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Zotero, master your resources

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

For researchers, it is crucial to organize resources you have gathered in an efficient way.  We know how overwhelming it could be to keep up with new information and organize them under existing resources.  Now, Zotero just made your life whole lot easy.  With Zotero, you can create a rich digital repository of annotated, highlighted sources, with attachments and keywords.   Zotero is a research tool for managing online references.  It is developed by the Center for history and New Media at George Mason University and provides users with automated access to bibliographic information for resources viewed online.  It is a free download that can be installed on any computer running Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as with the older 2.x (Mozilla based) versions of Flock.   I wish it could work on Google chrome as well, however, under the current version, it is not compatible with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari.  However,  it seems like compatibility problem will be soon solved as Zotero announced that Zotero Stand alone Alpha works not only with Firefox but also with the Chrome and Safari browsers via browser-specific plugins.  However, it is still in test phase and there are still kinks being worked out.  So, I would wait until new version becomes more stable, till then, I recommend using the 2.0.9 version instead of 2.1, especially so if you are a current user who wouldn’t want to risk losing data saved in library.

Zotero actually has quite many functions: It mainly comprise of collecting, organizing, citing, synchronizing, and collaborating.  After browsing through Zotero, I thought it is somewhat similar to delicious in a way, but more focused for researchers and writers, providing more comprehensive collection of information.  Following is basics of how Zotero works.

Perhaps the most important feature of Zotero is its ability to sense when you search online.  Zotero senses information through site translators. The translators that allow Zotero to access web-based bibliographic information have been written for institutional libraries, the Library of Congress, databases such as LexisNexis, archiving services such as JSTOR, newspapers, and hundreds of other organizations around the world.  (more information on compatible sites list is available here).  If you are looking at the record for a book on an online library catalog, Zotero’s book icon will appear in Firefox’s location bar where URL appears.  You then have to simply click on the icon to save all of the citation information about the book into your library.  If a web page includes multiple sources, the application lets the user save some or all of the sources at one time.  Users can then add notes, tags, and their own metadata through the in-browser interface.   Selections of the local reference library data can later be exported as formatted bibliographies. Furthermore, all entries including bibliographic information and memos users added to the selected articles can be summarized into an HTML report.

Zotero library allows users to group sources in different combinations for different projects, review sources from varying perspective, enabling users to see interdisciplinary connections that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Users may locate sources in library based on keywords found in any of the data fields or notes the user has added to that source.  Also, users can take a snapshot of an online resource and add highlights or annotations to these snapshots.  If there are sources that does not interact with Zotero, yet necessary for your research, you can manually add those items to library, allowing a centralized location for gathering and storing references, significantly streamlining the research process.

Since I was new to this online research reference tool, it took me a while to figure out how the system works.  But, it has very good tutorials under the support tab of the main webpage and walks you step by step to get accustomed to the system.  I was quite astonished by Zotero’s current service, yet it keeps surprising me with more tools.  Among many of development and upgrades Zotero is currently working on, Mutilingual Zotero really grabbed my attention.  Multilingual Zotero, which is in final phase of testing, is a groundbreaking tool that can automatically capture, organize and correctly format items enriched with translated and transliterated multilingual data.  When this service comes through, I am sure that it would make so many people’s lives easy, especially in this era where using resources from multiple countries became common.

Through this class, I realized how behind I was with current technology and learned how these new tools can really make difference in my work.  I am really glad that I learned of these wonderful, yet free websites, before I walking out of law school.

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A portal that has it all

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Throughout this course, I have learned of numerous websites providing information for free.  I was quite astonished to learn that there are so many of them out there.  We are truly blessed to live in a time where so much information is readily available (or too much perhaps).  But, having all this information readily available does not mean that research became correspondingly easy.  We have a new task now; sorting through flood of websites to find credible one that would stick around long enough.  I felt like I had to keep a long list of useful websites by their categories (caselaw specific websites, regulation websites, etc), track their existence (PreCYdent closed couple years ago) and evaluate new websites that seem to spring everyday and add useful ones to the list.  Of course there are websites providing comprehensive information at one spot, but most of these websites are fee based like Westlaw and Lexisnexis.  So, I was happy, yet overwhelmed of all these new websites I learned.   And there came lawyerexpress, a portal that made my research so easy.

