Research Technology Coalition- CD-ROM Legal Publishers Meeting



During the spring and early summer of 1997, an ad hoc group of Washington, D.C. law firm Library and Information Systems Directors, styling itself as the Research Technology Coalition, collaborated on the production of a written statement of policy and technical recommendations concerning the utilization of law-related CD-ROM products and a suggested testing checklist for use in evaluating prospective product purchases. These statements, which speak for themselves, are presented herewith.

The Coalition members undertook this effort on behalf of the user community and in the interest of better communicating our needs to CD-ROM publishers. We determined to present our recommendations to producers directly and, thus, invited interested publishing organizations to send representatives to a meeting at the offices of Hogan & Hartson L.L.P. in Baltimore, Maryland on July 21, 1997. The meeting was cast as an opportunity to review and discuss the merits of various issues raised in the policy and technical statements. The attendees are also identified in the materials presented herewith. We believe that it is fair to say that all of the participants, representing both users and producers, found this event to be both convivial and productive.

We are offering these documents for review by the wider community in the interest of fostering a broader dialog between users and producers. The minutes of the meeting provide some sense of the discussion which ensued. The matter of a practical means for continuing this mutual reflection on an important research technology is still to be determined. The Coalition never intended to institutionalize its existence nor to reinvent itself as a consumer rating service. However, the benefits to both users and producers of a collaborative assessment of experience is obvious, and it is to be hoped that an appropriate forum and form of exchange can be identified.

Agenda Attendees Coalition Members' Info. Checklist Form Meeting Minutes
Policy Recommendations Technical Recommendations

Research Technology Coalition- CD-ROM Legal Publishers Meeting

Hogan & Hartson
Baltimore, Maryland
July 21, 1997


-Welcome (5 minutes)
                Austin Doherty

-Review of Technical Recommendations (5 minutes)
                Craig Dye

-Review of Policy Recommendations (5 minutes)
                Kevin McCall

-Publisher Comments and Exchange of Views
                Roundtable (1 hour)

-Possible Ways of Continuing Cooperation

                Overview (5 minutes)
                        Jean O'Grady

                General Exchange (10 minutes)


Library Directors

Technology Directors


Austin Doherty Craig Dye Jim Daigle
Hogan & Hartson Hogan & Hartson Envires
Kevin McCall Lynn Watson Tom Hagy
Patton Boggs Hogan & Hartson Mealey Publications
Carol Gruenburg Robert Newcomb Cathy Roach
Miller & Chevalier Miller & Chevalier Mealey Publications
Rita Kaiser Gene Barrett Gary Spivey
McKenna & Cuneo Dechert, Price & Rhoads Shepard's
Jean O'Grady Kathy Gill
Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering BNA
Carolyn Ahearn Eileen Bator
Wiley, Rein & Fielding BNA
Carol Goodman Steven McDermott
Mays & Valentine West Group
Chris Smith
West Group
Tom Field
Tax Analysts
Debbie Foxworthy
Tax Analysts
Barbara DeYoung
Matthew Bender
Lee Robinson
Bruce Brownson
CQ Staff Directories
Phil Carter
Jim Blackhard
Marty Kilmer


Research Directors:

Austin Doherty/Hogan & Hartson
        Fax: (202)637-5910

Kevin McCall/Patton Boggs
        Fax:  (202)457-6315

Carol Gruenburg/Miller & Chevalier
        Fax:  (202)628-0858

Rita Kaiser/McKenna & Cuneo
        Fax: (202)496-7756

Jean O'Grady/Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering
        Fax:  (202)663-6046

Carolyn Ahearn/Wiley, Rein, & Fielding
        Fax:  (202)429-7049

Carol Goodman/Mays & Valentine
        Fax:  (804)697-1339

James Shelar/Arnold & Porter
        Fax:  (202)942-5999

Technology Directors:

Craig Dye/Hogan & Hartson
        Fax: (202)637-5910

Steve Chiocca/Mays & Valentine
        Fax: (804)697-1339

Joyce Cutlip[Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
        Fax: (202)663-6363

Maria Herrera/Patton Boggs
        Fax: (202)457-6315

Vaughan Butts[Wiley, Rein & Fielding
        Fax: (202)429-7049

Robert Newcomb/Miller & Chevalier
        Fax: (202)628-0858

Brock Ware/Arnold & Porter
        Fax: (202)942-5999

Gene Barrett/Dechert, Price & Rhoads

Research Technology Coalition CD-ROM Testing Checklist

Item Score 0-5 Comments, Explanation for Score of Less Than 5
1. Installation - -
2. Screen Layout, Toolbar Functions, Menus, Icons - -
3. User Manual, Context Sensitive Help - -
4.1-800 Help Line Response For Technical and User Questions - -
5. Training Materials and Services Offered - -
6. Ability to Locate and Read Using Indexes, Searchable Indexes - -
7. Word Searching - Boolean - -
8. Word Searching - Proximity - -
9. Word Searching - Fields - -
10. Sorting Search Results - Default & Custom - -
11. Displaying Search Results - Formats, Navigational Aids - -
12. Saving Searches; Running Search in Multiple Files - -
13. Changing Files, Databases - -
14. Printing Screens, Pages, Full Documents - -
15. Selecting Text, Printing or Pasting Into Word Processor Document - -
16. Escape Key, Exiting, Restarting - -
17. Runs With Basic Network Applications Open - -
18. General Ease of Use, Intuitiveness, Learning Curve Required - -
19. Frequency of Updates Appropriate and Indicated - -
20. Extra Score - Effective, Innovative Use of Technology; Unique Information Resource, etc. - -
                                Total Score: ________

Note: Score the product under review on a scale of 0 - 5 where 0 represents functional failure, and 5 represents full performance.

