Category Archives: Research Strategies

A small but critical change on Congress.gov

 

Congress.Gov announced yesterday that with their new version of searching, users will now get slightly different results. The reason? The default operator is now AND and not OR. So, as Congress.Gov’s post points out, a search for National Park will yield results that include National AND Park instead of National OR Park. A nice improvement, if I do say so myself!

Read more about Congress.Gov’s change here.

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.”

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.

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.

Hein Online adds an email delivery option

 

Good news for all you Hein-heads out there (I am certainly one of them). Hein Online recently added a great new feature to their interface where you can email a link to a Hein PDF…and anybody can access it, whether they are authenticated by Hein or not.

Granted the link will expire after 7 days (if the user isn’t authenticated…if they are it will never expire), but that is still more than enough time to share research or a great article with a colleague or student that may not know how to access Hein or not have access at all.

For full directions on how to email these PDFs straight from your Hein search, check out Hein’s blog post. Happy Hein-ing!

Zimmerman’s Legal Research Guide – and Blog

Zimmerman’s Legal Research Guide is a tremendous resource for discovering the best resources in specific areas of law. I often use the online encyclopedia when I’m presented with a research question on an unfamiliar topic.
Zimmerman’s guide is well known among the law librarian community – and rightly so. With addition of a new Zimmerman’s blog, we can keep up to date with new additions.
The author is Andrew Zimmerman, a librarian with many years of research experience in large law firms. He created the guide after visiting a senior law librarian at her office. “In the middle of our conversation she opened a drawer and pointed to a black ring binder stuffed with paper. This was her ‘black book.’ She said the binder held twenty-odd years of her accumulated wisdom.” He soon started his own black book, shared it with his library staff, and eventually put it up on the web.
Zimmerman emphasizes that the guide is still a work-in-progress and welcomes suggestions, additions, comments or criticisms. See the about page for contact information.
I’ve corresponded with Andy over the years and had the pleasure to meet him in person this month at the Blogger’s Get Together at AALL in Denver. He is genuinely nice guy and very approachable.
Hat tip to Laura Orr of the Oregon Legal Research Guide about the new blog

Guides to Legal Research for the Layperson

The American Association of Law Libraries Legal Information Services to the Public SIS has recently published a new edition of its research guide, How to Research a Legal Problem: A Guide for Non-Lawyers. This guide introduces sources of law generally and offers tips on how to get started.
For a more detailed guide covering both federal and Wisconsin specific resources, see the Introduction to Legal Materials: A Manual for Non-Law Librarians in Wisconsin prepared by the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.

Student’s Wikipedia Hoax Fools Journalists, Bloggers

From Yahoo Tech:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.
His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.
The sociology major’s made-up quote — which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer’s death March 28 — flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India.

There is nothing wrong with using Wikipedia for quick look-ups. I do it myself. BUT – you absolutely need to verify the information against other reputable sources. If the article contains footnotes, you need to follow them. If it doesn’t contain footnotes, you should be suspicious.
See my recent post, Case Reversed for Allowing Wikipedia as Evidence.
Source: Twitter – Ross Kodner