Expand your horizons with educational YouTube channels

Happy Thanksgiving!

For most of my life, educational programming on TV was limited to a few well-tested formats: Documentaries based on a particular format of photos or video with a narrator and talking heads, or children’s programming. Because of the cost of operating a station, educational programming was limited to public broadcasting or the depths of extended cable. Today, once edutainment-driven channels like TLC and the History Channel now feature shows about child beauty pageants, giant families, pawn shops, and fishermen. It’s fortunate, then, that YouTube has risen to more than cover our needs.

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May Loislaw Rest in Peace

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Fastcase has acquired Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer (think Aspen Publishers), effective November 30, 2015 when Loislaw permanently shuts down. One of Loislaw’s key features has been access to Wolters Kluwer’s library of some 125 treatises in areas of law such as bankruptcy, business, employment, insurance, intellectual property, real estate and others. It appears that Fastcase subscribers will now gain access to the treatise collection. According to Fastcase, existing Loislaw subscribers will be grand-parented at current or better prices.

Three (Free) Apps for Every Law Student or Practicing Attorney

There are over 2 million apps available for download from the iTunes store and Google Play combined. It is unsurprising that some lawyers are utilizing available legal-specific apps on their mobile devices and tablets, creating portable law libraries. Although the majority of lawyers still have yet to download a legal app, a little less than half have—according to the American Bar Association (ABA) 2015 TechReport. After downloading and experimenting with over a dozen free legal apps, the following three are worth the time-investment.

FastcaseExtensive Legal Research: Fastcase.

Fastcase is the most popular app for legal research, ranking higher than WestlawNext and LexisAdvance, according to the ABA 2015 TechReport. Although it requires a subscription, Fastcase is free to download and use. The app itself is largely intuitive; searches on Fastcase can be performed using citations, phrases, or keywords—including Boolean operators. Users can also browse statute collections by individually pulling up the state and selecting the desired code. Fastcase contains one of the largest selection of free Texas Codes.

The app may be downloaded from the iTunes App Store for iOS devices and from Google Play for Droid devices.

General Reference: PushLegal’s Statutes and Case Law Library.

Created by a Houston, Texas trial attorney, PushLegal is free to use for anyone signing up with a school-issued email address. The app contains quick access to the Federal Bankruptcy Code, Rules of Civil Evidence, Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Evidence, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Sentencing Guidelines, and several other federal titles. PushLegal also contains Texas, New York, Florida, and California state codes, including the Family, Penal, Probate, Business Organizations, and Property Code.

Searching is user-friendly on PushLegal. A search bar is located at the top of every screen, and various code sections also include a “Legal Cases” tab, listing cases that have recently referenced the particular statute.

However, accessibility is PushLegal’s best feature. Although an internet connection is required to download or “subscribe” to each book, after it is downloaded, the codes can be accessed without an internet connection

The app may be downloaded from the iTunes App Store for iOS devices and from Google Play for Droid devices.

Legal News: ISCOTUSnow.

Provided by the Oyez Project, this mobile app contains the latest information on cases currently pending and recently decided in the Supreme Court of the United States. Minutes following the release of a SCOTUS opinion, it is reviewable on the app. Oral arguments and transcripts, along with decision summaries, are also accessible. Additional features, like polls, allow users to share their reactions to SCOTUS news.

The app may be downloaded from the iTunes App Store for iOS devices and from Google Play for Droid devices.

IBM Watson For Legal Research Coming Soon

IBM’s Watson is close to becoming realized in the legal research realm.

According to The Globe and Mail, a class project-turned-startup launched by University of Toronto students that uses IBM’s artificially intelligent Watson computer to do legal research now has backing from Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. Called Ross, the app uses Watson to scour millions of pages of case law and other legal documents in seconds and answer legal questions. Its founders liken it to a smarter version of iPhone’s Siri, but for lawyers, and say it could one day replace some of the grunt research work now done by low-level associates at the world’s top law firms. It is one of several attempts to apply what is called “cognitive computing” to the historically technology-averse legal profession.

And Ross is learning quickly. One of Ross’s developers noted: “It’s early days for sure.” “But what we are seeing is Ross grasping and understanding legal concepts and learning based on the questions and also getting user feedback. … Just like a human, it’s getting its experience in a law firm and being able to learn and get better.”

This will eventually have major ramifications for legal research as we know it. As mentioned in the article, this will likely replace much of the grunt research like finding particular statutes or cases by citation. But Ross is nowhere near being able to creatively use case law to form arguments. And there are many issues to be worked out with Ross storing proprietary information.

