It’s my pleasure to announce a new blawg from the Wisconsin Law Journal. Research and Resources, authored by fellow law librarian, Bev Butula, will “introduce quality websites and search tips to improve your online research experience.”
Bev’s inaugural post highlights several of the resources available from the Wisconsin State Law Library.
At the mid-morning session at the Back to the Future Symposium, we learned about the results from various practitioner and librarian surveys regarding legal research practices. Speakers were Sanford Greenberg and Tom Gaylord of Chicago-Kent College of Law and Patrick Meyer of Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
There was a lot of interesting data presented, including recommendations by Chicago law firm librarians on what skills they would like to see from new associates:
- Electronic Searching Knowledge – 28.57%
- Print Materials Knowledge – 37.14%
- Subject Area Knowledge – 20%
- Online Cost Efficiency – 14.29%
- General Research Strategies – 22.86%
- Google/Web – 2.86%
Also interesting were the recommendations by law firm librarians on which types of information are better accessed online and which are better in print. The majority of librarians surveyed felt that cases and digests were better used online while legislative and administrative codes were better used in print. And it’s no surprise that the vast majority felt that Shepards/KeyCite was better online. Over three quarters of survey respondents felt that secondary sources were better used in print.
The Litigation Podcast from the ABA Section of Litigation promises to serve up practical tips, tactics, and interviews with today’s leading trial attorneys.
Looks like there have been some interesting topics so far, including one on Quick and Dirty Research.
Scott Hawksworth over at DegreeTutor has created a very useful guide for online research called the Librarian’s Ultimate Guide to Search Engines. It covers “things librarians understand about search – and things that anyone doing online research can benefit from.”
These things include discussion of where search engines are and where they are going, a glossary, advanced search tips, and a description of some of the players – big and little – in the search market.
This guide has something for everyone – from novice searcher to expert researcher.
Mary J. Koshollek, director of information and records services at Godfrey & Kahn S.C. in Milwaukee has written an excellent article on evaluating websites in the November issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer. In Assessing Information on the Internet, Mary describes the whys and hows of evaluating the authority of Internet materials.
This article provides guidance as you search and work to evaluate the information that you are gathering. Healthy skepticism and critical evaluation techniques are basic lawyering traits and should be applied to working with Internet-based information.
Southern Illinois University Law Librarians Diane Murley and Amber Hewette have written a new book entitled, Law for the Layperson: An Annotated Bibliography of Self-help Law Books. It is available from Hein and Amazon.
Nearly 1,000 self-help books and other resources are reviewed and classified by topic and jurisdiction. The book is intended to help nonlawyers find the information they need and help librarians serve their pro se patrons.
Source: Law Dawg Blawg
Looking for a map of median house values for Dane County? a family demographic profile for DeForest? or a table of major crops harvested in Wisconsin? These and many more customizable tables, profiles and maps are available free on WisStat from the UW Extension Applied Population Laboratory.
WisStat is a very powerful database for compiling demographic and economic statistics for the state of Wisconsin, its counties and smaller communities. Learning to use it takes a while, but it will be time well spent for those needing this type of detailed, customized data. A help page and introductory power point presentation are available.
The following is based on an article about evaluating information that I wrote for our Law School Newsletter a few years back:
First the good news: Legal information may have three desirable characteristics – good, fast, and cheap.
Now the bad news: You can only have two out of the three at one time.
As researchers, we would like for the sources we choose to meet all three criteria. Unfortunately, this is a very rare occurrence. Quite often we must choose which two of these three characteristics are most important for our research needs.
Good and Fast
The most obvious example of legal information that is both good and fast is that which can be found in subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis. An experienced researcher can quickly find accurate information to address a legal issue. But, it’s not cheap!
In fact, a single search in one of the larger databases could reach almost $200. However, considering the rate at which many attorneys bill their time, this cost may be perfectly acceptable. Remember-time is money.
Good and Cheap
There are several examples of information that is both good and cheap. One might be print resources. Attorneys can often find accurate information using the print resources in the firm’s library with no per use search fees. However, it often takes more time to research with books than it does to search a database.
(With the high cost of maintaining print subscriptions, many librarians know that this type of search may not be as inexpensive as it seems. However, many attorneys do not pass on this cost to their clients.)
The Internet could also be considered another source of good and cheap information. There very well might be a free site out there by a reputable author that accurately answers your legal question. But how long is it going to take you to find it?
Fast and Cheap
Internet information can also be categorized as fast and cheap. Using any number of search engines, you can often very quickly find free information on your legal issue. Unfortunately, it may or may not be accurate. In fact, the very first site you find may say that the US Constitution was signed in 1984. Be aware that just because someone “publishes” a site, doesn’t mean that the information contained within it is reliable.
Which Two to Choose?
Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer to this question. The type of resource you choose to answer your legal question may be different in every situation. How able is your client to pay for legal services? How comfortable are you using databases versus print resources? What is your hourly billing rate? Do you think the answer you seek will be elusive or easily found?
To be an effective legal researcher, you must learn to balance your time, search costs, and the accuracy of the information you find.