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April 30, 2009

Judicial Council Petitions for Rules Changes on Electronic Discovery

The Wisconsin Judicial Council has presented petition to the state Supreme Court proposing "amendments to the Wisconsin rules of discovery in direct response to the unavoidable increase in the discovery of electronically stored information."

From the petition:

A key goal of these proposed rule changes is to increase judicial efficiency in the circuit courts by improving consistency and predictability in the discovery of electronically stored information. The proposed rule changes are also intended to reduce the economic burden on litigants that can result from discovery involving an enormous volume of electronically stored information....

The proposed amendments contained herein are adapted from the Uniform Rules on the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information and the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Source: Milwaukee Federalists

A Fair(y) Use Tale - Copyright Explained by an Unwitting Cast of Familiar Characters

From Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society:

Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.

I thought that this was great - a nice little lesson on copyright delivered in a fun, albeit ironic, fashion. Thanks to my husband for passing it on to me.

April 29, 2009

Interactive Statistics from Google

Google has recently launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data.

From the Google Blog:

If you go to Google.com and type in [unemployment rate] or [population] followed by a U.S. state or county, you will see the most recent estimates.

Once you click the link, you'll go to an interactive chart that lets you add and remove data for different geographical areas.

I ran a sample search for "umemployment rate Wisconsin" which produced an interactive chart. I then added Michigan which added those statistics to the chart.
googledata.jpg

More from the Google Blog:

The data we're including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web. There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers' salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on.

April 27, 2009

Black's Law Dictionary for iPhone/iTouch

Earlier this month, West launched Black's Law Dictionary for the iPhone/iPod Touch. The cost? A hefty $49.99, although that is still less than the print edition.

This digital version of Black's 8th edition offers audio pronunciations of selected legal terms.

Thomson Reuters said in a statement that lawyers and law students can expect more apps from West soon.

ATL Career Center Offers Firm Profiles and Comparisons

Above the Law has developed a new site called Career Center for researching information about law firms.

In Firm Snapshots, you can view profiles of individual firms, including Compensation, Associate Experience, Billable Hours, Face Time and Vacation Policy, Pro Bono Policy, Partnership Prospects, Benefits, Summer Associate Program, and links to Discussions on Above The Law.

In Firm Comparisons, you can compare different firms on various metrics. Registration is required for comparisons.
foley.jpg

From the ATL blog:

To keep the information in the Career Center accurate and up-to-date, we'll be asking for your help. Please register for full access to the site. If you're a lawyer at a firm included in the Career Center, you'll be asked to answer short survey questions about your firm when you visit. We'll aggregate and update our data each time a new visitor logs in to the site. By providing users with the ability to generate detailed firm reports, both individually and on a comparative basis, the Career Center offers attorneys a new way to navigate the law firm landscape.

If you are a recruiting director at a featured firm, please take a few minutes (if you have not done so already) to review the content of your firm profile for accuracy. If you have any corrections or updates, or general feedback about the Career Center, please email them to careercenter@abovethelaw.com. Our goal is to present data that is dynamic, continually updated, and accurate, differentiating our Career Center from other outlets.

April 24, 2009

The Legal Workshop Aggregates, Simplifies Law Review Articles

The Legal Workshop is a new, free, online magazine featuring articles based on legal scholarship published in the print editions of seven participating law reviews: Stanford Law Review, New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review, and University of Chicago Law Review.

According to a press release, it will include "short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews." The website states that it "features "op-ed" versions of the articles published by the member journals. These concise and lively pieces are written for a generalist audience..."

The magazine is uses a blog-like layout. The reader can browse articles by topic, journal and date.

Appeals Court Rules that TurnItIn Plagiarism Detection Service Does Not Violate Students' Copyrights

A recent decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that students' copyrights were not violated by plagiarism detection service TurnItIn, even though the works were archived.

From ars technica:

The federal decision (PDF) reads like a primer on "fair use," which was the legal doctrine that TurnItIn relied upon for its activities.

