Your Opinion Needed! CRIV Vendor Roundtable

For the third year in a row, we will be hosting the CRIV Vendor Roundtable virtually in late June (a follow-up announcement with more details coming soon!). If you have not attended before, the roundtable traditionally invites four major legal information vendors — Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law, and Wolters Kluwer — to discuss how their companies or products address a given topic. This year’s overarching topic will be diversity, equity, and inclusion, but because that topic itself is quite broad (and the roundtable is only an hour long), we’d like to narrow it down a little further. That’s where you come in!

CRIV is here to serve the membership, so we want the roundtable topic to reflect the membership’s interests. Within the umbrella topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion, what would you like to hear the vendors address about their products? We have put together a very short, two-question survey to help us narrow down this topic. If you could take thirty seconds out of your day to answer it, we would truly be grateful. You can access the survey here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JHN6TLH). It’ll remain open until May 25th. Thank you for your input!

Islamic Law Resources

April 2nd marked the beginning of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month on the Muslim Lunar Calendar and lasts 29 to 30 days. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Since we are in the middle of this Holy Month I wanted to share some free resources that provide information about Islamic Law.

There are a few journals which publish articles about Islamic Law.

Harvard Law School Publishes the Journal of Islamic Law. This journal is fairly new and provides a look at Islamic law from a historical, comparative and social context.  Harvard also provides access to Shariasource a resource that provides context about Islamic Law as well as primary sources.

UC Berkeley publishes the Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law. This journal is a little older and provides articles that relate to the Middle East as well as Islamic Legal Traditions. The journal focuses mostly on legal issues but also provides information about the philosophical and sociological issues that underpin the legal issues.

Finally, UCLA Law publishes Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law (JINEL). This journal has been around the longest of the three that I have highlighted. JINEL covers all issues related to Islamic Law. They also cover legal topics that may be unrelated to Islamic Law but affect the Near East.

In addition to the Journals above there are a few LibGuides that provide more resources.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Looking back at vendors and the AALL Annual Meeting

Recently, registration opened for the 2022 AALL Annual Meeting (shameless promotion! Register here) and I began to think about past conferences.

Luckily, and perhaps amazingly, AALL keeps a record online of all past conference locations going back to the first meeting in 1906 (help in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island). Scrolling through the list I realized that many older locations were in smaller cities, likely due to the to the smaller size of the organization.

Scrolling though the list is a great distraction:

“Hey, it was held in Saratoga Springs! I used to live near there!”

“French Lick, Indiana? Where’s that? To Google maps!”

Needless to say, this list can be a great game!

However, I also realized (and I promise, this is connected to CRIV) that several meetings were held in Rochester, New York (1945 and 1978). A wonderful city, but also (former) home of Lawyer’s Co-Op. I don’t know the details of these meetings, but I have a feeling that the location of a major legal vendor played a role. Of course, this could also be nothing more than a coincidence.

What role should vendors have in supporting the annual meeting? Is it fine to have vendors sponsor events at a meeting?

I realize and recognize the amazing work that the AALL annual meeting planning committee does, and don’t want to second-guess decisions. What if a vendor, say Bloomberg Law offered to sponsor a meeting but wanted it in New York City? Or maybe in the digital age location matters much less than it did in 1945 or 1978.

What makes a “good” vendor?

Deciding the criteria for a “good” vendor is a personalized and complicated question to answer. The needs and priorities of libraries vary tremendously even in the (relatively!) small world of law libraries. While the exact importance of factors may vary, I suggest that these are items we should be reviewing when we review vendors:

  • Product. Does the product fill a need? Does this item (print subscription, database, service) fill the need that still exists? Are there other alternatives? Changes in library staff, leadership, law school program changes, technology, and the marketplace make it useful to re-examine a product’s need in your library.
  • Cost. Sometimes cost will be an absolute number while other times it is best expressed as cost per use.
  • Usage. Is this item used by most of the first year class? By an entire upper-level writing course? By a single faculty member for scholarship? Although these questions may appear to be framed as “good” to “bad”, maybe that resource is key to that single faculty member’s scholarship. How much weight to place on this factor will vary depending on budgetary needs, however even low-use items may be of great importance to key members of the law school community.
  • Vendor commitment to equity and social justice. How committed is the vendor to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Is this surface-level commitment via social media or are there concrete steps taken by the company? See earlier posts on this blogs for some great examples of vendor action in this area.
  • Customer service. What happens when things go wrong? Flexibility can also fall into this category

Finding a balance between these factors can be tricky. What about a great product with poor customer service? An expensive product with low usage? There are many tricky questions we could ponder. However, this small blog post is simply a reminder against not examining any factors and thinking the scariest phrase in all of collection development: “we’ve always done it this way”.

Keeping Up with the Vendors – In Their Own Words

Tracking developments in legal information vendors’ products and policies is an important part of many law librarians’ jobs, and it’s a valuable pursuit for keeping current in the profession.

