Tuesday, November 29, 2016

HeinOnline – a different kind of legal database

In law school we tend to focus on the major commercial legal databases, Lexis and Westlaw. For many, these two databases represent the universe of legal materials. While these databases are very useful in obtaining current law and secondary legal materials they often fall short in older materials. For instance the coverage for most law journals in those databases begins in the 1990s, but what if you need a law review article from 1950? Fortunately, HeinOnline exists.



HeinOnline provides coverage of most law reviews and journals all the way back to volume 1. For instance, the Western New England Law Review is covered, beginning full coverage with volume 16 on Westlaw* and Lexis while HeinOnline provides access to all issues. The extended coverage on HeinOnline doesn’t stop with law review articles. HeinOnline also includes many historical legal resources including: session laws, statutory codes, federal legislative history materials, and English Reports. This is only a sample of what HeinOnline offers since it has dozens of databases and thousands of titles.**

Another difference between HeinOnline and the major commercial databases is that instead of using just the text of the materials in its database, HeinOnline provides OCRed pdf scans of all the materials which it provides. This preserves the layout of the original publications. It can also be useful for the lay reader who may be unfamiliar with star pagination or to the law review cite checker who needs to check the pagination of a footnote. 

How do I access HeinOnline?


HeinOnline can be accessed from the terminals within the Western New England University School of Law. It can also be accessed remotely by faculty and current students using your barcode and PIN. If you are not a Western New England University affiliate or  you  are not near our Springfield campus, you may be able to access HeinOnline through the Massachusetts TrialCourt Libraries either by visiting one of their locations or through their website ifyou have a current borrowing card. HeinOnline may also be available on public terminals at state run universities.

So the next time you’re looking for rare or historical legal materials remember, try HeinOnline.

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* Partial coverage begins with Volume 8.
** The links in this paragraph assume the reader has access through Western New England University.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Protecting Metadata in a Word Document

What is Metadata?

Metadata is literally ‘data about data.’ In the modern world just about every aspect of our life generates metadata. For example, every email you send has a surprising amount of additional information attached to it which is hidden by most email client programs. Legal professionals need to be aware that the metadata generated by various technologies needs to be accounted for to prevent inadvertently transmit confidential information to opposing counsel.* The ethics committees in several jurisdictions have issued opinions stating that attorneys have a duty to scrub metadata prior to sending.  In its Formal Ethics Opinion 06-442, the ABA discussed the duty to protect confidential client information under Rule 1.6 as applied to metadata.

Metadata Generated by Word

One example is the use of the ‘track changes’  feature of Word. Microsoft developed this feature to help people collaborate when writing a document.  This feature, when turned on, saves changes made to a document and allows the collaborators to compare the original to the changes. For example, if attorneys within a firm were working together to draft a contract and were using ‘track changes’ they could easily discern where and what changes were made from one version to another.


If opposing counsel were to receive a copy in Word format of the shown contract with the tracked changes intact, they could learn a lot about the strategy of the contract’s drafters.

How to ‘Scrub’ Metadata From a Word Document

I will cover two methods of scrubbing metadata: Word’s built in feature and creating a PDF.

Using Word’s Built in Feature

Go to the ‘File’ tab.  In the middle of the screen will be the ‘Inspect Document’ section. Hit the button marked ‘Check for Issues.’ Then hit ‘Inspect Document’ from the dropdown menu.


This will launch the ‘Document Inspector’ window. From here Word gives several categories of metadata which it will search for. Here, you have the option of not searching specific categories.


Then hit inspect.  Word will then show you the results of the search and give you the option to remove metadata wherever it was found.


Note, some categories of metadata which Word might remove using this method might be items the user actually wants in the document such as page numbers within the footer.

Creating a PDF

A lot of the metadata in a Word document will not be converted if you save the document in another file format, such as the PDF. To save the file as a PDF, go to the file menu and click ‘Save As.’ Word will then determine in which directory you want to save your file. From the ‘Save As’ dialog box make sure you select PDF from the ‘Save as type’ drop down menu.


When saving in the PDF format for the purpose of scrubbing metadata, the user should be aware that certain types of hidden text such as white on white or black text highlighted black might still be selectable and thus capable of being copied and discerned.

Conclusion

The metadata generated by Microsoft Word is just one example of possibly confidential information of which the practicing attorney should be aware. Most technology products an attorney might use have the potential for inadvertent transmission of confidential information. The attorney has the responsibility of finding this out since, keeping confidential information safe is part of the ethical responsibilities of attorneys regardless of whether or not jurisdictional rules explicitly require attorneys to scrub metadata.
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* See E.G. Blake A. Klinkner, Metadata What Is It? How Can It Get Me into Trouble? What Can I Do About It?, Wyo. Law., April 2014, at 18, and Crystal Thorpe, Metadata:The Dangers of Metadata Compel Issuing Ethical Duties to "Scrub" and Prohibit the "Mining" of Metadata, 84 N.D. L. Rev. 257 (2008).