The Canadian Law Library Review/Revue Canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CLLR) is currently welcoming article submissions from members of the legal community.
The CLLR is the official publication of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries. It is an open access, online journal published three times per year. Articles typically range from 2,000-4,000 words.
Prior to publication, all submissions are subject to review and editing by members of the Editorial Board or independent subject specialists; the final decision to publish rests with the Editorial Board. Independent peer review is possible if requested by the author. Please view the CLLR style guide for guidance on how to format a feature article for submission.
To submit an article, or for questions or clarifications, please contact Features Editors Andrea Black and Erica Friesen.
[This call for articles originally appeared on Slaw.ca on November 8, 2022]
It is republished here with permission of the author.
New academic year; new legal research tools. Something new always comes out right as another cohort of students is gearing up to begin their law degree. And, as with many new product launches these days, “artificial intelligence” is often a prominently displayed term with accompanying materials. As legal publishers continue to launch AI-driven research tools in Canada, what do students and other novice researchers need to know to be prepared for their first forays into legal research?
Lexis recently launched the latest version of their legal research platform, Lexis+ Canada, for Canadian law schools. It features significant updates that employ artificial intelligence, including a “Brief Analysis” tool in line with similar products offered by Westlaw Edge (on the US platform) and vLex (already available in Canada). According to Lexis+, this tool helps researchers “expedite completion of briefs and other legal documents.” Once your document is uploaded, it spits out a report including the following categories: 1) recommended cases, 2) cases and legislation cited in your document, 3) jurisdiction, and 4) extracted and recommended concepts.
While I do not intend to comment on the utility of this tool for practitioners, I have no doubt that students beginning law school or working in summer or articling positions are bound to encounter this new feature sooner or later. When you do, you may have questions: should I be using this tool? How or how not? The landing page for this tool in Lexis+ contains no information on how this tool works and the Lexis+ Canada “Help” database so far contains minimal documentation. Confusion or uncertainty is understandable with such opacity.
To gain some insight, let’s run an experiment: take two case comments written by different authors on the same Supreme Court case from 2004. An older decision means that we should retrieve an abundance of recommendations from the intervening 18 years. Both comments include an overview of the area of law at the time of this decision as well as an analysis of how this particular decision would change the area of law. Once Lexis analyzed these documents, I exported the resulting report and compared the results for each comment.
Here are the two documents, in case you’d like to run the experiment yourself:
Comment A: Teresa Scassa, “Recalibrating Copyright Law?: A Comment on the Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision in CCH Canadian Limited et al. v. Law Society of Upper Canada”, Case Comment, (2004) 3:2 CJLT 89.
Comment B: WL Hayhurst, “The Canadian Supreme Court on Copyright: CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada”, Case Comment, (2004-2005) 41 Can Bus LJ 134.
“Recommendations” is the section of the Brief Analysis report that lists additional case law for you to consider adding to your legal document. Brief Analysis recommended 58 unique cases in total between Comment A and Comment B. However, only 10 of those cases were the same between the two documents (after adjusting for “recommended” cases that were actually cited in the other document). See Figure 1.
Key takeaway: Legal research and writing is an art, not a science. AI-driven tools like these run on the material that you upload, so you can expect substantially different results depending on the quality of analysis and the decisions you made in producing the original document. This does not mean that there is no value in using the tool, but you cannot expect it to help you build something from nothing. Recommendations are based on the content in the document, so if the content in the original document is not already strong, you may find yourself headed down the wrong path. Garbage in; garbage out as they say.
Lexis currently provides almost no information on what is meant by “extracted concepts” using Brief Analysis. But it sure looks cool to upload your document and instantly see a list of legal topics associated with your writing.
Here, too, there is substantial difference between the two documents. Comment A and Comment B had an overlap of 18 common extracted concepts. Comment A had an additional 22 unique extracted concepts while Comment B had an additional 21 unique extracted concepts. See Figure 2 for this data.
The utility of these concepts is highly variable. One illuminating instance is that Brief Analysis believed that “et al” was a relevant legal concept to Comment B. Does this simply mean that the phrase “et al” appears many times in the document?