While the major legal database and content providers all offer a variety of access points and formats for news about changes to their platforms and offerings, being aware of them all, let alone connecting with them regularly, can be a challenge.

To help, the list below brings together resources for staying abreast of announcements and product-related communications from Bloomberg, Fastcase, HeinOnline, LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Wolters Kluwer. Be sure to bookmark, subscribe, follow, etc. whichever are useful to you, and/or save this blog post for future reference. Please email me at christensena@wlu.edu if you know of anything missing; I’ll plan to keep it updated.

Bloomberg Law

Fastcase

HeinOnline

LexisNexis

Thomson Reuters Legal / Westlaw

Wolters Kluwer

Legal Podcasts from Law 360

Podcasts are great entertainment for long commutes, road trips while eating lunch, or just for some much-needed downtime. But what happens when you’re tired of true crime podcasts?

Law360 (Lexis) has podcasts!

Right now, Law 360 produces three podcasts – Pro Say (not a typo), The Term, and Legalization. Each episode is about 30-40 minutes long and available via traditional podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher as well as directly via the website here.

Pro Say is “a weekly podcast from Law360, bringing you a quick recap of both the biggest stories and the hidden gems from the world of law. In each episode, hosts Amber McKinney and Alex Lawson are joined by expert guests to bring you inside the newsroom and break down the stories that had us talking.” There are over 200 episodes available as of February 2022.

The Term “is a podcast for the busy U.S. Supreme Court watcher. Give us about 15 minutes each week and we’ll catch you up on all the big action at the nation’s highest court, along with a list of what to watch in the coming sessions.” Right now, there are almost 100 episodes and understandable this podcast will likely become more relevant as controversial cases appear before the Court.

Legalization “explores some of the murky legal scenarios playing out for cannabis businesses across the country. We share first-hand accounts from the businesses and attorneys grappling with an industry that is often legal at the state level but prohibited at the federal level.” It is just starting a second season.

Black Librarians: In Their Own Voice

A couple years ago, Book Riot posted an article by Katisha Smith titled, “13 Pioneering Black Librarians You Oughta Know.” Among others, Smith introduces us to Edward C. Williams, the first Black Librarian, Dorothy B. Porter, the “Dewey Decimal Decolonizer,” Clara Stanton Jones, the first Black President of the American Library Association, Eliza Atkins Gleason, Library Science Trailblazer, and Sadie Peterson Delaney, “Godmother of Bibliotherapy.” Only one of the thirteen librarians we meet is alive today. And that made me wonder — who are some of today’s pioneers? The list below is a result of entering that rabbit hole that is the internet and following one link after another. Obviously, the list is not exhaustive, and it is a bit eclectic. But what these librarians share is a passion for documenting and telling the Black experience, each in their own voice. If you have not yet met them, I’d like to introduce you to them.

In “Chronicling the Black Experience,” Mark Lawton writes about librarians and archivists who collect and tell their own stories. One is Rodney E. Freeman, Jr. who created the Black Male Archives, an online repository to “capture, curate, and promote positive stories about Black men around the world while inspiring and informing younger generations.” The Blackivists are a collective of six trained Black archivists located in Chicago. As part of their goal of prioritizing Black cultural heritage preservation and memory work, they provide training, project management, best practices, and consultation on analog and digital archives upkeep. Makiba Foster is regional manager of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center at Broward County Library in Florida. With archivist and scholar Bergis Jules, she formed Archiving the Black Web. The project “aims to organize efforts to collect and contextualize social media and other internet content that focus on the Black experience.”

The Black Librarian in America: Reflections, Resistance and Reawakening is the latest in the series of “The Black Librarian in America” volumes. Edited entirely by Black women — Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Nichelle M. Hayes, Ana Ndumu, and Shaundra Walker — the book addresses issues pertaining to Black librarians’ intersectional identities, capacities, and contributions. The book is available on pre-order with an expected release date on February 18, 2022.

Alma Dawson, in “Celebrating African-American Librarians and Librarianship,” an article published in Library Trends in 2000, celebrates the achievements of African-American librarians and their contributions to librarianship. Dawson identifies and reviews records of scholarship that are intended to serve as starting points for students and scholars. There is a wealth of detailed information including major studies, organizations, and recurring themes in the literature. Take a minute to read her review of demographics at the time of her writing.

Little Known Black Librarian Facts is a blog published by Michele T. Fenton, a cataloger at the Indiana State Library. Since 2011 she has posted about African American librarians and their library services to African Americans. She highlights African American pioneers and the library profession, and the triumphs and struggles in making library services available to African Americans. There also is a long list of her favorite websites and the blogs that she follows — a veritable collection of rabbit holes to fall into and from which you may never return!

