The Computing Services Special Interest Section is made up of awesome law librarians doing interesting things.   The CS-SIS Member Spotlight is designed to shine a light on our membership so that we can learn more about each other and stay connected.

CS-SIS Member Spotlight:  Shay Elbaum

Allow me to introduce Shay Elbaum, Secretary/Treasurer of CS-SIS, and a reference librarian at Stanford Law School.  A Michigan native, Shay earned his undergraduate degree in linguistics from McGill University in Montreal. He returned to the University of Michigan to complete his JD, where he focused on federal Indian law (influenced by time spent working in the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory between undergrad and law school) and worked at the Native American Rights Fund during and after law school, followed by a clerkship with Justice Joel Bolger of the Alaska Supreme Court. During law school, however, Shay worked on the library reference desk and was fond of time spent in the law library.  Lo and behold, positive library experiences and encouragement from his law librarian mentors led Shay to pursue his MLIS from Simmons College rather than follow a path into indigenous law practice.

Shay arrived at Stanford fresh from his MLIS program, with stints as a student worker in the libraries of Brandeis University and Northeastern University School of Law. His work includes tech projects that may be of interest to CS-SIS members. While at Brandeis, he built Jurisdoctopus, a game that introduces students to the U.S. legal system with help from an octopus-shaped alien from the planet Gravlax.  (He built the game using Twine, a Cool Tools Café product featured by Becka Rich at the AALL meeting in 2018. Jurisdoctopus is a cool application of a cool tool!)  He is also working with a colleague on an interactive visualization of legal sources and their connections, using Cytoscape.js to illustrate nodes (e.g., the U.S.C. and C.F.R.) and their links (e.g., the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules).  Check out a proof-of-concept version at http://shelbaum.com/network/.  Shay’s also been involved in building a database to complement a faculty member’s research on a particular procedural tool in huge multi-district cases.  More recently, he has been helping explore digital hosting options for his school’s law journals.

When Shay isn’t serving as one of the Stanford Law Library’s go-tos for tech, he is answering reference questions, working with faculty, providing training, or co-teaching an advanced legal research course.  He loves the diversity of tasks librarianship offers.  What he values most about being a law librarian, however, is having the ability to learn about nearly anything and share that power with others. Put another way, he likes being able to “tangibly help people” with the “ability to comprehend and translate weird and complicated systems.”

As a dabbler in tech, Shay found CS-SIS to be a good community in which to cultivate his interests.  He graciously agreed to serve on our blog committee after being recruited from CONELL and contributed a great article, Data Services in the Law Library, on supporting empirical research.  He appreciates holding a leadership position within the section and hopes CS-SIS can amp up educational opportunities outside of our AALL meeting.  He’s particularly interested in comparing the use of technology across different types of libraries.  He hopes these kinds of educational programs can help build our CS-SIS community.

To close on a more personal note, Shay finds joy in his 20-minute bike commute and the great biking infrastructure and weather in his neighborhood.  He considers himself an “obligatory reader” as a librarian and has recently enjoyed the Paper Girls series by Brian K. Vaughan.  Though he prefers Kindle for travel, Shay still considers the print book a great technology.   Three cheers for Shay and his membership in CS-SIS and for all technology, print or otherwise.

Thanks to Shay for his willingness to be interviewed for this CS-SIS member spotlight.   If you are interested in interviewing and writing a blog post about a CS-SIS member, please contact Tawnya Plumb at tplumb@uwyo.edu.  It is a great opportunity to learn about a fellow member.