Key Takeaway: For novice researchers, this tool has limited utility if used in isolation. While an experienced practitioner may quickly be able to understand which extracted concepts are relevant, it is unlikely that a novice researcher will have the necessary context to make these determinations with such little transparency provided by the tool itself.
For example, Brief Analysis extracted “strike” as a relevant concept for Comment B. While “strike” may indeed seem like a potentially important legal concept, it seems to have been picked up here because of an emphasis on “striking a balance” between the rights of authors and the rights of the public. Brief Analysis allows you to edit and reconfigure these concepts on your results page, but novice researchers will need to put in additional research outside of the tool to familiarize themselves with these concepts before they can properly make these assessments.
This part of the report identifies caselaw and legislation that is already cited in your document. Presumably the intention is to warn you of potential negative history or treatment via the QuickCITE signals that the report pulls into the document as a visual representation.
Brief Analysis was fairly accurate in identifying Canadian case citations in the two documents, but still missed a number of Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal decisions, as well as decisions that were cited as part of a case history. Interestingly, only one Canadian legislation citation was correctly identified as legislation; others were identified as caselaw or not identified at all. Almost no foreign or international citations were correctly identified (legislation, case law, treaties, etc). See Figure 3 for a breakdown of how many citations were correctly identified versus missed.
Key Takeaway: Like any other research platform, AI-driven tools are limited based on the data that serves as their input. If Brief Analysis only runs on Lexis’ Canadian content, then it won’t pick up US or UK citations as part of its analysis. This is a limitation to be aware of in the context of its other features too. None of the recommended caselaw or legislation was foreign or international either, but I might not have noticed this if I hadn’t critically assessed this part of the report. Again, familiarity with an area of law is necessary to use the tool properly and know if it is relevant to go to sources beyond Canadian law for your particular research question.
 CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13.
We all have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to performing legal research. We sometimes share them with clients. And sometimes, we like to use those tricks to hunt down seemingly impossible to find material and wow them. Because nothing is “impossible” for law librarians.
The CALL blog has started a new regular series of research tips and tricks.
Please share your favourite or coolest strategies with Michel-Adrien Sheppard to have them published on the CALL blog.
Nous avons tous nos trucs favoris quand il s'agit de faire de la recherche juridique. Parfois, nous les partageons avec nos clients. Et parfois, nous aimons les épater en utilisant ces trucs et astuces pour mettre la main sur des informations apparemment impossibles à trouver. Car rien n’est « impossible » pour des bibliothécaires de droit.
Le blogue de l'ACBD a lancé une nouvelle série sur les trucs et astuces de recherche.
SVP partagez vos stratégies les plus intéressantes ou les plus « cool » avec Michel-Adrien Sheppard afin de les faire publier sur le blogue de CALL/ACBD.
Today: Finding Standards (Susannah Tredwell, Manager of Library Services at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP, Vancouver). It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on August 31, 2022.
Standards, which “establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies”, are often referenced by acts and regulations; in order to be able to properly interpret a piece of legislation you may need to see the standard it is referring to.
Frequently the fastest and most efficient solution (if not the cheapest) is to buy the standard, either in print or electronic format. However, if you’re buying a digital version it is important to be aware of how the standard is licenced, e.g. in some cases the person who bought the standard is the only person who can use it. For Canadian standards, the Standards Council of Canada (confusingly — for law librarians at least — abbreviated SCC) is a useful place to start.
Standards are frequently referred to by a number (e.g. “CSA Z1008:21”) where the first letters indicate who issued the standard (in this case the Canadian Standards Association), the middle numbers indicate the number of the standard, and the last number indicates the year of issue (i.e. 2021). Standards are frequently revised or replaced, so it is important to know which particular version of a standard you are looking for. Older standards can be more challenging to find.
Your local public library may own some standards in print format so it is worthwhile checking with them.
A number of Canadian standards are available for free; for example you can find the online collection of Codes Canada publications (including the National Building Code of Canada 2020, the National Plumbing Code of Canada 2020 and the National Fire Code of Canada 2020) at https://nrc-publications.canada.ca/eng/search/?q=NRCCode. Similarly the British Columbia Codes 2018 are available online at https://www.bccodes.ca/index.html.