Librarians Glenda Alvin and Tahirah Akbar-Williams, members of the African American Studies Librarians Interest Group (AASLIG) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) created a LibGuide that focuses on the scholarly research and services associated with identifying, preserving, and disseminating resources for the study of African American history, culture, and life. The LibGuide includes information about databases, websites, digital collections, books, periodicals, museums and cultural centers, and archives related to African American studies. They also highlight the SACO African American Subject Funnel Project, a project concentrated on creating new subject headings and changing/updating of old subject headings relating to the African American experience.

Karla J. Strand, Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed a reading list on “Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship.” Most recently updated in June 2021, the extensive bibliography contains citations (and links when available) to resources focused on race, racism, and disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries. Special emphasis is placed on the field of library and information science and librarianship as a profession.

The Rocky Mountain PBS station posted an interview with Janet Damon, library services specialist for Denver Public Schools and who recently received the Rev. Dr. James Peters Humanitarian Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission for her work as a librarian and community organizer. In her position with DPS, Damon provides diversity and equity training for librarians and paraprofessionals within the district’s roughly 200 schools. This includes ensuring libraries have culturally-sustaining collections — or as she states in the interview, “just ensuring that students can see themselves in our libraries and our collections.” Outside of her job, Damon started, with three other Black Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and/or LGBTQ+ librarians, an organization called Afros and Books. In addition to promoting authors from diverse backgrounds and literature to the community, Afros and Books created several sub-groups to promote their work. One is called “Black to Nature Book Club,” which started during the pandemic to help children and families cope with isolation, stress, and anxiety. Damon, upon receiving her award, may have summed up the work Black librarians are doing: “This is my joy. I think it’s important when we feel like we’re walking in our purpose and integrity with what our soul is here to do.”

Want to Choose Your Content? LexisNexis Digital Library Is a Solution

Our library subscribes to LexisNexis Digital Library which uses the OverDrive platform for content.

The best thing about this product is that it allows us to select individual titles that we think our students, faculty, alumni, or guests will actually use! We don’t have to buy a huge, expensive package full of titles that we do not want or that will not be used just to get the titles that we do want.

Because we have a health law focus, we’ve chosen a handful of American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) titles for our faculty who do research in health compliance areas. For our students, we have selected Carolina Academic Press textbook and study aid titles that we formerly purchased in print for our Course Reserve collection. For our alums and guest attorneys, we have added LexisNexis New Jersey practice content. And, for all our users who are interested in social justice and other interdisciplinary and non-legal content, we have purchased various monograph titles from the OverDrive Advantage marketplace. 

Like every program, there are pros and opportunities for improvement.

For our library, here are some pros:

  • We can select textbook and study aid titles of strong interest to our students.
  • We can access the Advantage program which allows us to purchase non-legal and interdisciplinary content that OverDrive sells.
  • We can purchase audiobooks from OverDrive, and this allows us to offer a solution to auditory learners and those who take advantage of learning while commuting or exercising.
  • OverDrive offers various lending models: one user, simultaneous user, metered access, etc.
  • Borrowing the ebooks and audiobooks is easy.
  • Highlighting, bookmarking, and annotating books is easy and intuitive.
  • Running usage reports is easy.
  • We can switch content if usage is low.
  • OverDrive and LexisNexis reps are quick to respond and answer questions.
  • There is now a link to the platform via the product switcher in Lexis+ which will allow faculty and students to quickly access content in LexisNexis Digital Library.
  • Most titles are available in OverDrive knowledge base collections for discovery in library catalogs (although, LexisNexis provides a custom title ID to replace the OverDrive title ID).

I’ve identified some potential opportunities…

  • The program is a little different from other programs because while you can select the titles you want in the plan, you also pay for each title individually regardless of bibliographic format. For the serial and integrating resource content, it seems normal to pay each year since the content is updated; it’s a normal renewal. For monographs that do not get updated, you must also renew each year, but you don’t get an extra copy like you would if you paid for a print monograph or ebook (from ebook vendors such as Ebsco or ProQuest) a second time.

But, going back to a pro listed above, you can switch out content if a title is not being used. So, if our users are not using Understanding and Mastering the Bluebook, we can switch it out for a title that we think might be used more. Monitoring use of individual titles is insightful and challenges the traditional thinking that a certain title is “used all the time.” Monitoring usage allows for more selective collection development. For us, at this time, it is still worth it to renew monograph titles each year given the convenience of access.

  • The content is not in pdf. However, the Bluebook (Rules 15.9, 16.8, etc.) provides guidance for citing ebooks and content that is not in pdf.
  • While borrowing ebooks is very easy, returning borrowed ebooks is less intuitive. We’ve drafted user instructions to assist.

In looking at the list of pros and potential opportunities, it is clear to see that there are more pros. During this pandemic, access to digital content is most important to our users so we’re happy that LexisNexis allows us to include individual textbook, study aid, and OverDrive Advantage titles in the package.

