All Our Research Tips
Watch for Trends
Today’s Tip is about looking outside your borders for trends. You decide where your borders are – your department, your organization, your city, perhaps your country.
A tweet by Darin Thompson inspired this post:
@darin_thompson: It’s on! #ODR to become a part of the legal landscape in the European Union
I believe that Online Dispute Resolution and Alternative Dispute Resolution are trends to watch. What trends are you watching?
Use the Telephone
I have mentioned in the past that calling a friend can be a fast path to a research answer. It can also be a quick path to resolution of a technical problem. With email and web forms being the new normal for business communication, it may simply be that a phone call or well thought out voicemail message is different enough to be ‘noticed’.
As an example, we have been having technical problems with a website database recently. The form to report technical difficulty used several times garnered zero response. A voice mail message to the organization did set a resolution in motion. For a variety of reasons I am not willing to share the site, but the telephone was the path to a solution.
Have you noticed a particular communication method getting a better or faster result?
We all have them – those days where it feels like your imagination shrugs its metaphorical shoulders, gives you an apologetic half-grin, and heads to Fiji. You’re stuck – you can’t engage with your work, or generate new ideas. Douglas Adams described it best: The Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul. Here are a few tips to help you endure.
- Set the bar low – this isn’t going to last forever, so don’t be your worst enemy. Populate your to-do list with tasks that don’t require a lot of creativity, but still make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. You have them – clearing your inbox, weeding files, shelf reading. Basic housekeeping tasks that on your best days are not worthy of you are perfect for now.
- Work your network – your imagination may be on hiatus, but you know lots of lively, interesting people. Go talk to them. Book a coffee with your mentor or protégé. Have lunch with a favourite client or colleague. DO NOT whine about your problems – instead, ask them about what they’re working on. Absorb their energy. Ask questions. Be inspired.
- Read – now’s the time to wade through the stack of professional publications and the backlog of blogs that has been accumulating. Personally, I avoid overly academic journals – I want something more sprightly and energizing. The Harvard Business Review blogs, TechCrunch, Bored Panda – all of these can be sources of inspiration. Don’t spend the whole day with text, but an hour or so may present you with some ideas worth exploring when your own creative juices are flowing again.
- Move – go to the gym, get outside, do something physical. Perhaps the blood which should be circulating through your brain has pooled lower down. Get your heart pumping.
Editors note: This research tip was shared by Wendy Reynolds. I love Wendy’s suggestion to use dead space to read – keep up with that pile of current awareness material. Thanks for sharing this Wendy.
Never Start From Scratch
The fastest path is one that you have already traveled. The sign posts are familiar and likely the vehicle as well. You will know how to get where you are going and likely how long your trip will be. This is as true for legal research as it is for your daily commute.
Look to your prior work product. While each client has a unique situation, there are enough similarities in the issues that they bring you that you will be able to use your experience for the best research outcomes.
Keep and search your work product (research memos, opinion letters, advice you give in an email, notices, briefs, pleadings, factums, etc.) so that you don’t have to start each research problem from scratch.
An inspiration Hat Tip to the new APLEN Training Centre, a resource launched yesterday for libraries to share their training materials and learn from the collective experience of library staff. The Training Centre developed by the Alberta Public Library Electronic Network is available to the public as well as to libraries.
Who Inspires You
Today’s Tip is a follow-up from a theme that I see running through recent Research tips.
The theme is about WHO. Who can you go to for a quick answer, who do you trust to be your source for information, who is the person that inspires you or inspire your confidence.
I posted yesterday at Slaw about being inspired by Stephen Abram recently. Perhaps Stephen is one of the people that inspire you as well. If you are looking for a great place to be inspired, consider attending the Canadian Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference in Montreal May 5-8, 2013. Stephen will be offering a session on Librarians as Innovators.
Find Your Groups
Look to Experts for Case Comments
Go to the Source
Look to the Library of Parliament
Talk to Your Librarian
Look to Experts for Case Comments
I have a pretty easy time monitoring Canadian case law that is of interest to people in my organization. RSS feeds for CanLII searches or to monitor court output, good newsletters available from commercial legal publishers both in print and online, and the great sharing services offered by lawyers and firms, for example:
For global case law that you should know about, look to the law blogs. A great example of how law blogs can keep you up to date on foreign decisions that will interest you, check out Barrk Sookmans post today Google wins sponsored links case in Australia. Today’s Tip: follow practice specific blogs for highlights on the most important foreign judgments in your area of practice.
While this method for following foreign case law does not replace research on a specific question that will spring your decision to look at foreign material, it is a good way to keep in the global loop.
New Government Publications Resource
A press release received in my email inbox inspired today’s tip. Because I subscribe to an email list used by Canadian law libraries (CALL-L – an open list, more info here), I received the following press release:
APLIC/ABPAC releases its Government and Legislative Libraries Online Publications Portal (GALLOPP/PPGPE): A key resource for locating Canadian and Provincial Government Publications.