CALL member Marcelo Rodriguez, the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona Law School in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote an article on "Researching Foreign and International Current Events". It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on August 16, 2022.
In my professional experience working as a law librarian in multiple types of institutions, most of the time a question about or related to a situation happening in a foreign country or at the international level comes primarily through one scenario: the researcher read about it in an online media outlet, newspaper, article, blog, tweet, etc. and wants to know more. Understanding, finding relevant sources and making sense of a rapidly (d)evolving and fast moving situation in a foreign country or internationally is an incredibly complicated and labor intensive type of research, no matter how much experience you have in the subject or country. To hopefully alleviate some of the pressure on these requests from researchers, I created a monthly series, called Through the FCIL Lens, shared in the blog of the Foreign, Comparative and International Law (FCIL) group within the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In this monthly series, I strive to give readers a summary with all the known and relevant information on what’s currently happening, some analysis from experts, and most importantly for the researchers, I also include at least three academic articles which help connect the situation on the ground to larger conversations and trends.
I’d like to think that my purpose and hard work behind the series were confirmed a few weeks ago when the dramatic current events in Sri Lanka made international headlines in major newspapers, magazines and social media. Given my obsession and unhealthy consumption of foreign and international news, I featured the increasingly deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka as one of the “hotspots” to observe back in April 2022. I’m not claiming any sort of superpower, nor advocating for others to compulsively follow international news. The point is that when you are tasked with researching and finding authoritative sources in order to understand an explosive current situation in a foreign country, 97% of the time, it is not a situation coming out of nowhere. Your job is to find the relevant resources to help you link the current situation on the ground to previously documented situations, people and trends.
In this post, I will mention a few crucial steps that I take in order to come up with a successful research strategy. Similarly to what I do in my legal research classes, I’m not going to enumerate a list of websites and hope the researcher finds their way. If you do that, a lot of the time, they’re left with websites which are not updated, don’t work or with a list of broken links taking you nowhere. Therefore, I will talk briefly about the initial steps I take when building a research strategy that has worked for me and also the limitations to this type of research requests that we should all be aware of.
First, your main goal should be to look for specific names of people, institutions, places, perhaps a specific case or legislation. You’re aiming to find one proper name (many, if you’re lucky!) and use it as your keyword to search for sources which will help you link the current situation to previous trends, events or any relevant information. In the case of the current crisis in Sri Lanka, one of the main characters is the recently deposed president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. If you search for his name in both free sources and subscription-based databases, you will quickly find out lots of important information. For example, he belongs to a “political dynasty” which has taken control of the country for decades and also he was hailed as a “war hero” after his leading involvement in ending the country’s civil war in 2009. These two points are undoubtedly incredibly significant for any researcher to understand the current crisis and its importance to Sri Lankan people.
Two things to keep in mind when working with foreign names is transliteration when using our Latin script and full names. Usually, when a person is not regularly featured in Western media outlets, there is a plethora of transliteration options and not one uniformed way to write a person’s name using the Latin script. Depending on how long and how often during and after the current event this person’s name is used, journalists, academics and experts might finally arrive at a consensus on how to spell a person’s name using Latin script. For example, I have seen Gotabaya, Gothabaya, G. Rajapaksa, Rajapaska, Rajapakse and many more. Another important point when it comes to names is the full names of these important players. As I said before, the Rajapaksa family is a political dynasty in Sri Lanka with numerous important people. Therefore, you might want to use someone’s full name in order to avoid any confusion. For example, Gotabaya’s full name is actually Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapksa. Using his full name will bring up specific information related to his involvement in previous historical events in the country. Again, you’re doing all these steps to help you connect the current situation with larger and older conversations and trends. These names and proper nouns will serve as your connectors with more relevant information.
Overall, you have two major limitations when pursuing this type of research: not everything is translated into English and not everything is online. In my experience, this is the moment of truth. As a Foreign and International Law Librarian, I try to be as honest as possible with my users. Foreign and International Legal Research can be incredibly interesting and rewarding, but it also takes time and lots of extra steps. The current situation in Sri Lanka might be making its way into major Western and English speaking media outlets. However, for people in Sri Lanka, this is their pressing and tumultuous reality. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the overwhelming amount of information will be primarily in Sinhala and maybe Tamil, the two official languages of Sri Lanka. On top of that, a significant amount of primary sources might not be available online, due to lack of resources, but also to the current chaotic situation in the country. In these instances, you will need to get creative and find secondary sources as well as contacting experts which might be able to help you. I shared some related ideas in my previous post on Legal Research Without Official Diplomatic Relations.