Whatever happened to. . . ?

A look back at the AALL New Product Award Winners 2000-2009

Almost each year AALL chooses a New Product Award that “honors new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials. A “new” product is one that has been in the library-related marketplace for two years or less. New products may include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, educational or bibliographic material, or other products or devices that aid or improve library workflow, research, or intellectual access. Products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.”

But what is the track record of these awards? For many years the Grammy Awards “best new artist” was derided as a curse that doomed new artists. Do AALL New Product awards follow that track? Let’s have a look!

2009: Subject Compilations of State Laws (HeinOnline)

A good choice! Hein’s database has only expanded since 2009 and” the 2017-2018 volume adds more than 1,000 entries under 310 main subject headings. Researchers now have instantaneous access to more than 27,000 bibliographic records, many with extensive annotations. There is no longer a need to browse the twenty-plus print volumes in the series.

Most importantly, the annotations link directly to articles and other documents residing in HeinOnline. In all, more than 14,000 records link to HeinOnline periodicals, while the majority of other records link to case law or external websites. Additionally, users will find a subcollection within the database called “Other Related Works” which contains links to more than 670 full-text documents within HeinOnline. Database users also enjoy access to the current and all prior volumes in this series.” (full details available here).

2008: Cassidy Cataloging Services (WLX Cataloging Record Service)

Since 2008 Cassidy Cataloging has expanded the number of records available. Many libraries use their products to provide easier access to electronic resources. Although the titles of these collections have changed, a full list is available here.

2007: No award.

At first glance the “no award” years are worrisome. However, upon reflection, this is a good idea! Not every year is going to have an amazing new product and recognizing this fact keeps the high quality of choices. (Unless an amazing product debuted in 2007! Did I miss something?)

2006: No award.

2005: Thomson Gale (The Making of Modern Law)

This database instantly placed thousand of historic legal materials in the collections of many law libraries. Currently this remains a thriving database that is widely adopted by libraries. “Together, the distinct collections that comprise The Making of Modern Law cover nearly every aspect of American and British law and dig deep into the legal traditions of Europe, Latin America, Asia, and other jurisdictions, both classic and contemporary. Encompassing a range of analytical, theoretical, and practical literature, these collections support and complement the traditional study of law by featuring valuable books from the most influential legal writers throughout history.” More information is available here.

2004: Jenkins Law Library & American Lawyer Media (ALM) (palawlibrary.com)

ALM gradually acquired this resource and redistributed the content to other titles in their electronic databases.

2003: No award

2002: No award

2001: William S. Hein & Co., Inc (Hein-On-Line)

Since 2001, HeinOnline (spelled differently now) greatly expanded and is available in almost all law school libraries in the United States.

2000: IndexMaster, Inc (Indexmaster)

I am not familiar with this title, and it apparently ceased around 2010.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean? In brief, most of the resources that win this award have stood the test of time and remain important parts of the law library collection even 20 years later. I recommend keeping track of current New Product winners as the track record is pretty good!

Agree? Disagree? Did AALL miss major products during this time such as in 2002 or 2002? Was your favorite database snubbed in 2000?  

Copyright Resources

Libraries are often impacted by issues of copyright. Copyright can be complicated and requires some research to determine outcomes of using resources that may be under copyright. However, there are freely available resources available that will help anyone to learn more about Copyright.

The United States Copyright Office provides a wealth of information to learn more about copyright. The homepage provides detailed information for anyone who wants to register a copyright or would like to learn more about the rights and responsibilities of a copyright holder. As with most federal agencies, the Copyright Office provides access to the relevant laws and regulations directly from their homepage in the “Law & Policy” tab. This section provides more than just primary law.

One of the useful links in this tab is for Copyright Office Circulars. The circulars provide detailed information about various aspects of copyright. The subjects range from simple topics such as “Copyright Basics” to more complex topics such as “How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.” Some of these circulars are older but the Copyright office is in the process of refreshing and updating the circulars.

Another link in the “Law & Policy” tab that is extremely useful is the Fair Use Index. The Fair Use index is a database of cases dealing with fair use that have been curated by the US Copyright Office. The database can be sorted by jurisdiction, or category such as “parody/satire,” “music,” or “textual work.” In addition, each case entry has an outcome which indicates if Fair use was found.

The Copyright Office also has a “Research” tab, which provides links to the databases to find information about existing copyrights. In addition, the “Research” tab provides a series of videos known as the “Learning Engine Video Series”. The series provides information about copyright basics as well as links to more detailed information.

The Copyright Office’s “About” page has the History and Education section which provides more detail about history of copyright in the United States as well as resources to learn more about that history. Finally, there is an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page which provides answers to many of the questions that come up related to Copyright.