TurnItIn has known for years that this would be a sensitive issue, and in 2002 commissioned an opinion (PDF) from law firm Foley & Lardner. The group concluded that the use of the papers constituted fair use, but admitted that "the archival of a submitted work is perhaps the most legally sensitive aspect of the TURNITIN system." The lawyers argue that because the text is not displayed or distributed to anyone, it can hardly be called "infringement." Fair use should allow TurnItIn to do what it does.

A federal court agreed that this was legal, for two reasons. First, TurnItIn required students to enter into a "binding agreement" when they uploaded papers to the site. Second, TurnItIn's use was "fair" according to the four factors found in US copyright law, with most weight being given to the "transformative" nature of what TurnItIn was doing with the papers.

The Appeals Court agreed with this analysis. "Plaintiffs also argue that [Parent company] iParadigms' use of their works cannot be transformative because the archiving process does not add anything to the work--TurnItIn merely stores the work unaltered and in its entirety. This argument is clearly misguided," wrote the court.

Source: Library Link of the Day

Case Reversed for Allowing Wikipedia as Evidence

From the North Jersey Crime Examiner:

A Bergen County [NJ] judge mistakenly let a collection company lawyer cover a gap in evidence against a credit-card holder by using a Wikipedia page, a state appeals court has ruled.

"[I]t is entirely possible for a party in litigation to alter a Wikipedia article, print the article and thereafter offer it in support of any given position," the appeals justices wrote, referring to the "anyone can edit" online encyclopedia.

"Such a malleable source of information is inherently unreliable and clearly not one whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned," they added.

In doing so, the appeals panel tossed out a collection judgment... of more than $30,500.

Source: Legal Research Plus

April 22, 2009

Recent UW Law School Faculty & Staff Scholarship

Recent faculty and staff scholarship from the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series in SSRN:

April 21, 2009

Email Subscription Problems

I've been informed that some subscribers received the following error message this morning informing them that " 'University of Wisconsin Law School' has changed."

feedblitz.jpg

We believe that this error was the result of some web server maintenance that the Law School IT staff performed last night. Everything should now be fixed. If you continue to receive any error messages, please comment to this message or email me directly. Sorry for the inconvenience.

April 20, 2009

Intellectual Life at the UW Law School

The University of Wisconsin Law School has created a new page entitled Intellectual Life which features the research and scholarship of the faculty and staff.

On the page, you'll find audio recordings of recent presentations, announcements of upcoming presentations and conferences, and news about faculty and staff.

April 17, 2009

Law Libraries & the Economic Crisis

How is the current economic crisis affecting the law library profession? An e-newsletter from AALL President, James Duggan, shares the results from a recent survey of law library directors:

Staff

  • 23 percent of law libraries have experienced staff reductions, the overwhelming number ranging from one to five full-time employees laid off.
  • Nearly 20 percent of law libraries have eliminated vacant positions, and more than 63 percent have a hiring freeze in place at this time.
    • Hardest hit have been the private law libraries; 30 percent have had staff reductions, and nearly 72 percent have a hiring freeze in place.
    • Only about 10 percent of academic law libraries have reduced their staffs, but 45 percent have a hiring freeze in place.
    • A little more than 15 percent of state, court, and county law libraries have experienced layoffs, and 57 percent have a hiring freeze.

Budget

  • 60+ percent of all respondents have already experienced budget cuts.
    • Again, private law library budgets have seen the most cuts; nearly 73 percent have been cut, and about a quarter of respondents have seen cuts of 15 percent or more.
    • Nearly half of academic law library budgets are so far untouched.
    • About 40 percent of state, court, and county law library budgets also have remained steady, but many anticipate cuts in the next fiscal year.

Full results of the survey, as well as examples of what law libraries are doing to cope with the current economic situation are available on the AALL Tools for Success wiki.

Google Books & its Implications for UW Madison

The Daily Cardinal has a very thorough article on the Google Books initiative and its implications for the UW Madison campus.

