AALL Spectrum Blog

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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.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
7/24/2013 10:50:13 PM

Program Review: Anatomy of a Civil Lawsuit: Documents from Start to Finish in Dockets

This was easily one of the more entertaining and enjoyable sessions of the conference - and yet, still educational. The session focused on the timeline of a civil lawsuit, augmented with tips on searching dockets (mostly specific to Bloomberg dockets) and the treasures that can be found within dockets if you know where to look - as long as you have some patience, tenacity and creativity. Luckily, they're presenting to librarians.

Jim Murphy of Bloomberg moderated the session along with providing his expertise on Bloomberg Law's Dockets database. Mary E. Matuszak, Director of Library Services for the New York District Attorney's Office, and Christine Sellers, Research Specialist at Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough L.L.P. opened the session with a surprising skit.

It was a skit about shoes. Yes, shoes. (I hope I got this right...) It seems Christine borrowed shoes from Mary. Christine fell while walking in the shoes and ruined them. Christine is suing Mary for falling. Mary is countersuing for her shoes being ruined. At least I think that's how it went down.

I'd like to say that such a petty lawsuit would have no place in the American justice system. But who am I kidding?

Their (thankfully) fake lawsuit provided an ongoing construct for illustrating the back and forth filings that occur when a lawsuit is initially filed through the case conclusion.

The data points within a docket were reviewed including a particularly interesting trivia point that the first two digits of a federal district court case number (before the colon) is the vicinage number (as in vicinity) for identifying a particular court within a federal district.

The tips for what you can get from a docket beyond just the timeline of the case were very useful. For example, you can use the docket as a point of contact information for attorneys. Or you may check the complaint as a source of information for addresses of the parties to the suit. When you're reviewing a rather large docket and need to focus in on the more important filings look for key "ritual language" such as "in support of motion for summary judgment" rather than just "motion for summary judgment" which could include all the various scheduling orders or motions to submit extra pages in the brief. Corporate disclosure statements, filed at the beginning of a case in order for a judge to know whether she needs to recuse herself, may be a good source for information on company hierarchical relationships. But exhibits are where the "juicy" stuff is - contracts, license agreements, expert reports, deposition excerpts.

Christine took the lead on the last portion of the presentation on state dockets. She illustrated her examples with the online case information systems available in the state courts of South Carolina. She advised always searching the home county as well as the surrounding counties of the individual or company in question.

I found this to be a very rewarding presentation and I found the presenters to be knowledgeable and engaging. My only complaint is that they were sorely pressed for time (only 45 minutes) despite how quickly they moved through the material. This would be an excellent program to bring back at future meetings - though a longer time slot would definitely be warranted.

Posted By Diana Koppang at 7/24/2013 10:50:13 PM  0 Comments
7/24/2013 10:51:00 AM

Program Review: Exhibitor Showcase - Understanding Search Algorithms - How Lexis Advance Works

Marty Kilmer, V.P. of Product Platforms, and Ian Koenig, Chief Architect, set out to give us an inside look at how the search algorithms deliver results within Lexis Advance. Kilmer also announced that the next major release of Lexis Advance is coming soon, including navigation improvements and adding source titles to the Word Wheel (a great addition in my opinion).­

Before the discussion on the search algorithm, Koenig made two clarifications on searching issues:
  • The Word Wheel does not include associative retrieval (e.g., a query on "abortion" will not surface results for Roe v. Wade).
  • Lexis Advance does perform word stemming but will not search alternative word forms. For example a query for "produce" (as in "produce documents") will not find instances of the term "production."
Koenig then walked through the steps of a Lexis Advance search and how the search is analyzed by the algorithms in place.

The algorithm then ranks the results using the following criteria: 
  • Phrase recognition
  • Case names & citations
  • Concentration of terms
  • Coverage of terms
  • Prominence
  • Recentness (level of authority, validity)
  • Document segment the search terms appear in
  • Number of hits within the document of the search terms
Unfortunately, there was no time for questions - and this seemed to be common with the Exhibitor Showcases that I attended. I think this is quite a shame and at future meetings I would like to see these sessions either lengthened or AALL should urge vendors to allow time for questions. Attendees were encouraged to visit their booths for follow-up questions, but I believe facing questions in front of an audience would have put their feet to the fire, so to speak, more so than talking with them one on one on their turf.
Specifically, I expected them to address a key issue that has come up in discussions with my fellow law librarians – that the Lexis Advance search algorithm - specifically as it applies to natural language searches - is simply not as strong as that of some of its competitors. It is interesting to know how it works, but I would have liked to know what they’re doing to make it work better.

Posted By Diana Koppang at 7/24/2013 10:51:00 AM  0 Comments
7/24/2013 9:09:18 AM

Program Review -C5: Law for the Non-JD Librarian

Presenters: Ajaye Bloomstone, Coordinator; Francis X. Norton, Jr. , Speaker, Loyola University New Orleans; Heather Casey, Speaker, Georgetown University Law Center.

After Bloomstone's introductory and housekeeping notes, Norton led the session with a brisk and witty overview of US Primary & Secondary Law. After pointing out that our English roots begat language, a love of tea, and common law, he led with his thesis statement: the whole of law is born of conflict.

Norton’s content was truly a basic level introduction to US Law.  Levels of rulings were discussed (The Constitution > Statutes > Regulations), as were several basic US Primary Law sources, such as the US Code, the more helpful US Code Annotated, and the Code of Federal Regulation.

Secondary sources, unlike primary sources, are treatises that explain or comment on the law. He pointed out several types, such as Restatement of the Law, digests, and law journals.

Norton’s way of framing law research, asking the question “who cares?” (or “who might care?”), was probably the most useful takeaway concept if one already had some familiarity with the basics of US Law. Asking what conflicts are inherent in your query or whose jurisdictions will be affected by your conflict is a good way to narrow down what sort of resources to use. His talk was supplemented by a US Law Resources handout covered largely print sources of primary and secondary law.

Casey presented a practical guide to collecting Foreign, Comparative, and International Law materials. Casey broke down the components of FCIL materials and listed types of resources that generally accompany each, such as codes and gazettes. Her talk was supplemented by a handout listing major print as well as free and fee-based electronic FCIL resources.

Due to the nature of foreign publishing, managing the time expectations of researchers is key when hunting down resources. Creating an FCIL policy was also suggested to help smooth out questions relating to formats, foreign language acquisitions, and binding policies for pamphlet-type publications. For anyone beginning their journey into FCIL collection, Casey’s talk and handout were likely to be a great resource. 

Posted By Katherine arshall.1@onu.edu - Marshall at 7/24/2013 9:09:18 AM  0 Comments