In addition to the Copyright Office, there are some guides that may help us learn more about copyright. The Stanford Libraries have a Copyright and Fair Use guide which provides detailed information about copyright. In addition to providing information about copyright generally, the page has a “What’s New” section with tabs to track up and coming information on copyright laws and how they may be changing.

CRIV / Wolters Kluwer Bi-Annual Call

The winter bi-annual CRIV / Wolters Kluwer call took place on January 14, 2022, at 9:00 a.m., PST. In attendance were:

  • Jenna Ellis, Wolters-Kluwer Liaison
  • Vani Ungapen, AALL Executive Director
  • Michelle Dewey Hook, AALL CRIV Board Liaison
  • Cynthia Condit, AALL CRIV Wolters Kluwer Liaison

Michelle Dewey Hook was introduced as the new CRIV Board Liaison, replacing Karen Selden. CRIV extends its sincere thanks to Karen for her wonderful service as Board Liaison and attendance at these important vendor calls.

Wolters Kluwer Programs, Activities, or Business of Interest to CRIV and/or AALL – Jenna Ellis.

VitalLaw — Wolters Kluwer rebranded Cheetah as VitalLaw in November 2021. To help answer questions from customers and ensure a smooth transition, Wolters Kluwer created an FAQ site, which is updated as additional feedback is received from users. The FAQs include answers about how to log in for the first time, the scope of changes, permalinks, MARC records, and authentication (e.g., Federated SSO, DRM tools, and proxy servers).

Comprehensive Training Site — Wolters Kluwer now offers multiple complimentary training options located all in one place. It provides a one-stop shop for videos, quick-start cards, and registration for training sessions. Types of training include:

  • Self-paced Tutorials: Short videos designed as an introduction to basic functionality that helps users get started quickly and improves research or workflow efficiency.
  • Feature Courses: LIVE instructor-led sessions. Designed to highlight trending issues these short and fact paced courses are open to registration from multiple organizations and typically include a Q&A component at the end to ensure users can locate the right answers on these topics fast.
  • Customized Training Courses: Also, LIVE instructor-led sessions. Often hands-on, customized training courses are designed for one or more users from a single firm, company, or organization. Wolters Kluwer Legal Training Consultants and professional training teams customize the session to specific subscription content, research needs, and time frame.

Platforms offering complimentary training include:

  • VitalLaw Training
  • VitalLaw for Corporate Counsel Training
  • Kluwer Arbitration Training
  • Clarion Training (due diligence and client advisement tool).
  • Corporate Counsel Profiler Training
  • ftwilliam.com Training (cloud-based employment benefit and pension software)
  • RBsourceFilings Training (integrates EDGAR filings, law firm memos, private placements, SEC No-Action letters, SEC comment letters, and includes IPO Vital Signs)
  • Kluwer Intellectual Property Training
  • Kluwer Competition Training
  • ktMINE Training (all-in-one IP analytics)
  • Almanac of the Federal Judiciary Training (judicial profiles)
  • Technical Answer Group Training (ERISA, retirement, and pension planning)

Seamless Integration Solutions Update — Wolters Kluwer provides a short 2-minute updated video on tech solutions it has implemented that allow access to deep domain expertise quickly and efficiently through a more efficient workflow. Practitioners can take advantage of new treatise search solutions, firm sign on authentication that avoids user sign on with ID and password, permanent links to chapters, subchapters, and practical content, access by citation feature, and over 850 customizable title and practice tool widgets.

Direct Email Support – Legal Pro Training Tech Group — If you need tech support, have access issues (e.g., EZproxy, Federated SSO), have questions about a specific training session, or other needs, you can contact the Legal Pro Training Tech Group’s direct email at legalprotraining@wolterskluwer.com. The mailbox is checked daily.

Requests for Assistance – Cynthia Condit, Jenna Ellis.

Since the last bi-annual call, two requests were received. Jenna responded to the requests and currently no request for assistance are pending.

AALL Programs, Activities, or Business of Interest to Wolters Kluwer – Vani Ungapen.

Vani thanked Wolters Kluwer for being an exhibitor at AALL’s annual meeting in 2021.

She provided information about AALL’s upcoming 2022 annual meeting, which will be held in Denver, Colorado July 16-19. Currently, the event is scheduled for in-person attendance. New this year, AALL is working with a conference planner, which will manage both the conference and the exhibit hall event. AALL is working on finalizing sponsorship and will reach out to Wolters Kluwer later this month to further discuss participation.

Adjournment.

As there were no other items for discussion, the meeting adjourned at 10:23 a.m.

PACER Access in 2022

As the Open Courts Act of 2021 progresses along its hopeful path to passage, promising the end of exorbitant PACER fees, many of us in academia are wondering what this will mean for the docket access we currently purchase (or wish we could purchase) through vendors such as Bloomberg, Lexis, Westlaw, and/or Fastcase.  It’s worth it at this point to take a look back at where we’ve been, and forward to where we may be headed, and we are optimistic at the prospects.

