Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dear BC Lawyers: Please Help!

Dear BC Lawyers,

Do you have some opinions on what the future should look like for online legal research? Want to support BC law libraries? Well, now is the time to share.

The BC Courthouse Library Society is asking for your help to improve their website and serve you better. All you have to do is take this short 3-minute web survey!

Plus, and here comes the big sales pitch, you could win one of two 8G iPod Touch devices in the process. (see image, pretty cool, right?)

The BCCLS is a not for profit organization and a registered charity. Their funding comes from the Law Society of British Columbia, the Law Foundation of BC, the Ministry of Attorney General, and donations from around the province.

If you've used the Courthouse library's services in the past, you already know how committed these people are. They are also one of the biggest regional investors when it comes to new web technology - both as it pertains to legal research, and also how it supports the BC legal community.

Please show your support!

Kind regards,
Steve Matthews

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NY Times Covers Consumer Benefits of JD Supra

Full client disclosure here, but I really wanted to share this...

On Sunday, the NYTimes published a very flattering article on JD Supra titled, Lawyers Open Their File Cabinets for a Web Resource.

For me, this story is as close to the original vision for JD Supra as I've come across. While the research, sharing & marketing benefits are mostly evident, what tends to get overlooked is the public consumer angle. A very interesting part of this site's concept (for me) is the way people are empowered to make better decisions. Whether you're an Executive betting the company, or an individual hiring a lawyer, engaging legal help is an expensive proposition. Good decisions are obviously critical.

I'm not sure if, as the article says, Law is the last bastion; but do believe codified examples of work history can be part of the solution. Yet another element in moving toward the complete web-view of the legal professional.

Looking purely from a consumer's view, I see the benefits of sharing work product as:
  • The ability to read these documents & become better informed;
  • Increased reliability of documents where Lawyers take public ownership of them;
  • Researching legal issues within a collection of vetted documents;
  • Ability to identify a lawyer with rare experience (& not worth the lawyer's effort to market);
  • Ability to identify expertise by geographic region or practice area;
When decisions & execution are *this* important, I can't see DIY legal work being an issue. The question then becomes, are Consumers better off with these documents available?

That answer, at least for me, is a definite yes.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

New UBC SLAIS Course on LIS 2.0?

I have some fantastic news... Dean Giustini is part of group in early exploratory stages looking at creating an LIS 2.0 program out at UBC SLAIS.

Drop by & check out the comments in Dean's post and this wiki page to see some of the early thought processes. The other reason I'm enthusiastic about this initiative is that Brian Lamb is listed as one of the stakeholders. I read Brian's blog all the time, and think he has great vision.

We're long due for a course like this on the west coast, but certainly not behind the times. There's a great opportunity to learn from others who have gone before -(via Dean's wiki page...) Amanda Etches-Johnson, Alyssa Kroski and Meredith Farkas. And obviously Michael Stephens and our own Connie Crosby would be in that list too.

What would I like to see? Off the top of my head, how about...
  1. Lots of hands on interaction with software tools - If students come out of the course with a 'no fear' attitude to try OS software and new web tools -- mission accomplished. The tools will be different in 5 years. Healthy attitudes rule!
  2. A strong info-professional spin to the tools - setting up an RSS feed reader is great, but new students should also be strong on mixing & filtering content for their user's info-driven purposes. The librarian's job is to make information easy, and these interactive tools have the potential to solve many of our challenges. If we don't consider & apply them, who will?
  3. A strong link to the traditional LIS core - information seeking behaviour, collection development, indexing, abstracting, controlled vocab vs folksonomy tagging, and so on. All have context to add to any web collection or project, LIS 2.0 projects included.
  4. Web 2.0 Applications to Emerging Trends - New graduates are going to be asked about using web 2.0 for creating Intranets, Current Awareness services, or Competitive Intelligence projects. They don't have to be a total solution provider, but a complete perspective on the possibilities is essential.
For me, this isn't about anything 2.0 - it's just about building solid web skills within my profession. Same thing goes for our recent VALL screencasting workshop. Looking forward 10-15-20 years, how many of us believe that Librarians can compete without it?

