Bloomberg Law LogoBloomberg recently joined the online legal research scene with their special brand known as Bloomberg Law.  Law students and faculty at Cornell are already using this subscription Web service that pulls together case law and statutes with the unique financial data, news, and company information that Bloomberg does so well.  Indeed, Bloomberg positions its product in direct competition with Lexis and Westlaw, so if you have a corporate interest, this product is a must for your legal research.  Recognizing the reliability and authoritativeness of Bloomberg Law, the new 19th edition of The Bluebook authorizes citation to Bloomberg for unreported cases.  Here’s a sample citation from Bluebook rule 18.3:

Ortho-McNeil Pharm., Inc. v. Teva Pharm. Indus., Ltd., No. 2008-1549, 2009 BL 181480, at *4 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 26, 2009).

If you don’t have your own Bloomberg password yet, come see our Bloomberg representative next week in the Reading Room on Thursday, October 7, to sign up for access to this treasure trove of legal and financial data.

CUL mobile siteIn a move designed to make online information more accessible to library patrons, Cornell University Library (CUL) recently launched CULite, a new mobile interface for the library’s website.  The Law Library is grateful to the mobile team that designed this feature for the benefit of all libraries on the Cornell campus, including ours.

Two alternatives are available to users: a device independent mobile site (http://library.cornell.edu/m) or an iPhone/iPod Touch app available free from iTunes.  Both options allow users to search the Classic Catalog, check individual Library hours, locate contact information for each Library, submit a question to an individual reference desk, and more.  Check out the promotional video on YouTube.  Your research just became a little easier.

PACER is an online database for downloading copies of federal court filings: complaints, answers, motions, etc.  Trouble is, it costs 8 cents per page to download a document.  8 cents may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly.  PACER also charges 8 cents to look at a page of search results.  PACER isn't the most user-friendly database--you can't search the full text of documents.  You can pretty much only search by party name, court, and docket number, so you have to know what you are looking for.  Critics of PACER think the government is overcharging for the service because it makes a sizable profit off documents that are public record (one of the rare government services that actually makes money).

A team of talented people at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton developed RECAP (PACER spelled backwards) to help researchers get federal filings for free.  RECAP is a Firefox extension (a bit of code that adds functionality to an Internet browser) that automatically archives PACER documents when people who have RECAP download them.  Then, if you have RECAP, you can search PACER to see which documents have already been downloaded and are available for free.

Now it is even easier to find free federal case filings because the stand-alone RECAP Archive is available--no PACER account or RECAP add-on needed.  Pulling up the docket for a case lets you see which documents are available to download for free and which must be purchased through PACER.  The Archive is easy to use.  Let the RECAP team know if you encounter a bug or have an idea to improve the site. Note that you still can't search the full text of the filings, only the docket (Hat tip to Erika Wayne at Stanford for posting the clarification).

The Archive has some interesting features, like the ability to add tags to dockets and link related cases together.  The tags didn't seem very helpful because I could not limit my search to specific tags.  I'm not sure that people will add enough tags to make tags useful for finding cases.

An important problem to consider when using court filings from PACER is the availability of personal information like bank accounts and social security numbers in some documents.  Sensitive information should be redacted before documents are uploaded into the system but often isn't due to the huge volume of documents handled by the courts.  RECAP's servers scan documents for social security numbers, but other sensitive information is difficult to identify through automated processes (e.g., names of minor children).  RECAP asks that documents with sensitive information be brought to their attention.  Ultimately this problem is best fixed by the courts, possibly by limiting the inclusion of sensitive information to one designated filing type for all cases and keeping those documents in a separate, secure system.  Courts should also consider abandoning entirely the use of paper documents for sensitive information in favor of an electronic database.

If you download documents from PACER, consider installing the RECAP add-on so you can contribute to the open access of information.

FederalRegister.govLast week the Government Printing Office (GPO), the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) jointly released a new, XML-based version of the Federal Register at FederalRegister.gov.

This new site is important because much of the business of the United States government is conducted by federal agencies—in addition to Congress and the United States courts.  The Federal Register is the news magazine of the federal agencies.  Published Monday through Friday, the Federal Register provides notice of new regulations, requests for comment on proposed regulations, and news about actions taken by agencies and the President.  Attorneys who have clients involved in regulated industries (basically everything!) monitor the register for news affecting their clients.  Here are two examples from today’s Federal Register:

  1. The Department of Housing and Urban Development released application information for the FY2010 Housing Counseling Grant;
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency corrected the text of its July 15, 2010 Call for Information on accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy sources.

The new site is in beta.  It is an unofficial version of the Federal Register for now, but the site provides links to the official PDF version in FDsys.gov.

The advantages of the new site include:

My favorite new feature is the RSS feed.  Feeds are available for all of the index topics like bankruptcy, solar energy, and Iraq.

You knew it was bound to happen and now it has.  For those of you getting ready to watch bar review videos and sit in the library for hours with those heavy books---well, now you have options.  You can study for the bar while on the go using a new app for the iPhone/iPod Touch developed by BarMax, a company started by a former law student.  The company launched an app for the California bar exam last year and a New York version in April 2010, with plans to add more states.  The BarMax app doesn’t come cheap---it costs $1,000, reputedly the most expensive app out there---but it has an entire review course of audio tapes, lectures, outlines, checklists, and questions from prior bar exams.  And BarMax offers its MPRE edition to everyone for free.  If you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can rent one from BarMax.  Purchase of the app gets you lifetime access---all of this, and you can study while jogging.  The ABA Journal's review of the app is available here.  A review by a purported former law student who used BarMax to prep for the bar is available here.

