Image [cc] Ana C.

It seems that Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. is not a fan of law reviews. Back in 2011, Roberts joked that he found law reviews irrelevant, and found no need to know why there was any influence on 18th century Bulgaria by philosopher Immanuel Kant. In fact he went further and said “I would have to think very hard” in order to recall any recent law review articles he read, or found useful.


Let’s admit it, most of us outside the ivy covered walls of Academia rarely rush to the library to grab the latest law review before our peers in order to have a competitive advantage. To be fair, however, law reviews are kind of like archives. Most of the time, you never need anything from the archives, but when that need arises, you sure are glad it is there. Whether law reviews are relevant, or useful, or readable is beside the point here. What is interesting is that Roberts’ comment was actually about a real law review article, written by George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr. And, as any good writer will attest, always take advantage of the opportunity to turn one piece of writing into two pieces of writing.

Kerr is publishing an answer to Roberts’ comments in an upcoming law review article in The Green Bag. I’m actually looking forward to reading that one from this unconventional law review. One side note for The Green Bag…  please update that awful looking website. Just because your law review was created in 1997, doesn’t mean your website needs to look like it was created that same year.

Sorry. Got off topic.

Kerr got the idea of writing the response to Roberts when he was named a scholar-in-residence at the Law Library of Congress in 2012. In an interview to the National Law Journal (h/t to Rich Leiter), Kerr mentioned that the staff at the Library of Congress was amazing, stating that “They can find anything.” That without the help of the Library research staff, specifically Peter Roudik, the article couldn’t have been written. Then came the quote that I’m printing out, framing, and hanging on my office wall:

“The lesson of the article is that you can do anything with an amazing research librarian.”

As happy as I am to see this quote, I have to really as Orin Kerr one thing, “you’re just now figuring that out??” I bet there are some folks back at George Washington that would love to introduce you to the research librarians at the law library. Helping you find the obscure text from 1859 is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In addition, we can probably get it to you overnight (or within hours), without costing you a fortune. Law Librarians, and Researchers have connections, and those connections have connections. I hope for Kerr’s sake that he’s located the law library researchers back at GW when he got back from the Library of Congress.

So let this be a lesson to all of the Professors out there writing the next great Law Review Article. Go find the law library and introduce yourself to the research staff. Tell them what you’re working on, and make them a part of the team. They probably won’t be able to make your article any more appealing to Chief Justice Roberts, but they will definitely help you thoroughly research the topic.

In the last several weeks, I have been called, emailed or otherwise pitched to by a variety of solutions providers. I have to tell you despite having a great memory, I can’t remember a single company name nor what any of the companies who wanted my firm’s money do.    The reason I can’t recall any of those fine details is because I was too put off by the approach, lack of planning and general disrespect for my time that within two minutes of each call, I zoned out.  I have also had a series of great sales pitches in the past while, where halfway through the call I wanted to purchase the service or product regardless of the price, because the person pitching to me understood my need, met a challenge or was generally on the ball. I get that sales can be a tough a grind and I generally applaud the tenacity and bravery of sales people.  But to the sales people who fall in the first group, I offer this:

Do your research
There is no excuse today to not research targets. Ten minutes on LinkedIn, Facebook, even the good ol’Google should provide insight into me as an individual, my role with the firm and how your product or service might be work for me.  Failing that, ask me what I do in the realm of whatever you are trying to tell me and then listen to my answer.  Use my answer to probe further or offer up a synergy of some kind.  I recently had a sales person fail at this exercise when, after hearing my answer to her question, responded with (and I am loosely paraphrasing) “oh, well this product is not for you then, we have better success with firms who want to be innovative”. I hope she wasn’t suggesting that I am the poster child for stagnant approaches to laws firms. A quick read of my LinkedIn profile suggests otherwise, I think. I shouldn’t have to say it, but don’t insult your prospective clients either. 

Study the Site
As it happens, laws firms, like any businesses today, have websites.  The websites, like the firms, vary in their sophistication but at the very least the sites will tell you something about a firm. Visit that site before you pick up the phone. Don’t, for example, try to sell a litigation boutique access to your corporate database or a Canadian firm exclusively US content without making the case for why I should listen beyond the initial pitch.  If a firm very obviously can’t benefit from your product or service don’t pick up the phone or draft the email. 

