All posts by Kris Turner

Khan Academy Announces Free LSAT Test Prep

This post was authored by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian at the UW Law Library.

Coming in 2018, all those aspiring to go to law school will be able to access online LSAT test prep for free!

In partnership with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) creator of LSAT, the Khan Academy will bring unprecedented access to the testing portion of the law school admissions process.

Salman Khan, who founded the Khan Academy in 2006, says the partnership is meant to level the playing field to law school access for those who cannot afford the hundreds and even thousands of dollars it costs for professional test prep.

The planned test prep will work in graduated stages: testing basic knowledge to gauge a person’s strengths and weaknesses, suggesting practice options with quizzes, and full-blown practice exams.  Students will receive feedback at every stage along the way.  Solutions and videos will be offered to help explain items and concepts a student is having problems with.

The graphic below is from the Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice page.  It is illustrative of what the LSAT test prep landing page might look like:

Khan Academy LSAT

The Khan Academy partnered with the College Board to become the official preparation for SAT in 2015.  The goal is the same.  Access to free SAT test prep levels the playing field to college access for those who cannot afford expensive professional test prep.  More than 3 million students have used the SAT program so far.

The idea of providing opportunity to everyone by putting testing materials online is at the core of the Khan Academy’s mission.  What’s the next frontier?  Bar exam prep?  Salman Khan said, in a recent interview with the online ABA Journal, “We would absolutely be open to conversations with people who administer those exams.”

A stopgap measure for eliminating Supreme Court Link Rot

 

Link Rot is a pervasive problem in the legal community – so much so that Supreme Court opinions are sometimes riddled with cites to websites that no longer exist, which undermines the entire concept of a citation.

Many in the legal academic world are aware of Perma.CC, which is a long-term solution to link rot. Perma.CC allows authors and judges and anyone to preserve the websites they are citing by archiving the page, therefore preserving it as they were citing it.

However, Perma.CC is still in the process of being adopted, and some cites may fall through the cracks. So in the meantime, the University of California Berkeley Law School Library has created a citation program that catches the websites that are cited in Supreme Court opinions and archives them as soon as possible. With this program serving as a stop-gap and the growing adoption of Perma.CC and other web archiving programs, link rot will become extinct, or at least endangered!

Kudos to the UC Berkeley School of Law Library for a great tool.  Be sure to check out their site and review the data from cases and citations!

CourtListener Frees the Law

The following blog post was written by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian at the University of Wisconsin Law School Library

CourtListener is a powerful new free legal research website sponsored by the non-profit Free Law Project.  The Court Listener platform is composed of four searchable databases containing judicial opinions, an audio collection of oral arguments, judge profiles, and documents from the Federal PACER system.  The repository’s numbers are impressive and growing daily.

  • Almost 4 million legal opinions from federal and state courts.
  • Real-time coverage of oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits.
  • A database of over 8500 judge profiles.
  • 2.4 million plus PACER documents.

The search engine is easy to use and offers an “Advanced Search” option to refine searches in a number of ways including citation, judge, and docket number.  Case law searches are powered by their CiteGeist Relevancy Engine to provide the most relevant and important cases at the top of the results.  CourtListener downloads opinions from many jurisdictions on an ongoing basis thereby allowing users to set up alerts using customized search and citation feeds.  RSS feeds may also be set up by jurisdiction.

The oral arguments database is also continually updated, making it the biggest such collection on the Internet.  At present, CourtListener provides oral arguments to over 1500 cases originating from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  A count of available oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits totals over 19,000.  The judge profile search now also links up to the oral arguments database meaning when you look up the profile page for a judge, you may see a list of oral argument recordings for cases that judge has heard.

What really makes CourtListener special is the free access to PACER documents it provides through the RECAP Archive.  Users of the PACER system can contribute to the building of the archive by downloading the RECAP Extensions for Firefox and Chrome.  As you browse PACER, the RECAP extension automatically uploads docket files and PACER-downloaded PDFs to the Internet Archive for others to download later.  The net effect is kind of like paying it forward, allowing the documents (and legal benefits) to flow to everyone.  This newfound access to PACER documents is truly groundbreaking.

CourtListener joins a growing list of other free legal research sites as Google Scholar, FindLaw, Justia, Ravel Law, and Casetext.  You owe it to yourself to take the newest of these for a test drive.  CourtListener rightly joins the UW Law Library’s list of free legal resources available on our Databases and Electronic Resources page.

SEC Adopts Final Rules to Require Hyperlinks to Exhibits in Filings

This post was authored by Jenny Zook, Reference and Instructional Services Librarian at the UW Law School Library.

SEC has adopted a final rule requiring public companies to include hyperlinks in their exhibit index, making it easier for investors to locate previously filed exhibits. According to the SEC, there was overwhelming support for this final rule. Previous to the new rule, to locate a filing, investors had to find the exhibit index to a registrants SEC filings, which, more often than not, was incorporated by reference. Embedding a link directly to the filing is a common sense amendment to the disclosure rules that will speed up the process for investors.

For more information on the SEC ruling see Reuters: SEC adopts rules requiring hyperlinks for corporate exhibits.

For other resources and more information, also see Practical Law: SEC Adopts Final Rules to Require Hyperlinks to Exhibit in Filings

Making case law accessible to all

There have been some very exciting advances in the fight to make court documents more freely accessible to everyone. As many legal researchers and law librarians are aware, many legal materials can be relatively rare or sheltered behind a paywall. Movements are afoot to change this, at least in part, and there has been progress over the past several months.