Already there is competition.  If you aren't ready to trust a new company with your bar prep, BARBRI introduced an app last fall which is free for students enrolled in its classes (which cost considerably more than $1,000) and offers mobile access to lectures and other materials.  Emanuel Bar Review also has developed a series of apps to prepare you for the multistate exam that let you review and test yourself on evidence, property law, contracts, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law.  These apps only cost $12.99 each and also make good study tools for 1L law school classes.  Or you can study for the multistate exam on your home or laptop computer using MyBarPrep, which costs $249.99.

The end of the semester draws near, so it’s time to start thinking about whether you’ll need your law school Lexis and Westlaw accounts this summer.  Full access to Lexis and Westlaw is turned off May 31 and does not reactivate until August.  However, if you meet one or more conditions you can extend your password for the summer---maintaining the access you have while in school.  These conditions cover various non-commercial activities, including public interest work, working as a faculty research assistant, journal or moot court research, and bar review.  A major new development this year is the addition of Lexis’ ASPIRE program, which is specifically designed for students and graduates doing public interest work.

Passwords must be extended by May 31.  Basically, you’ll complete an online form indicating to Lexis and West why you need full access during the summer.  Complete extension details for both Lexis and Westlaw are provided here.

Have you ever wished you could use the library catalog to search for articles published in journals?  Or discover what books other libraries (not just those at Cornell) might have in their collections on a particular topic or written by a particular author?  With the new Cornell library catalog, WorldCat Local, you can do that and more.

Library catalogs have traditionally served as finding tools for a specific library’s collection.  You could search the catalog for a journal title once you had located an article citation (usually in a periodical index), and then try to ascertain from the catalog information whether the specific journal issue you needed was in the library.  This kind of research was time- and labor-intensive.  The catalog could show you what the library owned in a given subject area, but a researcher would need a more comprehensive view of the literature in his or her field, beyond a single library’s collection, to identify relevant articles and books. WorldCat Local aggregates the catalogs of thousands of libraries worldwide, allowing you to discover what other libraries have in their collections, in addition to what Cornell has.

WorldCat Local is a new discovery tool that overcomes these limitations of traditional library catalogs, and offers many other interesting and useful features as well (some of which will be described in future posts to The Competitive Edge).  To explore WorldCat Local yourself, enter a search in the search box located in the bottom right corner of the Law Library home page (the box that says 'Search NEW Catalog') or go directly to the WorldCat Local search page at http://cornell.worldcat.org/.

WorldCat search from Cornell Law Library home page

Black’s Law Dictionary 8th Edition iPhone appiPhone, iPod touch, and now iPad apps for legal research have been picking up steam, and a small variety of apps are currently available. Of course, none of these are useful to you if you have a Droid, a Blackberry, or a Palm Pre. Also how useful these are depends on how mobile you are and whether you want/need/like access to resources that your laptop with Wi-Fi can't provide.

One prominent app is Black's Law Dictionary, which West released in April 2009. The upsides include:

  • Speed-it's fast
  •  Auto-complete feature helps you find the words you're looking for
  • Audio pronunciation for 7,000 words, so you will never embarrass yourself again by mispronouncing a term
  • You don't need the Internet to access
  • Links to other words and resources in Westlaw (e.g., Corpus Juris Secundum) if you have an account (but you may have to pay to use them, depending on your plan)
  • Portability, of course!

The downsides:

  • The price is steep for an app--$49.99--which won't be worth it for many who already have access to Black's through Westlaw or in print
  • App is for the 8th edition of Black's, but West published the 9th edition last summer (no word yet on if and when West will release an app for the 9th edition)
  • Text does not resize itself when you zoom in
  • No browsing words alphabetically

By the way, don't confuse the iPhone app with Black's Law Dictionary Digital. The Digital version consists of a toolbar you download to your computer to use in Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox. The toolbar links you to the online version of Black's in Westlaw, and will provide spell-checking of legal terms in Word. This tool is not something I find useful since I can add legal terms to the spell checker the first time it finds them and the toolbar does not make it much faster or easier to retrieve Black's in Westlaw or from my bookshelf.

For a more detailed review of the Black's app, see Jeff Richardson's Review: Black's Law Dictionary for iPhone on iphonejd.com; also see the reviews from users in iTunes.

If you don't want to pony up $50 for Black's Dictionary, never fear: free law dictionary apps are also available and will be the subject of a future post.

Bloomberg Law logo

Bloomberg L.P.,, a provider of real-time business news and intelligence for more than twenty-five years, is launching a new legal research platform called Bloomberg Law (makes sense--the name I mean) to compete with Lexis and Westlaw. I have test driven Bloomberg Law, and it has some nice features, including the ability to take notes on a case and save them indefinitely and the ability to collaborate with other researchers within the system. Bloomberg Law provides access to Bloomberg Law Reports, Bloomberg Law Digest, keyword searching, a legal citator/updater, and points of law summaries. Company and market information are also available, just as you would expect from Bloomberg. The system is operational, but it is still a work in progress; you may encounter a bug or two.

If you plan on performing business or business law research in the near future, I recommend you try out Bloomberg Law. Even if you aren't involved in business, you are welcome to use Bloomberg Law and see what this system offers you. Law school is the best time to become familiar with as many research tools as possible.

If you would like a Bloomberg password, please contact your legal research instructor, Research Attorney Jean Callihan, or visit the research desk in the Reading Room during reference hours.

We also have a Bloomberg terminal available to students in the Reading Room. Contact the research desk for help.

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