Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Controversy Over Value of Legal Blogs

A June 21st Technolawyer commentary questioning the value of legal blogs has sparked some interesting discussion among the legal blogerati.

In his article entitled "A Contrarian View of Legal Blogs", Joe Hartley looked at how well legal blogs fit into a firm's business plan.

According to Hartley, "(I)f you are in a narrow area of practice with rapid developments, a blog can nicely advertise your expertise, although you do have to worry about giving away the store. It can, if you think it appropriate for your business plan, burnish your reputation as an expert in a specific field. If you are something of a celebrity, people may even enjoy reading your opinions on developing events. But if you're like the vast majority of lawyers, you don't fit into this category. "

In his conclusion, he asks why the big rush to legal blogs:

"What, in legal practice, is so crucial that it needs to get out immediately? I can't think of much of anything that actually fits into the business plans of most law firms. A well-written piece in your firm's library of available articles, composed without the pressure of immediate deadlines, will serve your firm far better than following the blogging crowd and joining the cacophony of loud voices and empty content."

Ouch...

This prompted a piece by Robert Ambrogi entitled Blogging's Contrarians.

The gist of his response to Hartley is that "his ultimate conclusion -- that a library of articles on a law firm's Web site will serve your firm far better than a blog -- is simply wrong. A library of articles has value for showing your firm's capabilities, but a library will not draw visitors to your site with anywhere near as much certainty or power as a blog. To the extent that marketing on the Internet is about attracting visitors, a blog will dramatically outperform just about any other method there is."

But, as he writes, "Blogging is not the be-all or end-all of legal marketing. It is, however, highly effective for raising one's visibility and stature on the Internet."

Ambrogi's text attracted very balanced and intelligent comments.

In Canada, of course, there are so few lawyers who blog that the issue may not yet be as important. And since I come to the issue from the library side of things, the motivation for blogging is somewhat different: most law library blogs are an extension of more traditional current awareness and resource sharing tools (though we do love the compliments and the indirect marketing buzz...)

Still, Canadian law firms have an advantage in that they can watch the American experience with blogs to evaluate exactly what purpose they can and should have: probably a bit of marketing, a bit of reputation boosting as technologically cool, a bit of public education too.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:03 pm 0 comments links to this post

Same-Sex Marriage Resources

Bill C-38, the federal bill legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, was adopted by the House of Commons Tuesday. It is now on its way to the Canadian Senate.

If it passes, Canada will become the third country after Belgium and the Netherlands to legalize gay marriage.

To follow the debate, here are some helpful resources.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:55 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Making It Easier to Locate CRS Reports

For years, American open-government advocates have complained about the lack of direct access to reports prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the policy research arm of Congress.

A new website seeks to change that by bringing together nearly 8,000 reports from the Service. The reports are distributed now only to U.S. lawmakers.

Created by the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based civil liberties group, the OpenCRS is a searchable, consolidated archive of several large CRS collections, including those compiled by the Federation of American Scientists, the National Council on Science and the Environment, the Thurgood Marshall Law Library/University of Maryland School of Law, the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, which are among the several non-profit groups that over the years have tried to collect and post as many of these very valuable reports on their Web sites.

Another CRS collection has been made available by the University of North Texas Libraries.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Workplace Diversity Resources

Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) has launched a website dedicated to workplace diversity.

Among the features of the site are:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:14 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadians Worried About Cross-Border Sharing of Personal Info

According to a phone survey by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and EKOS Research Associates, some 90% of respondents feel that governments and the private sector should obtain their permission before sharing their information with foreign (mainly U.S.) authorities.

62% felt they had less personal privacy now than they did 10 years ago. Only 1 in 5 respondents had a clear awareness of privacy laws.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart declared last week: "There is a growing lack of confidence by Canadians in the protection of their personal information being transferred across borders and support for greater government oversight to better understand the full impact of the issue on their privacy rights. Governments need to be proactive in responding to this concern and at a minimum include appropriate provisions to protect Canadians' personal information in any outsourcing or contract arrangements with foreign governments or companies."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:03 pm 0 comments links to this post

Librarian's Book Club

The Librarian's Book Club is a group formed to read and discuss books that are about libraries and the library profession.

Every two months the club selects a new book to discuss. All you need to do is get yourself a copy of the current book and subscribe to the discussion list.

The selection for July-August is the translation of the French classic The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800 by Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:55 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ontario's Freedom of Information Law Not Good Enough

In her annual report, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian says hundreds of publicly-funded organizations escape full public scrutiny because they fall outside the jurisdiction of provincial or municipal freedom-of-information acts.

Exempt institutions include hospitals and children's aid societies.

Cavoukian is calling for amendments that would bring virtually all organizations that are primarily funded by government dollars under freedom of information legislation for the purposes of transparency and accountability.

In a few other Canadian jurisdictions, freedom-of-information laws are more inclusive, covering all organizations deemed public bodies.

In addition, Ms. Cavoukian also wants the Ontario government to create a new provincial privacy law that would include the commercial and non-government sectors. One section of her report examines the pontentially serious privacy threat from RFID (radio frequency identifiers) technology on consumer products.

