Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LEND-A-HAND: Lexis-Nexis Provides More Support to Laid Off Attorneys

Lexis-Nexis is supporting the battered legal community through another program, Lend-a-Hand, which is designed to help lawyers laid off from large law firms market themselves. See the Lend-a-Hand page here: http://www.lexisnexis.com/lendahand

In the recent economic crisis, law firm managers nationwide are currently faced with making difficult decisions and downsizing is one of the most popular outcomes we are seeing during this economic downturn. Attorneys, particularly at large law firms, have borne the brunt of the recent wave of law firm layoffs and in an effort to support these attorneys and give back to the legal market Lexis-Nexis has developed the "Lend a Hand" program. Lexis-Nexis launched the Lend-a-Hand program today for all U.S.-based attorneys who recently worked for a law firm with more than 50 attorneys and are currently unemployed. The program offers free marketing services, networking opportunities, and employment resources.

Lend-a-Hand Program benefits include:
A free six-month profile on Lawyers.com and Martindale.com.
Free access to Martindale-Hubbell Connected, an online professional network where attorneys can connect, network, communicate and collaborate with trusted and authenticated colleagues.
Free access to the Martindale-Hubbell Career Center, where attorneys can find legal jobs in local areas.

This information is provided by the folks at Lexis-Nexis. But I want to applaud them for doing the right thing. They are supporting the legal community in its time of need. They can't help every segment, but they are making some rational decisions about the segments that have been the hardest hit by the changes in the economy. Hooray for a big vendor who has been acting with some real compassion and morality. Good for them for giving back!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A New Role for the Bookstore

Today's Boston Globe has an article about the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, which looks like a classic bookstore, but has taken a big step into the future. Northshire has installed an Espresso Book Machine, dubbed "Lurch" by the staff, which prints books on demand for customers while they wait. The Globe article is accompanied by a short video that shows the machine in action, and this will be of particular interest to librarians.

Northshire is "the first independent bookstore in the United States to install the clattering book machine. If Northshire can make money printing books downloaded from massive online catalogs, it will show how small brick-and-mortar bookshops might be able to match the overwhelming variety of products offered by ... giant online retailer[s]." The producer of the machine, On Demand Books, has contracted with several major publishers to make their titles available through the Espresso Machine; in addition, the "machines can also access thousands of titles that are in the public domain and available on the Internet." According to the On Demand website, the Espresso machine has been installed in several libraries and in a number of college and university bookstores. "It could streamline the traditional book supply chain, with much less need for space in warehouses, inventory on hand, shipping expenses, or management of returns." Although the impact on libraries is not discussed in the article, several spring to mind immediately. The machine could obviate the need for interlibrary loans, and could vastly expand the resources available to a library's community without the need for more shelf space.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Back from France

While Betsy was in China and Jim was holding down the fort at OOTJ, I was attending my daughter's college graduation and vacationing in France (two and a half weeks) as well as several days in Germany. The weather was mostly clear, but surprisingly cold for this time of year. This was our first time back in France in thirty years, and I was struck by how much more diverse the population seems to be. Before our departure, I had spent a lot of time working on my rusty French with the Rosetta Stone program, and found that I got more from the lessons than I thought I had--speaking and listening were fairly easy, and this enhanced my experience. After spending time in Paris, we headed to Alsace-Lorraine and over to Germany. Some highlights: the Code of Hammurabi at the Louvre Museum (and seeing the renovations made to the Museum itself, which seem to work very well); attending a concert at Sainte-Chappelle, an exquisite jewel box known for its walls of stained glass, which literally took my breath away when I walked in (the interior is shown above, but the picture doesn't do it justice); riding a cable car in Germany and walking in the Black Forest; hiking in the Vosges Mountains in France and coming upon the ruins of a twelfth-century castle perched high on a mountain top; visiting stunning Gothic cathedrals in Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, and Freiburg; eating Quiche Lorraine in Lorraine; attending a ballet performance at the Paris Opera and luxuriating in the over-the-top interior design; walking in Paris and remembering all over again how beautiful it is; strolling in the fabulous formal gardens at the chateau of Vaux le Vicomte. I returned to work early last week with the performance appraisal process in full swing and demanding a good deal of my attention. Now that that is somewhat under control, I should be able to blog more regularly.

Online Law School Grad Passes the Bar

The National Law Journal is reporting that Ross E. Mitchell, a graduate of the Concord Law School has passed the Massachusetts bar. I was interested to see that he has also passed the notoriously difficult California bar exam. As is reported below, Mitchell sued successfully to be allowed to sit for the Massachusetts bar exam.

Yeah, That's the Ticket!: Online Law School Grad Who Sued to Take Bar Gets His License

By Sheri Qualters | The National Law Journal

BOSTON — An online law school graduate who sued the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for the opportunity to take that state's bar examination is now a newly minted Massachusetts lawyer.

The Boston Herald first reported that Ross E. Mitchell is the first Massachusetts lawyer with an exclusively online legal education. Mitchell was sworn in on June 22 and has 90 days to register with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, according to the court.

