All Our Research Tips
Know What Things Cost
Legal research is only one piece of the larger part of answering a clients legal problem. With the growing trend of fixed fee pricing, alternative fee arrangements, and other pre-arranged cost structures for legal work, it is more important than ever for a researcher to know several things that don’t relate to the problem their research is attempting to answer:
- Is there a fee arrangement that applies to the file being worked on
- Will he client accept research disbursements
- Is there a legal project budget that the research costs should fit into
- Will recorded time for the researcher be billed
Just as lawyers should talk to their clients about the budget before legal work, so to should researchers speak to their stakeholders.
Use Your Camera
Ah innovation. For those of you with a smart phone in your pocket, remember that you have a camera on your device. Why do I remind you of this? Your phone (or tablet) camera can be used to:
- snap a picture of footnote citations
- take a ‘screen shot’ of a live presentation
- “scan” or copy a page of text from a print resource
Hat Tip to my colleague Mark Raven-Jackson.
App recommendation: Scanner Pro on my iPad works great and de-skews for the curve of thick volumes of the Canada Gazette – just saying. Cost $2.99
Successor and Predecessor Tribunal Names
Back in the summer an Alberta bill was proclaimed which caused the name of a decision making tribunal to change. For legal researchers, the important task is knowing what to look for regarding content, and often this means that you have to know who you are looking for.
This tribunal, now called the Alberta Energy Regulator has an excellent website with good methods for accessing their current and previous decisions. Decisions from this tribunal are also available with great coverage in LexisNexis Quicklaw.
Hat Tip for today’s tip goes to Quicklaw, especially for sending out content announcements like this one from November 14, 2013:
Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board Has New Name
In response to the Responsible Energy Development Act, proclaimed in June, the Alberta Energy Regulator succeeds the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and takes on all its regulatory functions.
Given this change, please note that the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board source on Quicklaw has been renamed Alberta Energy Regulator and now includes decisions rendered by both tribunals.
Translation Help With TERMIUM Plus
Today’s Tip is about our languages thanks to a tweet from Susannah Tredwell, Manager of Library Service at Davis LLP in Vancouver.
Susannah shared news about TERMIUM Plus (R), the Canadian Government’s terminology and linguistic data bank.
What is in this data bank? According to the site:
- Almost 4 million English and French terms;
- More than 18,000 Portuguese terms;
- More than 200,000 Spanish terms;
- More than 4,000 monthly updates;
- Accurate, specialized and up-to-date terminology;
- The Government of Canada´s standardization tool;
- 17 diverse and user-friendly writing tools.
A quadralingual databank gives the precise English, French or Spanish or Portuguese equivalent for everything from plants, diseases, machines and tools. TERMIUM Plus also contains the meanings of very specialized terms and offers a writing assistance tool. Legal terms are included in the data bank with very specific source cites and context provided with complementary documents for many records.
There is a companion app that offers the ability to to find terms in both official languages available Apple and Blackberry devices and a mobile friendly web app for other devices.
Slawyers who need to ensure the accuracy of terms and phrases should check it out.
It is pretty easy to remember to look for legislation that applies to an issue. In the legal research card game legislation trumps case law unless an argument can be made that the legislation is wrong or should in turn be trumped by some other legislation - the Charter is a Joker.
Some legal research arguments require a searcher to be aware of policies. All kinds of policy references appear in judicial decisions including this reference to Peter Hogg at para 107 of Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72 (CanLII).
The doctrines of overbreadth, disproportionality and arbitrariness are all at bottom intended to address what Hamish Stewart calls “failures of instrumental rationality”, by which he means that the Court accepts the legislative objective, but scrutinizes the policy instrument enacted as the means to achieve the objective. If the policy instrument is not a rational means to achieve the objective, then the law is dysfunctional in terms of its own objective.
Today’s Tip: Remember to look for policies. Thanks to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta for their email reminders of policy updates for inspiring this tip.
Researching federal legislation can be fascinating particularly historical legislation. The Canadian spirit of the times can gleaned from the content and context of our legislation. As
frustrated ambivalent challenged as this might make you feel when reading the current debates, thankfully available on the wonderful LEGISinfo site, looking at debates from the past is both interesting and potentially useful for legal research.
This fall, the Library of Parliament, in collaboration with Canadiana.org, launched its Historical Debates of the Parliament of Canada digital portal. The portal makes the debates of the House of Commons and the Senate for the 1st Parliament 1st Session (November 6, 1867-May 22, 2868) available for viewing through search and browse in both official languages.
What a lovely gift of Canadian heritage.
Attend Vendor Delivered Training
The people who know most about what features a product has are the people who made it.
Despite our constant practice using the information tools that we subscribe to and use, the library team members at my firm take opportunities to attend training sessions offered by our vendor and industry partners. Whether it is a YouTube video, a webinar, a demo at a conference, or a visit to an exhibit hall booth, there is always something new to take in.
Today’s Tip applies to research tools, but equally to any software. Hat Tip to my document management provider, Worldox, for the excellent short webinar this afternoon. I have a new plan for promoting tagging of research saved on a file!
Finding Previous URLs
Today’s Tip is a story: I was asked to find what a particular web-available document would have read in the early 2000s. This is a pretty typical request for a law librarian. The general strategy:
- Is the current version on a website? (yes)
- Is the point in time version archived on that site? (no)
- Plug the site into Internet Archive and locate.
Which works unless the domain for the website has changed. If it has, where do you find the previous website address? Here are a few tips:
- If it is a business or organization that publishes something, look in their publications from the time prior to when their website capture on Internet Archive starts.
- Textbooks on the topic you are interested in (from the time preiod required) may have an appendix that includes websites.
- Historical copies of books like The Canadian Almanac and Directory may have your URL.
- A last resort would be a search of court or tribunal decisions for your target and “www” (remember when we used to put that in a web site address?)
CourtListener – Access to U.S. Decisions
Thanks to an intriguing post at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog today’s tip is to check out CourtListener for access to US decisions.
CourtListener is a core project of the Free Law Project, a non-profit with the lofty and laudable goals of providing free, public, and permanent access to primary legal materials and to develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful for legal research (among other things),
CourtListener has a clean, easy interface, clear messaging on coverage, and the ability to filter by percedential decisions, which they have over 2.2 million of. Check it out.
CourtListener has created the first API for U.S. court opinions. As Bob said: “Essentially what that means is that other computers can talk to Free Law’s computers and use its data and search engine for their own purposes.” Cool that this is available to our U.S. colleagues. CanLII’s API information is here.
Find the Slide Deck
I gave a presentation today to the CBA Alberta Branch Research Lawyers South section. The slide deck is available on my LinkedIn profile. Posting the slide deck reminded me that interesting bits of information are available in slide decks posted all over the web.
For a slide deck starting point, check out professional associations and organizations past conferences. Try company websites and blogs, lawblogs.ca is a good place to start for firms. SlideShare is a social platform specifically for sharing and searching presentation information.
Don’t believe me that legal people share their slides? Check out this recent post from the All About Information blog.