Cavoukian does praise the provincial government for its plans to bring universities under FOI as well as for its Personal Health Information Protection Act.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:07 pm 1 comments links to this post

Bar Association Launches Constitutional Challenge to Legal Aid Restrictions

On Monday, the Canadian Bar Association filed a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of British Columbia in a bid to establish a constitutional right to civil legal aid.

According to the Bar Association, the many exclusions and restrictions concerning access to legal aid in B.C. mean the regime does " not comply with the Canadian Constitution and obligations under international human rights law."

The Association has been campaigning for improvements to legal aid for the past ten years and it is calling for a federal transfer earmarked for civil legal aid with minimum national standards for services.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

And Since We're Talking Tech: 2005 Technolawyer Awards

Technolawyer, a New York-based online resource centre for legal technology news, has just announced the winners of its annual rewards.

Among the categories are:
  • Technolawyer of the year
  • Favourite Legal Website (being American, they spell "favourite" without the letter "u")
  • Favourite Practice Management Blog
  • Favourite Accounting Solution
  • Favourite Case/Practice Management Solution
  • Favourite Document Management Solution
  • Favourite Legal Forms Solution
  • Favourite Litigation Support Solution
There are 25 awards in total.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 10:09 pm 0 comments links to this post

More Top Tech Trends

More top tech trend postings have appeared on the new blog of LITA (Library and Information Technology Association) that I mentioned 2 days ago:

Marshall Breeding writes about the consolidation of the library automation business (Sirsi and Dynix just merged), the rise of enterprise computing systems and the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries.

Roy Tennant has a blurb about Web 2.0 (web services or "technologies [that] provide a way for information to be sucked out of multiple, separate, and distant systems and rendered in the user’s browser as a rich, highly interactive interface").

Thomas Dowling posts about the need for much more progress in areas such as browser- and resolution-independent web design, library catalog design and user authentication.

Sarah Houghton muses about library training branching out into non-library topics like file sharing and blogging, the need for lighter-weight virtual reference software packages, the need to boost technology training for staff and the "brave new frontier" of remote services (streaming video/audio of events , digital delivery of ILL items, and video reference assistance).

K.G. Schneider at Free Range Librarian adds her thoughts to the discussion - and her posting attracted a huge list of comments from other tech watchers.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Cost of Canadian Legal Journals

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries has just released its Serials Tracking Report for 2004. The report tracked 230 print titles in a variety of legal areas (from administrative law to torts)

Among the highlights:
  • the average price increase between 2003 and 2004 was 9.5%, two and half times greater than the 2002-03 price increase
  • this average price increase was 6 times the consumer price index
  • there were considerable differences between publishers, with Canada Law Book, Carswell and government publishers showing price increases from 13.5% to 22%, others such as Butterworths, CCH, SOQUIJ, Maritime Law Book and Wilson & LaFleur increasing prices by no more than 5.5%, and Yvon Blais even reducing its prices by 15%
  • the highest price increases were in the areas of family law (+24%) and torts (+23%), the lowest were found for serials in employment & labour (+4%) and there was no increase (0%) for estates, trusts and wills
  • over the 1996-2004 period, Carswell prices increased the most (average 12.38% p.a.)
  • last year, the biggest price increase was for Carswell's Domestic Contracts (+163.69%); the biggest reduction was for the looseleaf edition of the Alberta Statutes (-63.16%)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:16 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Copyright Bill Introduced

Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, was introduced in Parliament Monday.

This is the first major amendment to the Canadian Act since 1997.

The bill deals with the following issues:
  • Bringing the Canadian Act up to the minimum standards in the two WIPO digital treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty
  • Internet Service Provider Liability
  • Educational and Research Access Issues
  • Photography Issues
A government backgrounder and FAQ are on the Canadian Heritage website.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic is not happy with the proposed amendments. CIPPIC, as it is called, sees "a massive transfer of rights and entitlements out of the hands of the Canadian public, and into the hands
of copyright holders. (...) Losers, unfortunately, include Canadian consumers, educators, students, Canada’s security research community, Canada’s public domain and Canadian innovators and creators, whose interests have been sacrificed to the wishes of collectives and multinational entertainment companies."

The Canadian Recording Industry Association or CRIA is happy.

The Globe and Mail's Jon Kapica, in a comment entitled Copyright bill satisfies recording industry, has a very good summary of the reactions of the various players in the debate. Essentially, "Copyright holders are to get new rights, including the right to technological protection measures, rights-management information, the ability to control the first distribution of material in tangible form, new moral rights for performances, performers would get reproduction rights, and an adjustment in the term of protection for sound recordings."

So it's not surprising industry is onside whereas the people who tend more to the "user rights" side of the discussion are less than pleased.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

UN Has A Blog: UN Pulse

For all those who follow international affairs and international law, the United Nations' Dag Hammarskjöld Library has a new blog called UN Pulse.

Maintained by a team of reference librarians at UN HQ in New York, it contains alerts to selected just-released UN online information, major reports, publications and documents.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:06 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 20, 2005

LITA Lib Tech Blog Launch

LITA, the Library & Information Technology Association, known for its annual top technology trends, has launched a new blog named Litablog (ok, ok, I know, everyone is thinking: "Techies may know a lot of stuff, but original names are perhaps not their forte").

