Friday, 22 May 2015

Bloomberg BNA launches new tool for corporate transactions

Bloomberg BNA today announced the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, a  web-based product that includes a technology-driven drafting workflow tool with its analytics powered by Bloomberg's financial databases, primary resources, secondary materials and practical guidance. This new offering allows corporate lawyers to know what deal terms are "market standard." Putting "big data" to practical use, the new tool searches over one million documents, comparing agreements and clauses to yield "market standard" language. According to the press release, "Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers".
"We've developed an all-in-one solution that allows transactional lawyers to quickly draft, negotiate, and finalize a wide variety of agreements," said Carl Sussman, Commercial Product Director for Bloomberg Law. "The product's real power is the way it synthesizes over a million documents and returns results that are easily incorporated into a deal document. This is what leveraging big data is all about and where we clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition."

Thursday, 21 May 2015

resources for learning to code

Knowing how to write code (various types) is a skill that is always useful, and especially useful for librarians and others in the information biz.  The Digital Inspiration blog has a post titled The Best Websites to Learn Coding Online that provides links to websites where you can a variety of programming languages like Java, SQL, PHP, Ruby, Python etc. The post also has links to free programming books and online sites and apps for children that can help them learn programming basics. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Federal Agencies aren't making docs available online...

The National Security Archive reports that an FOIA Audit has found that 19 years after the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA) were passed by Congress, only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law’s instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated. More details on the findings are available in an article on NetworkWorld.
hat tip: Sabrina Pacifici on beSpacific

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fair Use Index from the US Copyright Office

Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante recently announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Index, which is designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement prepared by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President. Although not a substitute for legal advice, the Index is searchable by court (all federal courts) and subject matter (16 Subject categories, including "Other") and provides a helpful starting point for those wishing to better understand how the federal courts have applied the fair use doctrine to particular categories of works or types of use, for example, music, internet/digitization, or parody. For each decision, the index provides a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. Users can browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves, but it does include the full legal citation so you can look it up easily.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

New BloombergLaw enhancements

Bloomberg BNA has announced new enhancements to transactional resources in the Bloomberg Law database. To find them, look under the Transactional Law tab/menu bar, where you will now see  links for the new "Draft Analyzer" and "Deal Analytics" tools.
The "Draft Analyzer" allows you to take your draft provisions/language and build out market based standardized versions of that language. It shows you the developing consensus among drafters based on Bloomberg's analysis of each paragraph from virtually every agreement and organizational document filed as an EDGAR exhibit. After running the analyzer, the results page shows you up to 10 matching consensus templates (market based standards) as well as analytical information so that you can determine the consensus template’s strength and relevance to your transaction. For example, for each market based standard you will see information telling you the number of documents making up that standard, the law firms that used that language, when they used it, etc.
The "Deal Analytics" tool contains information on 500,000 public and private M&A deals and allows you to search through all these deals using a plethora of search filters/options. For example, you can search by party, advisor, industry sector, deal type, deal size, exchange, date, etc.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Updated Federal Courts website launched

The federal Judiciary website,, has undergone a major facelift.  The newly launched site has a fresh look, improved functionality, and webpages that adjust automatically for optimal use on all sizes and types of devices. Features include:
-  An improved Court Locator that helps users find their local court more easily. Search by city and state or ZIP code, and choose a court type on any page of the website.
- Maps display with search results.
- Individual district court information pages include direct links to the court’s website, e-filing, juror information page, and eJuror log-in.
- All court forms are now grouped in a central location, so users can search by keyword or filter by topic. Download forms directly from the main forms page, or click on the form name for more information. Relevant form instructions or committee notes are found on the specific form’s page.
-  Federal Rules:  Records and Archives of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and its advisory committees can be filtered and searched by committee and year for meeting Minutes, Committee Reports, Agenda, Books, Rules Suggestions, and Rules Comments.
- Statistics:  An enhanced search for Judiciary data tables allows users to search by publication, specific type of data, and date range, and includes related analysis of the data tables.

Monday, 11 May 2015

.....and more apps

Legaltech News reviews a few new apps that lawyers can use. One that is especially timely is 
Moble Justice CA, a mobile app from the California ACLU that lets users who witness public interactions with law enforcement automatically upload their cellphone videos to ACLU servers for review by ACLU lawyers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

60 minutes, 60 apps for lawyers

The iPhone JD blog has posted information from a presentation, titled "60 apps in 60 minutes",  given at the ABA Techshow recently.  They aren't necessarily free but they won't break the bank either.  For example, Wolfram (the giant math database) has an app for lawyers called Wolfram Lawyer's Professional Assistant ($4.99) that will provide all sorts of calculations that a lawyer might need to do, such as historical value of money, statutes of limitations, or family relationships.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pitt apps

And speaking of apps, Pitt's Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) recently  announced the Pitt App Store, designed to serve as a one-stop shop for University-related apps. It includes apps for the University’s web-based course management system, training videos, Box cloud storage and collaboration, Microsoft Office, campus news, etc.  The Pitt App Store can be downloaded for iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, and it also has a list of apps currently available. 