Avoid Jargon
I work in Marketing we invented catch phrases and slogans. Please use your own language when you call me to tell me about your product or service. I don’t deal well with jargon or salesy chatter that describes specifically nothing. Don’t tell me what “law firms” all over are doing or are interested in, as it assumes that I don’t know my business and that I am relying on people like you to tell me what I need. I don’t.  I do my own research, but if you were to call me and tell me how another firm in a similar geographic area or with similar practices is benefitting from your product or service, I am all ears. 

I love learning about new products and services in the market, I thrive on hearing how other firms are using products to their competitive advantage, or to increase efficiency. Don’t stop contacting me –  ever.  All I ask, is that before you do call or email me, please spend a bit of time doing your homework if you want me to listen. 
Why Did Etisalat Block Flickr
Image [cc] Za3tOoOr!

Nothing really irritates a researcher more than attempting to get to a website only to find that it has been blocked by your network software. In fact, many of you may find that social media sites are closed off at work because someone decided that you’ll spend your time uploading cat videos instead of your real job. Hey!! Cat videos are a fun way to relieve stress, and it really doesn’t take that long to upload. Sorry… got off topic there. Back to the blocked websites.

Most of the time you can call your IT Department and have them exclude you from the ‘blocked’ list (and I highly suggest that you do this first!), but there may be times where you just need to quickly get to the site and get the information. It’s really easy, and it kind of shows that blocking websites might be a lesson in futility. The key is using translator sites, such as Bing Translator or Google Translate as a proxy. Here’s the simple instructions. If you want more information, you can view this Reddit thread, provided that IT hasn’t blocked Reddit.


  1. Open translator: (I’ve found Bing to be a bit easier, but both work.)
  2. Enter the Blocked URL in the translate box
  3. Click on the Translate button
  4. Voilà, the translator is feeding the page through and is bypassing your web blocker.

Note: Sites that are not supported by the translator (e.g., Netflix, Spotify, or secured websites) will not work with this method. I’ve found a few sites, like Online-Translator that work around some of these issues (by telling it to translate from German to English), but nothing is 100%.

Here’s a good video that walks through the process. Again, this isn’t 100% perfect, but I’ve found it to be pretty helpful when I was in a bind and needed to get to a blocked website… strictly for research purposes, of course.

I’ve heard this this latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, is to be the best one yet. Spy extraordinaire, man-about-town, and basically the alpha-est of the alpha males, every male that I know wants to be him.

So how can you let your inner spy out when doing your super-sleuthing?

Here are a couple of tips for those of you who have never thought to use social media for research purposes:

  1. Anonymity. Don’t do what James Bond does, being all tuxedoed out and gorgeous looking. Down play yourself. Turn on your privacy settings. If you are going on LinkedIn, make sure your broadcast activity settings, status update settings and “what do others see when you view their page” settings are off.
  2. Look at everything. Many people stop at doing a simple people search on LinkedIn, looking for connections. Dig deeper. Look at LinkedIn company sites, job postings; Google+; Twitter streams, followers and followings; blog scrapings.
  3. Connect the dots. Speculate, put two and two together. If someone is asking for information about one specific issue, pull back and try to get a view of the bigger picture and how your client’s request might fit into the bigger scheme of things going on in their industry. That will open doors to new avenues to investigate. This is where you can really shine and show off your knowledge about an industry.
Now this all sounds really vague but, as I have said before about marketing, it is an art, not a science. It is about knowing your industry, the market and your client to deliver the crown jewels. 
Be part James Bond, part Nancy Drew and part Cat Woman. Hey, that’s what I strive for!

The team at LexisNexis was kind enough to give me a preview of what’s coming. As one might expect, they have been working on their response to WestLawNext. Response is not actually the right word, since they have obviously been working on this for some time.