Lawyerexpress is a website dedicated to providing legal research and news to attorneys.  This is a free web portal, but I recommend you to join as a member (also free) because you can customize the webpages and add/change contents.  Lawyerexpress really lives up to its name and understands what portal actually means; linkpage presenting information from diverse source in a unified way.  With lawyerexpress, you no longer need to keep track of all your favorites websites for research separately.  It’s all there.  Really, it is all there.  Also, If you don’t see it there, you can websites of your liking under tab you think the website belongs to, or put it under MyLinks tab.  After I browsed through this website, I actually made this website into my starting page.  The look of the website, contents, usability and some features it provides—note, planner and office tools—really got me.

Before going further, I will introduce who runs lawyerexpress.  lawyerexpress is powered by Ceoexpress, which was founded in 1998.  Ceoexpress was developed to organize the best resources on the web for busy executives and have expanded its reach on the internet with the launch of four new sites: Wired CEO, the first wireless portal for executives, as well as JournalistExpress, MDExpress and LawyerExpress.  From looking at ceoexpress website and later launched four sites, it looks credible with quite long history(considering it is webpage).

Now that we know who made this website, let’s go back to lawyerexpress.  It has 8 main tabs on top of the page and sub tabs under each of these main tabs.  These main tabs are law headlines, law blogs, legal research, news/journals, tools & travel, breaktime, practice areas, my links.  Also, essential law links and top law news are are fixated on the left side of the webpage, making research more convenient.  You should browse through all these main tabs to explore vast contents it provides in such an organized way.  For example, I found Practice areas to be really helpful in getting comprehensive news on your area of practice.  For example, if you set it as corporate law, it will give you corporate law news, M&A research, Antitrust, securities law, securities oversight, Delaware, blue sky, journals, etc all pertaining to corporate law practice.

Also, I’d like to introduce two features I thought were quite unique and distinguishes lawyerexpress from other legal websites.  Two features are Practice Support and Company Research under legal research tab.  Some of links under Practice Support includes Fact finder(background check website), National Association of Professional Server, Expert law, Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys and Jury Consultants.  For attorneys practicing in court, such information are critical for their practice, yet are not well taught at school (at least, I have not learned of these websites).  Also, I liked the Company Research, which provides links to Hoover’s, Moody’s, SEC Database, Standard & Poor’s, etc.  For corporate lawyer or other lawyers whose case is involved with corporate, it is essential that one does a background research on the company.  Company Research feature meets such needs of lawyer and provides some useful websites.  One suggestion I have for other users is to add Yahoo!Finance and Tip’d, two websites I learned to be very useful in class.

I dare say that this website is a must visit website for all attorneys.  There are just so much in this portal that I regret not being able to explain all contents it provides.  I hope other people find this portal as useful as I did and good luck to other researchers navigating through flood of information.

Caveat: Even though lawyerexpress is a free web portal, some links it provides are fee based.  So, if you want to do all your research for free, you should customize the webpage and remove all fee based websites and add more free websites you are aware of.  Also, I noticed that among MDexpress, JournalistExpress and CEOExpress, only CEOExpress is fee-based website (it does have free trial though).  CEOExpress is the first of Express portals so I am little concerned that rest of Express portals might eventually follow CEOExpress structure and change to fee-based at some point.  I am hoping that it stays as a free web portal, but if not, we will have to hope that new portal site springs up by then.  So, for now, let’s use it while it is free.

