Monthly Archives: October 2008

Friday Fun: Halloween Edition

A great new video from our friends at Common Craft…this is must-see viewing before heading out tonight!

Zombies in Plain English

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Twitter Legal Resources

I’m planning a more extensive post on Twitter, but I thought I would send on these great links now:

Legal News Feeds on Twitter

145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter

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Options For Web Searching

Using the open web for legal research isn’t always the best idea, especially if you are using Google. Millions and millions of often irrelevant results and paid advertising, make for a time-consuming endeavor.

A great article on some new options was recently published in the Legal Technology section of law.com (Reading the Future of Web Search). Two law-related search engines that aren’t mentioned in the article, but should have been are Westlaw WebPlus (only available when logged onto Westlaw) and LexisWeb (currently in a free beta). Both of these search engines offer many of the advantages mentioned in the article, but with a focus on the legal resources. Perhaps this is the future of web search for lawyers.

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Hot Off the Press

Some new resources that caught my eye…

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From the Trenches Survey Series…Results!

Although the total number of responses was small, the results were very interesting, especially in light of all the recent news. To get some perspective, almost all of the responses came from library managers and directors at firms of 201 or more attorneys, and the overwhelming majority had between 6 and 30 Fall Associates this year.

According to the results, 50% said that the size of their class was the same as last year,  20% said it was larger, and only one firm had no Fall Associates. 90% said that the Associates arrived the same time this year as they did last year. This seems contrary to what is being reported on blogs and in the legal news. I was especially interested in whether there were any changes to the date of arrival compared to last year, but there doesn’t seem to be a significant change at the firms in this survey.

Two-thirds of the respondents “love” this time of year, one-third “loathe” this time, and one commented on their indifference. The majority, 77%, get 30 minutes or more on the orientation schedule. I did get one comment from a librarian, with a sizable class of 16 – 20 Fall Associates, who got zero time on the orientation schedule. I hope that this is an aberration, so please feel free to comment if you have any best practices on how librarians can be a formal part of the orientation process.

Although this can be a stressful time of year, it is certainly an opportunity to impact the young attorneys, and, hopefully, cultivate some library champions.

I hope that this information is useful or at least interesting! Our next survey will be up soon, so please check back!

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Things that might change soon…

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Friday Fun

Signs that your law firm might be in trouble from The Snark. See #5 for my personal favorite…

1. People start doing strange things, such as taking vacations or long weekends. Even without gas to get anywhere, “vacation” is a much better excuse for not billing hours than not having any work. And since no one takes a vacation when they have work, days off can be a sign of a slowdown.

2. The holiday party gets downsized. You know your firm is hurting when you get this e-mail announcement: “This year Biglaw has decided to go green for the annual Holiday Party. In the spirit of sustainability and eco-awareness, we are moving the party from the un-energy-efficient Grand Ballroom at Five Star Hotel to a quaint, family-owned country farm that grows organic cotton and raises grain-fed, free-range, opera-loving chickens. Everyone will get one glass and one plate to use throughout the night to save costs — oops, I mean to save the earth. And no band this year, because of the wasteful energy sucked by those high-powered (and expensive) amps. Instead, we will have a harp player from the local music school (the managing partner’s grandniece — no charge!). Please come and join the fun!”

3. Basic services and perks start to evaporate. The firm also may cut some costs in tight times by eliminating nonbillable staff positions or perks. But they’ll make these changes sound like something done for your benefit and totally unconnected to the bottom line.

4. Billable hours dry up. As Cogs, we all know our function in life is to bill hours. When partners stop calling you and asking you to research mundane areas of the law for hours on end, you need to worry.

5. Partners start doing their own work. The final and most telling sign that times are tough at Biglaw is when you find yourself in this conversation:

Cog: “Hey Partner, it’s Cog. I just wanted to see if you had time to discuss the brief you wanted me to write today.”

Partner: “No need, Cog. I went ahead and started a draft yesterday and will be making revisions today. I went to the firm library and pulled down some cases from the books on the shelves. They really need to dust in there. I may call you if my secretary is at lunch when I need to enter my changes into that word-processing thing-a-ma-gig. But otherwise, I think I have it under control.”

Partners doing legal research and writing memos and briefs in longhand is a sign of the apocalypse and proof that Biglaw is not immune to a bad economy.

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Chief Justice Roberts Discusses Legal Research

In a speech at Drake University on October 2, CJ Roberts focused on the use of technology in the practice of law, particularly as it relates to legal research. The audio file can be found here RadioIowa. I listened to the speech, and it is very interesting. He starts by taking a look at the role of legal research from ancient Greece right up to the resources that are now available on the Supreme Court web site. Some quotes that I found important:

“Too much information can be as problematic as too little.” 19:48

“Law libraries…are increasingly vacant as students and lawyers gather legal materials from their desks through personal computers.” 25:20

“Finding the law is now not such an important or illusive skill…” 27:11

“This technology is simply a tool and tools can be misused.” 27:43

“Blind reliance on research that focuses merely on words and not on concepts, poses the same hazards that lawyers encountered in the late 19th Century. Lawyers run the risk that word searches will uncover reams of marginally relevant precedent superficially on point distracting lawyers from engaging in critical analysis or structuring of the underlying legal principles.” 27:49

“We judges can access raw data too. What we look for from lawyers is help making sense of it all.” 28:40

“Value in thinking outside the box…but the key word is thinking.” 29:07

The speech is only 30 minutes long, and I would highly recommend that you listen if you get a chance.

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From the Trenches Survey Series: Reminder

Just a reminder about the inaugural survey in our new series. I’d like to publish the findings next week, so please take a minute and answer a few 100% anonymous questions about your new Fall associates.

Click Here to take survey

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An Inspiration to Start the Week

Seth Godin presented at the SLA annual meeting this year, and he was amazing. I have been subscribing to his blog ever since. Thought-provoking posts are regularly featured, and this one from Friday was no different…enjoy!

“Everyone isn’t going to be a leader. But everyone isn’t going to be successful, either.

Success is now the domain of people who lead. That doesn’t mean they’re in charge, it doesn’t mean they are the CEO, it merely means that for a group, even a small group, they show the way, they spread ideas, they make change. Those people are the only successful people we’ve got.”

Seth’s Blog

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