If it was up to me, this course would be a mandatory requirement.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Google Librarian Central "Summer Break" Now 298 Days

I'm just saying.

Charon QC Launches Insitelaw

Preeminent UK law blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Pigot, has a new offering - Insitelaw Magazine.

The new website, and its associated blog, will offer "a weekly newswire covering developments in and news about English law".

[hat tip: lo-fi]


Martindale Blog - Where's Sami?

I'm a bit late posting this, but Martindale has responded to my laundry list of blog design problems posted on February 5th. And just in time! ... for Kevin to drop another laundry list in their hands. Nasty Kevin, just nasty... ;)

On the plus side: blogger profiles, photos and archives have now been added. The other elements I noted are critical too, so let's hope they'll keep making improvements.

But now I have a new question: Where's Sami Hero?

Absent from those blogger profiles is the guy who took ownership & admirably responded to my original critique. I also note that after a substantial amount of blogging activity, Sami now hasn't posted since February 22nd.

Ok guys, fess up. What's going on?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Google Image Search vs DePauw VRC Librarian

"Hey Google. Ah, Dude, that's a Llama". Too funny.

Quickscribe BC Legislation Manuals - March Updates

Quickscribe's BC Legislation Manuals updated during the month of March:
Also, please check out the new BC Legislation portal for daily updates to the laws of British Columbia. This automated RSS publishing website, developed by yours truly, is driven by Quickscribe's comprehensive updates for BC Statues & Regulations. It's free, quick and an easy review of the day's legislative changes at a single location.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Market Competition is the BestCase for Librarians

Connie Crosby has a good post up on the launch of Canada Law Book's new legal research offering BestCase. I say a 'good post' because Connie really echoes a lot of my own feelings about this new product.

Despite some of the current critique, and you will remember similar comments arising when WEC produced a competitor product a few years back, Librarians are now faced with an increasingly fractured marketplace. And to be honest, I don't have a problem with that.

[And before I get into this too far, full disclosure, Stem has done some work with CLB. ... Take it into consideration. I write this blog from experience, don't ok my posts with anyone, and try to 'examine' things; but a full understanding of my viewpoint is important.]

For me, this is about market competition and choice. As a Librarian, I want both. Costs of these platforms are rising too fast. To the point where many firms will soon be faced with making an either-or choice. Not everyone believes this, but I do. And if Libraries can't afford to have all of these services available to users, then I want some competition for my legal research dollar!

Fast forward five years. If my assumption is correct, how many companies do you want to be vying for your budget dollar? Personally, I want as many as possible. I want them all with replicated content -- in the digital age, case law & statues are mere commodities -- and I want them to compete against each other, with varying editorial standards, speed to publication, and value added services.

The current system, as you all know, leaves a lot to be desired. Contract negotiation isn't fun when going up against a monopoly/duopoly. Look at your costs 5 years ago, and see where things are at now. A 50% increase? Bet you're close. Librarians haven't had a negotiating position in quite some time.

But competition & choice can change this. Don't like what's offered? Walk it across the road. Send out an RFP and let these guys respond. They're in business. They won't be offended.

Librarians need to be in a position to make cost effective decisions. Having all our marbles in one jar was convenient, but not financially prudent. Librarians also balance making a business case for legal research needs - in both law firms and academic settings. Competition will empower that position.

I also see strong free resources like CanLII as pushing the envelope and continually raising the bar. Publishers need to keep investing & improving, and free has an important role in keeping these guys focused!

I don't claim to know the future for BestCase, or believe I'm the best person to review it. For a fair shake, VLLB readers should link over to Simon Chester's post on Slaw -- coverage issues & requests for more secondary material integration are always fair game. But I do appreciate that this distinctively Canadian company has had the resolve to jump in.

Long term? As I've said, Librarians & Libraries should benefit from choice & competition. We also might just have a Canadian contender. Doesn't sound that bad, does it?