Error of the Day & Maintaining Integrity of Algorithmic Results

If you’re into algorithms, you should absolutely subscribe to the MIT Technology Review newsletter called The Algorithm.

Earlier this month, the folks at The Algorithm asked “what is AI, exactly?” The answer is reproduced below.

The question may seem basic, but the answer is kind of complicated. In the broadest sense, AI refers to machines that can learn, reason, and act for themselves. They can make their own decisions when faced with new situations, in the same way that humans and animals can.

As it currently stands, the vast majority of the AI advancements and applications you hear about refer to a category of algorithms known as machine learning. These algorithms use statistics to find patterns in massive amounts of data. They then use those patterns to make predictions on things like what shows you might like on Netflix, what you’re saying when you speak to Alexa, or whether you have cancer based on your MRI.

Machine learning, and its subset deep learning (basically machine learning on steroids), is incredibly powerful. It is the basis of many major breakthroughs, including facial recognitionhyper-realistic photo and voice synthesis, and AlphaGo, the program that beat the best human player in the complex game of Go. But it is also just a tiny fraction of what AI could be.

The grand idea is to develop something resembling human intelligence, which is often referred to as “artificial general intelligence,” or “AGI.” Some experts believe that machine learning and deep learning will eventually get us to AGI with enough data, but most would agree there are big missing pieces and it’s still a long way off. AI may have mastered Go, but in other ways it is still much dumber than a toddler.

In that sense, AI is also aspirational, and its definition is constantly evolving. What would have been considered AI in the past may not be considered AI today. 

Because of this, the boundaries of AI can get really confusing, and the term often gets mangled to include any kind of algorithm or computer program. We can thank Silicon Valley for constantly inflating the capabilities of AI for its own convenience.

It’s good to be reminded of this definition as we contend with the latest releases of the legal research databases as the databases continuously tweak their underlying algorithms — the latest being Westlaw Edge.

With Westlaw Edge comes a revised “WestSearch Plus.”

Introducing the next generation of legal search. Get superior predictive research suggestions as you start typing your legal query in the global search bar.

WestSearch Plus applies state-of-the-art AI technologies to help you quickly address legal questions for thousands of legal topics without needing to drill into a results list.

We’re starting to see a time when the Google Generation is already predisposed to not drill into a results list and now the databases are actively advocating for the users to blindly rely on the top result in the list.

Along with the consequences of fake news on algorithmic results when using Google, for example, we must also be aware of the errors within the legal research databases themselves. To that end, a fellow law librarian, Mary Matuszak, has been collecting the errors that she finds during the legal research process in the various databases and distributes them via the Law-Lib listerv as “Error of the Day.”

From October 30, 2018:

Error of the Day  A  Lexis typo (possibly scanning error) in  Excessiveness of Bail in State Cases, 7 A.L.R.6th 487.   The following group of letters is used six times throughout the document, CocainesepBail.   A quick look at the Westlaw version shows that it should be Cocaine – Bail

From November 5, 2018:

In the Case People v Kindell, 148 AD3d 456 (1st Dept 2017), Susan Axelrod is listed as both the counsel for the Appellant and the Respondent.   The official version, the print, does not list the attorneys.


I confirmed with ADA Axelrod that she did not represent the defendant and opposing counsel was not someone with the same name.   I also checked the defendant’s brief and it lists Ms. Moser as counsel.

While these errors are seemingly minute individually, the consequences are greater in the aggregate.

My own mentor, a law librarian who had been in the profession for 40 years, kept a print file of the errors that he found in the databases while performing legal research. The file was overflowing by the time I saw it roughly 3 years before his retirement.

Because an algorithm’s results are only as good as the underlying data, as we move toward an algorithmic society that relies heavily on algorithmic decision making, these errors could have consequences on the development of the law.

November 2017 Law Faculty Publications & News

Throughout November, the Law Library received alerts for full-time TTU Law Faculty publications and news. Below is a compilation of those daily alerts for November 1 to November 30, 2017.


