Category Archives: Tools

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.

The Indigo Book – a Free Legal Citation Guide Based on the Bluebook

A free alternative to The Bluebook legal citation guide is now available.  The Indigo Book, formerly called “Baby Blue,” is available online without charge in PDF or HTML.

indigo

To make legal citation more accessible, the team behind The Indigo Book, led by Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org, separated the widely used system of citation codified in The Bluebook from its particularized expression thus avoiding infringement of that work’s copyright.

The blog, Citing Legally explains:

Working under the guidance of NYU copyright expert, Professor Christopher Sprigman, a team of students spent over a year meticulously separating the “system of citation” reflected in The Bluebook from that manual’s expressive content – its language, examples, and organization.  The Indigo Book is the result . . .

As the work’s forward explains, providing “pro se litigants, prisoners, and others seeking justice but … lack[ing] resources … effective access to the system lawyers use to cite to the law” was, for its creators, an important goal.

Tips for Enabling and Completing Fillable PDF Forms

Have you ever been asked to complete and electronically submit a fillable PDF form only to find that you couldn’t save it after you’d finished completing it?  That all you could do was print it, then have to snail mail, fax, or scan it back in?

Or maybe you’re the one who created a form then received complaints from users who spent time completing the form but couldn’t save it?

If those completing the form were using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, you’ve probably encountered this problem.  While saving fillable PDFs is easy with Adobe Acrobat Pro, it’s often not possible for those using Acrobat Reader.

There are a couple of ways around this problem without spending hundreds to purchase Acrobat Pro.

For form creators, there are some simple changes that you can make to way that you save your form in Acrobat Pro that will allow users to be able to save the form that they’ve just completed.  Rather than selecting Save, you’ll do a Save As and select Reader Extended PDF.  For more information, see these instructions from Adobe.

I followed the instructions and successfully created a form that I could complete and save using the free Acrobat Reader.  I also found that I could reopen it later and add more information.  That’s especially useful for longer forms.

For form users, there is an app called Sign My Pad that allows one to fill out as well as sign any PDF form, regardless of how it was saved.  It doesn’t even have to be a fillable form.   You can add text, boxes, signatures, etc. to any PDF.  Sign My Pad is available for less than $4 for both iPad and Android.

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!

Data Visualization Tools – Infographics, Timelines, Flowcharts, Maps, and Mindmaps

If you’re looking for creative ways to visualize your data, check out the following list of tools.  Most are free, web based, and relatively easy to use.

Infographics
Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.

Easel.ly – This is one of the easier to use visual communication tools.  It offers a dozen free templates which you can easily customize.  Here’s an flowchart about worker’s compensation created with Easel.ly.

Piktochart – This tool is a little more complicated to use but has some great options.  Use it to create infographics, posters, presentations and reports like this one on copyright law or this one on how laws are made.

Timelines
Timeline JS – With this simple tool, you can easily make visually appealing, media rich timelines.  Here’s an example timeline on the History of the Clinical Program at Columbia Law School and another on campus racial justice protests.

Tiki-Toki – This is another multimedia timeline tool with more sophisticated options.  Here’s an example on the history of international law.

Flowcharts
Creately– This flowchart design tool has thousands of templates and allows collaborative design.

Maps
StatPlanet – This application allows you to create fully customizable interactive maps.  StatPlanet can be used to visualize location-based statistical data as in this example of youth and voting demographics by Congressional District.

Mindmaps
A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information.

Mindmeister – This online mind mapping tool is easy to use and offers some advanced features.  Here’s one on how to be more productive.

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!

Study Identifies Gaps in the Research Sources Being Taught in Law School

Rebecca S. Trammell, Law Library Director of Stetson University College of Law has recently completed a dissertation on Technology & Legal Research: What Is Taught & What Is Used in the Practice of Law.

Using data from three sources (the 2013 ALWD Survey; a review of syllabi; and the 2014 law school legal research survey), the study asks whether law schools are instructing students in the legal research resources used by attorneys in the practice of law.

According to Trammell, the answer is no.  Here’s an excerpt from page 79:

The results of the law school legal research survey indicate significant gaps in law school instruction in state administrative law for both the attorney’s home state and other states and for state case law research for states other than the attorney’s home state. In addition, law school instruction is not focused on several tools used in law practice, specifically legal forms, legal news sources, experts, information about judges, jury verdict information, and finding and using public records. Based on the use of these resources by practicing attorneys, instruction in these areas would result in law students’ gaining more practice-ready skills.

Free Tool to Convert, Merge/Split, Compress & Unlock PDF Files

I recently discovered a new, free tool called Smallpdf that allows you to do some sophisticated PDF management that you can’t do with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

For example, with Smallpdf, you can convert your PDF into many different types of file formats, including JPG, Word, PPT, or even Excel – or from any of those formats to PDF.  You can also merge multiple PDFs into one file or, conversely, split a single PDF into multiple files.  You can also compress your file size or unlock password protected files.

Hat tip to TechBits

Search for Fair Use Cases using the US Copyright office’s new index

Copyright and it’s component Fair Use, are two of the stickiest and (at least for me!) most headache-inducing areas of law. There are so many shades of gray and changes that it can be difficult to follow whether the use of an image or video is allowed or not and under what circumstances something can be used.

Hopefully the US Copyright’s office new Fair Use Index will help make the issue a little bit clearer. Users can search cases that deal exclusively with Fair Use and quickly see how the decision has been rendered (if Fair Use was found or not). You can narrow your search by jurisdiction and, importantly, by format (text, audio, computer, etc).

You can check out the Fair Use Indexes searching capabilities here on their website and read the US Copyright Office’s press release here.

Remember that the use of the index does not constitute legal advice, but does give users a better idea of the recent developments in Fair Use. Thanks to the UW Law Library’s Government Documents librarian, Margaret Booth for alerting us to this new resource!

Nimbus – Free, Versatile Screen Capture Tool

Sometimes I find it useful to take screenshots to capture various things for instructional or documentation purposes.  I’ve used several different tools over the years but came across one today that I really liked.  It’s called Nimbus Screen Capture and it’s a free Firefox add on.

Nimbus has a lot of nice editing tools, but the thing that I really like about it is that it can capture an entire webpage, not just the portion that you see on your screen (although it can also do that and much more).  Being able to capture more than just what appears on a single screen is something that I’ve struggled with in the past.

With Nimbus, you can copy the screen capture as an image to your clipboard, download it, send to Google, or upload it to Nimbus. The latter will give you a URL that you can then share with others.  See the quick guide for more detailed instructions.

For more on Nimbus and other screen capture tools, see MakeUseOf.com.