Thursday, March 27, 2008

Et tu, Westlaw?

I just learned from a reliable source that Westlaw will soon be sending out letters to academic law library directors and deans announcing a "significant" price increase in Westlaw prices for next year--maybe 10%. When I received the letter from LexisNexis telling us about their proposed pricing for next fiscal year, I assumed a similar letter from Westlaw would soon be in the mail. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to cut to finance these increases. The Westlaw increase is a particularly bitter pill to swallow after the clumsy way Thomson handled the removal of the Dialog databases.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back from the Moot

I just returned from a week spent in Vienna, Austria at the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. This is the premier international moot in this field, and it was thrilling to be a part of it. The Vis Moot truly is an international event. This year, 203 universities from fifty-two countries participated--around 1,400 students, plus coaches and arbitrators. The United States sent the largest number of teams--fifty-one law schools were represented. Every year, the students are given a devilishly complex problem requiring them to deal with the law of international commercial arbitration and also with the law of international sales. For the latter, students around the world rely on the award-winning CISG database produced by Pace Law School's Institute of International Commercial Law. I am proud to serve as the Database Manager for this project, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with individuals I have previously known only through email correspondence. I also enjoyed watching Pace's Vis team argue during one of the rounds of the competition. They did a fine job against tough competition! The final round pitted Touro Law School (here is a link to Touro's press release about the Moot) against Carlos III (Madrid), with Carlos III eventually prevailing. The quality of the final two teams was impressive, and it must have been difficult for the judges to choose between them.

Vienna is a beautiful, gracious city, with a great public transportation system, but it is also well suited to walking. I made time to visit three of Vienna's art museums and spent a whole day visiting some of my favorite paintings at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is known for its fabulous collection of Old Masters. The forsythia and daffodils were already in bloom (they're not in New York), but it was cold, and last Thursday night, the snow was falling in big, heavy clumps. This only made the city more beautiful. Austria is a Catholic country, and shops were festively decorated for the Easter holiday. The only downside is that with the dollar becoming weaker each day we were in Austria, or so it seemed, everything was very expensive, and we decided we would rather eat than buy souvenirs.

The photograph above is of Vienna's Rathaus (City Hall), where we gathered last Tuesday night to find out which sixty-four teams would advance to the next round.

Clarence Thomas Interview

There is a very flattering article about Associate Justice Clarence Thomas in the online Wall Street Journal. The article is based on an interview with Justice Thomas, who repeats many of the themes that he developed more fully in his autobiography, My Grandfather's Son. "'Being willing to accept responsibility, that sort of dark side of freedom, first--before you accept all the benefits. Being ready to be responsible for yourself--you want to be independent. That was my grandfather.'" Justice Thomas was taught to "arrive at his conclusions honestly and not 'to be bullied away from opinions that I think are legitimate.'" For me, the most interesting insight of the article came in the last paragraph. When asked why he does not ask questions during oral argument, "Mr. Thomas chuckles wryly and observes that oral advocacy was much more important in the Court's early days. Today, cases are thoroughly briefed by the time they reach the Supreme Court, and there is just too little time to have a meaningful conversation with the lawyers.'" As he points out, "'This isn't Perry Mason.'"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

AALL Third Annual Bloggers Get Together

It's time to mark your calendars for the AALL's Third Annual Bloggers Get Together!

Time: 5-6 p.m.
Date: Sunday, July 13th
Place: TBA
Guest Speaker: TBA (we are inviting bloggers from the Portland area)

Come share your ideas and meet the other law librarian bloggers! Open to all bloggers and potential bloggers.

RSVP: Last year we had over 35 participants so we are anticipating a good crowd this year. For a headcount, please RSVP Barbara Fullerton by Tuesday, July 1st to

Special Thanks to Laura Orr, Law Librarian at Washington County Law Library, for helping in organizing this event!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Web 2.0 Challenge announcement

If you read law-lib, Teknoids, or WisBlawg, you've probably already seen this, but we want to reach as many people as possible. Bonnie Shucha, Debbie Ginsberg have been working on a course for CS-SIS that we're excited about. At least two of us from OOTJ will be facilitators for it.


CS-SIS is pleased to announce the Web 2.0 Challenge, an online course to introduce law librarians to social software and how to use it in their libraries. The Web 2.0 Challenge will provide a free, comprehensive, and social online learning opportunity designed for law librarians by directing them in hands-on use of these technologies. The course is intended for those who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

The online course will take place between July 21 and August 18, immediately following the AALL Annual Meeting. The five week course will cover these areas:

Week 1: Blogs & RSS
Week 2: Wikis
Week 3: Social Networking Software and Second Life
Week 4: Flickr & Social Bookmarking Software
Week 5: Selling Social Software @ Your Library

Participants will be required to complete a series of weekly activities, including viewing an instructional screencast; completing hands-on exercises based on the lesson; weekly blogging about their experience; and participating in a weekly small group chat session. The course will culminate with each participant developing a proposal for implementing a specific social software tool in their library.

