High Legal Research Cool Factor: wellsettled dot com

Hat tip to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog post: WellSettled.com Mines Cases for Established Principles,” which introduces us to wellsettled dot com: “It is well settled…

I bet you can’t search just one (word or phrase), but this “one” is a non-hedonic hyperphagia compulsion, so enjoy.

“Only 15 percent of the unique volumes in U.S. law libraries have been digitized …”

Rent a Law Book? Want to get App App Appy?

Read: “Legal Research Revolutionized,” by Dan Giancaterino, in GP Solo, Vol. 31 No. 3:

“…. Law libraries will survive, and even thrive, in the future. An article in the May 2013 issue of ABA Journal estimated that only 15 percent of the unique volumes in U.S. law libraries have been digitized….

Legal Books as Apps

We’ve all seen the typical legal advertisement on the Internet, on TV, or even on the covers of telephone books (remember them?): an image of an attorney sitting in front of a wall of legal books. It impresses potential clients. And it implies that the attorney is continually consulting the accumulated wisdom of legal scholars throughout the ages.

But the truth is you need most legal sources for only a few days or weeks. The rest of the time they just sit on your shelf looking impressive but presenting you with challenges:

They’re expensive.
They take up office space, which is a fixed cost you need to minimize as much as possible.
They need upkeep. You must file updated pages or pocket parts or you risk committing legal malpractice by relying on outdated materials….”  [Link to full article.]

(The 15% article: “Are digitization and budget cuts compromising history?”  Hollee Schwartz Temple, ABA Journal, May 1, 2013.)

Death by Failure to Research: Could You Pass a Legal Research Competency Test?

David Lankes tells a familiar “Death by Failure to Research” story in his free eBook, “Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World:

…. In 2001 Ellen Roche, a 24-year-old lab technician, entered into a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University’s Asthma and Allergy Center. The trial was investigating how the lungs responded to chemical irritants. Researchers had Roche inhale hexamethonium. Roche was the third volunteer to do so in the study. The first volunteer had developed a slight cough that lasted a week. The second volunteer had shown no adverse reactions. Roche developed a slight cough that got worse and worse. Five days after inhaling the chemical, Roche was admitted to intensive care. Less than a month later, she was dead. What makes this story all the more tragic is that Roche’s death could have been avoided. As part of the funded clinical trial, the researcher did a literature search. He searched a database that indexed studies from 1960 to the present day. He found nothing on hexamethonium. However, had he not restricted himself to the Internet-accessible version of the database he would have found studies from the 1950’s linking hexamethonium to significant lung problems. Because of Roche’s death, all drug studies at Hopkins must now include a consultation with a librarian and pharmacist….” [Lankes, p. 80 [PDF p. 87] Link to free online versions of David Lankes’ latest book: “Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World.”  The digital version of this book is free to download and distribute. It is in PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and iBook formats.]

Read more about “Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competency.”


A dog cannot recover for emotional distress? (Headnote of the Day.)

Gallagher Blogs reminds us that Headnote of the Day still lives!

A dog cannot recover for emotional distress?

You are probably well aware of the West Key Number System and headnotes but are you familiar with Westlaw’s Headnote of the Day provided on Thomson Reuters’ Legal Solutions Blog? ...” [Link to blog post.]

Earn $1,000 – by NOT Going to Law School?

Anything But Law School Graduate Scholarship

The flip side of  “too many lawyers“:  Some reports estimate that 55% of attorneys are baby-boomers. If that % is correct, and the tail end of baby-boomer-dom was 1958, it’s quite possible we’ll need a lot of replacement lawyers really soon.

Some lawyers retire in order to do other things, but many lawyers will retire because the practice of law isn’t much fun anymore (e.g. legal research has become no “more than a google box on top of a legal database.”

UELMA in Oregon: 2013 HB 2944: Is that Online Statute Legally Correct?

If you research the law online, you need to have authenticated, official laws – yes, you do!

There is no point relying on statutes, cases, regulations, and other government legal documents that aren’t correct, aren’t from the year(s) you need, and are missing the source’s official imprimatur.

Most online laws have Disclaimers that advise and warn you to verify what you read online with official, legal text.

But aren’t we told to “get with the plan? It’s all online?” Yes, we are!

So, how do we Get with The Plan? The most important way is to make sure that federal, state, and local governments post authenticated, official laws online. This is where UELMA comes in.

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) is a uniform law that would require a state government to:

1) Authenticate official electronic legal materials, by providing a method to determine that it is unaltered
2) Preserve official electronic legal materials, either in electronic or print form; and
3) Make the legal materials easily accessible, for use by the public on a permanent basis.

In Oregon, 2013 HB 2944 is the first, and maybe the last, UELMA bill to be introduced this session. You can read it at the Oregon Legislature’s website - or try this direct link first: HB 2944 (PDF).  You can also follow the bill in the Legislature’s OLIS system, from which you can link to hearings, reports, and other proceedings that take place as the bill works its way through the Legislature.