The Association of Parliamentary Libraries in Canada (APLIC) is proud to announce the release of its unique pan-Canadian bilingual government and legislative publications portal known as GALLOPP (Government and Legislative Libraries Online Publications Portal) / PPGPE (Portail des publications gouvernementales et parlementaires électroniques). It promises to become a vital resource for Canadian libraries seeking the electronic publications of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments and legislatures.
The result of collaboration between provincial and territorial legislative libraries from across Canada and the federal government’s Depository Services Program (DSP), the portal provides one-stop access to over 320,000 electronic provincial, territorial and federal government publications and legislative materials dating back to 1995.
Its simple and easy-to-use English and French interface allows users to search for documents by keyword or full-text and then link to the electronic copies of the materials hosted by the collecting library. Results can be cross-jurisdictional or limited by jurisdiction or date.
The portal is a unique resource bringing together for the first time the significant government document repositories that have been built by individual legislative libraries and the DSP.
New documents will be added regularly to GALLOPP. A detailed scope note on the site provides an up-to-date description of the portal’s content.
The portal is available at no charge and is accessible on the APLIC site at http://www.aplic-abpac.ca/aplic_home.html .
The APLIC Portal page offers a scope note describing the wonderful material now amalgamted for searching in this new database resource. There is even an easy to understand advanced search option.
My sincere congratulations and thanks to the Association of Parliamentary Libraries in Canada for making this material easier to access. Having this information is a fantastic reason to make use of email lists.
Search Multiple Sources
Today’s Tip comes from Melanie Bueckert, Legal Research Counsel, Manitoba Court of Appeal. Melanie shared a story about looking for citing cases:
I wanted to know if the Supreme Court of Canada had ever cited its decision in F.H. v McDougall, 2008 SCC 53. So I headed over to Quicklaw, pulled up the QuickCite record and filtered it by “Supreme Court of Canada”. There was one result from 2011.
Just to be thorough, I thought I would check Westlaw to see if there was anything more recent. This is not an easy task, as you likely know. I found the KeyCite record all right (though it only contained 574 results, rather than the 1400+ on QL), but didn’t find any easy way to just display the SCC results. You can use the locate feature to filter by jurisdiction (though it wasn’t clear to me which jurisdiction I should choose to capture SCC results) or by document type (‘highest courts’ still left 86 results, as it included all appellate courts). In the end, I reviewed all 574 results only to find that no SCC cases were listed (not even the one I found in QL).
So I got frustrated and thought I would try my luck with CanLII. They showed a similar number of cases in the reflex record, but again it was a struggle to get the results to filter by court. You can select individual databases from the reflex record page, but if you’re using Internet Explorer you also need to include some text in one of the search boxes (like the case citation in the full text search box) in order to get the search to work. Finally it did – and returned the one result I had already found in QL.
So I guess the upshot is that it can be tricky to easily filter judicial consideration of cases by jurisdiction or court. I worry about folks relying solely on Westlaw as it would appear that the KeyCite records, even for Supreme Court of Canada consideration of their own cases, are not particularly up-to-date. It was especially disconcerting because McDougall was listed in the Authorities link for the case that mentioned it (2012 SCC 3). I guess the work-around would be to run a full-text search of the case name or citation in an SCC judgments database, but those types of searches make me nervous about missing something.
Like Melanie, I feel strongly that searching for judicial consideration should be done with more than one tool. Thanks for sharing this tip!
Use Storify to Save and Send
One of the things that we are careful to do in the Field Law Libraries is to make sure that the output of research is the way that it is needed. There is no sense in providing a printed copy of something if the requester wants to send a tweet about it. Likewise, there is little use in sending someone a short URL if they need to attach something to a printed brief.
Today’s Research tip crosses into technology: Try using Storify to capture information where your research sources are from social medias or the web.
To see a sample of what you can create with storify, check out the sample I made for Commentary about R. v. Dunn.
Find Your Groups
I confess to being a skim-a-holic. I find personal satisfaction in having a really good idea what people in the legal industry are talking, thinking, and writing about.
The problem is that there is a ton of new information. If 3 hours of video is uploaded per minute to YouTube just from mobile devices, how do you determine what to pay attention to? If there are 500,000 new blog posts each day, which are the most meaningful to your work?
My method for narrowing the flood of information to the most succinct and ‘important to me’ trickle is to find groups. Groups in this case are a selection of people whose work (blog posts, Twitter stream, LinkedIn updates, Google+ shares, traditional publications, etc.) alerts me to what is most important.
Not sure where to start? After following Slaw, try browsing the LinkedIn Groups Directory or spending a few minutes browsing the Groups You May Like link from the LinkedIn Menu bar. The groups directory is searchable and the results list shows how active the group is.
In addition to following groups to keep up with your interests, you can also skim open LinkedIn Groups as a source of information about an industry that you are researching.