Coverage will begin with key American Library Association and LITA conferences, including the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, June 23-29.

Among the first posts: Top Technology Trends 2005:
  • Live CD’s and massive storage devices are increasingly making the CPU of computers commodity resources
  • Web Services, a technique of disseminating XML data over the Web, are playing an increasingly important role in the dissemination of data and information
  • We are increasingly seeing commercial and non-commercial information be accessible side-by-side
  • The preservation of digital materials is a pressing problem
  • You can decreasingly expect people to come to your website for content
  • Customization is not going away, and gathering personal information is not necessary for personalization

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:01 pm 0 comments links to this post

June 2005 Marketing Treasures Available

The June 2005 issue of Marketing Treasures, a free library marketing newsletter, is now available.

Table of contents:
  • Slogans & Taglines. There is A Difference!
  • What Is a Clickthrough Rate?
  • Put an RSS Feed into Your Promotion Mix
  • Library Marketing SIG Brief
  • Upcoming workshops/presentations on marketing topics

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:55 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Copyright Act Reform Tabled Monday?

The long-awaited copyright reform bill is to be tabled Monday, June 20, 2005 according to the House of Commons Order Paper (see item no 4 under "Introduction of Government Bills").

Background on the debate:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:49 pm 0 comments links to this post

Freedom of Speech Blog Awards

The NGO Reporters sans frontières/Reporters Without Borders has announced the winners of its competition for best blogs defending freedom of expression. The winners are broken down into geographic categories.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Animal Law Website

The Michigan State University College of Law has created this very helpful collection about animal welfare law and associated topics.

The site is heavily US-slanted, with information about animal law in different states, but there are resources about the animal laws of other countries too. Oddly, though, given the debates in Canada about pit bull bans in Ontario and in other provinces, Canada did not make the cut.

Still, a very useful resource.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:51 am 0 comments links to this post

Specialized Criminal Courts Needed for White-Collar Offenses

A study by Osgoode Law School professor Poonam Puri calls for special courts to go after securities law violators. The study, How Effective is Capital Market Enforcement in Canada?, was discussed at a conference last week in Toronto.

The study finds that:
  • Securities regulators in Canada have been historically reluctant to impose criminal penalties
  • Judges impose "disappointingly light" sentences because they fail to recognize the impact of corporate crime on the investing and broader public
  • Canadian regulators are much less effective than their US counterparts at enforcement
Similar complaints about the weakness of enforcement have been voiced before, for example in the final report of the Wise Persons' Committee on securities regulation in Canada (2003) - section 3 "Weaknesses of the Current Structure" and in a study by two Wilifrid Laurier University professors entitled Do Insiders Play by the Rules? which concluded that there is a "small likelihood" of being prosecuted in Canada for insider trading violations. The study recommends that Canada adopt the much more aggressive US crime-fighting approach.

The debate continues...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:25 am 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Workplace Bullying Resources

This is a follow-up to the post of a few days ago about Quebec's anti-bullying legislation.

Surprisingly, few countries have workplace bullying legislation in place. Only the province of Quebec, the UK and Sweden deal with the issue specifically in legislation.

However, many workplaces now educate their employees to recognize psychological abuse and teach them how to curtail it.
  • Targeting Workplace Bullies (Canada Safety Council) - Profiles typical perpetrators and targets of workplace bullying. Outlines the effects of bullying, and the advantages of implementing workplace policies
  • Bullying at work (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work)
  • What is workplace bullying? (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety) - Provides examples, and offers suggestions on what can be done if a worker feels bullied, or subjected to any form of harassment. Outlines what the employer can do, and what a workplace violence prevention program involves
  • Bully in the boardroom: Workplace aggression takes its toll on employee health and productivity (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
  • Bullying in the Workplace - From Words to Weapons (Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence)
  • Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute - Product of psychologists and health workers concerned with employee bullying. Many useful U.S. materials and references. Institute founder Gary Namie published an article in the November/December 2003 issue of the Ivey Business Journal
  • Bully Online - UK site created by Tim Field, a pioneer in the field, with psychological profiles of offenders, articles, resources, and suggested reading
  • Law can offer some protection against bullies (workopolis.com) - describes how the "employee who is subjected to blatant and outrageous behaviour at work is entitled to treat the employment relationship as having been terminated, by virtue of the breach of the employer's obligation to provide a fair and civil workplace. This is a form of constructive dismissal"
  • Turning blind eye to bullies hurts business: Growing disability claims linked to workplace abuse (Business Edge Magazine) - "(E)mployers should know that the targets are often the backbone of the company. A composite sketch of these targets (...) would look like this: They dare to be independent; are technically more competent; are socially skilled, displaying empathy, emotional intelligence and are well liked; and they are ethical whistle-blowers. In short, they are the type of employee human resource departments want to recruit and retain - talented, adaptable, trainable, well balanced and honest. To a person (...) they are people who just want to do a good job. Which begs the question - why do business owners let bullies take them down?"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:30 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OECD Steps Into Online Music Sharing Debate

Earlier this week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its study on the worldwide digital music industry.

