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wagnerFrank Wagner, the longest-serving and most prolific Reporter of Decisions for the Supreme Court of the United States, passed away unexpectedly on August 28.  He was a good friend to the LII.  

The first time I met Frank he scared the hell out of me. Peter Martin and I were meeting with the Supreme Court’s Director of Data Services to talk a bit about what we were doing with Supreme Court materials at Cornell.  At that point, sometime in 1996,  the Court did not yet have a web site; we were urging them to add digital watermarks to the electronic copies of the decisions they were distributing via Project Hermes.  We ended up meeting with Frank.  In a tone that I suspect he had perfected solely to freeze the blood of unwary clerks, he said, “If the public wishes an official version, they may refer to the bound edition.”  And that, it seemed, was that.

Except that it wasn’t.  Frank went on to guide the Court’s publication process into the online era, as part of the team that built the Court’s official website.  And nobody was more concerned than he was about public access to — and understanding of — the Court’s work.  I met him the second time at the Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions in New York a few years later.  He had just given a talk in which referred to the work of the Reporter of Decisions as “an exercise in serial nitpickery”, a happy phrase coined by an earlier Reporter.  In the break after his talk, he came up to me and said, “I bet you could tell me what the ratio is between the number of people who read the syllabi in a case and the number who read the majority opinion”.  It so happened I could — it was, and is, about 7 to 1 in favor of the syllabus.   Apparently there was a difference of opinion between two of the Justices as to the value of the syllabi.  Frank wanted to bring facts to the argument.  Ever discreet, it was three years or more before I could wheedle him into telling me which two Justices were involved (out of respect for Frank’s discretion, I’m going to keep that to myself).  He was, more than anything, concerned that the public be able to understand what the Court had said, and he saw the syllabi as the best official vehicle for that.  And, though he never really said much about it, Frank was fiercely proud of that work — of its importance and of its precision.

We had many encounters after that; I remember after one lunch in DC telling my wife that I had just spent 90 minutes with the biggest grammar geek on the planet; another time, over a grilled cheese sandwich in the Court cafeteria, Frank told me about the night that Bush v. Gore came down, about the suspense and the hurry and the frantic cite-checking. The way he told it, it was as if they’d done the edit with bullets flying over their heads.  It was a great story.   Much later, I found that we shared a love of science fiction and some of its stranger byways.

When Frank retired, I had the good sense to ask him if he’d work with us and our students on the Supreme Court Bulletin and he had the bad judgement to accept.   He was a tremendous resource for the students and a terrific mentor.   He worked directly with the students whose work was scheduled to appear in the Federal Lawyer magazine, ensuring that we always put our proverbial best foot forward in that publication.  More importantly, though, because we try to ensure that every team of students has a chance to appear in that magazine, it meant that every team would also get the chance to work with Frank.  Frank frequently attended the orientation for our new Bulletin associates each August, and the Q & A he held was full of the great stories and even better advice that those of us who knew him had come to expect.  

Frank once said of his job that “I do not kid myself that it has brought me even 15 minutes of fame in the wider world.”  In our part of the world, where saying things clearly and cleanly is important, he was a giant.

I will miss him.

-t.

janet_odetsi_twum

Janet Odetsi Twum (Photo credit: Carol Clune)

Janet Odetsi-Twum, whom we met during her recent Bitner Fellowship at the Cornell Law Library, is a librarian to watch.  Educated in her native Ghana, she speaks six languages (English, French, Ga, Twi, Krobo and Ewe). Prior to her career as a librarian, she worked in a wide variety of settings and jobs.  She has taught in rural Ghana, serving as a classroom teacher as well as a teacher of English and Ga.  This gave her experience “improvis[ing] learning materials” in low resource environments.   She also worked on projects for young women living with HIV/AIDS.  

Odetsi-Twum’s interest in libraries began at an early age.  Growing up with a love of books and reading, she had a natural affinity for librarianship.  “I erroneously [thought] working in the library could afford me more books to read,” she says.