UELMA has been approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and it is under consideration in ten states. It has already become law in Colorado and California.

If you want lots more information about UELMA, visit the American Association of Law Libraries website, where you will find links to the full text of the ULA’s UELMA, to UELMA bill tracking in other states, etc. You can also link directly to the NCCUSL UELMA webpage.

Previous OLR blog posts on UELMA.

Legal Research may be Easy, But You Need to Be Willing to Do a Little Work

I like this new blog: Legal Research is Easy, in part because it’s funny and in part because Legal Research is NOT Easy, which makes the blog name also very funny, or perhaps ironic. (Potential irony is too deep for me, so I’ll just enjoy the ride.)

The Horse to Water blog post describes a Q&A familiar to any public law librarian and very likely any legal aid or court support staff front-line staff member. You see, we do try to make legal research as easy as possible, but ….

Excerpt: After the law librarian shows the patron some excellent, truly excellent, research resources that would go a long way to answering the question posed:

‘…. The patron asked, “What do I do now?” I said, “You need to read it.” To which the patron replied, “Oh, that’s too much work. Why can’t you just tell me what to do?”…
.’ [Link to full Horse to Water blog post.]

Note: Public law librarians do work with patrons with reading and sight disabilities, and we do know that some people with visual disabilities will not disclose this and just keep asking us what they should do. This blog post is addressing a different problem, i.e. the person who will not do the work, not the patron who can’t do the work and who truly needs legal assistance from an attorney.

Quick and Dirty (and relatively $$ Cheap) Legal Research

Quick and Dirty Research Strategy:

1) Make an outline of your Quick and Dirty Legal Research strategy and take good notes as you proceed, especially keeping track of citations, effective keywords, and other results you find along the way.

2) Search Google or other search engine: You can find official and unofficial statutes, appellate court briefs, law review articles, case law, subject-specialist lawyer and law professor blogs, and much more.

3) Search Google Scholar: More case research – and don’t forget the “How Cited” feature.

4) Search any free legal research tool you have access to. Some public libraries and public law libraries have Fastcase, LoisLaw, or other low-cost legal research databases and many have law journal databases.

5) Last, use a full service legal research database for the “finishing” work to make sure you caught everything and for a double-dose of citator checking (KeyCite and Shepards). Many public law libraries have no-fee Public Access Lexis and Westlaw (for which they pay a hefty price so you can have it for no-fee).

No-Nonsense Law Librarian Tip:

Quick and dirty legal research is available for everyone, but, for the non-lawyer, the self-represented litigant, here’s an important warning, so take heed:

Legal analysis (and legal procedure compliance) isn’t free and it isn’t easy. It can cost you a lot, now and later, if you get it wrong.

Google and sample legal forms cannot replace 3-years of law school and the proverbial 10,000 hours of law practice. If your case matters to you, if it is serious business to you, please consult an attorney, even if you want to do some of the research yourself. And if there is a lot of money at stake, if the health and welfare of loved ones are at stake, if your liberty is at stake, PLEASE TALK TO A LAWYER.

At the very least, consult a professional law librarian to make sure you included all available legal research tools and to find out where you can find affordable attorneys to assist you.

As a wise lawyer/law librarian says to his students and library patrons: “If you read only what is written in the statutes, the cases, and the constitutions you will be absolutely wrong about what the law is.”

Beyond Google: Research Resource Guides for the Expert Searcher, Librarian, and Teacher

Take your research skills to the limit:

1) Read “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet: Conducting Effective Investigative & Legal Research on the Internet” 12th edition (as of 8/12)

2) Read: “Competitive Intelligence – A Selective Resource Guide – Completely Updated – July 2012,” by Sabrina I. Pacifici, Published on July 14, 2012:

Selected Contents:

  • Selected Engines, Web Archives, Open Data Repositories – facilitate searching Web, Blogs, News, Video and obtaining alerts
  • Open Source Research Archives and Portals
  • Federated Search
  • Blog Search and Social Media
  • News Search
  • News Search Alerts
  • Fee Based Sites and Databases
  • Free Sites – some with registration and/or fee components
  • Selected Financial Blogs
  • Selected Online People Tracking Sources
  • Television and Radio News Transcripts – including streaming audio/video
  • Legislative Monitoring and Tracking
  • E-Newsletters, Online Newspapers, Journals and News Sources
  • Monitoring Trends, Companies and Products – Selected News Aggregators, RSS Feeds, Blog Search Engines
  • Identification of Company Legal Representation
  • Selected Online Tools for Competitor Monitoring
  • Website Trackers
  • Westlaw Watch and LexisNexis Trackers
  • Benchmarking – Law, Corporate, Government, Market Data
  • Country Profiles
  • NGO Portals
  • Research Directories and Portals