The report is quite interesting in the context of litigation by the music recording industry against individuals who download and share music using P2P (peer-to-peer) network technology.

According to the OECD study, "(T)he use of P2P networks to exchange unauthorised copyright-protected content presents a significant challenge to the music industry and to the enforcement of intellectual property rights. There is currently a considerable volume of copyright infringement that is taking place among users of peer-to-peer networking software. This unfair competition puts pressure on legitimate online music and other content services and may have slowed commercial services that offer access to content online. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to establish a basis to prove a causal relationship between the size of the drop in music sales and the rise of file sharing. Sales of CDs, as well as the success of licensed on-line music services are likely to have been affected to some degree by a variety of other factors, for example physical piracy and CD burning, competition from other, newer entertainment products and faltering consumer spending in some markets."

Other studies on the issue:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Law Librarianship c. 1980

This is a follow-up the earlier post about the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Association of Law Libraries (TALL).

An article in the TALL special anniversary newsletter by Michele Miles, TALL President 1985-86, is a good reminder of how much things have changed (or not) over the lifetime of the association.

According to Miles, in 1980:

  • law librarians spent a lot of time on the phone "coaxing reluctant bureaucrats to cough up government documents"
  • libraries had to have deposit accounts with government publishers
  • they had to send articling students to line up to purchase a copy of the Federal Budget for tax lawyers
  • law firms were local so interoffice communications were uncommon
  • periodical indexes were all in paper
  • cataloguing was done on a "p-slip" (a what???) and cards were typed
  • micro-fiche was high tech
  • dial-up terminals to connect to the new Quicklaw service ran at 300 baud
What has changed? Miles writes that more of our time is spent "learning modes of access for electronic sources, legal and non-legal, rather than (...) understanding better the subject matter with which we are dealing. We have also taken on the added role of a bridge between the world of the legal researcher and that of the systems folks through troubleshooting, training and the development of Intranet tools. Our role has become more that of a facilitator and somewhat less that of a researcher."

But some things never change, according to her.

Librarians continue to depend on each other for interlibrary loans, advice and moral support.

And students still get stumped by the structure of the Canadian Abridgment...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:25 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 13, 2005

Year One of the Workplace Anti-Bullying Law in Quebec

On June 1, 2004, a new law took effect in Quebec to prevent “hostile behavior and intimidation” in the workplace. The law is considered unique in North America.

This amendment to Quebec’s Labour Standards Act prohibits "psychological harassment", defined as "any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee."

These standards clarify the employer’s obligations that already exist under the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. These provisions establish the right to dignity, to respect and to the person’s integrity, while guaranteeing employees fair and sufficient conditions of employment and a healthy work environment.

Last Friday, some 350 HR and industrial relations professionals gathered at a conference to analyze the first year of the law's application. The conference was jointly organized by the Commission des normes du travail (Labour Standards Commission of Quebec) and the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines et en relations industrielles agréés du Québec (Quebec Order of Human Resources and Industrial Relations Professionals).

Since the coming into force of the new anti-bullying provisions, the Labour Standards Commission has dealt with approximately 2,500 complaints, 48% of which have been settled.

432 complaints were settled to the mutual satisfaction of employee and employer. The Commission also undertook 293 fuller investigations.

About 300 complaints were dropped for a variety of reasons: some individuals decided to turn the page, others saw their workplace situation improve after contacting the Commission, others withdrew after developing a better understanding of the legal definition of psychological harassment and the role of the law.

1,300 files are still open.

The law says that this activity can come from a manager, fellow-employee, customer or supplier. It can manifest itself in the form of conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures characterized by the following criteria: they are repetitive; they are hostile and unwanted; they affect the person’s dignity or psychological integrity; and they result in a harmful work environment. It includes humiliating or abusive behaviour that lowers a person’s self-esteem or causes his torment.

According to an interpretation text explaining the new provisions, "(T)he vexatious nature is generally gauged from the standpoint of the person experiencing the situation and who is reporting it, without regard for the harasser’s intentions. In the majority of cases, the assessment will deal with the nature, intensity and recurrence of the objectionable gestures, as well as their impact on the victim (...) The hostile gestures towards the employee are not necessarily flagrant. Indeed, it is not essential that such a gesture be aggressive in nature in order for it to be considered hostile. For example, an employee could be the victim of comments, actions or gestures which, when taken on their own, may seem harmless or insignificant, but the accumulation or combination of them may be considered a harassment situation. In such a case, if the employee works alone most of the time, the hostile gestures will not necessarily be noticeable at first."

The interim director of the Commission, Jocelyn Girard, told last week's conference that it is important to note that there were extremely few frivolous complaints, something that had been feared during the debates leading up the adoption of the legislation. Mr. Girard explained that "the complaints received gave the indication of a lot of suffering, incivility, lack of respect, management problems or badly handled conflicts that degenerate and create an unhealthy working climate".

This year, the Commission will continue its education efforts and focus on helping workplaces develop prevention mechanisms to stop bullying before it starts.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Print vs. Digital: Debate Continues Over Teaching Legal Research

There is an interesting ongoing discussion about how to teach legal research in the pages of AALL Spectrum, the journal of the American Association of Law Libraries.