Mitchell, a Newton, Mass.-based independent computer consultant, said he views his legal credentials as "another tool in his consulting arsenal."

"I don't plan to hang out a shingle per se," Mitchell said. "What I see myself doing is pretty much making myself available to take on interesting projects you need to be lawyer to do."

Last November, Mitchell won his case against the state's Board of Bar Examiners, which denied his bid to bypass a requirement that U.S.-trained applicants be graduates of an American Bar Association-accredited law school. Mitchell v. Board of Bar Examiners, No. SJC-10157 (Mass.). The court allowed Mitchell to sit for the bar because the ABA is mulling changes to its accreditation standards.

Last September, the ABA launched a comprehensive review of its standards for the approval of law schools. Currently, ABA-approved schools can only allow graduates to take up to 12 credit hours of classes online.

Mitchell, who was a pro se litigant in his Supreme Judicial Court case, graduated from Concord Law School. Mitchell has also passed the California general bar examination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, and he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

In the spring of 2008, Mitchell was also one of four Concord Law graduates sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court's bar.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update on Westlaw Standalone Printer Removals

After I posted yesterday about Westlaw removing standalone printers from the Puerto Rico law schools, I received an e-mail from Southern New England School of Law. This is a standalone law school which is not yet fully accredited by the A.B.A. They were told in March that Westlaw would be removing their standalone printers. When the associate director there asked why, the academic rep had no explanation and could only say that West was "redeploying resources." Again, it looks as though Westlaw is picking at the low hanging fruit when redeploying resources. They seem more comfortable on the mainland grabbing resources from the unaccredited law schools. Hardly the high road.

E-textbooks Experiences

The Chronicle of Higher Education for June 12, 2009 carries this interesting story in the Information Technology Section (http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i39/39a01801.htm Link), in print at p. A18. “6 Lessons One Campus Learned About E-Textbooks” discusses the experiences of Northwest Missouri State University in offering electronic textbooks widely on campus last year.

They began with a pilot program offering students a Sony Reader (which company was more responsive to their phone calls than the Amazon Kindle folks). The first experiments were sobering, though, because the klunky interface made the early adopters request print again. Happily, a newer version works better.

All four major textbook publishers for the undergraduate market wanted to participate. They see this as the future, and felt they must adapt or die. Book publishers of all types are apparently rushing into the digital book market for the same reason. Amazon just announced its new Kindle will be specially designed to handle textbooks, and according to the Chronicle article, six colleges will be testing it in the fall of 2009. (link for Wall Street Journal article discussing Amazon Kindle for textbooks. Participating schools are Case Western Reserve, Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State. I think I recall Marie Newman blogging bemusedly about reading about Pace's participation.)

The article is worth reading in full, but here is a summarization of the six lessons derived from the Northwest Missouri State experience.

1. Judge e-books by their covers
That is, by their interface and hardware. Customer satisfaction rests heavily on the design of the device and its software. How easily can the user flip pages, locate text, highlight material, enlarge tables? Does it handle color? Can it work on laptops or is it designated for a certain reader machine? How heavy is it? How long does it take to learn to use?

2. Learning curves ahead
Students and faculty alike will benefit from scheduling time to explain how to make the best use of the new device. Students had to adapt previous note-taking techniques, and often commented that it took them time to find wonderful new features on their e-books.

3. Professors are eager students
Northwest Missouri State was surprised at the number of professors who clamored to be included in their experiment. They were afraid they would have trouble roping in a handful, but were inundated with petitions from entire departments.

4. Long live batteries
The students’ most frequent technical difficulty was battery life. Laptops’ batteries frequently die after one and a half hours, which does not take a student through a full day of classes. Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle batteries last significantly longer, though. And most law schools today, have easy-to-reach outlets in classrooms.

5. Subjects are not equally e-friendly
Math-heavy subjects are difficult in digital formats because the tables and formulas are difficult to read without easy enlargement. Tables are usually pop-up affairs that cannot be enlarged, and this makes digital versions very hard to read. Also, the Kindle and Sony Reader do not handle color. In fields like anatomy, geography or many science textbooks, grayscale does not adequately translate the information that was originally in color. This objection is probably not applicable to most law fields.

6. Environmental impact matters
E-textbooks save trees. I frankly don’t know how the complex analysis would go for all the heavy metals and plastics that go into a digital reader or laptop, but the mere re-usability of the hardware over the life of multiple textbooks probably outweighs other quibbles about lifetime environmental impact.

An interesting article and analysis. I still have not heard from Gordon Russell at Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law in Tennessee about whether their Kindle textbook program has even gotten off the ground. Has any other law school experimented with school-wide or recent class-wide digital textbooks? The last experiment I knew of was 10 or more years ago, and is quite outdated. Prof. Carter Bishop here at Suffolk had his students use his textbook in a CD-ROM version. It could be highlighted, and marginal notes could be made. But I think it was a bust from the students’ point of view. At that point, they wanted the book in print, not as a disk to run on their computer and laptop.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why is Westlaw treating the Puerto Rican Law Schools differently?