PACER fees have been a long-standing headache for academics. The money generated in accessing electronic public court records provides the judiciary with a substantial revenue stream, with predicted PACER revenue for both fiscal years 2021 and 2022 of about 142 million, yet PACER itself lacks the enhancements commercial providers offer, like alerts. For academic institutions, the financial burden incurred by clinics and researchers who need to follow cases can be substantial and often prohibitive. When Bloomberg Law entered the legal research market in 2010, law school libraries breathed a sigh of relief as this new service provided unlimited access to PACER for academic accounts. Unfortunately, years later and in the face of mounting costs, this was walked back with dollar limits, returning many institutions to the dreaded “before” days of limited PACER access and looking for alternatives. Other platforms offer some forms of docket access, but not to the extent Bloomberg once provided, and academia is often charged large additional fees, if our academic accounts have docket access at all.

PACER fees have been the target of both creative solutions and lawsuits, with limited or yet-to be-seen success. Recap offers free access to PACER documents uploaded by users in a crowdsourced database, but access is limited to those documents others have sourced and included. The 2016 lawsuit filed by the National Consumer Law Center and the National Veterans Legal Services accusing the US Government of overcharging and misusing PACER fees achieved preliminary success in the DC Circuit but still churns on, although the end may be in sight. While this action has very recently (and tentatively) settled, we don’t yet know the terms, or what relief may be included for academic institutions. A status report is scheduled for January 20. We’ll see.

In the meantime, Congress is working hard on a legislative fix. In the 116th Congress, the Open Courts Act of 2020 passed the House, and was sent to the Senate where it died in the Judiciary Committee, but not without garnering substantial support. That bill had only two sponsors, and it would have still allowed the charging of fees for “power users,” with the caveat that these fees “may not impair access to justice and the public right of access to court records,” nor “restrain innovation” or “inhibit not for profit research of the business of the Federal courts.” 

So, is relief finally coming? The current Open Courts Act of 2021 was introduced last August in the Senate by Republican Rob Portman with the bi-partisan support of 14 co-sponsors. This version would still allow fees against users who spend more than $25,000 a quarter, along with federal agencies, which will help fund a new case management system.  Although it has been reported favorably out of the Judiciary Committee, and an identical bill was re-introduced in the House last November, GovTrack only gives it a 13% chance of passage, and Lexis+ bill tracking also predicts the chance of passage as low. Perhaps these algorithms don’t read press releases or don’t factor in the bi-partisan support, the lack of any vocal opponents, or the ongoing legal disputes it would resolve, but plenty of us put the odds of passage much greater as this issue has gained wide traction.

Which leads us to ask our vendors, what will you do once PACER fees become free to the public? Will you allow academic institutions to subscribe to all of your docket alert and tracking services? Will the large added fees for docket access be waived, allowing our students to gain practice in researching dockets and thereby draw more customers to your product? Or, will this allow for the development of new and even more user-friendly docket search platforms?  As Bloomberg discovered, docket access can be a great magnet drawing users to your platforms. Once PACER fees are contained, or perhaps in anticipation thereof, we are anxiously awaiting the enhanced docket access the new year may bring.

Review-it: Yelp for Law Libraries

Have you heard of Review-it? Review-it won the 2021 AALL Innovation Showcase in three categories: government, law firm, and law school.

Lindsey Carpino, Legal Content Services Supervisor at BakerHostetler, and Annie Mentkowski, Agency Librarian with the United States Railroad Retirement Board Library, submitted the idea.

As a person who works in collections, I think this product looks fantastic! It is a crowd-sourced review tool that is similar to Yelp. It allows customers to provide anonymous feedback, both positive and negative.

There is an analytics dashboard that allows users to filter by vendor, constituency size (firm size/law school size), legal area (transactional, litigation, or general), or content type (case law, ebook, news/alert services). Users can rate based on satisfaction, customer service, ease of use, and cost.

At some point, the creators foresee having a subscription service add-on where subscribers would also receive quarterly or year-end reports and access to more data. They would also like to add more search and filter features and are hoping to hire a web developer soon to take the website to the next level.

The product is still being beta-tested but Lindsey and Annie plan to officially launch in the spring. Watch for an email!

To learn more, check out the LawSites blog post by Bob Ambrogi.

CRIV/LexisNexis Semiannual Call

Held: December 8, 2021, 12:00 p.m. (Eastern).

In attendance:

  • Carolyn Bach, Sr. Manager, Knowledge & Research and Faculty Programs, LexisNexis
  • Simon Weierman, Sr. Director, Segment Management, LexisNexis
  • Vani Ungapen, Executive Director, AALL
  • Michelle Hook Dewey, AALL Executive Board Liaison to CRIV
  • Ashley Ames Ahlbrand, CRIV Liaison to LexisNexis

This update includes product enhancements released between July and December 2021.