Mobile Apps for Law site updated

The Informed Librarian Online has announced that the Mobile Apps for Law database was recently updated with the addition of a number of new entries; the entire database was also updated. The database is a comprehensive directory of mobile applications for law and lawyers includes both legal research and utility apps for all mobile devices. Whether you use an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc. you can use the database to find out which law apps are available for your device. The advanced search screen lets you search for apps using a number of different critiera including mobile device, date added, and subject. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Westlaw: new KeyCite flag

Westlaw has added a new flag to KeyCite. In addition to the red flag, warning that a case is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains and the yellow flag, warning that the case has some negative history but has not been reversed, there will now be a blue-striped flag.  This flag will be used to indicate that a case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.  The new blue-striped flag appears in the results list and at the top of a case. The flag will be added to any case appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, including those appealed from state supreme courts. Appeals from agencies like U.S. Military Boards, U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices, Veterans Claims, etc., will not receive the flag on the lower court opinion.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Members of Congress: preservation of files

The Library of Congress has an interesting article in "The Signal: Digital Preservation" newsletter, titled "Helping Congress Archive Their Personal Digital Files."  The article points out that "official records" are defined by House and Senate rules as any records, regardless of format, that are created or received in the course of the business conducted by congressional committees. These official committee records are eventually transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration and preserved. However, papers from a Member's congressional office are outside the scope of official records; Members maintain ownership of records created in the course of their congressional service, are responsible for effectively managing them, and determine the ultimate disposition of these papers. Members’ papers comprise both textual and electronic records and include things like personal notes, legislative research files, photos and correspondence with constituents. Members are encouraged to properly preserve these documents on their own, with guidance provided by the House and Senate archivists.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LIPA launches digitization project registry

The LIPA (Legal Information Preservation Alliance) Digital Inventory Task Group has launched the Survey on Digitization Projects. The survey is available and open to all LIPA, NELLCO, and MALLCO members.
The information gathered from this survey will allow LIPA to build a registry of digitization projects in order to share expertise, avoid duplication of effort, and publicize and promote the work of LIPA members. Focused on member projects with existing ties, it hopes to enhance collaboration and identify ways to support the digitization efforts of LIPA members. Building an inventory of digitization projects will also position LIPA to participate and coordinate with other digitization registries. The Task Group's goal is to make initial data available this summer and to continue to work on the infrastructure.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Georgetown Law designs firm to help low-income individuals

Georgetown Law has announced that it has teamed up with law firms DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create a new nonprofit law firm designed to help low-income individuals with their civil law needs. Named the D.C. Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), it will be a nonprofit low bono law firm that will provide affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District. The anticipated opening date is October 2015. The firm will be staffed by 6 Georgetown Law graduates; the law school will provide them with 15-month fellowships to work at the firm, and will offer a cost-free LLM program for them. The law firms will provide attorneys to act as mentors as well as free office space.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Online Privacy: international report

A recent report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance states that online privacy protection should be built around a “social compact” that will safeguard the digital economy by boosting security and trust in internet services.  More specifically, the report suggest that a a balance between privacy and security should be struck by ensuring robust rules around surveillance, including adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality, while promoting international cooperation in the face of cybersecurity threats. The Global Commission on Internet Governance is a panel of lawmakers, officials, academics and other specialists established by think tanks the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chatham House, and led by Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Update on HathiTrust govdocs

The latest Update on HathiTrust Activities  announces that the US Federal Government Documents Initiative report is now available, reporting on the status of the Hathi govdocs initiative as well as recommendations for future action and development of the govdocs program. This report, as well as the Program Steering Committee report, have been published online so that the wider community can be informed of discussions and planning.  More information on the US Federal Government Documents Initiative, including information about the Advisory Group and some Frequently Asked Questions , can be found on the HathiTrust website.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

ABA Techshow starts tomorrow

ABA Techshow takes place in Chicago April 16-18. For those of us who aren't able to attend, Attorney at Work has a "Scouting Report" on some of the highlights.  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A brief history of technology and law

The ABA Journal recently had an article titled "100 innovations in law" that gave an interesting history of how the evolution of technology has changed the law, and the way law is practiced, over the years. The examples range from the earliest use of shorthand in 63 BC to cameras, DNA testing, the LSAT, computers, geolocation and space law!