The article discusses:

  • staffing concerns at campus libraries
  • copyright issues and the status of the settlement
  • how digitizing materials will increase access to important scholarly and historical works

Look for quotes from Law School prof's, Shubha Gosh and Anuj Desai.

Thanks to my colleague, Jenny Zook, for pointing me to the article

April 16, 2009

Are Student Government Records Subject to State's Open Record Laws?

"A group of college reporters asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Wednesday for his opinion on whether Wisconsin's open records and meetings laws apply to University of Wisconsin System student government." Read more at the Oshkosh Northwestern.

Source: The Wheeler Report

April 14, 2009

Wisconsin Property Assessors Manual Available Online

The complete Wisconsin Property Assessors Manual is now available online.

The manual aids assessors in the interpretation of statutes related to classifying and valuing property, describes the property assessment cycle and deadlines, and defines the responsibilities of public servants charged with carrying out property valuation. The manual is developed and maintained by the Department of Revenue, Bureau of Assessment Practices per WI Stats. 73.03(2a) and is updated on an annual basis.

See Bev Butula's post on the Wisconsin Law Journal blog for some notes on searching.

LRB Twitter Feed

Steve Miller of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau informs me that the LRB now has a Twitter feed. They'll be tweeting about recent acquisitions and new publications from the LRB.

Diploma Privilege: 7th Circ. Questions State-focus of Legal Education in WI; Law Prof. Responds

In his blog, BYU Law professor, Gordon Smith, formerly of the UW Law School, responds to criticism leveled by several Seventh Circuit judges who question the state-focus of legal education in Wisconsin as related to the diploma privilege.

The criticisms are in response to a case before the court which is "challenging the privilege as a violation of the dormant commerce clause, by treating the in-state law schools and their graduates more favorably than those from out-of-state."

"Defending the privilege in her brief to the court, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sloan Lattis asserted that the privilege is justifiable because it is an 'undisputed fact that only Wisconsin law schools systematically instruct in Wisconsin law.' "

Judges Richard Posner, Diane Wood, and Kenneth F. Ripple all challenged this assertion. Posner specifically stated that he doubted there is any Wisconsin content taught in Wisconsin law schools and later, he called the contention that there is such content "a complete fiction," and bluntly said, "I don't believe you. I don't believe the courses are any different from those in Indiana or Illinois."

Professor Smith refutes this criticism: "As a former contracts law professor at Wisconsin, I can attest that every section of Contracts uses the so-called 'Wisconsin Materials,' which are heavy on Wisconsin law."

He also points to the "strong Wisconsin focus in the work of the Remington Center" and the school's "long tradition -- expressed in the University's Wisconsin Idea -- of connecting the study of law to the State of Wisconsin" through state-focused scholarly works.

In summary, Smith states that

This blog post is not offered as a complete justification of the State's defense of the diploma privilege, but rather as some mild pushback on the assumption that the University of Wisconsin Law School is no different from law schools in Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, or Oklahoma. While Wisconsin prides itself on being a national law school, the connection to Wisconsin was still much in evidence while I was there.
Read more about the case at the Wisconsin Law Journal

April 13, 2009

National Library Week Celebration and Events at the UW Law Library

Happy National Library Week! Stop by the UW Law Library this week and help us celebrate. For our celebration this year, we've put together a number of activities including games, displays, and faculty/staff READ posters.

READ Posters
This year's posters feature, Louis Butler, Justice in Residence, and the Law School IT Team, Eric Giefer, Darryl Berney, Karen Koethe and Joel Santodomingo.

Want to star in your very own READ poster? Then head over to the MERIT Education Library (formerly the CIMC) this week with your favorite book. They'll take your photo and create a poster for you.

Reference Book of the Day
National Library Week is also an ideal time to discover some library resources of which you may not be aware. Look for the Reference Book of the Day on display at the reference desk. You might just find a few hidden gems in our collection.

Games, Snacks and Prizes (for UW Law School students, faculty and staff only)
Crossword Puzzle - Monday through Wednesday

Complete our National Library Week crossword puzzle with clues that relate to law and legal research. A gift donated by the UW Alumni Office will be awarded to the person with the most correct puzzle answers.

