Skip to main content

How long has this been goin’ on?

therabble.jpgIn a video interview sponsored and distributed by the West Group,  law librarian and information scientist Bob Berring of Boalt Hall at Berkeley says he doesn’t think “volunteer” legal publishers will be around very long (it’s been 17 years now,  Bob, and some days we feel every one of them).   The funny thing is, we don’t disagree with all that he says — there are things that a high-priced service can do that we never will be able to, and we said so very explicitly in our response to a West Group employee some months back.  We greatly admire the editorial value West adds to what it publishes — and we believe that there should be open-access alternatives for those who want to know what the law is, but can’t  or won’t pay the price for such beautifully-enhanced information.

We’ll have more to say about this in a forthcoming blog post.  For now, as Professor Berring seems to suggest, we’ll just run along and play.  After all, what would a big company like Thomson/West have to worry about from the likes of us “volunteers”?

[ We encourage comments on this, both here and on our Facebook page ]

LII is looking for an XML geek

nowhiring.jpgThe LII is looking for a programmer to join our very small staff in Ithaca, NY.  The alphabet-soup related to qualifications and the official job description are here.  We are collegial, entrepreneurial, occasionally clever, and well-respected in the business. And we are very, very busy.  If you’ve got experience with legal text, XML,  and Drupal we’d encourage you to talk with us.

(the updated URL is — some have reported trouble with the abbreviated version)

New USC Titles 12, 13, and 14 available

oxy_ret.jpgJust an hour or two after the Law Revision Counsel’s office released their version, we have updated versions of Titles 12 (Banks), 13 (Census), and 14 (Coast Guard) of the US Code online.

Why does it take a couple of hours?  Well, software ain’t perfect — and ours converts an extremely complex encoding used for typesetting into valid XML, then creates the online HTML version from that.  We don’t release it automatically.  Instead, it gets a once-over from LII XML wizard Dave Shetland before it goes out.  The error rate is low — but we find that when the software blows up, it tends to do so dramatically, so a spot-check is necessary to ensure that our audience gets what it needs accurately and as soon as possible.

Projects we like: Social Media and Law Students

galley_slaves_needed_.jpgSome of our best work is done by law students — take a look at LIIBULLETIN, for example, or the recent flood of definitions in our WEX legal encyclopedia.  We know these folks — and we recognize how lousy the current legal employment market is.  And that gets us thinking about how our friends and collaborators might use their online presence (at the LII and elsewhere) to help them find work.

Too often, we think, social media are presented as liabilities and not assets.  All sorts of people will tell you that don’t want potential employers to see pictures of that night when you had all those jello shots and…. well, never mind.   But you do want employers to see professional work that you’ve done — especially examples of careful, thoughtful writing, and other things that show the same skill set you’ll be using in practice.

Enter LII friend Laura Bergus and her collaborators at Legal Geekery (and others, like Rex Gradeless at  Social Media Law Student).  They’re trying to show their colleagues just what can be done with a little careful attention to things like blogs, LinkedIn, and Facebook.    We agree that these are all things that can be used to build a solid professional reputation online, and we’d suggest that you check out Laura’s tips on how to best make use of them.   It’s part of a larger site on Social Media Best Practices for law schools — well worth a look if you’ve got anything at all to do with a law school.

The LII will soon be expanding its opportunities for students to work with us, as part of a cooperative project with our friends over at CALI.  We still have some tech to put in place, but we’re hoping to have it done in time to take advantage of excess capacity (read: cabin fever) during the winter holiday.  We’ll say more about it here when we have specifics.

We show up in Congress, sort of

comm.jpgOur weekly crawl of news sources turned up something pretty unusual today: the use of the LII as a cited source for the law in Congressional testimony.  The cite shows up in testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (and more specifically, in the Subcommittee charged with emergency management), in a segment entitled “Lessons from Katrina”.  It’s a little hard to tell whether the speaker is citing the Americans with Disability Act or a Supreme Court Case interpreting it… but we have both, and it’s nice to know that we have Hill staffers in the audience.

LII Director Bruce to give talk in San Francisco, Nov. 3

ca-or-bust.jpgTom Bruce is planning a trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in early November.  He’ll be giving a talk on November 3, though he claims  it will be more conversation than lecture.  He wants to discuss how the LII — and other open-access law sites — are used by their viewers.  Since the audience for the talk is expected to be lawyer-centric, he’ll focus on what clients are doing with the information they find on sites like the LII. Are clients engaging lawyers in the same way that patients engage doctors after reading WebMD and other medical sites?

Surprisingly, that’s something we know very little about — and would like to know much more.  You can help by attending the talk, or simply sending Tom your thoughts on the matter at tom () bruce (at) cornell () edu.  We’re in the early stages of investigation with this, and any information you can offer would be most helpful.  The event is sponsored by the Cornell Law School Alumni Association, and you can sign up here.

The LII helps catch America’s Toughest Sheriff

arpaio-gest.jpgLast week,  the Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff,  Joe Arpaio, claimed authority to make street arrests of illegal immigrants under a Federal law that doesn’t exist.  He claimed that we were the source of this information.  We weren’t.  Please read what we have to say about it here.

It’s rare that we get such a dramatic demonstration of the value of open access to law and of services such as ours.  It presents a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate our impact.  Please help by passing this along to others.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger on Peer Production

croudsourcing.jpgOver in VoxPopuLII, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger has some ideas about peer production, open source, and the legal information sphere that are worth a look. He’s an old friend of the LII, and we are assisting him on a project involving the analysis of citations in Supreme Court opinions.

Viktor is the author of the just-released  “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in a Digital Age“.  Unfortunately, we can’t seem to find the video archive of the talk he gave at Cornell a couple of years ago, in which he outlined the thesis of the book.  Since that thesis consists, in part, of the idea that the Internet retains far too much, we imagine that he is pleased about this — even though it was an excellent talk.

LII’s 18 USC 871 makes CNN appearance

Hitchcock in Strangers on a TrainIt’s not in the same league as Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearances — we have always particularly liked the man with the double bass in Strangers on a Train — but the LII’s version of 18 USC 871 shows up at about 2:22 into this clip from CNN (annoyingly, WordPress does not allow us to embed it without adding a plugin, so you’ll just have to click the clicky thing). LII programmers Brian Hughes and Dave Shetland are eagerly awaiting Emmy nominations for their supporting roles.