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More “Let’s Kill All the Law Libraries”: Virtual Law Libraries and Chief Justice Roberts


To continue my Oregon Legal Research blog post on Let’s Kill All the Law Libraries ….

What’s a “Virtual Law Library?” Lots of people throw the term around, but who knows?!

* Could it be Justia? The Public Library of Law? Would it be Findlaw? Could it be LexisOne?

* Those are all free. But what about the low-cost ones (see the sidebar for a link to those)? Or how about the full service, $$$$, legal research databases for people who represent clients and use the database every day, rather than on an as-needed basis, once in a while?

* Could it be all of those? None of those?

* In a bricks and mortar law library, someone shows you how to research the law. In a “virtual law library,” whatever that is, does anyone show you how to create a search strategy, ask if you’ve checked the current laws, suggested a particular specialized topical research tool, explained why one source is less reliable than another? Does it matter?

* My question: Do you think the U.S. Supreme Court Justices do all their research online? Even they make research mistakes, such as the one referred to here and here (they didn’t find (or just didn’t cite to) a statute in their decision about imposing the death penalty for rape of a juvenile).

* See also this story from the Chicago Tribune, on remarks by Chief Justice Roberts:

Roberts says lawyers should be wary of technology, by HENRY C. JACKSON Associated Press Writer, October 3, 2008:

DES MOINES, Iowa – Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts said Thursday that modern technology and research techniques are changing the way law is practiced.

But Roberts said lawyers should be careful that technology doesn’t limit their critical thinking.

“The detective work that was important and rewarding when I was starting out is now almost … irrelevant,” he said, referring to time he spent researching cases in the law library.

He said computer-based research had made it much easier to find relevant case work but warned “tools can be misused.” However lawyers do their research, they still must use critical thinking when examining it, he said.

Roberts’ observations came as he traced the history of technology’s role in the law during a 40 minute lecture on the campus of Drake University. About 2,000 people listened as Roberts delivered the Dwight D. Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law. He is the 10th U.S. Supreme Court justice to deliver the Opperman Lecture since it began in 1992.

Technology means information is more accessible and that culling information is no longer as valued a skill in lawyers as it once was, Roberts said. He said it can be liberating for lawyers, but he also worries that some will become too reliant on technology.

“There’s a lot of value in thinking outside the box. But the key word is thinking,” he said. “… You cannot think effectively outside the box if you don’t know where the box is….” (read full article)

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