’re lucky – there’s a source that does answer our question pretty directly, but that source is really answering someone else’s question that happens to be – at least in the judgment of the database engine – remarkably similar to ours. 

I – who know nothing about AI systems – am the last person who should attempt to understand how something like ChatGPT works, but maybe there is something in the underlying approach of systems like ChatGPT that might make them either useful in the context of traditional legal research or a little bit dangerous. 

Thank goodness others can write about these things incredibly clearly.  Ted Chiang’s article, “ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web” in the February 9th issue of The New Yorker describes the difference between lossless compression and lossy compression when it comes to digitally storing information.  Data, images, whatever, are compressed for storage and, then, when their content is needed, they are somehow reinvigorated and, like a sponge taking on water, expanded so that they can be used.  Sometimes the compression is ‘lossless’ and the rejuvenation process is robust and complete, but, in the case of large language processors like ChatGPT, the compression is, instead, ‘lossy’, that is to say, something of the original is lost each time the compression and expansion process takes place.  Chiang analogizes to an image that is repeatedly photocopied; each successive image is increasingly blurry.  And, he points out, that if ChatGPT output becomes part of the universe of information that ChatGPT uses to produce answers, the blurring of new output becomes all the more pronounced.   

Chiang suggests that if something like ChatGPT used lossless compression its output would be only immaterially different from what a search engine now retrieves.  If ChatGPT employed a lossless algorithm, Chiang predicts that “it would always answer questions by providing a verbatim quote from a relevant Web page. We would probably regard the software as only a slight improvement over a conventional search engine.”  Bloomberg, Lexis, Westlaw, and other legal research tools provide us with exactly this, in Chiang’s words, “verbatim quotes” from relevant and recognized sources. They also provide us with the full text of those sources. 

Sometime in the future, though, it’s conceivable that our legal research resource providers might employ something like ChatGPT to directly answer our questions.  Unlike Sydney which has the entire web at his/her their disposal, we might not have to worry too much about misinformation if an AI-ChatGPT-like system was implemented in the big legal research databases – if, that is, the universe of content included only primary authorities and vetted secondary authorities (and not AI-generated responses to queries).  But it might trouble us that a machine – sentient as it may be – was formulating responses to our queries in language that no one actually wrote or reviewed. . . . especially when secondary sources are supposed to serve exactly those information-providing purposes. If we want someone – well, really, something – else to write what we pass off as our own work, we may have problems quite apart from the accuracy of the content of whatever is written. We care a lot about attribution or at least we’re supposed to . . . do we attribute text to the resource and its Sydney-like being?

As law librarians or lawyers, do we really want tools (or beings) that may use somewhat degraded content to produce grammatically well-written – albeit perhaps not too creative or inspiring – text that answers our questions?  Admittedly, maybe sometimes we do, but we might hope that those circumstances are few and far between. It’s fun and entertaining – and creepy – to interact with Sydney; I’m just not sure I’d want his/her/ their take on my legal research question.

Ted Chiang, “ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web,” The New Yorker, February 9, 2023.

Jenna Greene, “Will ChatGPT Make Lawyers Obsolete? (Hint: Be Afraid)”, Reuters, December 9, 2022.

Charlotte Johnstone, “It Can Do ‘Real Freaking Work’: Could Lawyers Be Replaced by ChatGPT,” Law.Com International, February 9, 2023.

Paul Riermaier, “ChatGPT and Other AI Technologies in the Study and Practice of Law,” Penn Carey Law, University of Pennsylvania, February 6, 2023.

Kevin Roose, “Bing’s A.I. Chat: ‘I Want to Be Alive,’” N.Y. Times, Feb. 16. 2023.

Derek Thompson, “Breakthroughs of the Year,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2022.

Civil Rights Collections

In honor of Black History Month the CRIV blog is highlighting some of the collections related to the history of Civil Rights. These collections contain photos, documents and other resources that can help us understand the history of the movement for Civil and Political Rights in the United States.

The National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) is part of the Smithsonian Institute and covers the history of African Americans in the United States. The digital collection has many digital objects that cover the Civil Rights Movement. Among these digital objects are photographs, buttons, magazines and a variety of documents related to the Civil Rights Movement. These digital objects are available to reuse and share as part of the Smithsonian Open Access initiative.

The Library of Congress, in association with NMAAHC, conducted a project to collect oral histories from individuals involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights History Project is available through the Library of Congress website and contains the video interviews taken for the project. Transcripts of the interviews are also available.

The Civil Rights Digital Library (CRDL) is a project of the University System of Georgia. This archive gathers links to individual items from Digital Collections all over the United States and provides easy access to those items. The CRDL aims to enhance the understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. The archive includes film of historical news broadcasts, photographs, interviews and other resources related to the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the links include material useful for teaching about the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement Archive, formerly known as Civil Rights Movement Veterans, contains photos, documents and other materials from those who participated in the civil rights movement. There is a collection of materials straight from activists involved in all parts of the civil rights movement, which includes written documents, oral histories and videos. In addition, the site also hosts a collection of poetry from various well know African American poets and activists.