Nancy Soonpaa, Rishi Batra, & Jamie Baker, Eight Tips for Effectively and Easily Incorporating Experiential Learning into the Law School Classroom, in Experiential Education in the Law School Curriculum 51-62 (Emily Grant, Sandra Simpson, & Kelly Terry ed., 2018).


1. Gerry W. Beyer, The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act: A Primer for Probate Judges, Nat’l College of Prob. Judges J., Fall 2017, at 1.

2. Gerry W. Beyer, Keeping Current—Probate, 31 Prob. & Prop. 14 (2017).

3. Richard W. Murphy, Abandon Chevron and Modernize Stare Decisis for the Administrative State, 69 Ala. L. Rev. 1 (2017).

4. Eric A. Chiappinelli, Just Like Pulling Teeth: How Dental Education’s Crisis Shows the Way Forward for Law Schools, 48 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1 (2017).


Arnold Loewy & Charles Moster, It’s Debatable: Are college football coaches overpaid?, LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-J. (Nov. 10, 2017 07:33 pm),


1. Prof. Weninger’s article The Abolition of Plea Bargaining: A Case Study of El Paso County, Texas is cited in the following article: Richard A. Bierschbach and Stephanos Bibas, Rationing Criminal Justice, 116 Mich. L. Rev. 187 (2017).

2. Prof. Camp’s article The Play’s the Thing: A Theory of Taxing Virtual Worlds is cited in the following article: Adam Chodorow, Rethinking basis in the age of virtual currencies, 36 Va. Tax Rev. 371 (2017).

3. Prof. Murphy’s article Pragmatic Administrative Law and Tax Exceptionalism is cited in the following article: Stephanie Hunter McMahon, Pre-Enforcement Litigation Needed for Taxing Procedures, 92 Wash. L. Rev. 1317 (2017).

4. Prof. Camp’s article A History of Tax Regulation Prior to the Administrative Procedure Act is cited in the following article: Stephanie Hunter McMahon, Pre-Enforcement Litigation Needed for Taxing Procedures, 92 Wash. L. Rev. 1317 (2017).

5. Prof. Beyer’s article Statutory Fill-in Will Forms—The First Decade: Theoretical Constructs and Empirical Findings is cited in the following article: Danaya C. Wright & Beth Sterner, Honoring Probable Intent in Intestacy: An Empirical Assessment of the Default Rules and the Modern Family, 42 ACTEC L.J. 341 (2017).

6. Prof Loewy’s article The Fourth Amendment as a Device for Protecting the Innocent is cited in the following article: Richard A. Bierschbach & Stephanos Bibas, Rationing Criminal Justice, 116 Mich. L. Rev. 187 (2017).

7. Prof. Tracy Pearl’s article Fast & Furious: The Misregulation of Driverless Cars is cited in the following article: Mark Fenwick et. al., Regulation Tomorrow: What Happens When Technology Is Faster Than the Law?, 6 Am. U. Bus. L. Rev. 561 (2017).

8. Prof. Baker’s research on artificial intelligence and her article 2017 A Legal Research Odyssey: Artificial Intelligence as Disruptor are recognized in The Internet Guide to AI and Legal Research, 22 No. 11 Internet L. Researcher NL 2 (2017).

9. Prof. Murphy’s article Politics and Policy Change in American Administrative Law is cited in the following article: John B. Meisel, How Might the Supreme Court, If It Reviews the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order, Utilize the Chevron and the Arbitrary and Capricious Tests?, 25 Cath. U.J.L. & Tech. 257 (2017).

10. Prof. Robert Sherwin’s article #HaveWeReallyThoughtThisThrough?: Why Granting Trademark Protection To Hashtags Is Unnecessary, Duplicative, and Downright Dangerous is cited in the following article: Debbie Chu, #cautionbusinesses: Using Competitors’ Hashtags Could Possibly Lead to Trademark Infringement, 25 Cath. U.J.L. & Tech. 387 (2017).