Pick-up a copy of the crossword puzzle at the Reference Desk and drop off your completed entry no later than 9:00 p.m. on Weds. April 15th . The winner will be notified by email on Thursday, April 16th. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries. This contest is open to all UW Law School students, faculty, and staff. Good luck everyone!!

Live Games and Snacks - Thursday, 1:00 to 2:00 in the Atrium

Join the library staff in the atrium for an afternoon of fun games and prizes in the atrium. Cookies will also be served courtesy of LexisNexis and Westlaw.

April 10, 2009

WI Bill Would Require Employers to Notify of E-Mail Monitoring

Wisconsin Radio Network reports that "a public hearing Tuesday from the Legislature's Committee on Personal Privacy took up a bill that would require employers to annually notify their workers of email monitoring." The bill in question is Assembly Bill 30.

From the article:

"An instructor of computer networking at Madison Area Technical College spoke in favor of the plan. Brett Selling says such a policy would help protect network administrators who may be tasked with investigating activity on their network. He says administrators can be held liable under current law....

Seling says this law would only apply toward business owners who already track their employee's emails. For those who don't monitor activity it would not apply."

April 7, 2009

Article: Law Firms Slash Summer Associate Programs

"Big firms across the country have dramatically cut the number of associates attending their 2009 summer programs, a sign that firms don't expect to see a talent shortage in fall 2010," reports Law.com.


Many of California's biggest firms have cut the number of associates in their programs compared to last year, some by 30 percent to 50 percent, according to data collected from the National Association of Law Placement.... The 10 largest firms nationwide also have cut their programs by similar amounts.

Industry observers said it's another sign big firms might be backing away -- at least for now -- from the high-leverage staffing models typical of the boom days. Associate-partner ratios have already taken a dive from layoffs and deferrals.

April 6, 2009

Civil Justice in Wisconsin: A Fact Book, with Commentary

Civil Justice in Wisconsin: A Fact Book, with Commentary is the title of a new report authored by Marc Galanter and Susan Steingass of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

"This report presents the basic facts about our civil courts and litigation in them and examines some of the persistent myths about these topics." It considers the following:

  • How Many Civil Cases Were Filed in Wisconsin Trial Courts?
  • What Were These Cases About?
  • How Many of These Were Torts, Including Medical Malpractice and Product Liability Claims?
  • How Many of These Cases Went to Trial?
  • When They Did Go to Trial, What Were the Results?
  • Is Wisconsin "Overlawyered"?
  • Is Wisconsin's Legal Environment Bad for Business?

From the conclusion:

In many ways, Wisconsin is very much like its neighbors and like the rest of the nation. Overall, resort to the courts is increasing, but most of this increase is in the family and contract areas. Tort filings are decreasing relative to population and in absolute numbers. The portion of cases that reach trial, especially jury trial, is decreasing. When cases do get to trial, median awards are mostly lower than in the recent past.

If we look further to see how Wisconsin is distinctive, we find that even with the limitations of the data, Wisconsin has a modest amount of litigation in comparison with our neighbors and the rest of the nation. Most non-family civil cases are filed by businesses against individual defendants; where individuals sue businesses, the awards are comparatively modest. This relatively low resort to the courts is reflected in a lawyer population that is relatively small and slow growing.

For reactions to the report, see The Capital Times article, "UW report: WMC claims of excessive litigation in state are bogus."

Recent UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Latest faculty and staff scholarship from the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series on SSRN:

Courtship, Blogosphere Style

If you follow Althouse, you probably know that the UW Law professor recently became engaged to a man she met through her blog. The New York Times shares the story of their unique courtship.

NYT Editorial: With the Downturn, It's Time to Rethink the Legal Profession

The New York Times has an interesting editorial on the economic downturn and its implications for the legal profession - and they aren't all bad, according to the author.

The downturn will probably rein in [first year] salaries at the high end. Top firms are already under pressure to lower the $160,000 starting salary; one industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary.