She has worked in a wide variety of libraries — children’s libraries, school libraries, academic libraries.  Children’s libraries, she says, are “full of action, creativity, and teaching”, and allowed her to build skills in working with computers and digital scholarship which she later brought to an academic setting.  At the time, internet resources for children’s libraries were not yet developed, so she worked with CD-ROMs — which, she points out, had their benefits: they involved “a one time payment, unlike with online legal resources where subscription is annual and expensive”.

Odetsi-Twum’s specific interest in working in legal libraries began from the ground up, when she started one.  A decade ago, when the school in which she was working as a librarian was accredited to teach law, she set up a law library from scratch.  

Having gained wide experience at so many types of libraries, Odetsi-Twum sought the Bitner Fellowship in order to gain experience in a library outside of Ghana. Law Library Director Femi Cadmus was quick to point out the benefit to the librarians here as well: “Cornell Law Librarians were excited to host Janet Odetsi-Twum in October.  Janet is an enthusiastic and resourceful librarian who  powers on undeterred by some of the challenges faced by her law library. She is an excellent communicator and was able to provide staff of our library with a very insightful overview of the workings of the Ghana legal system and the administration of law libraries in Ghana.”

While she continues to work as the head librarian at the Ghana School of Law, Odetsi-Twum is also currently working on an LL.B.  (In Ghana, she explains, while a law degree is helpful for a law librarian, it is not as common as it is for employees of American law school libraries.)  Even her Bitner fellowship caused her to miss a few weeks of classes — “I [had] to catch up with lessons and reading assignments for two weeks,” she says, admitting that it was “taxing”.  She notes that every class begins from the ground up: unlike library work, “the semester ends you have nothing to do with the course again”.

When starting the Ghana School of Law Library, one resource she relied upon was the LII, and she remarks on the coincidence of getting a chance to be at Cornell Law School in person. Of particular interest to us is Odetsi-Twum’s work putting Ghanaian legal information online. She sees pressing issues in open access and online presentation of legal materials: “currently the need to get government agencies as a key stakeholder in the provision of legal data generated is very important. Also the issues with copyright with regards to other companies who may be making profit out of the case law that government generate.” Her experience as a Bitner fellow has helped shape her project:  “I have learnt to focus on what is within my reach and with time I will get all others to join in the provision of legal resources online. As a first step, I intend to harvest and organize the scattered bits of pertinent legal data put online by other organizations in Ghana.” We can’t wait to see what she does next.

lincolnFrom the point of view of an analytics wonk, elections are an interesting time at the LII.  We see a lot of people’s political and social concerns reflected in the materials that they look at on the site.  Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more interesting things that popped up during this election season:

  • The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. We first noticed a real run on the 14th Amendment during the first GOP primary debate back in August of last year .  During the middle 20 minutes of the one-hour debate, we clocked something like half million hits on the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.  Naturally, people were reading the Second Amendment in the context of gun control.  The Fourteenth pops up in many discussions — it is fundamental to recent controversies over Obamacare, immigration, and many other high-profile issues.
  • 18 USC 879, Threats against Former Presidents and certain other persons. “Certain other persons”, in this case, includes both Presidential candidates and the family of former Presidents.  In the wake of Mr. Trump’s suggestion that “Second Amendment people” could take things into their own hands in the event that Hillary Clinton were to be elected President, we clocked nearly 125,000 visits to this Federal statute in two days.  A second, much smaller blip occurred in mid-October.
  • 18 USC 793, Gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information.  We got another 125,000-visit bump on July 5 and 6, in the wake of FBI director James Comey’s announcement that he would not be recommending that criminal charges be filed against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private e-mail server. Interestingly, people seemed to spend nearly three times as long as usual reading the page, indicating a serious attempt to understand the meaning of a statute that is by all accounts difficult to read and understand.
  • 18 USC 2071, Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally.  This one has popped up at intervals throughout the campaign season, probably because of claims made by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and various Washington DC think tanks.  Each claimed that the disqualification provision in 18 USC 2071 would bar Clinton from becoming President if she were found guilty of violating federal document concealment and destruction laws.  Mukasey has since reversed his position.   The statute has been viewed nearly 200,000 times in the last six months.
  • 18 USC 700, the Flag Desecration Act. This one has a habit of popping up when flags are burned or otherwise mistreated during protests. It’s been viewed at a fairly steady pace throughout the election season, with a small spike occurring in mid-April.
  • 18 USC 594, Intimidation of Voters.  This one peaked from October 14-16, apparently as a reaction to reports of ominous flyers distributed to Democratic voters in Albequerque, New Mexico.

