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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
7/28/2016 8:22:33 PM

Pokémon Go and Legal Research (Mewtwo, um, Part II)

Okay, so I'm a little obsessed about Pokémon Go.  But I've got company.  If you're in a high-traffic area -- a city downtown, college town, park, tourist spot, etc. -- look for the Pokémon Go players.  (There's an urban park near me that I've unofficially renamed "Pokémon Square."  At any given time of the evening, around 100 people are there, searching...)

If you work at a law school, especially on a university campus, wait until students return for Fall semester!  Heck, my law school is fairly quiet now and has no PokéStops nearby -- just a Pokémon gym next door -- and yet people are wandering onto campus looking for Pokémon. (We've got Ponyta in the parking lot.)  One of the school's administrators (kiddingly) blames me for this phenomenon.  I blame Niantic and the Pokémon Company. ;)

I'm even more sure than I was two weeks ago that Pokémon Go will have staying power.  Not everyone likes or understands the game or the excitement.  But if you encounter a fan, you might try a Pokémon Go reference to make conversation or even to explain legal research.  In any case, most people should know at least basically what Pokémon Go is.

Since my original post, I've thought of other connections between Pokémon Go and legal research.  Here they are in a Poké Ball, I mean, nutshell:

  • Catching common Pokémon (Rattata, Pidgey, etc.) or low CP (combat power) Pokémon = basic legal research.
  • Catching or evolving rare Pokémon (Electabuzz is my rarest so far) or high CP Pokémon = advanced legal research.  [Some Pokémon, such as Mew, aren't available at all.  Think of them as certain kinds of case reports and other legal sources that haven't been made public.]
  • CP / HP (hit points) = quality of research results.  [Pokémon with more points do better in battle.  More relevant authorities are better for briefs.]
  • Teams = legal research systems with somewhat different approaches and results.  [I'm on Team Mystic, by the way.  However, sometimes I wish I could be on Team Rocket...]
  • Nests (locations that often spawn particular types of Pokémon) = more specific sources; narrowing of searches or results.
  • Available types of Pokémon may differ by area = available legal research resources may differ by jurisdiction.
  • Sorting Pokémon according to Pokédex number, how recently they were caught, HP, etc. = sorting results by relevance, date, court, etc.
  • Pokémon trading cards / Pokémon Go = print / electronic legal research.  [You can collect Pokémon and battle them with cards or with the smartphone game.]
  • Niantic = a legal research system provider such as West.  [Both Niantic and West can change the game/system, the pricing, the availability, etc., though the market might push back at certain changes.]
  • The fundamentals of both Pokémon Go and legal research resources will likely stay the same over time.  However, some content or features may be added, subtracted, or modified.
  • Pokémon Go is bound to particular locations (PokéStops and gyms) and yet also available to some extent everywhere on any iPhone or Android phone with internet and a GPS signal.  Likewise, you can do legal research -- often better -- in law libraries, though you can also do legal research on any computer, tablet, or smartphone with internet.
  • Pokémon Go encourages the player to pay attention and to go to locations.  (This can be good or bad.  For now, let's just say it's good.)  How can we design legal research systems to foster a researcher's focus?  How can we direct legal researchers to the most useful resources?  I leave you to come up with possible answers, whether for your library's catalog or website, in programs and services for your library, or in other ways.

Posted By Scott Frey at 7/28/2016 8:22:33 PM  0 Comments
7/14/2016 4:09:56 PM

Pokémon Go and Legal Research

While we were getting ready for AALL 2016, Pokémon Go took over the USA. (The craze extends to several other countries, including Canada where the game isn't officially released yet.) According to SurveyMonkey, within one week Pokémon Go already had the most daily users of any U.S. mobile game ever. It also has more mobile users than Twitter.

On Sunday, the first day of AALL 2016, there will be a Pokémon Go meetup a few blocks from the conference hotel. It could easily draw more than 10,000 people.

A flurry of news reports and blog posts have addressed positive and negative impacts of Pokémon Go, including legal issues. (If you see me at AALL, feel free to ask about my own Pokémon Go anecdotes, which I call "Eevee and the Bagel Shop" and "The Pokémon and the Skunk.")

While the initial excitement is bound to fade, this game should have some staying power. It appears that many players are of traditional law school or new lawyer age, 20-30-year-olds who grew up with Pokémon.

So, what Is Pokémon Go?