While there is no denying that Ross will help augment intelligence, he should be considered more of another tool in a lawyer’s toolbox rather than a replacement. Think of Iron Man’s JARVIS as opposed to The Terminator.

Jarvis_shield_interface

Study Aids in the Law Library

There are many choices when it comes to picking out the right study aid.  They come in different formats and cover materials in different ways.  If you need a general overview of a topic that explains the law, you might use the Nutshell Series or the Concise Hornbooks.  Other series will provide practice questions, such as the Exam Pro Series or Friedman’s Practice Series.  There are even a couple that provide both an overview and practice questions, like Glannon Guides and Examples and Explanations.

Dr. Jarmon, from the Office of Academic Success, has created a handy guide to the various study Aid series that discusses different types of study aids.  This guide is available in the tutor office, located behind the Research and Information desk in the Law Library.  The different series are also available in various formats.

Check out what the Law Library has available!

Online:

West Academic Study Aid collection (includes study aids from West Academic Publishing, Foundation Press, and Gilberts), there is even the Gilbert’s Law Dictionary to help out with any legal terminology.

  • Acing Series
  • Black Letter Outlines
  • Career Guides
  • Concise Hornbooks
  • Exam Pro
  • Gilbert Law Summaries
  • Law Stories
  • Nutshells
  • Quick Review
  • Short and Happy

West Study Aids

Print (on Reserve):

  • Acing Series
  • Black Letter Outlines
  • Concepts and Insights
  • Crunch Time
  • Emanuel’s Law Outlines
  • Examples and Explanations
  • Gilbert Law Summaries
  • Hornbooks
  • Law Stories
  • Nutshells
  • Understanding Law

study aids 1

Audio CDs (On Reserve):

CDs

  • Law School Legends
  • Sum and Substance

Flashcards (On Reserve):

  • Law in a Flash
  • Texas Law Cards

flashcards

Other Resources:

Don’t forget to take advantage of other resources that are available to you, right here in the Law School.  The Office of Academic Success, run by Dr. Amy Jarmon, has many resources available to assist you.

Law Librarians’ Society’s Legislative Source Book

Law Librarians Society logo

The Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. is an association established for educational, informational and scientific purposes with a geographical focus on the Washington, D.C. region.  Luckily for us, they have compiled a great online Federal legal source book!

The Legislative Source Book contains many pdfs with information on how to research various types of Federal information.  There are documents explaining how to located current legislative and regulatory activity, how to locate United States Statutes and Code, as well as an overview of the Congressional Record and Congressional Serial Set.  If you want to learn how Federal Laws are drafted they explain it!  Most information is for Federal information but there is some information on State Legislatures, laws and regulations as well.

Overall, this is a very comprehensive source on how to find current and historical Federal Legislative information.

“Free the Law”: Harvard Law & Ravel’s Free Case Law Project

Last Thursday, Harvard Law Library and Ravel Law announced a partnership they call “Free the Law.” In short, Harvard is digitizing their entire library of U.S. Case Law, which includes materials going back to pre-revolutionary days, and putting them into Ravel’s system, to be available free of charge.

The project is ambitious, and won’t be done overnight — even scanning half a million pages a week, they’re not expecting to have it fully developed for 2 years. However, it also provides a great opportunity for researchers everywhere to have access to case law. They’ve also agreed to release the full database for bulk use (that is, data mining and so on) within 8 years.

Is this a game-changer? Yes, and no. Google Scholar already has a free database of modern case law (since 1960 for most courts, and going back as far as 1791 for some) that anyone with an internet connection can search as easily as using Google, so from that respect, this really only fills the historical gap. Moreover, those older cases, especially those prior to the Great Depression, are more useful to academics than to practitioners or citizens in general, as they become attenuated from the modern day.

However, the fact that Harvard is partnering with Ravel makes this more interesting to me. Ravel is a relatively new platform that is focused on performing analytics on cases, which they use to connect cases together and highlighting the significant passages of cases. The data from this pool of case law will greatly improve the effectiveness and value of what Ravel provides, and in turn, will add value to the case law in the system. The open availability of the database also means that intrepid data hounds will be able to conduct extensive analysis of U.S. case law that was hampered by the difficulty of finding it all in a single place.

The other caveat I’ll toss out is that the project is only for case law. Most new law in the US is either statutes or administrative regulations, and those appear to be absent from this project (at least, for now). However, I’m still excited to get access to the treasure trove of case law data and to see what the data team at Ravel is able to do with it.