Good luck! Please feel free to add any steps you take yourself regarding this type of research in the comments section or contact me directly.
CALL member Dominique Garingan, Library Manager in the Calgary office of Parlee McLaws LLP, recently wrote an article on "The Singular They: Gender Inclusivity in Canadian Legal Writing and Style Guides". It originally appeared on the website Notes Between Us on June 22, 2022.
It is reprinted here with permission.
Language is a product of culture, and it is known that the English language lacks a singular pronoun that signifies the non-specific he or she. Although at times unintentional, this singularity versus plurality of pronouns, coupled with gendered indicators, has helped entrench the binary perceptions of gender found in writing which we are now seeking to change.
The Department of Justice of Canada recently provided a series of guidelines on the use of gender-neutral language in a legislative context. These guidelines include as a recommendation the use of the singular they and its other grammatical forms (them, themselves, and their) to refer to indefinite pronouns and singular nouns1. In addition, dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary (definition2|blog), the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (definition3), the Cambridge Dictionary (definition) and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (definition|blog) have acknowledged both the acceptability – and, for some, the controversy – of the singular they.
While there seems to be a growing acceptance towards gender inclusive and non-binary pronouns, this post seeks to explore an increasingly acknowledged yet still seemingly paradoxical entity in legal writing: the singular they. This post briefly investigates the use and acceptance or lack thereof of they as a singular pronoun through a review of a limited sample of Canadian legal research, writing, and style guides accessible to the writer. Although current writing practices on gender inclusivity may have since changed since the publication of these titles, this post hopes to assist writers, researchers, librarians, and information professionals by providing a non-exhaustive point-in-time review of Canadian legal writing references and help facilitate a turning point in the journey towards greater inclusivity in legal writing.
The Literature Reviewed (in Reverse Order of Publication)
Edward Berry, Writing Reasons: A Handbook for Judges, 5th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2020).
In the sample of guides reviewed, Writing Reasons seemed to provide the most inclusive perspective in its instruction. It was somewhat refreshing to see a writing handbook for judges as being the most progressive in its recommendations, albeit also the most recently published. The guide contains a section entitled Prejudicial Language and provides a checklist for more inclusive strategies. (p 114-115) “Invite the parties to define their own identity” is first on the list. As an example, Berry notes that some people may prefer the gender neutral Mx. to Mr. or Ms. “Be wary of personal pronouns” is also listed. Here, Berry states that those who don’t identify as male or female may prefer they. Berry notes the acceptance of they as a singular pronoun. However, the alternative of reconstructing the subject as plural, facilitating a more familiar use of they, is also provided. (p 115)
Although subtle, a highlight of this guide is found in one of its appendices. Appendix 2: Additional Resources contains a section called Biased Language. Instead of listing resources to consult, this section contains a brief note reminding writers that “[u]sage changes constantly” and places onus on writers to consult style guides as well as organizations devoted to specific groups or social issues for guidance on language. (p 151)
Neil Guthrie, Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing, 2nd ed (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2021).
In his book, Guthrie encourages readers to strive for gender-neutrality, or at least balance. (p 44) Guthrie notes that, if the singular they is used, “it should be based on a desire to be inclusive of the transgendered, the gender-fluid, and the gender-questioning”. (p 46) Guthrie does note a dislike for the singular they when used in a lazy fashion and states that his or her is still preferred, at least grammatically. (p 46) However, one conundrum is that the intent behind the use of the singular they may be difficult to attribute to writers unknown to their readers.
In addition to acknowledging the singular they, Guthrie’s Guide to Legal Writing recognizes the possible growing use of gender-neutral neologisms such as ze, ey, or xe. (p 46) It also acknowledges active changes to the spelling of feminine nouns as a way to “decouple” them from masculine nouns that define them (for example, the use of womxn). (p 49-50, and in SlawTips)
Queen’s Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Legal Style, 2nd ed (Toronto: Thomson Reuters Canada, 2019).