Product Name:  _________________________________________________________

Evaluator:  _________________________________________  Date:  ______________

Other Comments & Observations:

Minutes of RTC Meeting With Publishers Representatives Monday, July 21, 1997 9:00 - 10:30 AM

Hogan & Hartson

Baltimore, Maryland

The meeting began with an introduction and summary of the committee's work by Austin Doherty. It was stressed that the day's meeting would focus on laying the groundwork for future cooperative efforts, rather than dealing at length with problems with particular publishers' products. Copies of the RTC recommendations, sample problem reports, and the RTC CD-ROM product evaluation form were distributed to all in attendance.

Craig Dye gave a brief recitation of the technical recommendations of the RTC. Kevin McCall gave a brief recitation of the policy recommendation of the RTC. Points of discussion that followed:

Tom Field, president, Tax Analysts, opened the round table discussion by pointing out that none of the RTC recommendations nor the evaluation form mentioned linking as indicative of a CD-ROM product's value. RTC members responded that hypertext linking is at this point so fundamental to the structure of successful CDROM products that it is assumed.

Beta testing - the publishers stated that they have difficulty in recruiting beta testers. From the ensuing discussion, part of the problem seems due to the fast pace at which products are developed and brought to market; also, large firms find it difficult to commit network resources to beta testing unless the product is of direct interest to the practice of the firm.

DLL problems - publishers suggest use of the subdirectory for DLLs - this will work best in those situations where users revert to centralized hub. This recommendation may be impracticable in most large firm network situations.

BNA technical representative commented that it would be advantageous to be able to work with a firm's IS/MIS personnel at the start of a networked CD-ROM application. Commented that IS/MIS personnel often seem to be out of the loop. Technical documentation is now placed on each BNA CD-ROM itself to better insure that it is conveyed to IS/MIS staff.

Chris Smith of West Group raised the issue of hard drive transfer. Publishers fear that the licensing of transfer of data - their intellectual property - to hard disk would open the doorway to abuse. Tom Field of Tax Analysts recounted some of the history of the development of on-line as an adjunct/competitor to print, and made the point that, from his point of view, the publishers should not allow licensing to defeat the potential of technology. His advice was to lay aside the fear of cannibalization of one media form by another and focus instead on how to best exploit delivery methods.

The Internet was mentioned as a distribution mechanism that might render the present concern over CD-ROM moot. Concerns were raised by RTC members over cost control and the Internet, passwords, security issues. Law firm acceptance of the Internet affects its ability to substitute for other delivery media. Prediction was made that desktop Internet is still 1-2 years out. RTC members mentioned the burden of supporting duplicate products in various media - print, CD, Internet. There was a consensus of opinion that there is a continuing place for CD and, therefore, work on perfecting the medium is a continuing need.

Publishers' opinion was that the major market for CD-ROM consists of small firms and solo practitioners.

Training was highlighted by RTC members as critical to success. Library staff are deeply involved; if product features change, training and training handouts must change. Advance notice of change very desirable.

When asked by publishers what products in current market do perform well, only Mealey's CDs were mentioned favorably. Folio Views was mentioned as a particularly poor user interface. Book On Screen was praised by one Library Director.

Discussion returned to the use of hard drive. Again, the publishers' worry is theft of data. The publishers are not comfortable with licensing plans that would allow uncontrolled distribution of their products. The AALL fair use document was cited as being problematic. Tom Fields of Tax Analysts thought the only certain way to curtail theft of data would be to reduce the purchase price to the point where theft was no longer an attractive option compared with the updated and fully supported product.

Platforms - publishers mentioned that they had to stretch to cover many platforms. They wondered how it might be possible to cause users to migrate up - to leave DOS for example and migrate to Windows. Speculation ensued on how new technology changes old.

Tom Hagy of Mealey asked if he could distribute copies of the CD-ROM evaluation checklist to other CD-ROM developers. This met with approval, and a few comments were made on the value of the checklist as an aid to those evaluating products.

Jean O'Grady commented on plans to make product review results available on the PLL-SIS website, and the need for consumer advocacy - on the part of the RTC. She also stressed the need for communication between publishers and the community of law firm IS/MIS and library personnel - e-mail and Internet website communication were advocated.

Austin Doherty concluded with thanks for all participants, and the hope that the dialog begun would continue and produce positive results.

Policy Recommendations

Product Performance

A product should perform as specified and advertised.