What got the ball rolling was an article entitled "Out of the Jungle" in the February 2005 issue by James Milles, director of the law library and associate professor at the University of Buffalo Law School. To summarize, Milles argues that digital has won and librarians and legal research instructors should get over it: the primary focus of teaching legal research skills should be online research.

Well, of course, many people disagreed, and the June 2005 issue of AALL Spectrum included a few responses, including an article called "Elevating Form Above Substance" by Joan Shear, legal information librarian and lecturer at Boston College Law Library.

While agreeing with Milles about the flexibility and precision that come from online resources, she countered that good legal researchers "also have the experience to know when online searching will not be as effective as consulting a print source."

She also argues that the fact that a younger generation of law students is more familiar with the Net and databases (offered to them at law school free of charge by large commercial vendors) does not make them immune from poor searching or thinking. It also does not help them understand the diversity of information out there, its structure (or lack thereof on the open Internet), when to go to different sources, and when print is not only the better tool for a task, but maybe the only one.

As she writes, "(E)ven when told that a specific piece of information they are looking for is easier to find in print, many students today refuse to believe that it isn't all out there electronically."

The summer law students arrived a few weeks ago where I work, and it was apparent during the initial training sessions that they expected everything to be electronic. When we took them through some basic legislative history exercises that could only be answered using print sources, the look of amazement and disbelief on their faces was a sight to see.

The point is not that print is better or worse than digital, since most agree that they both complement each other. It may be, as Shear contends - and as my experience has taught me - that the mental habits and research methods older searchers learned using print resources (in combination with specialized, heavily structured databases) are useful because they help think about and play with the structure of information, which is based on the old library science ideas of indexing, classification, subject headings, categorization, metadata etc. Quite a few students (and lawyers) just throw keywords into Google or Quicklaw or Lexis and hope for the best.

Or as, Shear concludes, the print vs. online debate "misses the point", because we need "to concentrate less on the wrapper and more on the information contained therein."

Even if that means occasionally convincing, enticing, cajoling or forcing some 22-year old student to leaf through the print indexes to the Canada Gazette, Part II or through the tables of amendments and proclamations of the Revised Statutes of Ontario of 1950, because there ain't no other way to find the answer for some things.

For a good presentation of the pro and con arguments about print and digital legal resources, I would suggest an article by Michelle Wu, Why Print and Electronic Resources Are Essential to the Academic Law Library, in Law Library Journal, v.97, no.2, Spring 2005, 233-256. This is followed in the same issue by a fairly substantial bibliography on the topic Do We Still Need Books: A Selected Annotated Bibliography, that includes annotated listings of relevant books articles published since 1995 as well as Internet sources.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:52 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 11, 2005

TALL Newsletter Special 25th Anniversary Edition

The Toronto Association of Law Libraries is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has published a special issue of its newsletter to mark the occasion, full of reminiscing and comments from past and current members (the issue is only available to TALL members).

TALL is running a contest, asking members to name their favourite luncheon speakers as it compiles its "top 10 list" of best TALL events.

Many of the contributors to the anniversary newsletter have suggested their favourites and the names paint a portrait of the breadth of interests of the association and its members.

Among some of the proposed "best speakers" are:
  • The lawyer who defended serial killer Paul Bernardo
  • Madonna's lawyer
  • Anthony Sherwood, from the CBC TV show Street Legal
  • Gordon Kirke on sports law
  • Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Keith Landy of the Canadian Jewish Congress on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals
  • Chief Military Judge Kim Carter on the War Crimes Investigation Team in the former Yugoslavia
  • Katherine Barber from the Canadian Oxford English Dictionary
  • A lawyer from the Ontario Securities Commission on the response to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • Jeffrey Miller, columnist for The Lawyers Weekly and author of Murder at Osgoode Hall, the essay collection Where's There's Life, There's Lawsuits and Ardor in the Court: Sex and the Law

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:05 pm 0 comments links to this post

2004-2005 Annual Report of Canada's Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner John Reid, the federal official mandated to investigate complaints from people whose requests for information from federal government agencies and departments have been frustrated, presented his final annual report on the application of Canada's Access to Information Act earlier this week.

Reid ends his 7-year term as Commissioner with some harsh criticism for the federal government.

"The clear lesson of these seven years is that governments continue to distrust and resist the Access to Information Act and the oversight of the Information Commissioner... Vigilance, by users, the media, academics, the judiciary, information commissioners and members of Parliament, must be maintained against the very real pressures from governments to take back from citizens, the power to control what, and when, information will be disclosed."

On the positive side, the report refers to the Federal Court’s support for the Commissioner’s power to see records the government claims are protected by solicitor-client privilege, the creation of a new Parliamentary Committee to oversee access, privacy and ethics, the improvement in records management practices and the reduction in delays in the system.

In 1999, half of the complaints investigated related to failure to meet the 30-day deadline for responding to a request for government documents (there are a few exceptions to this deadline).

Last year, delay complaints represented 14.5 per cent of the office's workload, though the percentage had jumped to 21 per cent this year.