Where a generic singular pronoun is required, the latest edition of the Queen’s Law Journal Canadian Guide to Legal Style recommends against the use of they as a generic singular pronoun, noting it as plural in construction. The guide discourages the use of combinations such as s/he or he/she and, as an alternative, recommends alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns where a generic singular pronoun is required. (p 37)
The Canadian Guide to Legal Style provides some writing alternatives to generic singular pronouns. These include pluralizing the noun or subject to allow the use of they, repeating the noun or subject, and reconstructing the sentence such that the generic singular pronoun can be replaced with words like who or one. (p 37-38) Although the combination he/she is discouraged, the guide notes as acceptable the use of the pronoun pair he or she, although this should be done sparingly. (p 38)
Nancy McCormack, John Papadopoulos & Catherine Cotter, The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research, 4th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2015).
The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research advocates for the use of gender-neutral language and acknowledges the inherent gender bias in the English language, such as how, historically, the masculine gender was assumed to be the norm in legal writing. (p 456) While it does not provide explicit discussion on the use of the singular they, it does state that the use of plurals and alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns are both acceptable. (p 456-457)
In stating that the use of plurals was acceptable, it was somewhat unclear to this writer whether The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research was alluding to the use of the singular they as an alternative to the pronoun pair he or she at the time or the reconstruction of nouns and subjects as plural to facilitate the use of they as a plural pronoun.
Christine Mowat, A Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers, 2nd ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2015).
A Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers poses the question “Can they be singular?”. (p 53) This guide takes a historical approach and highlights some of the gender-neutral language policy adopted by the Ontario government in the late 1980s for all official publications, including bills and regulations.
Research by the Ontario government referenced in this guide shows they, their, and them as having a long history of use a singulars. Additionally, the use of themself was deemed to be a logical extension of the use of other third person “plural” pronouns as singular and an acceptable replacement for himself, herself, or itself.4 (p 53) The guide provides guidelines for using gender-neutral language and suggests that the singular they will gain wider acceptance. It also notes that speakers of American English may resist the development more than speakers of British English, where the indeterminate they is more commonly seen. (p 54)
British Columbia Law Institute, Gender-Free Legal Writing: Managing the Personal Pronouns (July 1998), online: BCLI.
While written over two decades ago, the BCLI report, Gender-Free Legal Writing, was cited by at least two titles reviewed for this blog post. Although the BCLI report does not acknowledge they as a singular pronoun, it does recommend adopting a “gender-free” style of writing, or one that avoids pronouns entirely. (p 2) Part II of the BCLI report provides both structural and generic solutions that avoid the use of gendered singular pronouns. These include moving away from third person singular references, identifying the subject a second time, and eliminating repeated references to the performer of the action or the object of the sentence. (p 4-12)
While the BCLI report does accept use of the he or she (his or her) pronoun formulation, it does acknowledge that this is “the least satisfactory solution” as it is “not truly gender-free”. (p 12)
The following titles were also reviewed for this blog post. No explicit discussions on the singular they were found. However, these titles focus more on legal research, writing, and advocacy as opposed to grammar and style.
In undertaking this review, I often found myself missing the forest for the trees. Legal writing guides and grammar possess a plethora of rules. While writers, editors, researchers, librarians, and information professionals often turn to these rules for safety, guidance, and affirmation regarding the correctness of their writing, it must be remembered that these rules and structures may be the same ones critiqued for failing to possess the requisite inclusivity for those whose genders are non-binary, undefined, not yet defined, absent, cannot be defined, or refusing to be defined in the first place.
There is an internal conflict ascribable to seeking universal grammatical correctness while ensuring that the language we use is inclusive of all. Are we likely to continue second-guessing ourselves and scouring well-established legal writing and style guides for permission to use more inclusive language? Quite possibly. The legal profession has been critiqued for its traditional nature and writing style. This does not always align with the view that gender may be singular, plural, transitional, evolving, non-existent, or undiscovered within an individual. Although information professionals will continue to hold onto and reference them dearly, it may be time to expect some of our Canadian legal writing and style guides to provide greater clarification and more humanist perspectives on non-binary, gender-inclusive, and gender-diverse language.
