Category Archives: Tools

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

The ABA launches the collateral consequences of criminal conviction database

A great new addition the world of legal research is the recently launched Collateral Consequences database from the ABA. With it, legal researchers can search across all 50 states and federal jurisdictions to discover and analyze how collateral consequences impact individuals with criminal convictions. These consequences can be hard to nail down and were certainly not available all in one place, so this database is welcome to fill that gap.


Check out the free database at: and read more about the development of the database here.

Zotero Mobile Apps Allow you Scan Books, Edit Library

I’ve mentioned several times how much I like and use Zotero, the “powerful, easy-to-use research tool that helps you gather, organize, and analyze sources and then share the results of your research.”
Capturing citation information from your computer has always been easy, but now there are some new mobile apps for Zotero that allow you capture content from the print world and work with your library on your mobile device.
Say that you’re in the library or bookstore and find a book that would be great for your research. With Scanner for Zotero (Android) or BibUp (iPhone) you can just scan the book’s barcode to add it to your Zotero library. I tried Scanner for Zotero and it worked great.
BibUp goes a step further by allowing you to scan (photograph) specific pages which it can convert to OCR.
Zandy (Android) allows you to edit and view your Zotero libraries, add new items, and work offline.

ZotFile Reader
(iPad, Android tablets etc) is a Firefox add-on that streamlines the process to work with Zotero and your pdf reader applications on tablet computers (iPad, Android tablet).
For more information on these apps, see the Zotero website.
Update 2/6/11: Thanks to Zandy developer Avram Lyon for letting me know that the link to Zandy was outdated. I’ve corrected it above. Avram also told me that the latest version of Zandy also supports reading attached PDFs and scanning barcodes.

Statistical Abstract & Supplemental Products to be Terminated

The US Census Bureau has officially announced the termination of the Statistical Abstract of the United States and its supplemental products: USA Counties, State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, County and City Data Book, State and County Quick Facts, and MapStats.
This is a sad, sad day. The Statistical Abstract and its supplements have been wonderful sources of governmental, demographic, and economic statistics. It is a shame to see them fall under the budget ax. Helps You Visually Organize & Brainstorm Ideas is a simple, free web application that lets you create mind maps for organizing and brainstorming ideas. Mind maps are great for visually laying out ideas and seeing the connections between them.
Here is an extremely simple map that I did.
As you can see, you can also get much more complex.
mindmapcomplex.jpg is an extremely simple to use application. Simply hit enter to create a new main topic and tab to create a subtopic. Use your mouse to move topics around and change their relationships between each other. You can also change the color and size of the topic bubbles.