Given all this, you might predict that statutes related to immigration, Social Security, and other issues that generate heated discussion during election season might also appear in the list, but they don’t.  Perhaps that’s because they generate heated discussion all the time.   But it may be that, during the most bitter election campaign in decades, substance matters less than criminalizing  the behavior of your opponent.

Although we publish legal information and operate from within a law school, people working in non-legal professions comprise most of our online audience (We don’t use cookies to track website visitors’ behavior, but we can infer some things about audience demographics from traffic chronology and Internet Protocol Network data). Despite the makeup of our audience, the majority of feedback and support we receive comes from those practicing, using or studying law on a frequent, if not daily, basis. We’re glad to serve those with legal training, but we also strive to better understand and serve those with no training.

So, when Michael Schneider, an LII donor and the Managing Member at Noodle House Studios LLC, mentioned why he came to our site and supported our work, it caught our attention. As the production company’s Managing Member and father to its founder Kurt Hugo Schneider, Michael Schneider is someone from our non-law audience who needs access to online legal information to be successful at work.

After working for years in direct marketing, banking and real estate, Schneider’s career took an interesting turn in 2009. His son, Kurt, was creating music videos with a friend from school, Sam Tsui, and had reached some success in his first year of production. Before they embarked upon a skunkworks shoot on a particularly snowy day in Connecticut, Schneider casually mentioned to his son that he really should have liability insurance and operate under a company. As he wondered about his liability in the operation, he decided to help his son pull together the necessary components of a business.

Although his protective instincts prompted his involvement, Schneider says he also based his decision to help Kurt upon basic business principles. “You don’t really make decisions, exactly. You just sort of follow the way you are drawn as a result of business opportunity and clients.”

That approach panned out for Noodle House Studios, which has since produced hundreds of unique video song covers and original works. Kurt’s YouTube channel alone has racked up over 7.5 million subscribers and nearly 2 billion video views. When Kurt moved to the west coast to do more creating, his father stayed home to continue managing all business, legal and operational matters.

Schneider only went full-time with Noodle House around a year ago, when he let his broker license lapse. His prior careers had exposed him to a few intensely regulated legal areas of commerce: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) in relation to his work in direct marketing; regulation laws associated with his position in Default Services at a bank; and property law, which he absorbed while working in real estate secured lending.

Early in their collaboration, a music company threatened to sue Noodle House. “There is something incredibly motivating about receiving a credible threat of litigation in an area when you really don’t understand the first thing about it,” says Schneider. With one Google Search he found the LII, and he proceeded to invest “hundreds of hours understanding copyright law as it applies and relates to music and the digital arena.” He feels that the only way to understand the basic underlying legal issues in music is to read the statutes and judicial decisions. “You simply have to open up copyright law and read it, and then read the reasoning of court rulings.”

Ultimately, the threat was resolved, but Schneider’s research on our website gave him a pretty strong background in legal issues affecting music, and he still references the LII on a regular basis. “Music is an intensely hard area, in terms of the legal issues. And it’s an area that has so many complications that are specific to music.”

With new media in YouTube, he says, things get even more complicated because of three complex assets: “Composition, which is part of the song recording, which is part of the video. Each asset has separate rights. In order to manage a music business which has audio/visual content and is being distributed digitally, you must understand the underlying issues.”

Amid that complexity, Schneider praises YouTube’s Content ID system for giving creators “a pretty sound basis for managing their assets and managing their copyrights.” And he has praise for the LII, too: “Just as YouTube allows a creator to disintermediate more traditional companies such as labels, sites such as yours allow a business to disintermediate other more traditional players such as consultants.”

