All Our Research Tips
We live in a world where it is generally acknowledge that even though many web services that we use have terms of service, nobody reads them. Stop that bad habit right now. Especially for fee based legal research services. Do you understand what you have agreed to when you use WestlawNext Canada or LexisNexis Quicklaw?
By highlighting this as Today’s Tip I am NOT suggesting that fee based research services are inherently bad – I believe the opposite – I would not want to perform legal research for clients without a subscription to a fee based research service that delivers excellent value added content to my screen.
Today’s Tip IS intended to remind every searcher (not just the law librarians) to understand the license agreements so that they adhere to the terms. Most often, your firm’s law librarian will hit the highlights during training. The WestlawNext Canada License Agreement and LexisNexis Quicklaw Terms & Conditions are available from the sign on pages.
Users remain responsible for checking whether the intended use of the documents is authorized.
Knowledge is security – seek it out.
Watch for Edits of Not Yet in Force Acts
Once in a while a legislature will pass an act and then make amendments to it before it comes in to force. Just when you think you have everything figured out….
An example of this from Alberta is referenced in CanLII as Education Act, SA 2012, c E-0.3 , [Not yet in force] along with Bill 19 the Education Amendment Act, 2015 introduced yesterday in the Alberta legislature.
Today’s Tip: IF an applicable statue is not yet in force check for amendments to it.
Once Bill 19 passes (fairly obvious for a majority government unless an election is called before the progress of this bill is complete), you would see references for pending amendments to pending acts in the Table of Public Statutes. Look to the legislative assembly or parliament websites for bills in progress too.
These and other intricacies of legislative research questions may lead you to delegate this type of picky, tricky work to your favourite law librarian. There is no shame in that choice!
A fantastic post by Marc Lauritsen that came my way via the Attorney at Work Daily Dispatch inspired Today’s Tip. Marc’s post asked readers to think about recent decisions they helped make and whether they did a good job of choosing.
Choices are part of every aspect and many, many moments of every day. In terms of legal research, deliberate choice should be a decision point that you make with each research question, each search string, and most importantly when planning your research path.
As Marc suggests:
Be mindful when you find yourself facing a choice. Don’t just think about what you’re choosing; think about how you’re choosing.
Recognize that a choice is a project. You’ll improve your chances of a good result if you plan and manage it as such.
I have written here before about habits in choosing sources and habits in the way you use specific tools, but I like the way Marc articulates choice in his post.
Is That Code Current?
A hat tip to Sandi Madvid, Supervisor of Edmonton Library Services for Parlee McLaws LLP for Today’s Tip. Sandi shared that the Alberta Building Code 2014 and the Alberta Fire Code 2014 will be in force on May 1, 2015. Considering my husband is a carpenter and uses the Building Code, I am surprised I didn’t known this was coming!
Some Canadian jurisdictions (including Alberta, obviously) model region specific codes on the National Building Code of Canada. Building Codes are usually only available for purchase and most (but not all) are available by subscription to an electronic version.
The Building Code Regulation in Alberta contains only the authorization that the codes is in effect and does not contain the text of the code. According to the nice lady I called at Municipal Affairs, the new Alberta codes will
only be available from the National Research Council on May 1, 2015.
Because building and other Codes may not be Googavailable in full text, Today’s Tip is to cast a wide investigative net to make sure you are looking at the correct code for the currency date you need.
Where Did You Get That Last Time?
This tip was inspired after answering a question from memory that I should have documented back in 2009.
As legal researchers, we find nuggets of useful information from sources that are both transparent and obscure. Transparent because they are the logical source of the information we seek and obscure in that if we hadn’t connected with exactly the right person at the exactly right time we would not necessarily have found the information in the form or with the context that we did.
Document your sources in detail. Don’t trust that your memory will be available (or working properly) in the moment that the details about past research need to be unearthed. There is nothing wrong with a memo to file (or to your general research tips file that you share with colleagues) about how you found something.
A snippet of Ani DiFranco song lyric “Each breath is recycled from someone else’s lungs” could be rescripted for legal research this way, “Each question’s recycled at some point or another”. Make your future work easier by documenting today’s details.
Understand What You Are Asking For
I am having a wonderful time in Maui this week with my family. Today’s Tip is inspired by my Aunt Betty who reminded me that it is important that OTHER PEOPLE know what you are asking for.
You may know that the Hawaiian language uses fewer letters than English. I confess to being completely baffled by local pronunciation. Betty, on the other hand has visited this beautiful part of the world several times, and has mastered the phonetic discrepancies that twist my tongue.
This is the root of it:
a is always ahhhh
e is the long A
i is eee
o is oh
u is oooo
When asking for directions to somewhere, you don’t want to be misunderstood and sent to the wrong town.
Just like legal research! If you don’t understand what you are looking for, you will ask databases (or partners) for search results that don’t match what you really need.
Today’s second tip, don’t get so excited by seeing fishes in nature that you swim on your back while snorkeling.
Where Is Your Content Going
You spend good time and brain power creating a beautiful research work product. Then what happens?
Today’s Tip: think about where your words go.
Today’s Tip is brought to you by the office of my Outlook Junk Folder in conjunction with my Spam filter and my email rules. These offices are not hungry for YOUR content. With the extra efforts being made by organizations to comply with CASL, items are being scooped into spam quarantines that are not really spam.
This legal research tip is intended for readers as well as writers. Best of luck.
Delegating Legal Research
Today’s Tip was inspired by John DiGilio who edits the Pinhawk Librarian News Digest. John noted a post at RIPS Law Librarian Blog titled The Art of Delegating. The post has great food for thought for anyone sharing work.
Let me start here: I hate the phrase ‘pushing work down’ – it does not reflect the benefit of sharing work with the delegate. The benefits of personally contributing to a team effort, cross training for broader niche expertise among a group and balancing workflows are well covered in the post.
Now to the tip part. When delegating legal research tasks, remember to:
- share the facts that lead to the question (or tell someone where they can find the story of the file)
- relay expectations, including:
- time lines
- search cost restrictions
- volume of answer required (i.e. do you want a search from Magna Carta forward or the last 6 months of case law)
- explain what you already know OR do not want them to spend time on
- clarify how you are going to use the research output(send to a judge may mean different language/citation style than send to a client)
- be specific about format requirements (a hyperlink to a CanLII case or a Word version of a case with highlighting for colour printing and binding to file with the court)
- if you want the research to be approached using a specific path, make that clear
- seek confirmation that instructions are understood and follow up
Remember that with delegating, the more information you give, the better the result you will receive. Don’t forget to ask for and give feedback. That will make your next task sharing moment even better.
Print Legislation Remains Valuable
During a dinner table discussion of paper less practices recently, a friend praised the value of print legislation. He practices tax litigation, and I was questioning him about the various eBook versions of available in that area. He reminded me that the speed of cross referencing several sections is enhanced with the finger in book method as opposed to the click and return, especially when you have multiple sections referring to one another.
When I think about using legislation to answer a legal research question an the pattern that I used most frequently, I have to agree.
For the answer to a legislation question print often wins the day. Finding the first thread may be faster with a word search, and for sharing, electronic is clearly out front. In the race for meaning though, print is still frequently first over the finish line.
Let the debate begin.
English Translation of Cases
Lyonette Louis-Jacques posted some great strategies for finding an English translation of case law at Slaw. Today’s short legal research tip: Read Lyo’s Slaw post “How to Find Cases in English Translation, Revisited“