But despite improvements in government access, Reid does not consider his tenure a success: "There continues to be a deep distrust of the Access to Information Act at all levels in government and, most regrettably, in Parliament."

He singles out recent provisions to the Anti-Terriorism Act, which allow for the Attorney-General to deny access to records considered sensitive to national security. As well, the Ethics Commissioner's Office has been excluded from the coverage of the Access Act, and an amendment to proposed whistleblowing legislation would allow government to refuse access for decades to information collected or compiled as a result of a whistleblower's report.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:41 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ending Mandatory Retirement in Ontario - Background resources

As every knows by now, the Ontario government introduced Bill 211 this week that would end mandatory retirement at age 65.

The government has also prepared an FAQ on the topic.

Ontario would be joining Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island that already treat mandatory retirement as a form of discrimination and have essentially abolished it, as have Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

For background information on the issue, here are a few resources:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:16 pm 0 comments links to this post

Protecting Wage Earners During Corporate Bankruptcies

Bill C-55, a comprehensive insolvency reform package to modernize the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) was introduced on June 3 by the federal government.

The bill will also create the legislative framework for the Wage Earner Protection Program which had been previously announced on May 5, 2005.

The goals of the legislative package, according to the federal background document, include encouraging restructuring as an alternative to bankruptcy for viable companies; protecting workers' claims for unpaid wages and vacation pay; and making the bankruptcy system fairer.

The Wage Earner Protection Program would guarantee the payment of up to $3,000 in wages owed to workers whose employers go bankrupt or into receivership. Wages would also have a priority higher than secured creditors.

Reaction from the labour movement to the proposed legislative changes has been positive.

Reaction has also been positive, though more guarded, from industry associations, who are pleased by other aspects of the Bill. For example, the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals finds the treatment of student-loan debts in personal bankruptcy proceedings to be too timid. And the Real Property Association of Canada is happy that the booming income trust industry will have access to the same insolvency protection as corporations under the changes.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:44 pm 0 comments links to this post

9th Annual Webby Awards

Earlier this week, the winners of the 9th Annual Webby Awards, often called the "online Oscars", were feted in New York City.

Awards were handed out in 60 categories – from popular favourites like Community, Fashion, Film, and Politics to new categories making their debut this year, such as Blog, Beauty, Real Estate, Retail, and Social Networking.

The Webby Breakout of the Year Award was handed to Flickr, the photo sharing and management site.

The awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a "global organization dedicated to the creative, technical and professional progress of the Internet". Members of the Academy include musician David Bowie, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison and fashion designer Max Azria.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:27 pm 0 comments links to this post

Establishing a Weblog on Your Intranet

The presentation earlier this week at the SLA conference on Establishing a Weblog on Your Organization's Intranet has now been posted online for all to see.

The presentation was given by Sabrina Pacifici of LLRX.com and beSpacific.com fame and by Dennis Hamilton, Information Services Manager, KZF Design.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 09, 2005

If You Missed the SLA Conference in Toronto...

...You can get a feel for what happened by reading from these very good and comprehensive blogs:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Blogging Sessions at the SLA Conference

I ended up attending a few sessions on the use of blogs at the SLA conference here in Toronto:

Blogging/RSSing the Librarian Way, by Marie Kaddell, Information Professional Consultant, LexisNexis and Catherine R. Lavallée-Welch, University of South Florida - Lakeland. Fellow Canadian blogger Richard Akerman took extensive notes during this session.

Establishing a Weblog on Your Organization's Intranet, by Sabrina Pacifici of LLRX.com and beSpacific.com and Dennis Hamilton, Information Services Manager, KZF Design. Fellow Canadian law blogger Connie Crosby covered this session.

I mention "fellow Canadians" for two reasons:

a) to promote Canadian bloggers in our field
b) because there are so few of us, especially in a field such as law blogging (blawging?)

After the Blogging/RSSing the Librarian Way session, I went up to the front to speak with Lavallée-Welch, who is Quebec-born (she attended EBSI, the graduate school of library science at the Université de Montréal - I went to GSLIS, the cross-town equivalent at McGill University).

We talked about various things, like how a Québécoise librarian like her ended up first in Kentucky, before landing in South Florida. But the conversation turned to why Americans just go out and "do it" (blog), whereas it can feel at times like Canadians have to wait for the results of a Royal Commission ,or two, or three, before getting involved in this "next big thing".

Of course, many Canadians are involved in blogging. But in specialized areas like law, the culture is more reticent and reserved.

Odd for a country that pioneered communications technologies and theory (Innis, McLuhan).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:23 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Security Risks of Discarding Old Computers

This is a follow-up to a post from May 12 entitled Metadata in Word Documents Can be a Legal Minefield.

In an article for the current awareness service of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Dennis Maslo discusses what law firms should do to avoid environmental and information security risks when they decide to get rid of their old computers by sending them to a recycling firm.

As Maslo writes:

"Your computer systems contain a wealth of sensitive data — valuable client lists, private information regarding the personal and professional lives of your clients, and your firm's own proprietary information. Such information can be manipulated by a variety of competing interests to the disadvantage of your firm, and your clients, and so it must be carefully guarded – both when your hardware is in active use, and equally upon retirement."