Before getting to the game or its connection to legal research, let's briefly start with the original "Pokémon."  "Pokémon" is a cartoon--an anime from Japan--in which the hero, Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japanese) and other "Pokémon trainers" go on adventures to catch creatures called Pokémon and train them to battle other Pokémon. The ultimate goal of Ash and other trainers is to become a "Pokémon master."  Ash's companion is one of the most famous Pokémon, named Pikachu.

The "Pokémon" franchise, now 20 years old, also includes comic books (manga), movies, and video games. Until now, the video games have been on Nintendo consoles such as the Wii. 

"Pokémon Go" (or "Pokémon GO") is a game for iPhones and Android phones. In the game, you can be like Ash--catching and battling Pokémon. Pokémon Go's developer, Niantic, developed a database of real-world locations via its previous game, Ingress. (If you sign up for Ingress, you can search a world map to see if your location is highlighted.) In Pokémon Go, those locations are "PokéStops" where you can get items to help you catch Pokémon and "gyms" where you can battle Pokémon.

Even away from these locations, you may find Pokémon (often by walking around, phone in hand).  A Pokémon appears on your screen--superimposed on the real-world setting, if you wish--and is available to capture by throwing a "Poké Ball" at it. (Yes, the game uses the prefix "Poké" a lot. "Pokémon" is short for "pocket monster" in Japanese--and "pocket" are certainly appropriate for a smartphone game.) Once you capture enough Pokémon, you can join one of three teams and participate in gym battles to improve your team's status.

The fun of Pokémon Go is finding Pokémon--and other Pokémon Go players--in the real world, building your collection of Pokémon, and improving their ability, your ability, and your team's ability. You can buy items in the game to help in achieving these goals.

Why should legal information professionals care about Pokémon Go?

"Gotta catch 'em all" isn't just the catchphrase of Pokémon--it's also how a law librarian or lawyer may feel about covering all the bases in a legal research project. However, some law students and lawyers aren't interested in "catching 'em all" or never learn how.

What if legal research were as fun and viral as Pokémon Go? What if law students and lawyers wanted to find the law as much as Pokémon Go fans want to catch Pikachu? What if they wanted to improve their legal research skills as much as they might want to become a Pokémon master?

I imagine that Pokémon Go itself has more use in a law school library than a more strictly professional law library (law firm, courthouse, etc.). I've already heard from one law librarian who is thinking of using Pokémon Go for an orientation. I'm planning to make references to it in a first-year legal research video. (Points & Authorities & Pikachu? Wright, Miller & Wartortle?) :) I envision scavenger hunts for Pokémon merchandise in the stacks. I imagine some libraries are already or will become PokéStops and gyms in Pokémon Go. Pokémon should certainly grab some students' attention.

More generally, can law librarians learn from Pokémon Go how better to market law libraries and make legal research more enjoyable? It would be hard, if not impossible, to replicate exactly what Pokémon Go is doing. But gamification and rewards should have some place in the world of legal information. Lexis and Westlaw recognized that with their law school rewards programs; and many AALL exhibitors recognize that with games, prizes, and swag.

I want more law students and lawyers to associate legal research and libraries with fun. I'd welcome ideas (in comments, on Twitter, by email) on how we can do that.

Appendix: A glossary of Pokémon Go terms and their rough equivalents in law libraries or legal research

  • Pokémon = pertinent legal authorities (e.g., cases, statutes, regulations)
  • Poké Balls = tools that help you find pertinent legal authorities, such as other legal authorities, secondary sources, indexes, and citators 
  • Pokédex (a catalog of Pokémon or your collection of Pokémon) = a library catalog, a table of contents, a list or folder of pertinent research results
  • Egg Incubator (for growing Pokémon eggs into Pokémon) = any resource that allows a researcher to "grow" pertinent authorities by finding related authorities -- e.g., a citator
  • Camera = photocopier, printer, scanner, file download or email, camera -- i.e., whatever provides a copy of research material to the patron
  • Professor Willow (a character who guides players in Pokemon Go) = a reference librarian
  • PokéStops, Gyms = law libraries
  • Incense (which attracts Pokémon and thus people who want to catch Pokémon) = successful marketing of law libraries
  • Potion, Revive (medicines for restoring energy to or reviving Pokémon) = caffeinated beverages, sleep, a break (for restoring or reviving legal researchers)
  • Levelling Up, Powering Up, Evolving = improving legal research skills; finding more useful legal research resources and results

Update (July 28, 2016): Please see Part II for more Mews, ahem, musings about Pokémon and legal research.