Early on, Schneider’s ignorance led to a potential legal conflict. Since accessing legal information at our site, his improved knowledge of underlying legal issues has allowed Noodle House Studios to form good relationships with major companies like Sony, Universal, Warner, Disney, Nickelodeon in the last 3 years. It also has allowed them to maintain a “pretty lean operation” by managing its own assets.

When asked what to expect next from Noodle House, Schneider says “the plan is to keep doing what we’re doing, only do more of it and do it better and with more exposure. I started this because I wanted to protect my son. Now it’s about running a successful business.”

Peter Kopp

When Peter Martin and Tom Bruce decided to publish legal information for the handful of people on “the Net” back in 1992, neither could have predicted the magnanimity of that decision. Their small research group at Cornell Law School would eventually give millions of people access to the federal law, which their government still fails to provide today.

Over the years, as our programs and impact have grown enormously, our staff remains small. Only a handful of full-time employees conduct research and run a five hundred thousand page-website. Last year, after a decade of dabbling in fundraising, the LII brought on Peter Kopp to explore more sustainable, diverse funding sources. We thought we’d ask him a few questions.

What did you do before coming to the LII?

A lot of things. Most recently, I raised operational support via direct response methods for public broadcasting in Arlington, VA. Before that, I worked in development in the arts and higher education, book-ending the few years I spent teaching kids how to sail small and large boats.

One of those careers is not like the other. What made you decide to return to the harbor?

A few reasons. Although a sailor’s life sounds awfully romantic–and it was, for the most part–I grew tired of feeling disconnected from the world. Also, my child supervision skills had reached their ultimate height after playing parent for three week stretches to a dozen boys and girls living aboard a 50’ sloop, so I had nothing left to prove–or give–in that realm. Plus, the girl I married probably wouldn’t have said yes to getting me 8 months out of the year.

Were you already familiar with the LII before you applied for your position?

No, but it took only minimal research to recognize the important role it plays in society, via its staggering usage statistics. I was very familiar with Cornell, having grown up just 20 minutes outside of Ithaca, and my experience in both online fundraising and higher education development prepared me well for the position. Those things combined — a mission that I could get behind, a familiarity with the parent organization and the chops to make a difference — have made up for my lack of program content-specific knowledge or training. Our success this year demonstrates that.

So you’re returning home. Had that always been the plan, and was this position the deciding factor?

Getting out of DC was the plan. My wife and I decided to move to Ithaca when she accepted an unrefusable offer to work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. When the LII posted its fundraising position just days after she accepted hers, it felt like fate. There wasn’t another job in upstate New York — and probably the country — I would have found more appealing. The LII has formed its solid reputation and substantial impact by efficiently pursuing its mission. I was — and still am — excited to contribute to that effort by building and maintaining relationships with those who value the organization.

Do you have a legal or technical education?

Nope. All three of my siblings went to law school, so getting a legal education was the last thing I wanted after college. At Hamilton College I received a liberal arts education, where I spent most of my time either on or behind a stage. When I wasn’t performing, I was usually writing a history paper. Since graduation, my varied experiences have prepared me to listen and engage with the LII’s constituents to advance its mission, something a law degree or technical training may not have done as well.

What have you been up to in your first year?

I spent the first few months learning about legal information and the role the LII plays. Since then, with the help of several LII staff members and minor strategy and operational tweaks, we raised more net revenue this year from individual and corporate support than ever before. I’ve spent the balance of my time wading through constituent relationship management (CRM) systems and processes — both the LII’s and Cornell’s — to document, update and optimize them for more efficient operation. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there.

What will be your biggest focus in the coming year?

This year the LII will celebrate twenty-five years of helping people access and understand law via the Internet. Broadly, my goal will be to celebrate this milestone in a way that enables our audience to better understand and appreciate the organization behind the mission. As part of that celebration, we hope to establish connections–in the form of sponsorships–with organizations that value our work. For years, we have benefited from advertising revenue to help fund our research and publishing efforts. If we could replace it all with direct, tax-deductible support from corporations looking to make a difference, we would. So, if anyone reading this knows an organization who might sponsor us, they can share that information by emailing sponsorship@liicornell.org.