The service is yet to be branded, so for now I’ll refer to it as The New Lexis (Lexis 2.0 sounded too cliche).
The new interface has some similarities to WestLawNext. I attribute that to Google though, not West. Lexis did the right thing and 1) Asked the customer what their pain is, and then 2) Listened. The result is a simple search box, with a few easily understandable search options below it (think ‘Advanced Search’ on Google). Below the search box is “My Workspace” with a box for saved info (currently in a folder view) and a box for search history. Both of these functions have a persistent presence in the upper right hand mini-navigation, just like … you guessed it – Google. Once you get into search results, they have taken a KM approach to presenting information. Being a KM guy, this makes sense to me. The filtering and tabbed browsing options make navigating intuitive.
The Real Differences
This product will come out in a phased roll-out starting in the Fall. The product will be rolled out by market segment and each iteration will be slightly different to meet the needs of that market segment. This obviously recognizes the fact that a 30 year old solo practitioner will have different practice needs than a BigLaw partner. Score one for Lexis.
The BIG question is always pricing. Although they couldn’t give me numbers yet (understandable) they did say ‘predictability’ will be the theme. The team actual read Greg’s Open Letter posted here on 3 Geeks. Just like law firm clients, lawyers don’t like surprises when it comes to a bill. So their service will be priced on a subscription basis instead of per search.
My 2 Big Questions
  1. Are you guys going to finally integrate all the cool stuff you own so the cool new functionality in Patent Semantic Search (future blog post) will be in The New Lexis? Good thing I was sitting down for the demo. They have already experimented with that tool and it’s on the road map. Say What? So much for stumping them on that one.
  2. When are you going to get your marketing $#!+ together? I pointed out that I found the Patent Semantic Search and iPhone apps by accident. Their reply: Why do you think we’re showing this stuff to you? Ouch. Another point for Lexis.
I see strong potential in the direction Lexis is taking here. The New Lexis and the eye towards integrating their various services makes a lot of sense to me. Time will tell, but at this point I’m seeing definite progress.

I’m a big fan of “lists” – whether they are “Top 10” lists, or “Must Follow” lists or “To Do” lists… (actually, I’m not a big fan of the “To Do” list.) But, I do not like it when someone posts a “list” on their blog that is basically a cut and paste job from other’s work. I ran across one such list today and it immediately made me think that someone didn’t do their own work.

The list was compiled by a “Lawyer Coach” and is called “50 Lawyers and Legal Professionals You Should Follow.” I’m not going to link to it, but you can do a Twitter search to find some of the tweets and re-tweets that point to it, or you can Google it!
I saw this tweeted by a couple of very reputable people I follow and so I checked it out to see who the “best of the best” were. When I got there, I saw what looked like the great list of people that Lance Goddard and Adrian Lurssen compiled, and to the blogger’s credit, they were credited. However, once I started looking at the list, I noticed that there were links to people:
  1. Who don’t exist
  2. Who don’t write anything
  3. Who died over a year ago
It reminded me of some attorneys I’ve known over the years that blindly cut and paste sections from someone else’s brief only to have a judge point out to them that the quote or citation from the original brief was wrong. Doing things like this show that you are sloppy in your research, and if you aren’t willing to put in the effort to at least verify the people that you claim others should follow, then why would anyone want to follow (or hire) you??
So please… if you put a list on your blog that you want me to take seriously; DON’T COPY & PASTE SOMEONE ELSE’S LIST!! And, if you feel that you must copy and paste someone else’s list, please do some research to make sure the information is still accurate. Otherwise, you just end up looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I was surfing the blogosphere yesterday and came across an article discussing copyright issues and some of the false hurdles it creates in creativity.

Although the article was very good, it was the use of this Plato quote from Phaedrus that caught my imagination. Plato was discussing the discovery of the alphabet and writing:
“…for this discovery of yours [writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

I thought how much this is related to what we as librarians are fighting today. I thought I’d modify Plato’s words and have it be from a “Librarians” or “Researchers” point of view when talking an attorney using Google to do their legal research:

“… for this discovery of yours [Google] will create a laziness in the attorneys’ souls, because they will no longer desire to use their research skills; they will trust to the external Wikis and Blogs rather than remember their training. The results that the search engine returns through the use of a few keywords is not adding to their skills, but rather diminishes their abilities, and the answers they receive are not authoritative, but only attempt to give the appearance of authority; they will achieve millions of results and will skim the top few; they will think they are searching all of mankind’s knowledge, but in truth will barely scratch the surface; they will tire of the true researcher, as they believe the wisdom of Google is the new reality.”