Harvard’s Case Law Access Project, which involves scanning scanning in Harvard’s entire collection of case law books, recently scanned it’s last volume. That may sound blase, but that means that nearly 44,000 volumes with roughly 40 million pages of case law have been digitized. This case law will be made freely available to anyone who needs to review it.

In addition to finishing their scanning, Harvard also recommended providing bulk digital data of future case law to make it easier to add to the currently scanned collection.  The director of Cornell’s LII and a Professor of Law from Indiana University also testified on behalf of the continued digitally accessible case law.

Lastly, and potentially most exciting, was the announcement by the Internet Archive of their desire to store PACER records from Federal Courts and make them freely available.  While it remains to be seen if this proposal will come to fruition, it is another indication of legal material becoming more easily available to anybody. For now, many PACER documents can be found via RECAP, a free website that is co-run by the Internet Archive and Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

As you search for case law and other legal materials, imagine how that process may become easier as it all migrates to the open web!

Position Annoucement: Reference and Technology Services Librarian

The University of Wisconsin Law School Library invites applications for the position of Reference and Technology Librarian. The Reference and Technology Librarian will be responsible for promoting and implementing technology that will support faculty, students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Law School in their research and scholarship as well as thorough legal research and reference assistance.

The full position description and questions about the application process can be found at: http://jobs.hr.wisc.edu/cw/en-us/job/494295/reference-and-technology-law-librarian

To ensure consideration, applications must be received by March 12, 2017. Contact Kris Turner with any questions about the position.

Lexis.com retiring from Law Schools on December 31

It’s the end of an era as Lexis.com, the long-running and highly regarded database says its final goodbyes to the Law School community.

With 100% of Lexis content now migrated to Lexis Advance, the small amount of loyal Lexis.com users will have to prepare for the switch to Lexis Advance, which has slowly been becoming the primary Lexis database over the past several years.

Both Lexis and Westlaw have transitioned to their new platforms and retired their flagship databases in recent years.

The University of Wisconsin Law School announces the Bhopal Digital Repository

Last week, the UW Law School hosted a symposium on the Bhopal Disaster, which killed thousands of people in the Bhopal region of India, left a long legal trail, and is still controversial to this day.

As a part of that symposium, the UW Law Library, in conjunction with faculty members Mitra Sharafi, Sumudu Atapattu and Marc Galanter, launched “Bhopal: Law Accidents and Disasters in India: A Digital Archive initiated by Marc Galanter“.  This digital archive, housing nearly 3,500 scanned items related to Bhopal, is freely available for anyone to use.  The resources range from court documents and newspaper clippings to embedded video and other secondary resources. The court documents can be downloaded as full-text PDFs from anywhere in the world, while the newspaper clippings can be downloaded at the Law School.

Professor Marc Galanter, who was involved in the Bhopal legal case in the United States, provides pertinent background history and context for new researchers, and his collection is what both inspired and formed the foundation for the digital archive.

Researchers can quickly do a full-text search across the entire collection or narrow down to search only newspaper clippings or court documents. A bibliography of related Bhopal resources is also included.

Potentially the most exciting part of the Bhopal archive is that it will continue to grow. As other Bhopal scholars volunteer their unique material, it will be reviewed and added to the collection, thereby strengthening the usefulness of the collection itself.

The Bhopal collection is the first special collection of the UW Law School Digital Repository.  If there are any questions about the Bhopal collection or the repository itself, please feel free to contact Kris Turner, or more information can be found at the UW Law School Library website.

Recent UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Here is the latest faculty scholarship appearing in the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Papers series found on SSRN.

The University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies journal contains abstracts and papers from this institution focused on this area of scholarly research. To access all the papers in this series, please use the following URL: http://www.ssrn.com/link/u-wisconsin-legal-studies.html

Dive into Criminal Justice Data and Statistics with “Hall of Justice”

Stats and data about any aspect of the legal world have often been notoriously difficult to track down. I know that when I am asked a question about stats at the reference desk, I always prepare myself for what could be a difficult search.

That sigh of relief you are hearing is from law librarians and legal researchers across the US as Sunlight Foundation announced their new repository of Criminal Justice statistics called “Hall of Justice”. Not only does Hall of Justice collect many datasets into one convenient place, but it also, as HOJ’s homepage puts it, brings “criminal justice data transparency” to the forefront.

This data is out there and publicly available, but it can be nearly impossible for a casual searcher (or lawyer, or law faculty, or law librarian) to locate easily. With Hall of Justice, nearly 10,000 datasets are collected in one place and tagged with relevant keywords, allowing users to quickly locate data on a wide array of criminal justice topics ranging from sexual offenders to identify theft. While the repository is not comprehensive, it is still a great step forward in making this important information much more available.

The interface is very intuitive, and a searcher can use it to search by keyword, category or location. Once you have made your initial search, you can then filter the results by Groups (who owns/created the dataset), Sectors (governmental data or non-profit), or by Access Type. This makes the searching process simple and effective.

Try it out yourself and see what useful and eye-opening data you can find.  Hall of Justice can also be found on the Law Library’s database list. If you have any questions, be sure to ask a law librarian!