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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.
8/22/2016 10:14:25 AM

Book Review: The Law-Making Process, Seventh Edition

By Michael Zander. The Law-Making Process, 7 edition. Hart, 2015. Paperback. 476 pp. 244 x 169 mm. ISBN 9781849465625 $59.99.

Legislation is the bread and butter of law librarians, and for most of us, it has  taken years to develop the expertise necessary to tackle the difficult research questions in our own jurisdictions. When it comes to providing research assistance for a jurisdiction outside of our own, we are often less confident than we would like to be. Therefore, finding a really good guide to the legislation of other jurisdictions is vital. Luckily, in the case of understanding the intricacies of the British law-making system, the recent publication of Michael Zander’s The Law-Making Process, Seventh Edition, has made the task so much easier.

Zander begins at the beginning, which is to say he starts with bills. He discusses the sources that eventually lead to the drafting of a bill (e.g., the reports of law commissions or government committees), along with the consultation process, the role of Cabinet, and then the process of drafting itself. How bills ultimately become law is explained next, and in great detail: we are shown how the various types of bills—i.e., public bills, private bills, hybrid bills and private members’ bills—make their way through a watchful Parliament.

The Law-Making Process provides essential information on finding statutes online, and then the book moves on to the complex matter of “statutory instruments” (SIs, which include rules, regulations, orders, etc.). A small number of these statutory instruments requires an “affirmative resolution” (in other words, the positive approval of Parliament) which means that Parliament must make time to debate them. The majority of statutory instruments, however, come into being via a “negative resolution” procedure. Parliament has 40 days to vote its disapproval, in some cases, after a statutory instrument has been laid in draft before Parliament, and in other cases, even after it has been “made and laid” (i.e., it has been signed off by the Minister and is no longer in draft form).

Zander also covers delegated legislation in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each of these jurisdictions has its own Parliament with “delegated powers” from Westminster to pass certain types of laws. In subsequent chapters, he also discusses a number of other vital aspects of law-making: the doctrine of stare decisis in the court system; law reporting; and the central role of judges, including their background and appointment. This leads to an examination of the subject of diversity on the bench, and an exploration of such thorny issues as judicial bias and activist judges.

Where The Law-Making Process differs from many of its kind is this: it includes an enlightening section on statutory interpretation. Most books on the legal system, in my experience, ignore the topic of statutory interpretation, as though it’s an arcane matter for only judges, lawyers, and scholars to ponder when they come across statutory language that’s confusing or ambiguous. Zander, on the other hand, provides readers with an overview that lays out the subject in an easy-to-understand way that will show its importance to all readers interested in the making of law.

Overall, the book is thorough and well-written. While it serves nicely as an introduction to the subject, it is detailed enough to provide new information for researchers who might have thought they already knew the subject well. Academic libraries are most likely to benefit from owning a copy, although court house libraries might also find it useful. Indeed, Zander’s book is amongst the best on the English legal system. For those poor researchers obliged to wander out of their comfort-zone into what may be an alien field to them, it is both reassuring and reliable.

Review written by Nancy McCormack; Librarian and Associate Professor; Queen’s University; Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Posted By Heather Haemker at 8/22/2016 10:14:25 AM  0 Comments
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