The only law schools that have received letters from Westlaw cancelling entirely the Westlaw standalone printer program are the schools in Puerto Rico. As far as OOTJ can tell, no other United States law school has received any letter cancelling their standalone printer program. Out of all the schools to least well afford such a slap to their student expense accounts, the Puerto Rican law schools would be near the top of anybody's list. If this decision were being made on the basis of need, why not talk about cancelling at the ivies? The decision smacks of outright discrimination. How ugly.

Sign the petition to improve Pacer!

Sign the petition to improve Pacer and make it available free! Link here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back from Beijing, Blithered

Well, I have finally stumbled back from the post-conference tour around China, and am in the office at last. Thank you, Jim, both for minding the blog, and for posting for me while I was in China. The great firewall of China would have stymied my attempts to blog and Twitter about the China-U.S. conference, but for e-mail and friendship!

I failed to mention on those reports that the conference managed to provide simultaneous translation services for the speakers in every workshop session. That was a truly astonishing accomplishment. There were student volunteers in tiny cubicles in the back of each presentation hall. They worked in relay teams, taking over seamlessly from each other to provide continuous translations as the speakers rattled along. Some speakers were aware of the problems of simultaneous translations, and spoke in measured tones. But many speakers, under time pressure because they had been promised 20 minutes but cut back to 10 or 15, spoke quickly. The translators rose to all challenges, and (as far as I can tell), managed to keep up and translate the speeches in adequate style.

The original roster of speakers was expanded in the last days before the conference by adding a number of extra Chinese speakers to nearly every program. This was probably done for political reasons, either for show, or morale purposes. The program still came out well, and I think we learned a lot on both sides. The primary goal of the conference was, after all, to jumpstart a Chinese law library association, and to begin a series of these conferences. Both aims seem to have been achieved, though time will have to bear this out.

I have a huge stack of business cards from Chinese and American colleagues from the conference. But the last one I received was the most surprising. Weeks after the conference ended, and after the post-conference tour was over, I was standing in line at the Beijing airport to get on the plane to the U.S. And the Chinese-appearing woman in front of me had a Westlaw roller bag, just like mine! She turned out to be Yan Hong, Insurance and Reference Librarian from the University of Connecticut Law Library. She had, like me, been at the CUSCLL conference, and had stayed after. She has family and friends in China, and visited them with her son. They were coming back on the same flight as my daughter and I were taking. We even sat on the same row in the airplane. What a world of coincidences!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Has the time for listservs passed?

Greg Lambert asks (as reported by Joe Hodnick) on the Law Librarian Blog: "Is it time to retire listservs"?

Not yet, according to Greg Lambert, library and records manager for King & Spalding LLP in Houston and blogger at one of my newest favorite blogs, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. See Lambert's Where Do Listservs Fit in a Social Media World? AALL Spectrum, June 2009. The networking tool of the 1990s is inefficient but remain easy to use, convenient and useful. "As long as we have e-mail, we’ll have listservs" writes Lambert. "That said, their heyday has come and gone. Social media tools and Web 2.0 resources are becoming the communication tools of choice and will eventually push listservs to the background." Lambert proceeds with a discussion of his two favorite social networking alternatives to listservs: Twitter and Nings. Of the two, Nings gets my thumbs up. [JH]
I raised a similar question on the lawprof listserv a couple of weeks ago in response to an AALS initiative to create new member-only listservs for the various sections. I asked whether listservs are really relevant anymore when I get most of my important law-related discussion from blogs. Most of the professors responding, however, said they relied heavily on listservs.

I don't think Twitter will ever catch on among law professors; the vast majority of them still sneer at Twitter. The reason why, I think, was well explained by one of my JD/PhD colleagues on the law faculty here. Scholars--especially those who have gone through rigorous PhD training, like most new law faculty entering the profession today, have had perfectionism drilled into them. They are literally incapable of committing to online words ideas that have not been fully worked out, rigorously analyzed, exhaustively cited, and tested at a series of faculty workshops. Spontaneity is not a value to them.

Of course, there are a few law professors currently on Twitter, and will no doubt be more, but I don't think Twitter will ever be a significant medium for communication among law professors. As for communication between law professors and those outside the academy: few law profs have any interest in communicating with non-academics. The reasons for this are left as an exercise for the reader.

China-US Conference wrap-up

[Posted for Betsy McKenzie by Jim Milles.]

Last night, the first China-US Conference on Legal Information and Law Libraries came to a close. An agreement was signed to continue holding these conferences every two years, alternately in China and the United States. There was a final plenary session titled “Lessons Learned and Future Directions: A General Discussion of What has Been Learned Throughout the Conference and What Are the Next Steps in Collaboration Between Chinese and American Law Librarians.” Dr. Jiang Bo, Secretary General of the China Education Association for International Exchange, and Prof. Janis Johnston of University of Illinois summed up. There was a Conference Statement of Principles, which included establishing a standing body, the China-U.S. Institute on Legal Information and Law Libraries.

There is every intention that this conference be a first step in an ongoing process that will continue to bear fruit.