(...)

"Many e-waste firms, regardless of how well they have grappled with the environmental impacts of their activities, have neither the necessary technical knowledge nor the required processes to adequately address essential matters of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), client confidentiality, and privacy in general."

Maslo outlines a range or hierarchy of increasingly thorough "data destruction techniques" that the managers of electronic waste should know about, from demagnetizing to the physical shredding of disks.

Most of all, Maslo advises law firms to "diligently pre-screen your e-waste management company".

You don't want to add to pollution, but you also want to avoid having your confidential information, or rather your clientele's confidential information, finding its way into the hands of competitors or enemies or fraudsters, or on the front page of tomorrow's Globe and Mail.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:52 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

SLA Launches Click University at 2005 Conference

SLA officially launched its new online member education service Click University at the SLA 2005 Conference on Monday afternoon.

According to the official description, "Click is primarily designed to train librarians and information professionals in core skills such as software and technology use; management, communications, and leadership strategies; and effective practices and methods for the collection, sharing, and use of information and knowledge in the modern working world."

Click University starts off with a variety of content areas: the SLA virtual seminar program, continuing education courses (e.g. copyright law and digital licensing issues), course libraries from various sources, university partner programs (from Drexel University and Syracuse University) etc. SLA members will be able to enrol in certain Drexel and Syracuse programs at a discount and SLA is seeking to expand the list of university-level library and information science partners involved.

One interesting fact: the SLA Conference featured many continuing education sessions and pre-conferences and a number of them had their audio recorded. The audio will apparently be synchronized with the corresponding slide presentations to make the sessions available online through Click University.

And plans to add modules for certificates based on the SLA Core Competencies are in the works.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:12 pm 0 comments links to this post

Don Tapscott at SLA 2005 Conference

Well-known consultant Don Tapscott gave the opening address to the SLA 2005 conference in Toronto on Monday.

Tapscott is the author of Paradigm Shift, Growing Up Digital, the Digital Economy, and The Naked Corporation.

In his presentation, Torontonian Tapscott explored the role information professionals can play in the new era he characterizes as the era of transparency in which all have unprecedented access to information from a wide range of sources that allow people to scrutinize and criticize big business and government as never before. Internal data, disgruntled employees' complaints, internal memos, secret reports about product defects, scandalous executive compensation packages - all the details end up sooner or later in the media, on the Net, in chat rooms.

Corporations are now "naked", Tapscott explained, exposed through disclosure laws, citizen empowerment via the Internet and activist digging.

And if they are naked, companies, governments and major institutions had better be "buff": if they claim to be good to their customers, they had better be; if they claim to treat their employees and suppliers well, they had better do so; if they claim to support environmentally sustainable activities, they had better be sincere.

It is the era of shareholder activism and empowered consumers with access to comparison shopping web sites.

Of course, Tapscott admitted, there are obstacles to transparency: the business value of secrets (patents, trade secrets), simple deceit, privacy concerns, the fear of litigation, even fatigue at the need to be open about everything.

But he argued the transition was occurring nonetheless, spurred by drivers that are technological, demographic (the rise of the digital generation "bathed in bits" and that has developed "great bullshit detectors"), sociopolitical (the corporate trust crisis, and the rise of Internet-savvy civil society organizations ready to attack corporations that violate ethics laws, ruin the environment, or disregard civil rights) and economic.

And in his account, transparency needs to be embraced by organizations as a value, as an advantage because in the long run, it will enhance growth, build sustainable enterprises and empower people to make better decisions and share knowledge and information more appropriately.

He summed it up by explaining how the values of honesty and openness can be related back to information, and thus to the work SLA members do and the values information professionals need to foster and embrace. To survive in a world of transparency, so Tapscott, organizations will need to be:
  • honest about problems (internal and external transparency)
  • considerate (labour relations, community relations)
  • ready to abide by official commitments (better be accountable)
  • open (which requires very accurate financial and non-financial reporting mechanisms)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:36 pm 1 comments links to this post

What I Learned at SLA 2005

I've been attending the SLA 2005 conference in Toronto and I am still overwhelmed by the experience of chatting, laughing, partying, networking and schmoozing with masses of people from all over who share the same professional interests, passions, grievances, disappointments and hopes.

There are a few things I have learned, though, about conference-going. So here are the true reasons for attending conferences, according to my experience:
  • remember that project you wanted to launch, or that software you thought you wanted to test? Well, you don't want to touch any of that with a ten-foot pole: conferences are great places for finding out what to avoid and learning about disaster stories from colleagues
  • you know those things you have already been doing for so long but find boring? Well, you just may have been on the cutting edge all along without knowing it and everyone else is now copying you: conferences can be great places for finding out how good and creative your shop may actually be
  • remember all those ideas you thought were useless or a waste of time? Well, other libraries have successfully implemented many of those things you were ridiculing and they saved time or money or brain cells or their sanity: conferences can be great places for finding out how to change your thinking by taking another look at projects and ideas you had neglected or discarded too soon
  • you know that feeling that everyone else knows more than you and other libraries do things better than your place? Well, you may have stumbled across a solution to someone else's problem: conferences can be great places for finding out how bloody smart you really are in the eyes of others, and how much others recognize the value of what you do