11. Prof. Tracy Pearl’s articles Crowd Crush: How the Law Leaves American Crowds Unprotected and Far from the Madding Crowd: A Statutory Solution to Crowd Crush are cited in Participant and spectator injuries, generally, Fundamentals of Sports Law § 6:1 (2017).

12. Prof. Christopher’s article Whack-A-Mole: Why Prosecuting Digital Currency Exchanges Won’t Stop Online Money Laundering is cited in the following article: Jessica Hoyer, Sex Trafficking in the Digital Age: The Role of Virtual Currency-Specific Legislation in Keeping Pace with Technology, 63 Wayne L. Rev. 83 (2017).

13. Prof. Murphy & Charles Koch’s work on 4 Admin. L. & Prac. § 12:20 (3d ed.) is cited in the following article: Stephen Hylas, Final Agency Action in the Administrative Procedure Act, 92 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 1644 (2017).

14. Prof. Brie Sherwin’s article Chocolate, Coca-Cola, and Fracturing Fluid is cited in Case study: Bisphenol-A, Rodgers Environmental Law, 2d. § 31:6.

15. Prof. Metze’s article Feed Me Seymour: The Never-Ending Hunger of the Criminal Process For Procedural Rights and Removing Children from its Shop of Horrors is cited in the following article: Viviana I. Vasiu, In Good We Trust: The Court’s Strategic Use of the Eighth Amendment to Revise the Criminal Landscape for Juveniles, 53 Crim. L. Bulletin 6 (2017).


On Nov. 7, Elizabeth Sharp, interim vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Texas Tech, announced that the university’s recently acquired designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution is being met with the development of an HSI Committee. The committee will work closely with administrators to help oversee Tech’s transition to HSI status. The interdisciplinary consists of staff members from across Tech’s campus, including TechLaw’s own Professor Jorge Ramírez.

A Ziggy Stardust Reading List for Halloween

For the avid library lover who launched a thousand Halloween costumes, let’s pay tribute to David Bowie’s reading list.


David Bowie’s top must-read books


  1. The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby (2008)
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (2007)
  3. The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard (2007)
  4. Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage (2007)
  5. Fingersmith, Sarah Waters (2002)
  6. The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens (2001)
  7. Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler (1997)
  8. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes (1997)
  9. The Insult, Rupert Thomson (1996)
  10. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon (1995)
  11. The Bird Artist, Howard Norman (1994)
  12. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard (1993)
  13. Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C Danto (1992)
  14. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia (1990)
  15. David Bomberg, Richard Cork (1988)
  16. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of
  17. Freedom, Peter Guralnick (1986)
  18. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (1986)
  19. Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd (1985)
  20. Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey (1984)
  21. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter (1984)
  22. Money, Martin Amis (1984)
  23. White Noise, Don DeLillo (1984)
  24. Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes (1984)
  25. The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White (1984)
  26. A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (1980)
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (1980)
  28. Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester (1980)
  29. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1980)
  30. Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess (1980)
  31. Raw, a “graphix magazine” (1980-91)
  32. Viz, magazine (1979 –)
  33. The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels (1979)
  34. Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz (1978)
  35. In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan (1978)
  36. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed Malcolm Cowley (1977)
  37. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes (1976)
  38. Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders (1975)
  39. Mystery Train, Greil Marcus (1975)
  40. Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara (1974)
  41. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich (1972)
  42. Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner (1971)
  43. Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky (1971)
  44. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillett(1970)
  45. The Quest for Christa T, Christa Wolf (1968)
  46. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn (1968)
  47. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
  48. Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg (1967)
  49. Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr (1966)
  50. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1965)
  51. City of Night, John Rechy (1965)
  52. Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)
  53. Puckoon, Spike Milligan (1963)
  54. The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford (1963)
  55. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea, Yukio Mishima (1963)
  56. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (1963)
  57. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)
  58. Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell (1962)
  59. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (1961)
  60. Private Eye, magazine (1961 –)
  61. On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding (1961)
  62. Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage (1961)
  63. Strange People, Frank Edwards (1961)
  64. The Divided Self, RD Laing (1960)
  65. All the Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd (1960)
  66. Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse (1959)
  67. The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
  68. On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)
  69. The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard (1957)
  70. Room at the Top, John Braine (1957)
  71. A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno (1956)
  72. The Outsider, Colin Wilson (1956)
  73. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  74. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)
  75. The Street, Ann Petry (1946)
  76. Black Boy, Richard Wright (1945)