 

What is a docket exactly? The best way to describe it is the various forms that a case takes throughout its circuition, embodied as different types of documents as the case progresses over time. Once a case is filed it enters the court system where it is tracked on the docket. Eventually the docket grows to contain the complete history of a given case (from filing to final decisions). Usually the docket begins with an initial complaint, and evolves to include all sorts of other filings. There are many ways to search for dockets. Among the most cutting-edge docket search tools on the market today is Bloomberg Law’s Docket Key, which just keeps getting better.

docket key search

Image courtesy Bloomberg Law’s Product Help Page & Dockets Overview

In a press release last Wednesday, Bloomberg Law announced that their docket filing classification system “Docket Key” now encompasses all federal district courts as part of the system’s scope. This expands the reach of a great search tool which already uses machine learning to identify more than 20 categories of filings (including motions, complaints, notices, briefs, and orders). According to the press release, the repository contains “over 210 million docket entries” plus more being added every day.

Although basic legal research courses in many law schools primarily focus on LexisNexis or Westlaw training, Bloomberg Law has some powerful tools to offer with their AI-engineered products. Their selection provides the essentials found within other legal-document specific collections, and additionally streamlines the docket-retrieval process by placing access to all Federal courts in a single location. From the Tech At Bloomberg’s blog post in 2019 we get a better picture of how Docket Key uses basic text classification, and then treats dockets with slight variations depending on the particular court. Fulya Erdinc, lead of Bloomberg Law’s Machine Learning Engineering team comments:

“There can be lots of entries, and attorneys can be looking for a specific type of filing… by classifying those entries to the type of filing they’re looking for, we can accelerate this process… the challenge is that courts can differ in how they format the entries and the included text. For example, Federal Courts in California and Texas differ from other Federal Courts in how the entries are captured… we developed separate models for those courts.”

If you are just getting started with Dockets in Bloomberg Law, I encourage you to read through their short but sweet product walk through, where you can easily navigate to Docket Key in the left-menu and find screencaptures (like the one pictured here), a guide to searching, and other helpful links. Have you explored Docket Key since it was expanded to include all Federal courts? What are your other favorite AI-powered tools for conducting legal research? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

 

 

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The AALL CPE Committee and PEGA-SIS will include CS-SIS members in “So You Wanna Be A Law Techie?”

CS-SIS member C.J. Pipins will facilitate a conversation with CS-SIS members Jennifer Wondracek and Kenton Brice, as well as Andre Davison about improving tech skills and current awareness.

“So You Wanna be a Law Techie?  ” Thursday, February 13, 2 pm – 2:30 pm EST

For More information and registration:  bit.ly/BeALawTechieFeb13

 

Libraries have a long history of gathering statistics at all levels. National associations and accrediting agencies such as ALA and ARL, as well as states and consortia gather and use statistics to set benchmarks and provide comparison across libraries. Individual libraries use statistics to inform all kinds of decisions including collections, staffing, physical space allocation and usage, etc. 

With all these different data points and possible things to highlight, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of numbers, or stuck in a routine, and lose sight of the reasons why we’re gathering all this data and how it can actually help us. 

Some things are tracked for so long we forget why we started tracking them in the first place, and usually don’t stop to think whether we should still be tracking them. An example of this from our library is the number of “click-throughs” in our catalog from a bib record through a link displayed as “Content, Cover & More” (shown below as Content Cafe). This statistic might be worthwhile if we used the number of “click-throughs” to determine whether or not to continue paying for the linked service each year, but we don’t. It’s currently just a number we track and then do nothing with. (Another obvious example from the screenshot below that JUST popped out at me while I was writing this is the fact that we track link clicks from bib records to “Alta Vista” which was taken over by Yahoo! in 2003…)

* Honestly, while writing this I’ve been asking myself why we’re tracking ANY of these “click-throughs” and will be doing a full review of this set of statistics ASAP.

When I was trained to gather the statistics for which I’m responsible, I wasn’t really given an explanation of what every number means, or why we track certain things. At different times over the years I remember thinking I should do this kind of evaluation, but it usually only occurred to me once a month/year when it was time to gather the statistics, and I was either “too busy” to do it right then, or would tell myself I’d “do it later” (and never did). So when it came time for me to train someone else to take over certain statistics, I still didn’t have that information to share. We’ve now had at least 4 different people tracking the same statistics over a 10 year period (or longer) without a real review of why or whether we should continue to track some of this data.