Lower pay should mean that associates will not need to work the grueling hours many have been forced to. And it will mean less pressure to go into private practice for law graduates who would rather do something else.

Clients are also likely to benefit -- and consumers, since legal fees are built into the cost of almost everything. Even before the downturn, big-firm clients, led by the Association of Corporate Counsel, were pushing to phase out the billable hour -- which can go as high as $1,000. Tight corporate budgets will give clients more leverage to push to pay by the project or for successful outcomes.

If the downturn is prolonged, law schools will need to keep tuition and other costs in check so students do not graduate with unmanageable debt....Law schools may also become more serious about curriculum reform....

The past few decades of prosperity made a lot of lawyers wealthy, but they were not always good for the profession. Law school deans, bar association leaders and firm managers should follow Rahm Emanuel's advice about never allowing a crisis to go to waste and start planning for what comes next.

April 2, 2009

Sealed Cases to Appear in Case Lists in PACER

From The Third Branch (newsletter of the federal courts):

The Judicial Conference, in its continuing efforts to ensure appropriate public access to court files, has voted to make federal court sealed cases more readily apparent.

The Conference, acting at its March 17 meeting, voted to have Internet lists of civil and criminal cases in district courts include a case number and generic name, such as "Sealed vs. Sealed," for each sealed case....

Currently, PACER lists of sequentially numbered district court cases skip the sealed cases, but a member of the public could query the missing case number directly and would see a message stating that the case "is under seal."

Cost Effective CLEs

Jane Pribek of the Wisconsin Law Journal offers some advice for Cost-effective Ways to Meet CLE Requirements.

See for example, programs offered by the Wisconsin State Law Library, Marquette University Law School and the American Bar Association. Other CLE providers are mentioned in the article.

100 Law Related Twitter Feeds

Online Best Colleges has compiled a list of the Top 100 Twitter Feeds for Law Students. It is an interesting list of feeds from various legal folks and organizations, including law students, firms, attorneys, academics, law librarians, and more.

Whether these are, in truth, the "top" law related Twitter feeds is hard to say, but it is a useful list for those are interested in listening in on or engaging in conversation with other law-minded people. Despite being billed as '"for law students," this list could have a much wider audience.

April 1, 2009

Law Library of Congress Hosts Archive of Legal Blogs

Earlier this week, the Law Library of Congress released an archive of legal blawgs dating back to 2007. The collection includes more than 100 blogs categorized by topic covering a broad cross section of legal topics. According to Infotoday Blog, the library plans to increase that number to 200 by the end of 2009.

This is an important development. While blogs contain a wealth of information, their transient nature has been troubling to researchers and scholars. In harvesting content from these blogs, the Law Library of Congress has begun to address this concern by preserving the content for future researchers.

According to Infotoday, blogs were selection based on variety, authority (frequenty cited, widely read, awards won, and scholarly nature) and user nomination. Blogs are monitored regularly to ensure that they continue to fit the selection criteria.

Future enhancements include improved searching and browsing of catalog and bibliographic records and better integration with other collections.

Thanks to the Hon. Daniel Anderson for alerting me about the Legal Blawgs archive.

WisBar InsideTrack and Evernote Note Taking Tool

The latest edition of WisBar InsideTrack is now available.

In this April 1st edition, I contributed an article on Managing your research: Create and search your notes with Evernote. Evernote is a free, versatile note-taking tool. It provides a single place to store many types of notes and makes them instantly accessible at anytime, in any place. You can create plain text notes, capture hand written notes and drawings, and save images and audio recordings.

In addition to my article, other features include:

Wisconsin State Law Library URL Change

The Wisconsin State Law Library has changed their URL to http://wilawlibrary.gov.

According to webmaster, Carol Hassler, "this change is made in anticipation of our redesigned website, which will launch this spring....

While you will still be able to reach our website using our old domain name (wsll.state.wi.us), please take a moment to update any links, favorites, or bookmarks you may have to our new domain name: wilawlibrary.gov"