“Is it stealing if you empty a Little Free Library?,” Molly Snyder’s Blogs, OnMilwaukee dot com, June 30, 2015.
Look for the 7th edition of this important legal research resource, National Survey of State Laws, which is used by lawyers and many other legal researchers. Visit the Hein Blog for a July 8, 2015, guest post by the author, Richard Leiter.
Link to my 2014 blog post on this topic: How to Find State Law Comparisons, Surveys, and Compilations
Law Librarians Rock and Rule!
I was checking the Law-Lib archives recently and noticed that the first archived Law-Lib email message appeared in March 1980. There was another one in January 1988, but the archiving didn’t pick up speed until August 1991. (Visit the Law-Lib FAQ for Law-Lib instructions.)
Can 3,564 dedicated subscribers (on 3/23/15) be wrong? Well, yes, they can! But not when it comes to crowd-sourcing our patrons’ legal research needs. The accumulated knowledge, kindness, and humor on law-lib is still awesome.
So, say Happy Birthday to your (our!) People and have a moment of reflection about how things have changed, or not, since 1980 in the law library world.
In any event, law-lib is way past infancy and heading on to middle-age. (For the record, even Jane Austen, way back when, referred to a man in his 50’s as middle-aged. And if Jane Says, then it is so.)
And thank-you x 1,000 to Christopher Noe, the Keeper of the FAQ, and Judy Janes at UC-Davis for hosting all these years.
Book Review: Levitt & Davis: “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers”
- Would you like a clear description of 3 free online versions of the U.S. Code?
- Would you like useful tutorials on Fastcase and Casemaker?
- Would you like to know about free and low-cost legal websites, legal research apps, and case law databases? How about cite-checking, dockets, federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal law, foreign, international, and comparative law free and low-cost research resource tips?
You will find those and more in “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers,” by Carole A. Levitt and Judy K. Davis, ABA Law Practice Division, 2014.
It takes brave authors to write a book about online legal research. If badly executed, it will sink quietly to the bottom of the recycle bin. If done well, it will remain within close reach of the researcher. I keep this book nearby and I’ve already pressed it into the hands of other legal researchers.
What this book is not: This is not a book about how to search public records or to perform background checks or skip-tracing. (There are other books on those subjects: see, e.g. Note 1, below.)
What this book is and for whom:
New and experienced researchers will find tips and instructions that can save time, money, and frustration when using the free and low-cost online legal research resources described.
I reviewed the book through the lens of a public law librarian who teaches lawyers and other legal researchers on limited budgets how to research the law. I wanted a quick reference book for myself, to lend to a researcher looking at a new research site or tool, and for our motivated self-represented litigants who need free or low-cost legal research tools.
This book will be useful to lawyers, law library employees, paralegals, judicial assistants, public librarians, and self-represented litigants. It will also be a useful legal research text for students of all stripes, paralegal, library school, and law school.
It can be read from cover to cover, but it is well organized, with a useful table of contents and a good index, so the specific guidance you seek can be found without wasting time.
It includes chapters on researching legal forms, court rules, cases, dockets, citators, and much more, all with excellent advice (and caveats) regarding the strengths and limits of the reviewed resources.
The research and website evaluation tips will be familiar to law librarians and will improve the research skills of those we serve – or at least reinforce the lessons we try to teach the researchers in our midst:
- Read the whole screen.
- Understand the database’s (or website’s) strengths and limits.
- Make no assumptions about database searching protocols. (They change faster than the latest secret to a long life nutrition fad: Quinoa! Kale! Pomegranate! Bacon?)
This book presents those lessons painlessly and gives readers a roadmap for exploring and evaluating all online legal research resources.
Standouts: Tips are practical and the book is highly readable with appropriate warnings about data quality and database reliability. One, among other, standout examples is the section comparing 3 U.S.C. websites (pp. 163-177).
You will want to mark up this book. That is a good thing. It is not good when after reading a legal research guide all you have to show for the effort are a couple of sticky notes that could just as well fall out, with no regret or loss.
I added lots of sticky notes for tips to try out myself and recommend to co-workers. I featured this book in a recent legal research class, where I will recommend this book among my other favorite legal research guides.
The book was well organized. I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the authors and editors met to decide which legal research resources to include in the book and how to organize them – and which ones to leave out (the toughest cuts of all). Not all of the taxonomy, legal research, and UX knowledge in the world could have made that task easy.
Index: The index is very good – and I’m not unappreciative of the fact that there is an index at all, a rare value-added feature nowadays. I did wish there was a Legislative History index term; it is a subject frequently researched. Also, you need to look under both Briefs and Legal Briefs to find all the Briefs index entries, and … no, I quibble. I was able to find just about everything I needed in the index.
Wish list: I wished for more coverage of state and local resources, however, the selection of high quality, publicly accessible state and local online legal research resources varies widely from one jurisdiction to another, so the authors didn’t leave out anything over which they had any control. Many of the state and local research resources we need just don’t exist in digital format – and state legislative history documents often top that list.
Bottom line: This book is Highly Recommended, for law libraries, public libraries, legal research instructors, paralegals, and lawyers.
1) “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet: Conducting Effective Investigative & Legal Research on the Internet,” by Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S. & Mark E. Rosch, is in its 12th edition as of today.
2) You can purchase today’s reviewed book, Levitt & Davis: “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers” from:
It is of the “financial thriller” genre, and no less riveting than Harry Markopolos’s “No one would listen” (about Bernie Madoff and, also, the [insert your own appropriate adjective here] SEC).
Note: HFT = High Frequency Trader
Note 2: See reference to “... riskless, larcenous, and legal” in Flash Boys, chapter 4, “Tracking the Predator,” on pg. 124 of the first hardcover edition, 2014.
If you haven’t heard or read the eloquent Ursula Le Guin speech, that brought the audience to their feet, upon accepting the distinguished contribution to American letters award at the 65th annual National Book Awards ceremony in New York this week – you must:
View the speech at NPR: “Book News: Ursula K. Le Guin Steals The Show At The National Book Awards,” November 20, 2014
Read the speech at various websites, including:
New Yorker, “We Will Need Writers Who Can Remember Freedom”: Ursula Le Guin and Last Night’s N.B.A.s,” by Rachel Arons.
“To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.“
You are willing to read books like this one! “The LCSH Century: One Hundred Years with the Library of Congress Subject Headings System.” [This is a link to a free download of the book. Librarians are founding members of the “sharing economy.” We educate, inform, and entertain.]
Or, support your local book-buying economy and get a bound copy suitable for gift-giving:
Stone, Alva T, ed. “The LCSH Century: One Hundred Years with the Library of Congress Subject Headings System.” New York: Routledge, 2013. 025.49 LCSH ISBN 978-0789011695
“The LCSH Century traces the 100-year history of the Library of Congress Subject Headings, from its beginning with the implementation of a dictionary catalog in 1898 to the present day. You will explore the most significant changes in LCSH policies and practices, including a summary of other contributions celebrating the centennial of the world’s most popular library subject heading language.”
Read story at: “Harper Lee, ABA Journal fiction prizes announced,” by Victor Li, ABA Journal, Sept. 2014
Previous OLR blog post on this topic.
“Cell phone book clubs: A new way for libraries to promote literacy, technology, family and community,” by David H. Rothman, published on July 27, 2014, LLRX (Law and technology resources for legal professionals).
Hat tip to BeSpacific.