Now that I am painfully aware there are things I need to review, I will make this a priority and do a complete evaluation of all the statistics I track, focusing especially on what and why. Once that’s complete, I can get to the “fun” referenced in the title of this post–all the things I can do with this data!

I’d still consider myself a novice when it comes to data visualization, but it’s something I will be spending more time on in the coming months once I finish my evaluation. For others who are beginners to data visualization, this post might be a good place to start. For those with some expertise in Javascript, you might be better off starting with some of the tools in this post. Don’t forget that many of the tools and platforms we already use in our libraries come with dashboards that do some of this for you (see the readership map from our bepress Digital Commons dashboard below).

 

You can pretty much visualize anything now, so once you’ve evaluated your statistics and know they’re meaningful, take this opportunity to think about who you need/want to share this information with and get creative with how you do it!

To conclude, a shameless plug for our program on this topic at AALL in New Orleans—

“Data, Stats, Go: Navigating the Intersections of Cataloging, E-Resource and Web Analytics Reporting”

Speakers: Racehl Evans (Metadata Services Librarian at UGA Law Library), Wendy Moore (Associate Director for Collection Services at UGA Law Library), Andre Davison (Research Technology Manager at Blank Rome LLP) and me.

P.S.

Horror stories of long-forgotten statistics or success stories of revamped stats welcome! Please comment below or email me if you’re willing to let us share your story in our program this summer (hanesjl@umich.edu).

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Please consider nominating someone you know for the following AALL awards. Deadlines for submission are noted below.

The following awards have a deadline of February 3, 2020:

The following award has a deadline of March 1, 2020:

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers Award, Open, New Member, or Short Division

The following award has a deadline of May 15, 2020:

AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers Award, Student Division

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

Last year, CS-SIS polled its members to discuss the future of our SIS. A recurring theme in that poll was the idea that perhaps our name isn’t serving us well. This year, the CS-SIS leadership created a task force to take on a potential re-branding of CS-SIS. Does “computing services” describe what we do? If not, what would?

Please take just a moment to use your force (see what I did there) to shape the future of our SIS.

1) Weigh In 
Should we re-brand? CS-SIS Rebranding Survey

2) Get Creative
Vote on potential names or submit your own ideas. https://www.tricider.com/admin/3KCRwI3t44t/AvVjNwBrPHD

3) Help Us
Let us know if you have other thoughts about how this process should move forward, and we will take them to the leadership. Contact Amanda Watson if you’re interested at awatson@central.uh.edu

It’s time to nominate yourself or a fellow CS-SIS member for Vice-Chair (serves the first year as Vice-Chair and the following year as Chair) and Member-At-Large (serves a two-year term).

The CS-SIS Nominations Committee needs your help filling these two positions.  If you or someone you know would like to be more involved in CS-SIS in a leadership role, please send Eric Young a nomination.  Your nomination(s) must be sent to Eric no later than Friday, January 24, 2020. Self-nominations are more than welcome!

Once a slate of candidates is determined, CS-SIS members will receive information about voting via the online balloting platform. CS-SIS will share results with its membership as soon as possible after elections (likely mid-March).

If you have any questions about the nomination or election process, please reach out to Eric Young.

Being aware of technology and expanding our network is so important to being able to effectively and efficiently accomplish our work as information professionals. Attending and participating in ABA TECHSHOW is an opportunity to increase knowledge and awareness of the topics and tools in legal technology.  If you want to read more about ABA TECHSHOW 2020, visit https://www.techshow.com.

To facilitate attendance, the CS-SIS Executive Board has established a travel grant for ABA TECHSHOW. The application deadline is January 6, 2020, so don’t delay! We set the deadline early so that the grant recipient can register in time to take advantage of the early bird registration pricing.