The Importance of Legal Research Skills for Practice

Nearly all law schools are focusing on preparing “practice-ready” graduates. This approach to legal education was advanced in the 1990’s with the McCrate Report, and it has really taken hold within the last few years. A major part of preparing practice-ready grads is teaching effective, efficient legal research skills. For the past couple of years, survey after survey has shown the continued importance of legal research skills for practice.

In 2013, Steve Lastres, Director of Library & Knowledge Management at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, analyzed the results of a recent survey conducted by The Research Intelligence Group called the “New Attorney Research Methods Survey.” Survey respondents “included 190 young attorneys equally represented by large and small law firms across a variety of practice areas. Nearly forty percent of the respondents were 28 or younger, in practice for five or less years, and a quarter of the respondents were recent law school graduates from the class of 2011 or 2012.”

Key findings from the survey included the following:

  • Newer attorneys spend more than 30% of their time doing legal research
  • Approximately 50% of associates think legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum
  • Over 80% of associates use an extensive range of content from traditional primary law and secondary materials to News, Court Transcripts, Verdicts, Dockets, Public Records and more.
  • Legal Classification systems are rarely used (only 12% begin with a legal classification system)
  • Attorneys use free online research resources but spend most of their time, over 8 hours per week, using paid-for online research services.

Additionally in 2013, the Wall Street Journal blog posted the results of a focus-group study with legal employers where the results showed that employers are looking for expert researchers with people skills. According to this study, “[t]he focus-group participants said ideal job applicants have a strong work ethic, can work independently without excessive ‘hand holding,’ and would bring a positive attitude to the workplace.” The other important skill was the ability to research. 

“Employers, particularly those with more years in practice, rely on new attorneys to be research experts. The employers in [the] focus groups have high expectations when it comes to new hires’ research skills, i.e., ‘[t]hey should be able to adequately and effectively find everything that’s up to the minute.’” Susan Wawrose, What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates?: Using Focus Groups to Find Out, 39 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 505 (2013).

The legal employers noted that “[b]eing a research expert also means knowing how to scour books, not just websites. ‘Statutes, treatises and encyclopedias, and desk books are the sources employers still use in paper form. For this reason, new attorneys may want to be familiar with these paper sources.’” Id.

Last but not least, BAR/BRI recently released the first of what it intends to be an annual survey on the “State of the Legal Field.” The objective is to “evaluate industry perceptions about the state of the legal field” and establish benchmarks related to student practice readiness, employment expectations, employment trends, and law degree return on investment. Faculty, law students, and practitioners were surveyed.

Key finding number 2 from the BAR/BRI report stated that “[f]aculty placed very little importance on research, with just 4 percent citing it as the most important skill for recent law school graduates. In contrast, 18 percent of attorneys named research the most important skill a new lawyer should possess.”

These surveys offer proof from practitioners that legal research is a necessary skill for practice.

*This post was originally published on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog.

Arthur Miller Articulates the Importance of Legal Research

Arthur R. Miller CBE is this nation’s leading scholar in the field of civil procedure and is co-author with the late Charles Wright of Federal Practice and Procedure, the legendary treatise in the field. Professors Miller and Wright are among the most-often cited and well-regarded law treatise writers today. Their multi-volume series is an essential reference for judges and lawyers.

Below, Arthur Miller articulates the importance of legal research for practice:

And here:

As you consider the importance of legal research, don’t forget the 4-step legal research strategy for effective and efficient results.