The Lexis+® Experience

  • Improved the search experience on Lexis+ with updates to:
    • Extend the reach of Lexis Answers® to secondary sources
    • Add a new Motion Type filter in briefs, pleadings and motions search results
    • Add support for sorting by TOC order when searching TOC sources
    • Launch the Search Tree for natural language and refine presentation of the Boolean Search Tree
    • Enhance the Search Within Results capability so users can target selected document sections, and add control to include or exclude documents matching the user-provided terms
    • Enhance filtering of Arbitration Decisions by enabling users to filter by a particular arbitrator 
    • Enable the Graphical View of search results (aka Search Term Maps) for an additional nine content types
  • Rolled out multiple enhancements to Shepard’s® Citations Service, including:
    • Shepard’s integration into the Document view for quick access via tabs
    • Shepard’s interactive visualization of the citing decision treatment by jurisdiction or date
    • Additional support for delivery of Shepard’s At Risk indicators with the delivered report
  • Improved upon Brief Analysis through multiple updates, including:
    • Rollout of Judicial Brief Analysis, which enables users to compare up to six documents (three for each side) and receive one comprehensive report of all case law arguments, citations and quotes to help determine accuracy, relevance and argument strength
    • Launch of an integrated Quote Check capability for users to validate that they have quoted primary source materials correctly with the right pin cites for the location of their quotes
    • Integration of expert tips and cases recommended in treatise publications and Practical Guidance through secondary source recommendations
  • Enriched Lexis+ Litigation Analytics coverage through:
    • Addition of new courts from seven new counties in California and Georgia
    • Upgraded existing court coverage to Enhanced level in New York, Florida, Utah, and Wisconsin
    • Updated Practical Guidance interface with a user experience refresh within Lexis+
  • Enhanced the Lexis+ Legal News Hub with smart tabs that customize the experience with user intervention, and added new content sources, including Law360® UK, Law360 Tax Authority, Law360 Employment Authority and Law360 Insurance Authority
  • Launched related secondary source document recommendations based upon the LexisNexis headnote and the case law document the user is viewing
  • Improved the Work Folder experience by enabling users to search within full-text documents saved to folders
  • Enhanced the Negative News feature with LexisNexis Smartindexing Technology™ filters by subject

The Lexis+ and Lexis® Services

  • Extended a multi-year global licensing agreement with The New York Times®, added 300+ publications from Newsbank Inc., and 100+ publications from ProQuest® and the Tribune Content Agency to our news collection
  • Added 1.8M briefs, pleadings, motions, and trial court orders online to expand the leading LexisNexis collection
  • Added new international primary law collections for Syria and Cuba, totaling 27 new countries added in 2021
  • Added Browser Zoom Notification Messages on Lexis and Lexis+ to inform users of the ideal viewing and display experience when utilizing Zoom functions
  • Launched Burton’s Legal Thesaurus on Lexis and Lexis+, giving users access to distillation of  complex legal terms into plain language and offering 14,000 synonyms, legal phrases and associated concepts

Practical Guidance

  • Expanded Market Standards, our solution for analysis of market trends, to include new deals; it now contains more than 37,000 M&A deals, 4,900 employment agreements and 2,700 credit agreements
  • Released Clause filters, enabling users to find on-point clauses more quickly
  • Rolled out new content including:
    • NY Employee Handbook Supplement, a sizable collection of annotated NY and NYC employee handbook policies for attorneys to use when developing handbooks for employers
    • Key estate planning templates for all U.S. states and territories (290 total templates) in Trusts & Estates
    • A new Civil Litigation Brief Writing Fundamentals video in Practical Guidance, enabling users to get up to speed on the essential elements of successful brief writing in a visually engaging and user-friendly format; includes related content links for deeper guidance on motion practice
  • Launched nine new litigation process maps in the Civil Litigation practice area for federal court litigation, including visualizations orienting users to where in the litigation lifecycle their selected phase fits; this resource curates essential content on a litigation phase or subphase, all in one place, and also helps users anticipate and plan for workflow needs further in the litigation process
  • Refreshed the Practical Guidance Author Center to align the look and feel and add new author search functionality, as well as new links to authors’ law firm webpages.