You may be wondering how, after attending ABA TECHSHOW, you can get more involved. Perhaps you might be interested in joining the ABA Law Practice Division. With the ABA staff, LPD is responsible for organizing ABA TECHSHOW. By joining you may get a discount on ABA TECHSHOW registration in the future. You might also consider proposing a program for the next ABA TECHSHOW. Submitting a proposal doesn’t ensure that you will be selected by the ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board to speak, but it doesn’t hurt.  I usually Tweet about the proposal deadline and post on the CS-SIS Blog when proposals are being accepted. If you visit the ABA TECHSHOW 2020 Faculty page, you will find several CS-SIS members who are speaker at ABA TECHSHOW this year, including Kenton Brice, Debbie Ginsberg, Jennifer Wondracek, and myself.

Take advantage of the opportunity to apply for the CS-SIS Grant! If you are not a CS-SIS member, consider joiningThe CS-SIS is always looking for new members dedicated to serving all the information needs of their users with the aid of developing technologies.

Looking for a last-minute holiday gift to give your tech-loving friend or family member? From high-tech to low-tech and even tech-adjacent, you’ve come to the right place!

From cheapest to most expensive, here are our suggestions:

  1. Legacybox, prices vary
  2. Create Your Own Reel Viewer, $14.95 – $29.95
  3. MOFT Laptop Stand, $29.99
  4. Pac-Man Connect and Play – 12 Classic Games, $26.99
  5. Dry-Erase Desktop Computer Pad, $29.28
  6. Retro Game Console, $30.98
  7. Pura Smart Home Diffuser, $39
  8. Portable Roll-up Bluetooth Keyboard, $55.20
  9. HP Sprocket Select Portable Photo Printer, $129.85
  10. Gaming/Office Chair, $149.99
  11. Wireless Charging Accessory Tray, $175
  12. Gamer Infinity Rx Ultra 300, $1969

Thanks to our CS-SIS members for their suggestions and contributions to this list!

This Cool Tools story begins with a British American entrepreneur named Joshua Browder who grew up in London.  He started driving at the age of 18 and incurred numerous parking tickets.   This got him thinking about the ticket structure in general.  He was non-plussed that the tickets seemed to disproportionately target the elderly and disabled, and he recognized the formulaic nature of the appeal process.  Having taught himself to code by age 12, Joshua created the web-based DoNotPay chatbot to help others navigate the parking ticket appeal process efficiently.   The chatbot is said to have saved motorists in the UK and New York an estimated $5 million dollars.

These days, DoNotPay can assist freely with:

efficiently scheduling your visit to the DMV by pinging for cancelled appointments, expediting TSA PreCheck enrollment, and registering you for the National Do Not Call List (Government Paperwork).

contesting your parking, speeding, red light, and toll booth tickets in New York and California (Traffic Disputes).

generating demand letters for breach of contract, housing issues, or personal injury claims (Customer Service Issues / I am owed $500+).

canceling subscriptions, appealing bank fees, and getting you free food by completing your food surveys (Find Hidden Money).

DoNotPay is only available on current iPhone or iPad (iOS 11.0 or later) devices and is free of charge.  After downloading the app, however, you are required to connect it with your bank account.  (This caused me to pause and investigate further.  DoNotPay uses Plaid for its banking transactions, a platform that is well regarded and is used by venmo.)   DoNotPay requires bank account access to send you any money reclaimed from corporations or the government, to process any voluntary contributions (tips) made in the app, and to process any external government/corporation fees to help you complete your task.

DoNotPay’s most recent feature, DoNotSign, allows users to upload licensing language which the app will then review to highlight warnings and loopholes.  This service, which comes with a monthly fee of $3, debuted in November and is currently only available in the United States.

This story continues as Joshua, now a Stanford graduate, has secured an additional $4.6 million in seed money in 2019 from Silicon Valley investors to further develop DoNotPay. This funding has permitted expansion of services into new jurisdictions, perhaps with one near you.  Although the app refers to itself as “The World’s First Robot Lawyer,” a debatable claim by those familiar with artificial intelligence, it is a contributing player in the access to justice movement.