Full enrollment will be limited to approximately ninety participants. However, course content will be freely viewable to anyone who wishes to follow along. Enrolled participants who complete all weekly activities are eligible for weekly and grand prize drawings (prizes provided by CS-SIS). Certificates will also be awarded to all participants who complete the course.

We anticipate opening enrollment at the end of June. There is no charge for this course and enrollment will be offered first come, first served. A limited number of spots will also be reserved for on site registration at the AALL Annual Meeting CS-SIS program, H-1: Cool Tools: Energizing Law Librarianship with Web 2.0 on Tuesday, July 15th.

If you would like to be notified when enrollment opens, please send us your contact information.

If you have any questions or comments, please also enter them on the form - or you may contact Bonnie Shucha at

Bonnie Shucha, Debbie Ginsberg and Meg Kribble,
Web 2.0 Challenge Co-chairs

The post that was almost a comment!

I was going to simply comment on Jim's welcome post, until I realized that I can just post here myself! What can I say? Between my own travel travel and hosting the indefatigable and inspiring Sabrina Pacifici's visit to the South Florida Association of Law Libraries yesterday, it's been a long week!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank Jim and the other OOTJers for the welcome. As Abbie said, it's an honor to be here. I'm looking forward to posting and sharing, most immediately about some of the things I learned at SXSW and why more law librarians and legal technologists should attend next year's conference.

Jim had links to almost all my online places save Ravelry, the new social network/pattern database/stash management tool for knitters. I would love to make more law librarian contacts there! (If you already have an account, that link will take you directly to my profile; if you don't, sign up!)


Which of these resembles your library catalog?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

UBLaw Podcast: Samina Raja on Racial Disparities in Food Access

Samina Raja is Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the UB School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Clinical Professor Lauren Breen is Director of the UB Law School Community Economic Development Clinic. They will be discussing Professor Raja’s paper, “Racial Disparities in Food Access: Lessons from Erie County, NY.”


Time: 24:56


The metaphor “food deserts,” used to describe neighborhoods with few supermarkets, has captured both public and academic attention in recent years. Planning solutions designed to alleviate food insecurity and promote food justice may be misguided without a nuanced understanding of disparities in food environments. Professor Raja empirically examines racial disparities in food environments. She investigates how food access in neighborhoods of color differs from those in other neighborhoods, using Erie County, New York as a case study. Professor Raja tests the hypothesis that access to different types of food retail destinations, located within a five minute travel time, in predominantly black and mixed-race neighborhoods differs from that in predominantly white neighborhoods, while controlling for other factors such as income, population, and area. Raja finds an absence of supermarkets in neighborhoods of color when compared to white neighborhoods. However, the study reveals an extensive network of small grocery stores in neighborhoods of color. Professor Raja’s research suggests that supporting small, high quality grocery stores, rather than soliciting large supermarkets, may be a more effective strategy for ensuring access to healthful foods in neighborhoods of color.

Trained as a civil engineer and an urban planner, Professor Samina Raja’s research, teaching, and community engagement focuses on planning and designing communities that promote food justice, and facilitate healthy living for all residents. Her recent projects have examined racial disparities in food environments and their implication on health outcomes. Professor Raja works with local community groups to design, implement, and evaluate strategies to strengthen Buffalo’s community food system. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

(Cross-posted at Buffalo Wings and Toasted Ravioli.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Revisiting the Magna Carta

Remember the Magna Carta from school? If not, don't feel too bad about it because neither do 45% of UK residents according to the poll featured in today's British Library Press Release.

In a nutshell, the Magna Carta is an English legal document from 1215 that is viewed as one of the most important in the history of democracy. It played an invaluable role in the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. One of 4 copies from 1297 has been on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC for the past 20 years. All thanks to the generosity of H. Ross Perot. Then...he put it up for sale.

Fear not, it came back on display yesterday! That's thanks to the generosity of its new owner, David M. Rubenstein. Phew!

If you're not in the DC area, you're not out of luck. You can still look at the copy at the National Archives online here or at the New York Times' site here. The British Library also has some fun ways to view the original online. You can use the Library's Shockwave viewer, or a more simple online version here. Additionally, you can check out the translation here.

