Friday, October 2, 2015

The National Conference of State Legislators' Website

This post is about a website that I have found useful over the years – the National Conference of State Legislators website. The NCSL bills itself as “the nation’s most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.” So I want to bring to your attention the kinds of work product that you can expect to find on this site.

Material that is likely to be the most useful for researchers is found under (predictably) the “Research” tab. For example, NCSL is keeping tabs on the following topics: genetically modified organisms (“lawmakers across the country introduced 101 bills addressing genetically modified organisms in the 2015 legislative sessions”); civil and criminal justice (“eyes on crime: police body-worn cameras”); labor and employment (“state minimum wages”); and human services (“child support and family law legislation database"), to name just a few.

That gives you a taste of the breadth of topics followed by NCSL, but now I’ll give you a taste of the depth of coverage. Let’s take the section on genetically modified organisms as an example. On that page, NCSL reports on how many states actually passed proposed legislation on genetically modified food, how often a state legislature introduced bills on this topic and what happened to those proposals, and provides links to summaries of the enacted legislation and bill number information. That would provide a great jumping off point for someone wanting to get an idea of how legislation is advancing in this hot topic. 

Take a moment to review the topics covered on this website. I think you will find it helpful.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ScholarRank - Ranking of Legal Scholars by HeinOnline

ScholarRank is an impressive new feature that HeinOnline instituted earlier this year that analyzes HeinOnline author activity. This tool evaluates the number of times an author has been cited in articles and cases, as well as the number of times the author’s articles have been accessed (by HeinOnline users) during the past 12 months. HeinOnline then ranks its leading 250 legal scholars, according to these metrics. Looking at the frequency that articles have been accessed is valuable because it helps determine scholarly activity before citations to an author can accrue.

Take a look below at the top 10 rankings from Hein, or the entire list of the top 250 legal scholars. When viewing an author’s ranking, you can click on the author’s name and view the author’s profile, which includes details about frequency of citation. 
This feature is part of HeinOnline's ScholarCheck, a set of tools which compiles the most-cited journals and authors, displays the number of articles and cases that cite the current article, enables users to sort search results by the number of times an article has been cited by other articles, the number of times accessed, as well as link to the list of articles that cite the current article.

All of this helps users locate the most relevant articles pertaining to their research topic. Users can see which articles are trending in HeinOnline and which articles are the most heavily-cited by cases and articles, and then easily link to those cases and articles. Take a look!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Library of Congress (LoC) Launched New Web Archive Content on Its Website This Past Summer

Recently the Library of Congress launched a significant amount of new Web Archive content on the Library’s Website. There are now 21 named collections on wide-ranging subject matter available in a new interface; some had been available in the LoC’s old interface but are newly migrated; other content is entirely new.

The Library of Congress Web Archive is a collection of archived websites selected by subject specialists and grouped by theme, event, or subject area, to represent web-based information on a designated topic. Web archiving is the process of creating an archival copy of a website -- a snapshot of how the original site looked at a particular point in time. The Library’s goal is to document changes in a website over time. This means that most sites are archived more than once. The archive contains as much as possible from the original site, including text, images, audio, videos, and PDFs.

This is part of a continuing effort by the Library’s Web Archiving project to evaluate, select, collect, catalog, provide access to, and preserve digital materials for future generations of researchers. This is a significant project because an increasing amount of information can only be found in digital form on websites. A lot of cultural and scholarly information is created only in a digital format and not in a physical one. If it is not archived, it may be lost in the future. The Library is preserving digital materials for researchers today and in the future.

One collection of particular interest is the Legal Blawgs Web Archive. This is available as on ongoing archive from 3/1/08 - present.

This is a selective collection of authoritative sites (associated with American Bar Association approved law schools, research institutes, think tanks, and other expertise-based organizations) that contain unique, born digital content. These blogs contain journal-style entries, articles and essays, discussions, and comments on emerging legal issues, national and international.

Take a look at the Law Librarian Blog, which provides information and news for law librarians and the general public.
Archived version of the Law Librarian Blog:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Summer Vacation

The blog will be taking a break through the summer semester. We look forward to posting again for our readers in the fall.

Enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More Crowdsourced Legal Research -- Mootus

A couple of weeks ago I discovered Casetext, a crowdsourced legal research website and wrote a blog post on the platform. The use of crowdsourcing, for what is normally a solitary pursuit, changes legal research into a more collective, collaborative process. Intriguing!

Mootus approaches the process very differently from Casetext, which uses crowdsourcing to enhance primary law with annotations, comments, and insights from members of the legal community, adding value to the raw legal materials.

So, how does Mootus differ?

Mootus does not promote itself as a legal research resource, but as a platform for open, online legal argument. Users find open issues, cite good law, add relevant law, and vote other cites as "on point" or "off base." Users earn reputation and status through high-quality cites, arguments, quality of \ answers, and votes. Mootus creates a personalized issue library for users based on the issues the individual argues, follows, and posts.

Isn't this how legal work is approached--around issues, which lawyers answer by citing to recognized authorities such as court decisions, statutes, or regulations? These issues are the basic building blocks of legal analysis. The same is true with Mootus. Everything that happens on Mootus revolves around legal issues. Users can add new issues or answer open issues, and build portfolios of their responses to issues.

Mootus is free, but also provides a basic or premium monthly subscription if users want to add more than one new issue. With a free subscription, however, you can answer and follow issues.

Mootus is not designed for providing crowdsourced legal advice! Instead the focus is on the way lawyers work, and is attempting to improve the quality and the efficiency of their work. Hats off to Mootus for spearheading this interesting collaboration among attorneys! They built it; now let's hope they come...