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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.
4/20/2016 9:13:50 AM

Book Review: The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts

Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, Oxford University Press, 2015, 346 pages, inclusive of appendices, bibliography, and index, Hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-871339-5 

Richard Susskind has previously written and spoken extensively on the future of law and the legal profession. Here he’s written a new book along with his son who is an economics professor at Oxford. Because of Susskind’s past scholarship in this area, this was a book I knew I had to look at and one you will probably want to skim, if not read through. You will probably want to have this book available in your library purely on the author’s reputation. Lawyers and academics in law will want to know what’s here.

This is not a book about law or lawyers. The Future of the Professions is about trends across the information professions generally. Information professions aren’t defined clearly. Characteristics of an information profession are high levels of specialized knowledge for practitioners, admission based on credentials, government regulation on activities, and a common set of values among practitioners. Examples include clergy, professors, architects, and management consultants, as well as lawyers. But lawyers are such a small portion of the book that this isn’t about understanding the legal profession.

What this book was good for is getting an overview of technology trends affecting all kinds of skilled work. It was helpful for updating my knowledge of technology trends outside of the legal profession. It brushes on diverse topics from downloadable plans for 3D printed houses which have actually been printed and assembled, to MOOCs, to religions using social media to organize. I found it a great tour of new technologies. As you might imagine the topic is so ambitious that coverage can’t be in-depth. Instead, coverage is broad, and copious footnotes get you to the more detailed information. For most technologies, the footnotes even give you a link to download printable house plans, view a social network, or see the webpage of a corporation providing services in an area. In contrast to previous books by Susskind, this book is not gloom and doom and instead presents technology as powerful and pervasive. The tone is upbeat.

A pleasant surprise was the amount of content dedicated to educational trends. This goes well beyond MOOCs into discussions of costs of education impacting professions, apps for educating autistic children, and learning analytics. One of the authors is a professor, and that may account for the emphasis on how technology is changing education. As librarians, we often work as educators.  We support professors, teach legal research, present CLEs, help pro se patrons find what they need, and guide attorneys in research.

A tremendous positive in this book, given that it’s not about law, is that individual sections or chapters of the book hold up well as stand-alone readings. In fact, for me reading it straight through, some facts or examples repeated and I suspect the book may be intended to be read in portions.  Someone who is casually interested can read the introductory sections, then skim the table of contents for the most relevant sections.

Review by Wilhelmina Randtke, Digital Library Services Coordinator, Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative.

Posted By Wilhelmina Randtke at 4/20/2016 9:13:50 AM  0 Comments
3/17/2016 1:28:00 PM

DIGITAL EXTRA "AALL Legal Research Competencies 20-Question Self-Assessment Survey" | AALL Spectrum | March/April 2016 | Volume 20, Number 4


Legal Research Competency Self-Assessment
Created by Gail A. Partin


1. Differentiates between primary and secondary sources, recognizing how their use and importance vary depending upon the legal problem or issue.

2. Identifies and uses secondary sources to obtain background information to gain familiarity with terms of art, and to put primary sources in context.

3. Recognizes differences in the weight of authority among various types of secondary sources and applies that knowledge to the matter in which the information is utilized.

4. Understands the benefits and detriments of various resources and utilizes that understanding to make informed research decisions to change formats or search strategies as needed.

5. Understands the processes and the interrelationships between the branches of government on all levels: federal, state, and local.

6. Knows what legal information is produced, organized, and disseminated at all levels and for all branches of government and can identify appropriate resources to locate such information.

7. Understands and distinguishes between different types of primary law sources and the weight, reliability, and binding or persuasive authority of each source.

8. Recognizes basic similarities, differences, and interrelationships among and between the various types of legal regimes: international law, foreign law, and United States law. 

9. Recognizes that legal information is produced, organized, and disseminated differently within various legal systems and knows how to discover jurisdiction-specific legal information. 

10. Identifies and analyzes legal issues, knowing which primary or secondary sources contain appropriate and current content to facilitate research.

11. Knows how to validate the completeness, currency, and appropriateness of selected sources. 

12. Differentiates and effectively utilizes various types of access points and search strategies such as tables of contents, indexes, headnotes, finding aids, Boolean operators, and search engines.

13. Understands the costs associated with legal research, regardless of type, publisher, or format and is cognizant of the intersection of cost and efficiency in the selection of information format, exercising professional judgment in choosing the outcome that best serves the research parameters.

14. Knows the relative costs of choosing to search one database over another and is aware of free and low-cost alternative sources.

15. Documents research strategies and results by recording all pertinent information to facilitate research and writing.

16. Understands how to apply evaluation criteria to specific legal and non-legal sources of information to determine whether they are authoritative, authentic, and credible.  

17. Reflects on the successes or failures of prior strategies for integrating new information into the analysis and utilizes prior research experiences to continue the research process.

18.   Recognizes when sufficient research has been done to adequately address the legal issue or information need.

19. Demonstrates understanding of how courts or other legal decision makers have applied materials from other disciplines in the past, and determines when material from these disciplines might be persuasive in resolving a particular issue.

20. Where appropriate, locates background or supplemental information to help answer a legal issue or need. 

Posted By Heather Haemker at 3/17/2016 1:28:00 PM  0 Comments