For more on the Magna Carta, check out "Magna Carta and Its American Legacy" at the National Archives site and "The Basics" on the British Library site.

Shadow and James's Excellent Cleveland Adventure

So my partner Kristina and I have been doing this little podcast, The Shadow and James Show. We talk about our weekly adventures, with an emphasis on food, movies, travel, and cats. Nothing earthshaking, but it's fun. Give it a listen!

We've just posted Episode 15:

Nellie McKay at Nighttown
Breakfast at Stone Oven Bakery
Arms & Armor at Cleveland Museum of Art
Lunch at That Place on Bellflower
Coffee at Arabica Coffee House
Breakfast again, at the Glidden House
The Cleveland Orchestra does Mahler
West Side Market and coffee at Talkies Film & Coffee Bar
Dinner at Balaton
Back home again

Time: 42:36
Music: Phantasma, by Bitstream Dream, featuring Anji Bee, on the Podsafe Music Network.
Send voice comments to (716) 989-4422 or email

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Update on Westlaw and Dialog

I just heard that Westlaw has removed all Dialog content with the exception of the copyright databases. I'm still not sure about the scope of the removal, but I continue to feel outrage that Westlaw would remove so much valuable content without any prior notification whatsoever. I wonder if people in the firms could tell us if they still have access to the Dialog databases? Perhaps the change affects only academic subscribers. I'll update OOTJ readers as more information becomes available.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Follow the Leader

Today's New York Times is reporting the results of a study that shows that the "California Supreme Court is the most influential state court in the nation." The study, to which the Times story links, is based on citation analysis, and was published in a recent issue of the UC Davis Law Review. It is interesting to note that Kentucky ranks at the bottom of the fifty states in terms of the influence of its high court. According to the study, reasons for the California Supreme Court's influence are that "California's size and diversity gave its Supreme Court an enormous inventory of interesting cases to choose from; that lower-court decisions there tended to present the pertinent issues well; and that the Supreme Court had a professional legal staff whose main job was to analyze petitions for review."

Practical Skills Training

From today's New York Lawyer comes the following article about skills training at a number of law schools around the country, including Washington and Lee Law School, which has initiated a third-year practicum. Click here to read Washington and Lee's press release.

Top Law Schools Making It Real for Students Through On-the-Job Training

New York Lawyer
March 11, 2008
Reprints & Permissions

By Justin Pope
The Associated Press

Medical students learn the ropes on real patients during hospital rounds. Student journalists practice by writing stories. But if learning-by-doing seems an obvious way to master a profession, one corner of higher education has largely avoided it: law schools.

Critics say the country's 200 accredited law schools are guilty of building some of academia's tallest ivory towers, where students learn to "think like lawyers" but get little preparation for what attorneys actually do.

The result: a rising chorus of complaints from employers that even after three years of school (and $150,000 or more in tuition), the nation's 50,000 annual law school graduates still need to be trained on the job.

A number of prominent law schools, including Harvard and Stanford, have responded lately by beginning to shake up how they teach. Now, a small but respected law school in Virginia, Washington & Lee University, is planning even more fundamental changes likely to attract widespread notice in the legal community.

The school is announcing plans to have students spend their final year — a time for breezy classes and little hard work at many schools — in "practicum" courses, where they will imitate real-world lawyering every step of the way.

It works like this: Typically, in a business law class, for example, students work through a hefty book where they study a range of cases. Students might follow the full range of legal problems that would typically come before a single company — antitrust, real estate, consumer protection and international law. The classes would still largely be taught on campus, perhaps by a professor along with a visiting practicing attorney.

"I think that prestige within the world of law schools became tied exclusively to the intellectual, theoretical side of legal study," Washington & Lee law dean Rodney Smolla said. "That became the currency by which law professors judged one another."

Law schools have fallen short in helping the young "learning to absorb the complicated facts that a client presents them with," Smolla said.

Some law schools whose professors don't necessarily publish the most articles or have the most prestige, including the City University of New York and the Massachusetts School of Law, have been focused on practical lawyering for years.

Last year, a report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching fueled the debate by arguing the traditional approach has left the "impression that lawyers are more like competitive scholars than attorneys engaged with the problems of clients."

Students are well taught in boiling down facts and applying the law. But most cases are messy, and students don't learn to navigate complex ethical and social issues, or work together to solve problems.

The Carnegie report has prompted several conferences to talk about reform. At Harvard, where the first modern law school curriculum was laid out in 1872, a committee surveyed alumni about their professional experiences, leading to changes including more emphasis on regulatory and international law.