Why does the LII need donor support? Isn’t Cornell well-funded already?

The financial model in higher education has received a lot of press in recent years, for a good reason: college has become prohibitively expensive for many students and their families. Cornell and most other institutions have turned their focus to tuition and scholarship to improve access. Subsequently, ancillary research programs like the LII get bumped down the priority list. Plus, our operational costs only increase as our user audience grows.

So, the LII is more dependent now than ever before on individual donations. We’re fortunate to have so many people out there who care about our work. They’re making a difference. With their help, we’re decreasing our reliance on the law school more every year.

When someone asked a 5 year-old you what you wanted to be when you grew up, was “fundraiser” your answer?

Believe it or not, I had my heart set on being either a politician or a comedian. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn out to be sleazy or funny enough. As I learned how difficult performing could be, I discovered some of the harsh funding realities nonprofit organizations face. I benefited directly from a college scholarship, and I’ve been fascinated with the philanthropic support model and connecting people to causes they care about ever since.

We hear you’re raising chickens. Are you setting a deurbanization trend for your Millennial generation, and should we be worried about hipsters taking to the fields?

 

No, and no.

6-ways-to-increase-your-page-views-per-visitorMuch was happening across the country this summer and the Legal Information Institute has the stats to prove it. Thanks in large part to our presidential candidates and professional athletes, 25,672 websites linked the Legal Information Institute as a cited source.

This summer alone we have had over 7 million new users brought to our site. Although a majority of those users come from organic search (thank you, Google), almost 1 million of them have been led to us by referral (thank you, bloggers, journalists and most importantly Social Media). When it comes to referral traffic, social media brings 42% of it to the LII and just shy of 50% of overall new users. On average, we receive 1,500 social referrals a day; however, certain days this summer, we received spikes as high as 50,000 social referrals in 24 hours. The top social network that contributes to this data is Facebook. Below is a list of our mentions on the World Wide Web based on what was happening in the news.

We saw our first major spike of the summer in early July when FBI Director, James Comey recommended no criminal charges be filed against Hillary Clinton over using a private email server. In so many words, Comey’s statement suggested that Clinton did not violate the Espionage Act, which was then viewed over 57,000 times on our website. This decision led to 54,000 Americans quoting, sharing, and writing their opinion on the matter while linking to LII’s reference of 18 U.S. Code § 793. Ultimately this section of the U.S. Code resulted as the third most visited page on our website this summer.

In the second week of August we pick up another spike of 120,000 social sessions, mainly due to Donald Trump suggesting that “Second Amendment people” could prevent Hillary Clinton from appointing new federal judges. When word broke, our entry on the Second Amendment from our Wex online resource, reached second place for the most visited page on our website. Trump’s statement became a major headliner in the news as his suggestion was viewed threatening. Threats against a former President or an immediate family member of a former President falls under 18 U.S. Code § 879, which was linked in news articles and social media outlets generating over 100,000 pageviews between August 9th and 10th.

A third spike occurred from 68,000 social sessions to 36 U.S. Code § 301 – National Anthem. This statute also happens to be the top landing page of the summer. Athletes such as Gabby Douglas and Colin Kaepernick certainly accounted for its sudden popularity. Overall this page has collected 153,000 pageviews and counting as more athletes begin to join in what started as Kaepernick’s solitary protest.

As is evident from above, traffic from social media increases greatly when it comes to trending controversial topics in the news. Links in social media are a classic example of something we have always ardently believed–that the public discourse is enriched and improved by the availability of primary source materials such as the US Code and the Constitution. We are thrilled to be a go-to source for reliable and valid reference material, and your involvement with us helps ensure that will continue to be the case.

education-clipart-education-clipart-1When law students need to learn what the law says on any given topic, they commonly come to our website for collections such as the US Code, the CFR, the Federal Rules, and Wex. Over the years, however, we’ve come to realize that the education community values our site for a variety of reasons and uses it in a number ways.