Along the way, I also learned:

  • how to talk to vendors about what new products they can offer
  • which vendors tend to serve the best free food
  • that many colleagues are convinced that one day soon, everything in the information industry will be owned by a new global megacorporation called Reed-Thompson-Kluwers Inc. (or is it Thompson-West-Elsevier-Wolters Inc.?)
  • that news librarians have more fun than anyone else, so everyone claims to be in the News Division to go to the loudest, wildest, coolest parties
  • that half the people you meet seem to be from Texas, or to have been born in Texas, or to have family in Texas or to claim they are from Texas, so they can get invited to all the loudest...
  • that US libraries will always have way more money than we can ever dream of
  • that a huge, I mean a HUGE number of American librarians are total hockey fanatics - Art Gallery of Ontario? Eaton Centre? Toronto Islands? Yorkville boutiques? Pfffttt! Not interested. They want to know where the Hockey Hall of Fame is located.
  • that the best part of the conference is the people you find yourself talking to while waiting in line, or while hanging out in a conference hospitality suite: the former ethnomusicologist turned transportation librarian with whom I had a discussion about postmodernism, deconstructionism and the influence of Pierre Bourdieu on French sociology; the Filipino librarian blogger who knew more about American pop culture and sitcoms than I did; the two hockey-mad female librarians from Chicago who wanted to know how to emigrate to Vancouver ; the energy law resources vendor who invited my wife and I to stay at her home in Washington State because we are all avid hikers; the Massachusetts science librarian with a fascination for Québécois culture and who has read more Quebec poets and novelists than I can even name; the Washington D.C. law librarian who explained some of the finer points of U.S. copyright law to me; and many others - they're the true secret ingredient of a successful conference

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:33 pm 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Onward Through the Smog

Another smog alert day in Toronto... Friday will also be a smog alert day.

It means: try not to breathe the chemical soup industry and cars spew out. It means your eyes water, and your throat burns, and your head hurts if you exert yourself too much (like by trying to breathe) .

By coincidence, I came across this Statistics Canada report on commuting patterns released yesterday.

"Jobs are still strongly concentrated in downtown core areas in most urban centres. However, between 1996 and 2001, the relative economic importance of inner cities declined, as the number of jobs in the suburbs increased at more than four times the pace that they did in the core areas. Between 1996 and 2001, the number of jobs within 5 km of the city centres of census metropolitan areas rose increased by 156,000. On the other hand, the number of jobs outside 5 km rose by 733,200. As a result, more and more people are commuting cross-town to these suburban areas."

And sprawl continues and smog increases.

For background information on smog:

And June 8 is National Clean Air Day

In the meantime, my doctor has suggested that I get checked to find out why I develop a dry cough almost every summer as soon as the first smog alert days are announced by the local public health authorities. I've been in Toronto 5 years and I've had the cough 4 out of the 5 years. The cough disappears in the fall or the minute I leave Toronto. Through a process of elimination, Doc thinks it is likely related to air pollution. Wonderful.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:09 pm 1 comments links to this post

Another List of Law Library Blogs

Thanks to Eric Leduc, Librarian at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg in Toronto, for making this known to me.

Bonnie Shucha of the University of Wisconsin Law Library has compiled a list of "law library blogs" :

"Only professional blogs targeted toward the legal community appear on this list. This includes blogs affiliated with a law library, blogs written by individual law librarians, and blogs of law librarian associations. This list does not include personal blogs or blogs on librarianship."

Of course, most of the law bloggers are Yanks. Come on, Canucks! We must have something to say/Nous avons certainement quelque chose à dire, and in both official languages/et dans les deux langues officielles...

Shucha is apparently still working on a list of law libraries using RSS feeds for things other than blogs.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:58 pm 0 comments links to this post

Periodicals in the LSUC Great Library

The Great Library of the Law Society of Upper Canada has just intoduced a new feature: an alphabetical list of the more than 1,100 law journals and periodicals in their collection.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Online Forum on Intellectual Property in the Information Society

The World Intellectual Property Organization is hosting an online discussion on the role of intellectual property in the "Information Society". The forum is taking place between June 1 to 15, 2005.

Comments are invited on 10 themes:
  1. The World Summit on the Information Society Declaration of Principles sets out a vision for the information society - how can the intellectual property system support
    this vision?
  2. The intellectual property system and freedom of expression and creativity: Help or hindrance?
  3. The public domain and open access models of information creation: at odds with the intellectual property system or enabled by it?
  4. What is the impact of copyright law, both at international and national levels, on education and research?
  5. What are the rights and responsibilities of intellectual property rightsholders?
  6. Global partnerships to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals: what role for intellectual property?
  7. How is intellectual property policy made for the information society: and who makes it?
  8. How can cultural and intellectual diversity of traditional communities be respected in the information society?
  9. Emerging business models for distributing intellectual property online: opportunity or threat?
  10. What are the challenges for enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital environment?

Each of the above themes has its own page on the WIPO site with a commentary about the issue and a list of questions to consider as well as background resources.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:54 pm 0 comments links to this post