Stanford has emphasized interdisciplinary study, and both are giving students more opportunities for clinical practice. Detroit Mercy School of Law has begun requiring courses that simulate work in a large law firm.

At Washington & Lee, Robin Fretwell Wilson has already begun teaching a pilot class in family law along the lines of the new model and said the differences are substantial. It's an entirely different approach that focuses on navigating the intricacies of an actual prenuptial agreement, for example, and the questions students will need to understand — like what it really means when an agreement calls for "best" efforts instead of "reasonable" ones.

Jim Alfini, dean of the South Texas College of Law in Houston and former chair of the American Bar Association's legal education curriculum committee, called Washington & Lee's changes the most substantial he's seen. But he noted that more students are picking non-traditional careers like business and public interest work and said it's important for the new approach to provide the "flexibility" they need.

For students at Washington & Lee, which will phase in the changes over the next few years, the downside could be the end of the famously halcyon third year. Typically, students take small, contemplative classes and — since at many top schools they already have jobs lined up — focus mostly on playing softball and bar-hopping.

But first-year student Eric Hoffman said he is willing to put in the extra work if the program — as he expects — makes Washington & Lee graduates more appealing in the job market.

"I think we're at a point in our lives when we grow up a little and say, 'All my peers are already working 60-hour-per-week jobs,'" he said. "I can be working just hard for something that will better prepare me for the legal profession."

NYU Offers On-line LLM Program

According to today’s National Law Journal:

New York University School of Law is making its LL.M. tax degree available online starting in the fall….

The law school expects to enroll about 25 students from around the world in the online program for its LL.M. degree, considered a premier tax credential for lawyers and scholars….

Both the online program and the school’s regular LL.M. program require students to complete 24 credits. For online students, they, generally, must complete two of those credits at the NYU campus in New York and can take all others electronically.

The article somewhat confusingly confuses the issue of accreditation for this new online program:

The ABA does not accredit schools that offer only online courses, and it permits accredited schools to offer only second- and third-year courses online.

In NYU’s case, it did not need to obtain ABA approval for the new LL.M. program, Cunningham said, because it is part of the graduate tax law program and because its requirements are, basically, the same as the part-time program. Tuition for the online program is $1,731 per credit, the same charge for the part-time program.

In fact, the ABA does not accredit LL.M. and other post-JD degree programs; however, ABA-accredited schools must receive ABA “acquiescence”: “Standard 308 of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools states that an ABA-approved law school may not establish a degree program in addition to its J.D. degree program unless the school is fully approved, and the additional degree program will not detract from a law school’s ability to maintain a sound J.D. degree program.”

(Cross posted at Buffalo Wings and Toasted Ravioli.)

Blogged with Flock

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Revolting Development

I was working with a student today and recommended that he run a search on Westlaw in PAIS-C (Public Affairs Information Service), one of the Dialog databases. PAIS is one of the databases I use most when working with students and faculty on law-related topics; it's a good way to access literature that often isn't picked up by other databases. Much to my surprise, the student came back and reported that the database identifier didn't work. I tried it myself, and had the same experience. So I asked one of the reference librarians to call Westlaw and find it if there was a technical problem or if the database had been taken down. The representative said that a number of Dialog databases had been taken down on February 29. When asked what other databases were no longer available to us, the representative replied that the list constituted "internal information." As such, she could not share it with us. I guess we'll have to figure out what else we've lost as we try to use other databases.

It's hard to imagine why Westlaw could not share the list with us. We cancelled our print subscription to PAIS ten years ago, relying on the fact that we had access through Westlaw. Thankfully, we have access to other public affairs and social science databases, and they will compensate for the loss. However, losing PAIS and whatever else is gone with no notice from Westlaw is unfortunate. It's a shabby way for Westlaw to treat its customers, and underscores how risky it is to base acquisitions decisions on what is currently available from LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Welcome to the New OOTJers

I'm very pleased to welcome two new contributors to Out of the Jungle.

Meg Kribble is Emerging Technologies, Reference, & Instructional Services Librarian at Nova Southeastern University Law Library, as well as a blogger, photographer, knitter, human companion to Emma and Rufus, and Twitterer. She also increases the hipster cred of OOTJ and law librarians in general by her reporting from SXSW Interactive.

Abbie Mulvihill is a law firm federal government law librarian in Washington DC, a blogger and, with Meg (and me!) one of the micro-bloggers at law.librarians.

Please join me in welcoming Meg and Abbie.