For example, we hear from teachers of topics like civics and government and even debate who say our Supreme Court Bulletins are excellent teaching tools to illustrate both sides of the argument when important cases impacting issues like the First Amendment, health care reform, or the death penalty make their way to the Supreme Court.  And speaking of civics and the Supreme Court, we always see a sharp spike in topics related to the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights this time of year as National Constitution Day rolls around.  We know that the audio found at oyez.org is also popular among educators, and we are looking forward to integrating it with our collections as we move forward in taking over operation of Oyez.

But we’re also a resource in ways that might seem less obvious.  Our tax code is quite popular among institutions teaching in that specialized field, so much so that we’ve begun talking with one graduate school that wants to capture our materials in an environment that will allow secure access during examinations.  We’ve had similar inquiries in the past about our version of the Uniform Commercial Code, which is an important tool not just in law school contracts classes but also in classes for students in fields like banking, accounting, and business.

And it’s not just the words on the page that find value in the classroom.  Educators and academic researchers are interested in you, our audience, as they seek data to help them understand how citizens interact with and understand the law.   Computer science and information science students from such far-flung places as Lapland, Serbia, Spain and South Africa have in recent years taken up residence in our offices to learn from our technical team, and that’s in addition to the graduate students right here in Ithaca whom we regular mentor to help them fulfill project-based requirements in the Cornell curriculum.  

Of course we are thrilled to contribute to the formal and informal education of so many students all around the world.  And, of course, it would not be possible without the involvement and support of people like you.  If you use the LII in the classroom, we’d love to hear from you.  Please feel free to email our Director at Tom.Bruce@liicornell.org.

Remember MeOne of the great things that happens at the LII is working with the amazing students who come to study at Cornell — and finding out about the projects they’ve been cooking up while we weren’t distracting them by dangling shiny pieces of law before their eyes. This spring, Karthik Venkataramaiah, Vishal Kumkar, Shivananda Pujeri, and Mihir Shah — who previously worked with us on regulatory definition extraction and entity linking —  invited us to attend a presentation they were giving at a conference of the American Society for Engineering Education: they had developed an app to assist dementia patients in interacting with their families.

The Remember Me app does a number of useful things — reminds patients to prepare for appointments, take medications, and so forth. But the remarkable idea is the way it would help dementia patients interact with people in their lives.

Here’s how it works: the app is installed on both the phone of the dementia sufferer and their loved ones and caregivers. When one of the people whom the dementia patient knows comes into proximity to the patient, the app automatically reminds the patient who the person is and how they know them by flashing up pictures designed to place the person in familiar context and remind the patient of their connection. Given the way that memory is always keyed to specific contexts, this helps patients stay grounded in relating to people whom they love but which their disease may hinder their recollection of.

One notable feature of the app is that it was designed not for a class in app development but in cloud computing, which means that the app can be used by a large number of people. The nature of the app also presented additional requirements: the team noted that “as our project is related to health domain, we need to be more careful with respect to cloud data security.” Further, although the students were software engineers who were tasked with developing a scalable application, their app reflects a thoughtful approach to developing a user experience that can benefit people with memory and other cognitive impairments. Associate Director Sara Frug says “among the many teams of talented M.Eng. students with whom we have worked over the years, Karthik, Vishal, Shivananda, and Mihir have shown a rare combination of skill and sophistication in software engineering, product design, and project management. Their app is a remarkable achievement, and we are proud to have seen its earliest stages of development.”

The Remember Me app has been developed as a prototype, with its first launch scheduled for August.

 

This month, the prize will go for the best answer to the question, What’s wrong with this picture?

walkways

We’d hoped that the CFR caption contest would work like a kind of inkblot test for our fans, and if it did… well, we’re not sure whether to be exhilarated or terrified.   There were identifiable tribes among the contestants:

1) Literalists.  This krewe was bound and determined to come up with something that would spell out “CFR”.  So, for example,  we got “Communicating for Righteousness”.

