AALL Vendor Colloquium Keynote Part Two

Legal Research/Publishing Trends
Continuing her remarks, Roberta Shaffer, law librarian of Congress, noted that we know little of how lawyers think about how they research. We know eye movements, but we don’t know the intellectual process – the ambiguous reasoning they go through as they research. One of our collective challenges is figuring out how to understand the process and how to quantify and quality control test it.“Authority,” traditionally related to hierarchy or jurisdiction maturity or Hart’s Rule or Frequency based on frequency of citations, is evolving:

  1. availability as authority, namely the more widely and frequently available a source, the greater the authority accorded to that source
  2. consensus through tweets or blogs

Thus, authority now comes from more places, namely blawgs and blogs, and is less structured because there’s no publisher/editorial review of the blogs.

While much legal content still originates in print, more content is starting digital and remaining digital. This makes it easier for more people to enter the legal publishing “space.”

The sciences have adopted digital publishing faster than the law; perhaps because of law’s reliance on precedence and an outmoded self-perception that books or print is more scholarly for lawyers than online. In addition, science often thinks that the “answer” is found through experimentation rather than researching in existing content.

Changing Players and Roles on the [Legal] Information Field
This part of Shaffer’s presentation began with alliteration: “contents, conduits, contexts, and conductors – who are the legal information publishers, pirates, passers-by, pre-publishers, post-publishers, protectors and purveyors?”

With all of today’s rapid changes, what’s the business model and criteria used to acquire, develop, market, refresh, and maintain content? What are the new skill sets needed by researchers, librarians, and publishers?

Librarians and publishers need to combine the innovation of companies like Apple with the customer service focus of companies like Zappos. Shaffer believes that once you have a reputation for innovation, consumers will trust you more than before. Zappos believes customers are its primary reason for existing. They test applicants on their abilities to make decisions on the fly to solve customers’ problems

Shaffer challenged publishers to innovate and take risks like Apple, while being highly customer service oriented like Zappos – empowering the customer service person to make decisions.

She also noted a recent Outsell study that found content producers with libraries had a higher ROI than those without.

Discussion Points
This portion of the presentation was question/answer with some discussions. (The questions and answers below are paraphrased and not an exact transcript.)

Q: Why are fewer readers going to law reviews to identify trends?

A: Because of the “scholarly” language used by law reviews. Readers expect shorter sentences, shorter articles, shorter words; look at the vocabulary and the text of the New York Times magazine and the New Yorker, which use simpler language now than they did previously. Law reviews are too theoretical and do not include enough fact matching or practical value.

Scientists now use conversations and electronic journals instead of traditional print. That scientific communication may be a marker of how legal scholarly communication may evolve. Further external drivers may come from scholars from other disciplines training in law – their communication style will change the legal communication style.

Q: There’s a lag time for legal publishers in bringing e-books to market because of difficulties with negotiating contracts with Apple and Amazon for e-books. How is the Library of Congress preparing for e-books?

A: The Library of Congress is concerned about e-books. LC adds about 12 percent of the exemplars submitted for copyright to the collection. LC uses the rest in their exchange programs with other national libraries.  If the exemplar is electronic, what can LC do with it?

Shaffer noted concerns for authenticity and preservation of e-content as primary right now.

Q: What could stop society’s current trend of self-selecting information (resulting in silos) and return to more shared common-knowledge?

A: This trend may not be a bad thing. More important than knowing the same stuff is to have the ability to develop a basis to build a collaborative team. “Common knowledge” may be an anachronism; the “Three Rs” of education inadequately define what people need to know. A collaboration model where disparate individuals and groups learn from each other tends to produce better solutions.

Large publishers are silos; their legal, science, and business divisions have different business models and different content collections and delivery. There is an opportunity for collaboration if the publishers break down these silos.

As an example of collaboration, the LC used GIS to link addresses of new patents to show where innovation is happening in the United States. This information can have an impact of government spending to encourage and enhance areas of innovation.

Q: Are different sources for legal information (blogs and podcasts) increasing in importance? Why?

A: There are fewer barriers of entrance for these sources. But, what kind of authority are they? By consensus? How do librarians respond? By managing them, maintaining them, and creating access to them?

Q: If libraries began storing and organizing blogs and other new web-based sources, could they become authority?

A: Yes, if we take the science model as an example, but scientists tend to believe the answer doesn’t already exist and must be found through experiment.

One vendor participant noted that bloggers may become the new treatise authors, which leads to a host of additional questions. What kind of publication is it? If it’s co-mingled, where does the copyright ownership lie?

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February 2011

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