Posted By Scott Frey at 7/14/2016 4:09:56 PM  0 Comments
7/8/2016 6:12:40 PM

Book Review: Of Coueiers and Kings More Stories of Supreme Law Clerks and Their Justices

Edited by Todd C. Peppers and Clare Cushman. Of Courtiers and Kings More Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices, University of Virginia Press, 2015. Cloth · 448 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813937267 $34.95.

The J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham young university has been blessed with several faculty members who clerked at the United States Supreme Court. At our monthly all faculty meetings, these onetime clerks will, form time to time, share some of their experiences. The stories are never about the cases, the hours or the draft opinions. Instead, they are funny stories about the human beings on the Court and we often end up nearly out of seats with laughter. Of Courtiers and kings does not aim for that result. It does however offers one of the best sources for understanding what has become an important institution as evidenced by law schools touting clerkships as a crowning achievement of their alumni and which is a pretty sure path to faculty lunch tables, the bench and partnerships. It will be a welcome addition to academic and larger public law libraries.

The book covers the whole history of the institution of Supreme Court Clerkships through historical essays and personal recollections. It is not nor does it purport to be a comprehensive history or an analysis of the institution. It does, however, allow the reader to track the changes over time and form some preliminary opinions on important questions such as what role should they play and do they exert influence over the Justices.

 For example, the historical essays covey the lowly state of the first clerks who were expected to be, well, clerks, by taking are of the mail, bills and other details of life without daring to intrude into legal decision-making. Legal research help was slowly added in. Then came the cert petitions and only in more modern times drafting opinions. In connection with this change of duties, it appears from the various essays and remembrances that the clerkship has become more of an institution and less of an individualized experience. I noted the steady move away from the intense mentoring, almost paternal in nature, that clerks once received and which has been replaced with professional relationships and career and life help ranging form nonexistent to moderate. I noted that some clerks were once expected to be in the home of their justice never venturing to the courtroom whereas now they go to the courthouse and basically live there. I noted that one on one (or even one on four) discussion of cases and opinions have become rare with one justice going so far as to require clerks to drop drafts through a slot and giving written feedback weeks later. I thus was left with the impression that clerks are no longer surrogate children of their justices though clerk’s children (the grandclerks) may be surrogate grandchildren.

As to what influence the clerks have on actual decisions, the essays and remembrances suggest “not much if any". True, Justice Frankfurter, the reader is told by several former clerks, would track down clerks to lobby them for their boss’ vote or berate them if the other Justice voted the wrong way. But as told by these clerks at least, the justices make up their own minds and clerks do not move them away. Examples included Justice Clark flatly refusing to change his vote in case where his vote was not decisive and his clerks feared for the reaction his vote would cause and Chief Justice Warren refusing to vote to outlaw prosecution for public drunkenness as that would just lead states to send alcoholics into civil commitment proceedings. Perhaps the most compelling material on how clerks are not likely to move a justice into a positon he or she does not want to go comes from the accounts of justices, their clerks and sports. Justice White gave no quarter on the basketball court and appears to have allowed his clerks little if any influence on his votes or reasoning. Justice Black was so intent on winning that he willingly ran into a wall dozens of times rather than allow his clerk to win a point. And Chief Justice Rehnquist was so intent on having intense tennis events he declined to add the fourth clerk he was authorized as chief justice to keep his doubles pairings intact. Men and women who won’t yield on something I perceive as rather trivial are not likely to given way on issues of constitutional law or judicial philosophy.

As a mostly primary source, the book does not attempt to reconcile the picture of hard worked young attorneys with limited power or influence with the large signing bonuses, prime post-clerk opportunities in government and the law available to clerks now as opposed to the professional suicide that clerk’s experienced well into the 20th century. We will need to await a scholar to explain why the legal community places so much prestige on people who mostly give recommendations about petitions for review and have been strongly encouraged to recommend no. Until that new work comes out, however, Of Couriers and Kings belongs on the shelf of every academic law library and in those larger public law libraries with room in the budget for important works which are not primary authority or practitioner oriented.

©William R. Gaskill, Reviewer, 2016.  Reference and Collection Development Librarian, Howard W. Hunter Law Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. gaskillw@law.byu.edu

Posted By William Gaskill at 7/8/2016 6:12:40 PM  0 Comments