Lexis® Search Advantage

  • Lexis Search Advantage | Litigation—Enhanced the search experience including support for advanced search, configurable pre-search filters and results page, expanded sources when selecting entities, and support for Single Sign On (SSO)
  • Lexis Search Advantage | Transactional—added support for Single Sign On (SSO)
  • Updated the Dockets & Documents page for easier review of recent downloads and dockets in a table format, including more details for each entry
  • Updated the Courts selection menu, enabling users to select their targeted courts more easily
  • Released new courts (California and Illinois) and reactivated dozens of other individual state courts that were temporarily offline due to changes in the state court system

Lex Machina® Capabilities

  • Released the new False Claims Module (October), which provides Legal Analytics for litigation involving the False Claims Act (FCA), as well as related claims under state law; false claims litigation centers on the allegations of fraud against the government by a person or company

Intelligize® Tools and Content

  • Released two new tools for researching Public Companies’ Performance on ESG Issues:
    • A new Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) application that brings together a wide range of ESG-related content for individual companies or peer groups to help companies, advisors and researchers evaluate legal and regulatory risks, devise disclosure strategies and tell their ESG stories effectively to broad audiences
    • A new ESG tab added to the Company Insights offering to help customers (1) streamline ESG disclosure research by paring down complex topics with a simple point and click and (2) drill deeper into graphical representations of trending ESG topics and customize ESG analytics to compare against selected peer companies

MLex® Regulatory Insights

  • Launched new content called “Future Mobility” to follow major regulatory trends impacting the transport industry
  • Added topic tagging that enables more precise search and alert results

CaseMap Cloud Case Analysis Tools

  • Now available in the cloud for user access from anywhere at any time to collaborate, organize, visualize and analyze case facts, issues and documents

Nexis Newsdesk

  • Released a new, modern interface that aligns with the look and feel of Lexis+ and improves the user navigation and search experience
  • Enhanced the Insights display with features especially helpful for business development—pop-ups with details on spikes in coverage, integration of topic and sentiment visualization, summary cards, geo maps revealing global spread and ability to download Insights PDF
  • Enhanced the Saved Content Panel, including the ability to add an article to a search and ability for admins to add and manage groups of users here
  • Enhanced sharing functionality, providing the ability to share multiple newsletters at once and improvements to clipping options
  • Updated Nexis Newsdesk Mobile App: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/nexis-newsdesk-mobile/id1567099763
  • Won SIIA CODiE™ Award for best Content Search & Discovery Solution for the fifth consecutive year

Nexis Diligence

  • Released an updated visual design to improve the product’s ease of use and address customer feedback
  • Launched a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Custom News Search capability

LexisNexis® Dossier

  • Enhanced to offer comprehensive reports on 350+ million public and private companies as a result of integration of CA.com content

New Resources:

{LEGALESE}

LexisNexis, Lexis, Lexis+, Lexis Answers, Shepard’s, CourtLink, CaseMap, Lex Machina, Intelligize and the Knowledge Burst logo are registered trademarks and LexisNexis Smartindexing Technology is a trademark of RELX Inc. Law360 is a registered trademark of Portfolio Media, Inc. Intelligize is a registered trademark of Intelligize, Inc. MLex is a registered trademark of MLex Limited. Other products or services may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Is it an A/B Test?

We recently got an inadvertent peek behind the curtain of the process for evolving legal research database interfaces. Early this fall, working on research exercises for our incoming 1L students, we found ourselves cross-editing each other’s’ instructions for how to run a simple Lexis+ search. Why tell students to click on “content” when the label says “categories”? And why not just tell students the icon for editing looks like a pencil? Thanks to the screen sharing function on Zoom, we discovered we were simultaneously looking at different versions of the same interface, and after polling our colleagues, about half of us were on “team content” and the other on “team categories.” It turns out, we were unknowingly part of an “A/B” interface test:

This kind of testing is a common way for developers to compare two versions of a design and see how these variations change user behavior. Some companies use A/B testing quietly to see if subtle changes in font size, color, position or wording increase visits, clicks, or purchases. We reached out to Lexis, and learned from the product development team that this is standard practice, intended to test variables and improve user experience:

LexisNexis uses online experimentation or A/B testing to improve our products by evaluating potential changes before rolling those changes out to the entire user population.  For Law Schools we take steps to avoid disruptive testing during times of peak usage during the school year to minimize any challenge to your preparation and teaching of legal research with our products.

Bloomberg law also uses beta testing of its interface:

Bloomberg Law occasionally might engage in beta testing where we enlist specific firm/school accounts. We won’t do it with just random individual users, however. Users who participate in beta testing are enlisted by a Client Service Partner or someone from our Bloomberg Law team. Random users are not selected to participate in our testing.

We reached out to Westlaw, but we received no statement about interface testing by the time of this posting.

As a practical matter, the variations we saw were subtle and unlikely to cause confusion, and as of this afternoon, we are all on “team content.” We were never actually asked which term we preferred, so we can assume website metrics showed “content” must have gotten more clicks than “categories.” Legal researchers are constantly watching for and adjusting to changes in research database interfaces, as each new academic year our vendors seem to roll out yet another new menu of changes. Some changes are significant re-developments, while others, like the ones we discovered, are much more nuanced. A word to the wise for all legal instructors for the spring: even if you are not alerted to a major interface change, be sure to double check your screenshots.