We here at the Reporter will be taking a few weeks off with the coming holidays, so this will be the last post here until January. We have exciting things happening in the new year that we’re looking forward to sharing when they’re ready to go. However, we won’t be sitting idle until then. As Librarians, we will all be reading over the break. I’ve gathered a few recommendations from the TTU Law Librarians as to what we’ll be reading.
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.
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.
Next Thursday and Friday, the Texas Tech Law School and Law Library will host the 10th Annual Law School Faculty Update and 2nd Annual Law Practice Technology CLE events. Previously, these were separate events, but have been combined this year. The event is free of charge, with an option lunch purchase for Friday.
Thursday afternoon, the Law School Faculty Update will open with a presentation from TTU Law Dean Darby Dickerson on Mobile Devices and Attorney Ethics, followed by talks on Cross-Examination tactics and Legal Ethics from Professors Dustin Benham and Larry Spain, respectively.
On Friday morning, the Law Practice Technology event will begin with a panel on current issues in Law Practice Technology, then move into Librarian Marin Dell’s presentation on Social Media and legal ethics. Professor Donnie Yandell will discuss ways to make your practice more efficient using office technology, then Librarian Joshua Pluta will discuss cryptocurrency and what it means for lawyers. Then, Librarian Jamie Baker will present on email ethics, before lunch and the keynote speaker, Craig Ball, a nationally-known expert on eDiscovery, digital forensics, and electronic evidence.
The Friday afternoon portion of the Faculty Update will complete the event, with Professor Jarrod Gonzalez providing an update to Texas Employment Law and Professor Terri Morgeson providing the Texas Family Law Legislative Update.
Those interested can register online by Friday, October 16. Attendees will not be turned away at the door, but lunch will only be available with preregistration. More information on the CLE event can be found on the event website.