Monday, 13 April 2015

National Bridge Inventory

Pittsburgh is sometimes called the City of Bridges, so you might think that bridges are a topic of interest here. Unfortunately, the Federal Highway Administrations webpages about bridges are eye-glazingly boring - though with some effort you can find an excel spreadsheet that tells you that Allegheny County has 1,267 bridges, which is way more than any other county in PA.
However, Congressional Quarterly has kindly provided an interactive map called "National Bridge Inventory - Deficient Bridges"  that takes the data and makes it interesting and easy to see where the worst bridges are located, state-wise. The good news is that Massachusetts and Rhode Island have more deficient bridges than PA (the annual National Bridge Inventory identifies deficient bridges across the nation. According to the FHWA, structurally deficient bridges, though not inherently unsafe, have been identified through inspection and rated to be in poor condition. Functionally obsolete bridges are those that do not conform to updated design standards.) The bad news is that PA is in the second-to-worst of 5 categories.  

Sunday, 12 April 2015

National Holidays and the national pasttime

The Law Library of Congress has a recent blogpost about how national holidays come to be... and whether Opening Day of baseball season for any team might become a national holiday. The short answer is: probably not, unless you could somehow get everyone behind the idea. Even with the Pittsburgh diaspora the Pirates probably don't have enough support...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

JSTOR now has ebooks

JSTOR, the well-known database for academic journals in many subject areas, now has books available to Pitt users for a limited time. To see what they have, go to the main JSTOR page and click on the link at the top for BROWSE, by Subject. The list of Subjects includes General Law, and you can access an alphabetical list of titles available by clicking on the "Law" link. You can read the books on line or download them.
JSTOR is also offering online webinars for librarians on using the JSTOR ebooks platform as well as purchasing options for libraries. These half-hour webinars will be held on 4-27-15, 5-12-15, and 5-27-15; registration is free on the JSTOR website. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Report on privacy laws and student data

A new report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has found that the computer technology that enables school districts to aggregate, collate, analyze and store massive amounts of student information – and the heavy reliance on private contractors to help manage that information collection, analysis and storage – pose significant concerns about the privacy rights of students. The report concludes that there need to be guidelines and policies to provide stronger privacy protection for students and their families.
The entire report, titled On the Block: Student Data and Privacy in the Digital Age (49 page pdf), can be downloaded from the NEPC website. 

Barco Librarian is Where in the World Winner!

Congratulations to Karen Shephard, Barco's Information Services Librarian, for winning Hein's monthly "where in the world" contest this month! Her prize: a Hein Where in the World t-shirt.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Three random cool things

These cool tools might be useful for the law school community.... in a tangential kind of way.
1. Volvo's Life Paint for bikers.  If you bike, watch the video.
2. Periscope, an app for your phone, was recently bought by Twitter.  It's a live-streaming video app that lets you see what anybody in the world is looking at. Read about in MIT Technology Review. Give it a whirl.
3. If you're thinking of binge-watching on a rainy day, Slashgear provides Nielsen infographics on how long it will take to binge-watch some of the favorite binge shows. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The law school library/laboratory

Sarah Glassmeyer (CALI) has written an excellent blog post for Slaw, the legal online magazine from Canada. Titled "The Law School Laboratory", she wrote it in response to an article on Above the Law that basically dissed law school libraries as obsolete money sinks. Aargh!
Sarah's response includes some basic facts:
- "While, in the above example, the library budget is increasing by 2%, I can almost guarantee that its material costs are going up 10% or more. Annually.
- The subscription databases that are “replacing libraries” are actually paid for from the library budget. They are not a competitor to the library, but rather they are a digital branch of it.
- Yes, even books are on the databases. But not all are. Also, depending on the agreement with the database vendors, they may or may not be accessible to members of the public. As many academic law libraries are open to the public and are a filler of the Access to Justice, it’s important that the library has resources available to them.
- Everything is not on the Internet. Not even close."
She also points out that librarians work very hard to make legal research as smooth and seamless as possible - which unfortunately means what we do doesn't get noticed - because we want it to be invisible!