1. For an alternative perspective on the use of the singular they in legislative drafting, see Paul Salembier, “Is Bad Grammar Good Policy? Legislative Use of the Singular ‘they’” (2015) 36:2 Statute L Rev 175.
2. A subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary is required to access this definition.
3. A subscription to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is required to access this definition.
4. For more information on this research, please see Donald L Revell, Cornelia Schuh & Michel Moisan, “Themself and Nonsexist Style in Canadian Legislative Drafting” (1994) 10:1 English Today 10.
Le français suit plus bas.
Today: TERMIUM Plus (Katie Pelland, Supreme Court of Canada).
Have you ever been unsure of what word to use when communicating about a new or unfamiliar topic? There is a database created by the Government of Canada called TERMIUM Plus, which gives you access to millions of terms in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. You can find terms, abbreviations, definitions and usage examples in a wide range of specialized fields. The data bank is an essential tool for understanding an acronym, checking an official title, finding the equivalent for names of ministries, agencies, departments in the other official language, and much more.
Of particular interest, they have collections of terms to search in various areas of law. Simply click on the drop –down menu under the “In which subject field?” section to select a legal subject to narrow your search.
Recently, as part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to respond to the Clerk of the Privy Council’s 2021 Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service, TERMIUM Plus has made their bilingual Guide on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Terminology publically available online. In this guide, you will find definitions and usage notes for some of the key terms on these topics. It is a living document that updated and improved on a regular basis.
Aujourd'hui: Termium Plus (par Katie Pelland, Cour suprême du Canada).
Avez-vous jamais été incertain quant au mot à utiliser lorsque vous communiquez sur un sujet nouveau ou complètement inconnu ?
Il existe une base de données créé par le gouvernement du Canada appellée TERMIUM Plus, qui vous donne accès à des millions d’expressions en anglais, français, espagnol et portugais.
Vous pouvez trouver des expressions, des abréviations, des définitions et des exemples d’utilisation dans un large éventail de domaines spécialisés. La banque de données est un outil essentiel pour décoder les acronymes, vérifier un titre officiel, trouver l'équivalent des noms des ministères, agences, départements dans l'autre langue officielle, et bien plus encore.
Il est particulièrement intéressant de noter qu'ils proposent des collections d’expressions dans divers domaines du droit. Il suffit de cliquer sur le menu déroulant sous la rubrique "Domaine" pour sélectionner un sujet juridique afin de restreindre votre recherche.
Récemment, dans le cadre des efforts déployés par le gouvernement du Canada pour donner suite à l’Appel à l’action en faveur de la lutte contre le racisme, de l’équité et de l’inclusion dans la fonction publique fédérale lancé par le greffier du Conseil privé en 2021, TERMIUM Plus a rendu public son Guide de la terminologie liée à l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion bilingue en ligne. Dans ce guide vous trouverez des définitions et des notes d’usage en lien avec certains termes clés dans ce domaine. Ce document évolutif sera mis à jour et amélioré régulièrement.
From time to time, this blog will highlight initiatives, ideas, or activities coming from members, committees or special interest groups (SIGs).
Today: An Update from the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Group (PLL-SIG), by Marnie Bailey, Manager, Knowledge Services at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Vancouver.
The PLL-SIG met April 5 for a discussion on what the return to the office looks like for law firm libraries.
Topics included moving more texts to online, continued love of print, moving to Single Sign On, online or in person training of students, and how often people are required to be / are in the office.
There was a wide range of responses for most of the topics, and it was nice to hear that other firms are in similar situations. It was a great discussion with firm librarians from across the country.
The notes will be posted to the PLL-SIG Basecamp site for members of the SIG.
The next PLL-SIG meeting will be during the May 2022 annual CALL conference, and I hope to see many of you there!
CALL member Hannah Steeves, the Instruction & Reference Librarian at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, Dalhousie University (Halifax), recently wrote an article on "Visualizing the Landscape of Canadian Law School Journals". It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on April 6, 2022.