(Corrected 3/10/08)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Release of Clinton Papers Blocked

According to USA Today, "[f]ederal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundres of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich." Although the decision was made by the archivists, who work for the federal government, it was based on "guidance provided by Bill Clinton that restricts the disclosure of advice he received from aides [and] prevents public scrutiny of documents that would shed light on how he decided which pardons to approve from among hundreds of requests." The controversial decision could create problems for the candidacy of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been criticized by the campaign staff of Senator Barack Obama for "not doing more to see that records from her husband's administration are made public."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nicholson Baker on Wikipedia

Nicholson Baker,who criticized librarians in his controversial book Double Fold, discusses Wikipedia in his lively review of Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, by John Broughton. The always irreverent Baker gives a brief history of the open-source encyclopedia, which he describes as being "like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks." Baker reminded me of something I had forgotten: When Wikipedia began, it "absorbed articles from the celebrated 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is in the public domain." It also pulled in a number of other reference sources, all of which were in the public domain. The effect of all this erudition was to "elevate[] Wikipedia's tone." At least for awhile. Baker recounts how Wikipedia "editors" made revisions and even vandalized some entries. As Baker says, "Without the kooks and the insulters and the spray-can taggers, Wikipedia would just be the most useful encyclopedia ever made. Instead it's a fast-paced game of paintball."

Baker describes the process of becoming a member of the Wikipedia "upper crust--one of the several thousand whose words will live on for a little while, before later verbal fumarolings erode what [they] wrote." According to Baker, these individuals need to "have a cool head, so that [they] don't get drawn into soul-destroying disputes...and some practical writing ability, and a quick eye, and a knack for synthesis." Most important is enough free time for "a long apprenticeship of trial and error." Baker says that the apprenticeship can be shortened considerably by taking advantage of the advice contained in John Broughton's new book, which "may mark a new, middle-aged phase in Wikipedia's history." Although Broughton sometimes "sounds like a freshman English comp teacher," he can help would-be Wikipedia editors achieve the self-confidence needed to "start adding, creating, rescuing."

Touro Law School Is Not for Sale

Touro Law School has announced that it is not for sale. The Law School was allegedly in discussions with Stony Brook University about a possible sale, but they never progressed past the preliminary phase. Stony Brook may still investigate the feasibility of developing a law school as part of its drive to become a major research university. Here is the story:

Law School Says It's Not for Sale
March 5, 2008
Discussions about the sale of the Touro Law Center to Stony Brook University never made it past the preliminary stage, Stony Brook president Shirley Strum Kenny said yesterday.

"We had very preliminary talks," Kenny said. "We were certainly not at the point of negotiating."

Bernard Lander, founder and president of Touro College, whose main campus is in Manhattan, said yesterday he would never sell the law school. The college operates the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip.

"I never met with anybody or spoke to anybody at the state university," Lander said in an interview. "I had one meeting with Sen. [Kenneth] LaValle. Period. I never negotiated with anybody." Lander said that when Touro law school dean Lawrence Raful asked him for his opinion and that of the school's board, "I said the law school charter is never for sale. Period."

Talk of a possible sale surfaced in early February in an effort to make Stony Brook the second university after the University of Buffalo in the State University of New York system to have a law school.

Kenny confirmed she and Lander had never met to discuss the law school. "There were conversations with people in the law school," she said, "but they were very preliminary discussions. We never got into any negotiations."

Kenny said those discussions did serve a purpose: They revived the idea of adding a law school at Stony Brook.

"Dr. Kenny and I have agreed to move forward and look at and explore the possibility of establishing our own law school at Stony Brook," said LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

"It's not a new concept," Kenny said, noting that university officials first considered the addition of a law school in the 1970s and then again in the 1980s. "But now people feel it's the last piece of putting together a major research university. ... It's something we will be considering very seriously."

Though no agenda has been put in place, Kenny said a committee will be formed to study the feasibility of building a law school. "I think there is a lot of interest now in the possibility of developing a law school at Stony Brook. Now, nothing has happened on that score."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mukasey and BC Law School

The Boston Globe is reporting that Boston College Law School has decided not to award the Founder's Medal, its highest honor, to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey when he speaks at its May commencement ceremony. The decision was announced on Tuesday by Dean John Garvey at a meeting with graduating students. The invitation to Mukasey has been criticized by BC alumni and students because of his "controversial refusal to declare that an interrogation technique known as waterboarding constitutes torture." In the future, the graduation speaker will not necessarily receive the Founder's Medal, which is "awarded to those who 'embody the traditions of professionalism, scholarship, and service which the Law School seeks to instill in its students.'" One alumnus stated that he was glad Mukasey would not receive the Medal, but feels that BC should have withdrawn the invitation "because his position on waterboarding conflicts with the university's Jesuit mission."