As I watched the #ILTA09 session tweets roll by from @VMaryAbraham, I just got more and more disgusted. Not at Mary, mind you (she was rockin’ with the informative tweets), but rather at the presenter Jason Dorsey and his message. Now, I must give a full disclaimer here and say that I was not in the room for the presentation, but I did watch an interview with him after the session on ILTA TV, and the interview seemed to back up Mary’s Tweets. Jason Dorsey calls himself the “Gen Y Guy”, talks about the differences between the generations in his presentations, and I hear he’s a great presenter. If I get a chance to see him present at another conference, I will make every attempt to be there.

[Creative Commons photo from Lorchaos]
Now that all of the praise is out of the way, I’m going to say that the message I read from Jason’s presentation was one of stereotyping, oversimplification of generational differences, and taking simple known facts and leaping to conclusions about entire sections of our population. In other words, Jason (and many other of the self-help presenters out there) wants to give you a short presentation that will help you compartmentalize people that you work with. When he is finished, you will now have a better understanding of why a Gen Y person is one way, while the Gen X and Boomers are another. Perhaps your Human Resources department has put on one of these little shows at your office. We all walk away with a better understanding of why “Bob is a jerk” and “Sally is lazy.” It isn’t because they have bad personalities or habits… it’s because they are of a particular generation.
I’m always worried about labeling people, and I’m really concerned about labeling groups of people. The labels tend to be too broad, and overly simplistic. It is like taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tests and saying that everyone fits within four distinct boxes out of a total of 16 potential boxes. The personality tests, and the generation “generalization” can help define how someone might perform as a worker, but I’m always afraid that sessions like these create situations where we stereotype entire groups of people and make it too easy for someone to be labeled as “blank” Generation with “blank” MBTI, therefore slap “blank” label on them.
I have to agree with something I read from Ken Robinson, in his book The Element. Robinson talked about trying to label someone with the 16 categories of the MTBI. “My guess is that sixteen personality types might be a bit of an underestimate. My personal estimate would be close to six billion.” The reason behind this is when you start to place people in boxes it tends to close doors on people rather than opening them.
I understand that Jason Dorsey pulled his research from over 500,000 interviews of Gen Y’ers, and used a lot of research conducted by Strauss and Howe, so I’m not doubting that he’s done the research. However, I did hear Jason give an example in his live interview of how Gen Y’s have a unique experience that helps explain their impatience. He roughly said that Gen Y’s are the first generation to enter the workforce with no expectation of staying with the same company for 30 years and retiring. I can only talk anecdotally here, but from what I remember, the 30 years and retire has been a dying or dead idea for nearly 30 years now. Do I have to start singing Billy Joel’s Allentown from 27 years ago?
Presentations like Jason’s are good exercises in “generalities”, but not for individual application. Be very careful not to over generalize entire groups of people. Remember they are individuals, with individual experiences and capabilities — treat them as such.

My boss has been prepping for an ITLA presentation on “Reducing Costs of Legal Research: Best Practices Onshore and Offshore” where she’s discussing the pros and cons of online vs. print legal research. This is not a new issue, in fact, it has been discussed seriously since about 1994, and I had the privilege of being on the AALL Committee on the Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age in 2000-2001 where we discussed this very topic. Generally, the discussion has tended to lean toward the idea that online research will trump print research due to the convenience of the format and how the upcoming generation will prefer online over print media.