2) Panglossians. All regulations are for the best in this best of all possible worlds, it seems, so you guys gave us, “Researching regulations has never been easier”.  The next group would probably agree that that is true…

3) Cynical so-and-so’s.  You guys are seductive, but so, so… not into rules.  Personal favorite: “If you’re not confused, you will be.”

Now, for the winners. It was, believe it or not, a tough choice:

1st Prize (and an adult beverage, should we ever meet) to John Gear for “Because ignorance of all this is no excuse”.

Runner-up kudos (and a Virtual Straw Boater)  to Scott Matheson for  “Making Ideas Concrete (and regulating concrete)”

Thanks everybody.  Let’s see if we can get an even bigger turnout this month!

I just got back from the 2016 CALI conference at the
Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia.CALI2016update

This report of my time there is by no means an exhaustive or even chronological record of the conference. It’s more of a highlight reel.

This was my second time attending and it still holds the title as my favorite conference. The food was great, the talks were excellent and there was a lot of time between sessions to have interesting conversations with many of the diverse and smart attendees who came from all over North America. Kudos to the organizers.

The conference officially started on Thursday, June 16th, when Indiana Jones, aka John Mayer, executive director of CALI, found the golden plaque of CALI after a harrowing traversal of the conference room, dodging obstacles. He gave a brief but warm welcome address and introduced the keynote speaker, Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks and LibriVox.org. With anecdotes from his biography, Mr Mcguire encouraged us to be proactive in solving big problems.

We had another keynote speaker on Friday, Michael Feldstein of Mindwires Consulting and co-producer of e-Literate TV. He confessed to being something of a provocateur and he succeeded in raising a few hackles when he asked “Do law schools exist?” among other questions.

He challenged us to do better at teaching students with different learning styles and skill-sets.

My two favorite presentations out of many excellent sessions that I attended were “The WeCite Project” by Pablo Arredondo from Casetext and “So you’ve digitized U.S. caselaw, now what?” by Adam Ziegler and Jack Cushman from the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.

Pablo described teaching students to be their own legal shepherds by gamifying the creation and categorization of citator entries. The result of this effort is a database of every outgoing citation from the last 20 years of Supreme Court majority opinions and federal appellate courts, unambiguously labelled either as a positive, referencing, distinguishing, or negative citation. This data will be hosted by us (LII) and made freely available without restriction. In addition to the valuable data, he also shared how to engage students, librarians and research instructors as partners in the free law movement.

After a brief presentation of some of the ways they are beginning to use data from all the digitized case laws, Adam and Jack invited us to imagine what we could do with data. I can see possibilities for topic modeling, discovery of multi-faceted relationships between cases, and mapping of changes in contract conditions, etc. Many more features, tools and use cases were suggested by the other attendees. We welcome you to send us your personal wish list for features to make this information useful to you.

I also participated in a panel discussion on software management of large digital archives, moderated by Wilhelmina Randtke (Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative), along with Jack Cushman and Wei Fang (Assistant Dean for Information Technology and Head of Digital Services, Rutgers Law Library).

There was so much interest in the Oyez Project moving to the LII, that Craig’s presentation on LII’s use of web analytics, was replaced by a discussion hosted by Craig and Tim Stanley (Justia) on the transition. The rather lively discussion was made all the more entertaining by an impromptu costume change by Craig. The prevailing sentiment after the discussion was that the Oyez Project was in the best possible hands and ‘safe’.

An unexpected bonus were the number of LII users who made it a point to complement the LII and express how useful they find our services. One particularly enthusiastic fan was DeAnna Swearington, Director of Operations at Quimbee.com (Learning tools for law students). I also met Wilson Tsu, CEO of LearnLeo and a Cornell alum, who had fond memories of when the LII first started. There were also several former law students who told me how invaluable the LII collections had been to them in school and continues to be in their current occupations.

All in all, a successful and enlightening conference. A big thank you to the organizers. They did an excellent job. I am already looking forward to next year!

Sylvia
LII Text Systems Developer