In my role at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, I help facilitate both the creation and dissemination of scholarly knowledge through law journals. As a result, I have developed many questions and curiosities surrounding scholarly publishing practices. While the larger ones require empirical research, a handful seemed easy to answer based on readily available data. Using the information available on the websites of each peer-reviewed law journal affiliated with and published by a Canadian law school, I answered the following questions:
There are many individuals involved with each step of publishing a journal, from peer reviewers to copy editors. However, it is obvious that law students put significant effort into the scholarly publishing of legal literature. Even journals that have editorial boards composed of faculty members typically have student volunteers for source checking and footnote editing. The work law students put into law school journals is a noteworthy contribution to scholarly work in Canada.
Only one journal has article processing charges (APCs). The University of Toronto Law Journal only provides hybrid OA options and “offers authors whose research has been funded by a national, regional, or international research funder … green and gold open access options to comply with research funding requirements.” It is common for public funding agencies to require researchers to publish in OA journals.2 And while research suggests that scholars value the principles of open access, they remain motivated by traditional scholarly incentives, including publishing in highly ranked journals that support the path to tenure and promotion.3 Though I believe the intention of funders’ OA requirements is to encourage accessibility and dissemination of scholarly knowledge, I have often wondered if these requirements only strengthen the power wielded by for-profit journals as the public funding is going directly to the journals via the APC.
Most of the journals reviewed used theMcGill Guide as their citation guide. Only ~7 per cent did not use McGill or offer it as an option to authors.
This graph reflects the maximum word limit for article submissions. The University of New Brunswick Law Journal specifies that “[w]hile there are no preliminary restrictions as to manuscript length, the editorial board reserves the right to set such restrictions as a condition of publication.” The Journal of Law and Equality did not specify. For journals with page limits in their submission guidelines, I used a words-per-page counter to convert the page ranges to word limits based on the average number of words per page.
CALL member Marcelo Rodriguez, the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona Law School in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote an article on "Accessing, Documenting and Preserving Information on Ukraine". It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on March 30, 2022.
I teach a class at the University of Arizona College of Law called, Foreign, Comparative and International Legal Research. In my class, I discuss with the students the different ways in which this type of advanced legal research is dependent on constantly moving variables and components.
Beyond a handout of the top five sources to consult, I instead strive to make the students understand that they need to create a research strategy, keep track of changes on foreign and international law, and consult a significant amount of non-legal information. All of this needs to be done while always evaluating sources of information and at times, in languages you’re not fluent in. I briefly touched upon these issues in my previous post on Nicaragua and Haiti.
When it comes to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are three situations which I’m following very closely: accessing trustworthy information, documenting what is happening, and the preservation of information.
As a law librarian, these three situations all have a particular angle related to the law, namely accessing reliable legal and government information during war, documenting atrocities and potential war crimes in order to use this information as evidence in the future, and preservation of legal information in digital format which can be made available to everyone immediately as well as later on.
In this post, I will talk briefly about these three areas and enumerate several sources which can provide further information. As usual, I invite all readers to mention and share other relevant links or sources in the comments section.
In times of war, accessing information coming from reliable sources becomes literally a question of life or death. However, easily accessible online information in websites, news sources or in any social media platforms becomes a puzzle to decipher and in dire need of evaluation. If you have been following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on any platform, be it blogs, traditional media outlets or social media, you know that the information can be contradictory, incomplete and tainted with misinformation.
Beyond these challenges, there is also the risk of intentional spread of false information or disinformation and propaganda. Oksana Brui, Director of the Ukrainian Library Association alluded to this in a letter to the international librarianship community.
Furthermore, several Ukrainian government websites have been hacked to spread false information to the Ukrainian people. Despite these cyber attacks, the Ukrainian Government official page, and the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine are both using their corresponding Twitter accounts to debunk false information as quickly as possible (i.e. https://twitter.com/Ukraine and https://twitter.com/dsszzi).
Official government publications such as Golos Ukrainy (the Voice of Ukraine), Ofitsiyny Visnyk Ukrainy (Official Reporter of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Parliament’s legislation database are still functioning despite Russia’s attacks on internet infrastructure and service providers.
As a law librarian, my goal is to empower legal researchers to be able to evaluate sources themselves whether it’s a social media post, news article or any secondary source of information they come across.