Then along comes a recession and all of a sudden it becomes apparent that online research is “expensive” and for some forms of research – specifically treatise research – online research doesn’t work very well. Take a poll at one of the practice group meetings you attend and ask the attorneys point blank: “When researching in treatises, do you find you are more efficient using the print version of a treatise, or the online version of a treatise?” I’d almost give you 2 to 1 odds that the print version will be the preferred method.
Speaking of treatises, I could probably write a treatise on why we’ve eliminated print subscriptions over the past 15 years. Issues ranging from duplication, ease of use, user preference, space concerns, and cost of updating have all been reasons used to reduce print and increase online. The implied pledge behind this move has been that once we go from print to online, the firm is committed to the online version. But, I think there are some that are suddenly realizing that the decision to go online only for some types of research tools, such as treatises, was not the best decision in the long run. On top of this, I’m also wondering if there is an ethical line that we’ve crossed along the way by charging the client back for the online version of the treatise when we would not charge for researching the print version.

Thus, this is where I came up with the title of this post. First of all, is it fair for an online provider to charge a standard rate of $825.00 an hour for an online treatise that you can purchase for $499.00 a year for the full print version? Secondly, is it fair for firms to pass the cost of these online charges (granted, some have deep discounts, so it could only be $100.00 an hour) on to the client when they would not pass along the same charges for using the print version?
To the first question, you could argue both sides of the issue and probably come to a draw. Yes, it is fair to charge the higher rate because you have the benefit of full-text searching, automatic links out to secondary sources, and the convenience of multiple researchers using the same product at the same time. The counter argument is that if the online version isn’t easy to navigate, and you end up spending more time using the online version than you would have the print because of the inefficiencies of the online version, then the mark-up in price is not worth it.
Note: When I say inefficiency, I don’t mean “training” issues. One of the biggest complaints that I hear when it comes to doing secondary research using items like treatises online, it is not an easy process. The most common complaint is that when researchers use print treatises, they tend to flip back and forth from the index to the place in the book. Although you can “click” back and forth using online, it tends not to be as easy a process, and tends to take much longer to do.
For the issue of passing along the cost to the client, that would probably be on a case-by-case basis for the researcher to decide. On the surface it would seem unfair to charge a client for the online version when you would not do so for the print. My good friend and co-blogger Toby always tells me that “ethical” issues regarding advertising “online” versus “print” can be summed up this way: “If it is ethical in print, it is probably ethical online.” I think this can be reworked to fit the idea of charging clients for print research and online research. If you charge for the print, you can charge for the online. If you don’t charge for the print, then you probably shouldn’t charge for the online version either.

It is no secret that out of the Three Geeks, I’m viewed as the cheap one (“thrify” my wife calls me.)   It isn’t that I don’t mind spending money, it is just that I hate wasting money.  And, if I find a nice way to save a few bucks here and there, I’d like to share that savings along with you.

If you do research (legal or otherwise), you know that there are resources out there that are directed toward helping you do your research.  Products like Westlaw, Bloomberg, Medline, etc. are premium research tools that allow you to basically do some one-stop shopping within your expertise, and are excellent tools to have.  However, premium also comes at a price, and in these times, cost savings aren’t just for the “thrifty.”
There are many times where I use the local public library resources, without even entering into the library building itself.  I’m pretty lucky that I work one block away from the main Houston Public Library, and can physically be in the public library within 5 minutes (my desk to library door.)  But, within a few seconds, I can access hundreds (if not thousands) of online library resources simply by using my library card.
With access to my public library in Houston, I can take a look at academic, business, cultural, and a long list of other databases from the likes of top-notch vendors like Hoover’s, Lexis, Gale, Morningstar, ReferenceUSA and many, many others.  To see a list of the different databases, you can view the “ALL the Library’s Research Links” page.  In addition to research databases, there are also valuable resources like magazine archives, newspapers (including my favorite of the Houston Chronicle in full Digital Image format), and even a language program like Rosetta Stone.  
You don’t even have necessarily live in a highly populated city to get access to these resources.  A lot of these are negotiated on a state-wide contract so that regardless of the size of your public library, you can still get access to excellent online resources for free.
If you find that your local library doesn’t offer these, you can contact some of the larger libraries to see if they offer “Out-of-State” registrations.  Most will, and from what I have found, at a price of around $40 or so.
Go check out your local library’s website to see what they offer.