All Our Research Tips
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.
Through opportunities presented by the Canadian Association of Law Libraries and through my firm, I was able to attend the American Association of Law Libraries conference this year. I learned some things and met a bunch of great folks, including Sarah Mauldin, Director of Library Services at Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP who inspired this post.
I have talked about “Phone a Friend” in past tips, more than once. While I haven’t specified reaching out to contacts in other jurisdictions, it is worth a research tip mention.
You can find excellent contacts, and make friends who like Karaoke, by attending conferences. You can also make contacts by following the Contact Us links on websites that have teaser information or published writings that look promising.
Warm greetings to my AALL buddies.
When You Can’t Find a Textbook
Research issues can be very specific – either in the time period for information or in the minutia of the topic. For those questions, the commentary material near to hand may not have your answers. Today’s tip shares some approaches.
- Look at reissues or recently released encyclopedias (the CED, Halsbury’s Laws of Canada)
- Look for legal news articles (Lawyer’s Weekly, Canadian Lawyer, Law Times)
- Look at bar association or law society newsletters (CBA National)
- Look at law blogs (lawblogs.ca)
- Look at law journals and topical journal publications (I use the Index to Canadian Legal Literature first and full text searching second)
Words That Lead to Sources
Emond Montgomery Publications, a respected Canadian Legal publisher, has a super resource available (with a free login and password) for going from a legal word to sources of legal commentary. It is found on the EMP website using the “Click for free legal glossary” link in the site header to get to the Glossary of Legal Terms.
Unlike many legal dictionaries, the terms are not just defined, or defined using judicial decision references, rather the definitions are derived from within the catalog of Emond Montgomery Publications.
Following the source links under a definition will net you possibilities for purchasing the title (including buying it with an immediate download option.
Sample glossary term:
accelerate demand immediate payment
Today’s Tip is about using this resource (and glossaries in general) to help identify the specific area of law that the key term is leading you to. EMP, like other legal publishers, offers up the table of contents for their titles so that you can see details (keywords) about the type of book that would contain the glossary term.
Irwin Law’s Canadian Online Legal Dictionary is another online legal dictionary that offers legal textbook references.
I would much start with author commentary on a legal term than judicial commentary. Textbooks lead to decisions, but decisions don’t always lead back to texts.
Note Up Legislation – Old School
Yesterday I whined a little about how hyperlinks and convenient search tools may be making for lazy researching. Today’s Tip is a reminder about how to search for judicial consideration of a statue section without using those convenient tools in CanLII, Quicklaw and Westlaw . If you are looking for cases that consider section 119 of the Health Professions Act, RSA 2000, c H-7 you could use the legislation note up shortcut tools that are provided with your favourite service OR you can search within any full text case law database with this formula:
“name of act” /10 #
Stated in words, the search is: act name as a phrase within 10 words of the section number. Using my example, the search looks like this:
“Health Professions Act” /10 119
Here are the CanLII results filtered for Alberta for the above search.
Look for Groups
I like to learn from others. Stories and experiences and pain points that are described by other people inspire ideas for projects or methods that can be adopted to make things better/faster/more efficient in my organization.
Conference attendance is an important aspect of group interaction for me. There are other ways to connect with groups rather than in person.
- Newsletters and other reading material from special interest groups
- Local events
- LinkedIn groups
What is your favourite source for inspiration from a group?
Get That URL From Someone Else
My very first Slaw Tip back in January 2011 was titled Read that URL. Today’s tip is a reminder of that along with a twisty question.
- Libraries provide links to web sources (The sources are things on the web which means they move around)
- Libraries update their links when websites move (Quickly, because we use the links that we provide for our own research work)
- Why are you keeping extensive bookmarks that you have to update yourself?
Read the URL you are navigating to AND don’t waste your time looking for things that are on your firm’s intranet or your local law library links page. Don’t have an intranet at your shop? Check out the Practice Portals from the Courthouse Libraries BC for a great example of link collecting work that you can leave to others.