Licensing structures should recognize the practicalities of CDROM use in both the LAN and WAN contexts. While WAN licensing is the ideal, in those situations where WAN distribution of a CD-ROM resource is impractical, due, for example, to insufficient bandwidth in the WAN connections, multiple LAN installations should be encouraged by the licensing fee structure. As an alternative, licensed transfer to hard drives of the data contained in a CD-ROM product could be permitted. The view held by our group is that the CD-ROM itself is an information carrier, and not a final medium. The final medium consists in the distribution of information to the end user's desktop. Licensing structures must facilitate information distribution.

Quality Control

Quality control should be part of CD-ROM product development to a higher degree than is now evident. The use of the consumer as unwitting beta tester should be avoided. Products should be more fully tested for their ability to deliver information to the user.

Support and Training

The subscription agreement for a CD-ROM product should disclose whether support is included in the purchase price. The cost of a CDROM subscription should include initial installation and continuing user support. The vendor of a product should maintain a telephone help line to answer questions about content. A FAQ document should be maintained on a vendor's Internet site for each CD-ROM product it offers.

Vendors should offer training for the library personnel at the law firms which purchase their products. This "training of the trainers" will go far to insure the satisfaction of the end users of the CD-ROM products involved. Training could take the form of on-site sessions conducted by the publisher's personnel, or by printed materials, video tape, Internet site, or other means.

Ease of Use

Essential tasks such as searching, reading, and printing should be made as intuitive as possible.

Currency of Content

The date through which materials on a CD-ROM product are current should be marked on the disc itself when practical, as well as being noted in the printed materials that accompany a CD-ROM, and should be easily displayed while using the disc. Significant data components of a CD-ROM product that have different dates of currency should be identified; for example, "statutes current through March 3, 1997, P.L. 105-4; regulations current through May 6, 1997, 62 Federal Register No. 87." Updates to CD-ROM product content should be accompanied by "readme" or "what's new" information, distributed as files on the disc, in printed form, or via the internet.

Print Commensurability

A title marketed as a CD-ROM version of an existing printed work should at least be capable of fulfilling the functions of the printed, or it should not be marketed using the printed work's title. CD-ROM products that are effectively innovative in content and in the use of information technology should be encouraged. Information of continuing value (for example, cases of administrative decisions) should not be removed from future issues of a CD-ROM product without provision being made for the archival retention and continuing use of that information in a digital format.

Technical Recommendations


Products should be able to be made available to all users across the firm's network(s); should be installable on the desktop without disruption to existing baseline applications; should be delivered with complete documentation on specifically what files are required for the product to load and function correctly; and each update should include complete documentation on any changes to those files (additional files, updated versions of files, and deletions of files). The application should run on the desktop without excessive memory usage, and should not adversely affect other running applications. Technical support from the vendor should be offered specifically for network and computer support aspects, and differentiated and separated from end user support for searching and content questions.

Local Area Networkability

Should permit for centralized, single-site installation of the information in a storage media format of the user's choice, with access from any desktop on the LAN/WAN. Should come with complete, detailed specifications on what files are installed on the server and to what directories/subdirectories. Should allow the product to be installed on a dedicated network CD drive, jukebox, WORM drive, or hard disk drive. Should support the most common network platforms including, but not limited to, NetWare 3.x, NetWare 4.x, NT Server 3.x and 4.x, and Banyan. File (row, page, table, database) locking should be structured in such a way as to support true concurrent access as is indicated by the attendant software license.

Wide Area Networkability

Product should, ideally, adhere to the client/server model, offering a "thin" client and efficient data transmission. Specifically, but not exclusively, the product should pass only the requested data using an incrementing approach and not download large portions of the database to the local workstation. Additionally, local printing of query results from the workstation should be supported. Data transmissions should be sufficiently discrete to be supportable by wide area links of 64kbps and higher. To the extent that productive WAN access is not supported, licensing should allow for data to be installed, managed, and made available over the LAN to end users at the remote site(s).

Installation (desktop)

Product should come with complete, detailed specifications on what files are installed at the client workstations), and to what directories/subdirectories. Should provide full support for Windows 3.x and Windows95 desktop platforms. Product should not overwrite or update files during installation without on-line notification, and notice within the provided documentation.

Behavior on the desktop

Product should load and coexist with primary applications such as word processing, e-mail, and calendar/scheduling. Client software should be very "thin", and be optimized to run successfully on the aforementioned client platforms at the RAM configurations recommended by the client OIS manufacturers (e.g. Windows 3.x - 8 MB RAM, Windows95 - 16 MB RAM, WinNT - 32 MB RAM).

Product support

Sufficient pre-release quality control should be undertaken to ensure that the product performs as is indicated in the documentation. Specifically, it is recommended that vendor develop and maintain a "Beta" program to provide a forum for customers to prototype the product and communicate their findings regarding the individual releases, as well as product in general. Technical support should be offered specifically for network and computer support aspects, and differentiated and separated from end user support for searching and content questions. Support should be offered both reactively via live telephone support, and proactively, such as through, mailings, technical CD's, and Internet web sites.


Changes to products, such as to the user interface, installation routine, file structure or network architecture, should be fully documented in the "readme" file or in the "what's new" printed documentation.

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Last Updated: January 25, 1998
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