This might sound easier said than done. But you’d be surprised how relatively easy it is to fall into the allure of a source that talks about exactly what you were looking for during a fast-changing situation and with emotions running high. I tell our researchers to keep it simple.
Whenever in doubt, ask yourself these three questions: Who? Why? When? First, who is writing this post, tweet, news article or any source? Do they have an expertise on the subject? Are they affiliated to a reputable institution? What gives them the authority to write about the topic on hand? Then, you need to consider why the author or contributor shared this information. And this is usually located in the “about us” or mission section of the website. Are they a company selling products and services? Are they affiliated to a large organization, political party or government? What drives them to share information? This will help you elucidate what are their intentions behind the information they share.
And last but not least, when was this information shared? You must be mindful not only about the date of when the tweet, post or article was written or shared. But also you need to know whether the information they describe is about a current event and if the videos and/or pictures accompanying the text are indeed from that said event.
Documenting information becomes critical when there is a need to provide future evidence of potential war crimes perpetrated during a conflict. There have been mentions of investigations on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), i.e. ICJ’s Ukraine v. Russian Federation and Statement of the ICC Prosecutor.
Furthermore, public prosecutor’s offices in Germany and Spain have both opened investigations on possible violations of international humanitarian law. In order to find and gather evidence, the Ukrainian Bar Association shared a call for all Ukrainians to use the well-known app, eyeWitness to Atrocities developed by the International Bar Association (IBA) in 2015. Since its inception, eyeWitness to Atrocities app has searched to make gathering evidence accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
Another excellent example of documenting and tracking potential war crimes is the UK-based, Centre for Information Resilience (CIR). They have created the Ukraine Monitoring Map, an open source crowdsourcing initiative to add and validate information as it takes place on the ground. They use geolocating information as well as help from actual Ukrainians in these places to confirm any discrepancies or fill any gaps in the data. This map and the information it has captured so far has helped provide an accurate picture of what’s taking place on the ground and combat misinformation. More than 600 videos or pictures have been collected and shared extensively on social media.
When it comes to preserving online information, the Internet Archive is an incredibly powerful tool. The Internet Archive through its Archive It feature has been at the forefront of documenting, archiving and preserving online information coming from diverse sources. The Archive It collections are able to catalog information with specific metadata which allows for evaluating sources and information and access it for research. For example, this is exactly what was done to preserve all information concerning the Maidan Revolution and Conflict in Ukraine in 2014.
These days, there are two main Archive It collections of importance to this topic. The first one called War in Ukraine: 2022 aims to archive websites from educational institutions, government agencies as well twitter accounts from important people. The Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University created the second account archiving several websites and social media accounts documenting Russia’s invasion and war on Ukraine.
Another excellent tool from the Internet Archive is its well-known Wayback Machine. At the time of writing, the overwhelming majority, if not all of the Ukrainian court websites are completely inaccessible.
To name a few, the following judicial websites have been completely taken down: Supreme Court, Unified State Register of Court Decisions, High Council of Justice, Kiev Court of Appeal, Administrative Courts and High Court of Arbitration. However, thanks to the Wayback Machine, we are able to access several previous iterations of these websites for consultation and research. For example, we are able to access the websites of those courts and judicial websites which are currently down: Supreme Court, Unified State Register of Court Decisions, High Council of Justice, Kiev Court of Appeal, Administrative Courts and High Court of Arbitration.
Finally, if you’d like to help or donate, I’d highly recommend you to consult these sources:
Today: An Update About Changement Strategies, by Michael McAlpine, Manager, Information, Research & Knowledge at Siskinds (London, Ontario)
The CALL Knowledge Management SIG met on March 29th to discuss change management strategies and project success and failures.
Starting with a review of the Kotter approach to leading change, the group then looked at an example of a knowledge project implementation that had some success and some failure and how it could have been improved through deliberate use of the Kotter model.
Following that the group had an open discussion about changes in their organization. Specifically members shared their experience in implementing and using a ticketing system to coordinate research requests and how these systems worked (or didn’t) as part of enterprise wide ticketing systems.
We also talked about DMS implementations and how roles are changing within organizations. Larger organizations have Change Management departments that are available as a resource enterprise wide while smaller organizations leave change management and planning to project or department managers.