The Accidental Law Librarian

Hang down your head, O blogger

Good news: I’m back!

Bad news: I was gone long enough to need to announce “I’m back!”

News, neither good nor bad: I need to give you a few updates to The Accidental Law Librarian. They are, in no particular order:

  1. The blog formerly known as The Law Librarian Blog (see chapter 9) is now called simply Law Librarians. You can find it as its new home here.
  2. The Georgetown Law Library research guides page (also in chapter 9) has a new URL here.
  3. The database RIA Checkpoint (see chapter 6) is now Thomson Reuters Checkpoint–same owner, different appellation.
  4. Westlaw’s Librarian Resource Center and LexisNexis’s InfoPro have new URLs.

That is all for now. More updates to come as I run across (aground?) them.


E-books redux

On the subject of e-books and copyright law, I found these 3 posts on the Charlotte Law Library blog. They make up a 3-part series on e-books, the First Sale Doctrine, and their impact on libraries.


To Russia, With Demands

I was sitting in the bath the other day when I realized what would really, really make this blog useful: to share with my readers (both of you) some reference questions from my past and their solutions (if I can remember them). With that in mind, let’s journey back to 2005, when I worked for a prominent mega-law firm in the Southeast. One day, I got the following email:

“XX and I have a case where we likely are going to have to serve a complaint on a Russian individual.  XX mentioned that you previously did some research for him on service in a foreign jurisdiction (I think it was Australia) and was wondering if you could send me some materials regarding what I would need to get our complaint served on a person living in Russia.”

First, note the referral: I did good work for one attorney, XX, so when another attorney had a similar issue, XX told him to start with me. Perfecto.

Anyway, this is a classic question of civil procedure: how to serve a complaint. (A complaint is the document that starts a lawsuit.) The complication, of course, is the foreign jurisdiction.

It’s important to know what your requestor is really asking for. Sometimes, attorneys want an overview or background info. In that case, something like this on the Russian court system would be good. For a more extensive analysis, you might look for a law review article like this. The ultimate write-up, of course, would be a treatise on Russian civil procedure.

This attorney, however, had a how-to question, not a theoretical one. Again, what does the attorney want? Is he looking for a company to serve the complaint? Does he simply want to know how it’s done?

If memory serves, I directed him to the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Published by LexisNexis, it’s the world’s most extensive listing of U.S. and foreign attorneys. Several volumes provide information–more than an overview, less than a treatise–on civil and criminal procedure in other countries. I had done this for the Australia request, too.

Bottom line: For questions involving non-U.S. jurisdictions, Martindale-Hubbell is a great place to start.

A Room with Review

More good stuff about the book:

E-books, copyright, and law libraries

As you know, e-books are now all the rage, and as I discussed in my last post, there is lots to love about them. One question you may have, though: What is the connection of e-books to U.S. copyright law? Below are some resources to check out.

U.S. Copyright Office – The best place to start for any sort of copyright law information.

How Does Copyright Law Apply to E-books? – Primer developed by Pennsylvania State University.

E-book Publishing Copyright Issues – Guide for the self-published.

Has Copyright Law Met Its Match? – A glitch in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act restricting e-book access to the disabled. The American Law Library Association has now turned its attention to this subject.

Curious how e-books are being used in law libraries? Have a look at these resources.

Evaluating eBooks in Law Libraries

The Future of eBooks in Law Firms

Filling Digital Law Libraries: Will eBooks Win?

A little law school humor

Please enjoy this cartoon, drawn by my good friend, Kim Allman.

Exam stress

TALL e-book available

Good news (I think)! The Accidental Law Librarian is now available as an e-book. See my publisher’s page for more details.

As a librarian, I am a bit rococo. When I first thought of switching to this career, I liked the description of librarians as information scientists, harnessing the world’s growing electronic power to connect people with knowledge. The real reason I became, a librarian, is because I love books. Always have.

As a law librarian, I have championed the use of books in legal research. I don’t advocate them to the exclusion of databases and the Internet because . . . well, you can’t. Research just wouldn’t get done in the 21st century if all a person used was books.

But books should not be forgotten. There are times when they get the job done better than any database. Browsing, for instance, is dreadful the electronic way, and there is no substitute for a back-of-the-book index (I’ll write more on this in a later post).

E-books are not quite databases. They function much the same as paper while being cheaper and easier to store. Plus I have gotten fond of Kindle singles–$3 or less–and free samples of full-length books. (My mother-in-law gave me a Kindle for Christmas last year. I had refused to buy one for myself, but my wife intuited from the way I talked about e-readers–more wonder than scorn, apparently–that I would like one. So she made it happen, which is one of the 4,263 reasons I love her.)

All of which is to say: Buy my e-book! Buy my regular book! Either can be read, but only one can function as a door stop. I’ll let you decide which.

Next post: E-books and U.S. copyright law

Another fine review

For another take on TALL, try these words from Digital Carrie: It’s a 95% glowing review. Her only problem is my story about Dan in the introduction. I share some honest but opprobrious feelings in this story (Carrie calls them “tacky”), and their purpose is to humanize the book. TALL is not just a collection of professional advice; it is also an account of my career. When you read the intro, ask yourself this: does it go too far?

So it’s not just me . . .

When I started as a law librarian, I knew diddly about the law. To me, Shepard’s was a pie, a cite was for sore eyes, and don’t get me started on motions to suppress. The main reason I wrote The Accidental Law Librarian was because I figured there were others like me who stumbled into the profession.

How many others? Look at the testimonials in this February 2011 article. Note how often the word “accident” crops up.

First review of TALL

The Accidental Law Librarian is starting to get notices in the blogosphere. First up is Holly the Librarian, who had a “skeptical attitude” about the book but now “absolutely, yes” recommends it. Read her whole review here.