Friday, 27 March 2015

New website connects lawyers, non-profits

A new website called, appropriately, Lawyer/Nonprofit Connect was launched recently. The site is designed to enable nonprofit organizations to easily find interested lawyers to serve on their boards, and conversely, lawyers to easily find nonprofit boards on which to serve. According to the site, "Typically, nonprofit executives reach out to the people in their business or social networks for a board referral or recommendation. Their reach is only as far as their network. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect broadens that network to find those lawyers interested and willing to serve on a board in their area of service. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect also removes obstacles for busy lawyers. Nonprofits are able to search for lawyers with similar interests and with the skills most needed by the organization. Lawyers are able to search for nonprofits with open board seats that are involved in areas that excite them. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect brings the two together and gives them the opportunity to connect with each other."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Access to Justice programs

An interesting v recently discusses how courtroom innovations in New York and elsewhereare helping self-represented litigants navigate the legal waters. One example is an initiative in New York, begun by Justice Fern Fisher, called the Court Navigator Program. It helps unrepresented litigants in New York City navigate the legal areas of consumer debt and housing; there are plans to expand the program into family court and uncontested divorces. An evaluation beginning this summer will help to quantify the success of navigators, but Fisher said the anecdotal results are “very good.” “There are more defences being raised,” she said. “Our litigants clearly have a better feel about their experience in court.”

Friday, 20 March 2015

Proposal to make all .gov sites secure HTTP

Federal News Radio reports that  the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of the United States has proposed a plan to make HTTPS the standard for all .gov websites. “The majority of Federal websites use HTTP as the primary protocol to communicate over the public internet,” says the plan, which also states that HTTP “create a privacy vulnerability and expose potentially sensitive information about users of unencrypted Federal websites and services.” The plan goes on to say that "HTTPS verifies the identity of a website or Web service for a connecting client, and encrypts nearly all information sent between the website or service and the user. Protected information includes cookies, user agent details, URL paths, form submissions, and query string parameters. HTTPS is designed to prevent this information from being read or changed while in transit."
The OMB is asking for feedback and suggestions for this proposal and technical assistance materials. They add that you may email to provide private comments. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

News on the Georgia State copyright case

Publisher's Weekly reports that the lawyers for Georgia State University have filed a brief opposing reopening the record of the high-profile e-reserves copyright case that pitted GSU against several academic publishers (Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Patton et al.,). GSU argues that the previous trial record “was fully developed at trial and is complete,” and that reopening the record would “unduly burden" the court and defendants. PW reports that "In 2012, Judge Evans ruled against the publishers, finding infringement on just five of 99 claims. But late last year, the case was remanded by the Eleventh Circuit with instructions for Evans to re-balance her four factor fair use analysis. The publishers say new evidence is needed if Evans is to fashion an appropriate injunction following the remand. But the publishers also appear to be angling for “a second bite at the apple,” says Brandon Butler, practitioner in residence at the American University Washington College of Law, telling PW that re-opening the record would essentially mean "a whole new trial." And that matters because the publishers may have botched their first shot. Of the 99 counts of alleged infringement presented for the first trial in 2010, only 48 actually got to a fair use analysis, as many were knocked out by technicalities and record-keeping issues. And for 33 of the works in question, digital licenses were not available at the time, a fact that weighed heavily against infringement in Evans’ fair use analysis, but would almost certainly not be the case today."

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pitt Law's first MOOC

Pitt Law has announced that the law school is offering its first free online course (MOOC), called Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks, which teaches the basic facts about infectious diseases like measles and Ebola—what they are, how they’re transmitted, and what determines whether or not there will be an epidemic. This four-week class begins March 16, 2015. Course participants will learn about the laws and policies that enable us to fight infectious diseases—everything from quarantines to vaccinations to bioterrorism defense. The class is taught by Pitt Law faculty members Elena Baylis, a U.S. law and policy expert, and Elizabeth F. Bjerke, who specializes in the public health system with respect to emergency preparedness and response, along with infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, senior associate at the UPMC Center For Health Security, and Ryan Morhard, currently with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

New Unique HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals now in Pittcat

Catalog records for the 44 titles unique to the HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals have been added to PITTCat. You can scan these records by doing a PITTCat keyword phrase search for “HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals.”
These new periodicals include the following titles:
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Bankruptcy & Insolvency Litigation
- Children's Rights Litigation
- Environmental Litigation
- LGBT Litigator
- Trial Evidence
- Real Estate Litigation
- Scitech Lawyer

Thanks and a hat tip to Sallie Smith.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Friday Fun: the blue/black white/gold dress

The big news this week has been, of course, the great internet furor over whether a certain dress is blue and black or white and gold.  If you have any science geek leanings you will certainly enjoy Wired magazine's explanation of WHY people can see the same dress so differently; the article is titled "The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress".

ps  It's blue and black.  But it created such a sensation that the manufacturer is going to make a white and gold version, and is auctioning it off on eBay (custom tailored to the winner) with proceeds going to charity.