The pioneer of free online legal websites, LLRX

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

There are numerous websites providing legal information nowadays and we see rise and fall of many of them in short time span.  In the fast changing landscape of websites, one website stands firm since 90s—LLRX.  It is astonishing that Law Library Resource Xchange (LLRX) managed to survive for more than a decade and keeps evolving with 120,000 global readerships each month.  After browsing through LLRX, I came to a conclusion that three things are the key to the success of LLRX: dedication of publisher, rich contents and adaptation to new technology.

Let me first briefly introduce what LLRX is.  LLRX is a free web journal dedicated to providing legal and library professionals with the most up-to-date information(Database last updated on January 2011) on a wide range of Internet and technology-related issues, applications, resources and tools.  In order to understand LLRX, I must introduce the founder, editor and publisher—Sabrina I. Pacifici (yes, it’s one person doing it all!).   She has been an active and pioneering member of the online legal community since its inception.  She created LLRX in 1996 and created beSpacific, which I’ll introduce in a short while, in 2003.  She was named one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers 2006 and was profiled in the ABA law practice magazine, December 2006 issue.  There are more great things about her, but I’m sure this is enough to assure you of her credibility.  It is truly astonishing that LLRX is an independent web journal run by one person for more than 15 years.  Now that I have established her credibility, I will move on to great contents she provides.

LLRX provides with the most up to date information on a wide range of international research and technology-related issues, applications, resources and tools.  LLRX tries to make navigation easy for the users and currently is part of an open source content management system, Drupal, providing enhanced layout, navigation and usability.  It has drop down menu that appear on the top navigation bar and has separate category on the right hand side of each page, making it easy for the users to navigate the website.  Also, it employs google customs search so users may selectively search for content on LLRX, beSpacific or from the legal web.

The contents of LLRX can be divided into three categories; Court rules, forms & dockets, Articles and beSpacific blog. First, Court rules, forms & dockets provides links to over 1,400 sources for state and federal court rules, forms and dockets.  But, you should know that it does not provide the case decisions, but only rules and other forms.  You may browse by search term, court type, resource type, jurisdiction or state.  For example, I clicked on State of New York to see what kind of information it provides and was pleasantly surprised by its well organized results.  It listed various courts in State of New York and provided local rules, court forms, electronic case filing, etc of each court.  Instead of providing information directly on its website, it links you directly to the official website where relevant information can be found.  So, it makes your research easy and reliable.

Second, the Articles section is categorized by subjects, date, author, and column.  When you click on subjects, it gives you lists of articles under columns, legal research, legal technology, features , guest columnist, leadership, legal marketing, and librarian resources.  I like how they categorized it under big heading so I can browse through the list and find something I am interested in.   However, it’s difficult to distinguish subheadings from big headings.  I wish they made the distinction more clear, perhaps by enlarging the fonts of big headings.  As I mentioned earlier, there is also a menu bar on the right side of each page and they are categorized under legal research, librarian resources, and legal technology.  Same information can be accessed under the Article drop down menu, but I think they provide these sections separately on right hand side because it is most popular features; as I found these three categories to be really comprehensive and useful.  For example, legal research has subheading of comparative/foreign law and it is a great resource for lawyers interested in international law.  Unlike court rules section where it links to the official website where relevant information can be found, comparative/foreign law sections are composed of articles written for this website.  So, the contents are provided directly from LLRX.  It is categorized by subjects including cultural property, human rights, immigration law, Islamic law, parliamentary procedure, refugees, terrorism, treaties & agreements.  Under these headings articles on these topics are listed.  Also, one of the subheadings includes international legal research.  It provides various legal research guides such as “doing legal research in Canada”, “Israeli law guide”, “guide to Indian laws”, “complete research guide to the laws of the People’s Republic of China” etc.  The contents it provides are comprehensive and match the level of Reynolds Flores.  It is quite useful as it provides the contents directly on its website as well as provides links to various useful official websites where legal information can be found.  Like GlobaLex, these information are prepared by lawyers who are from that country or specializes in that country.  The top part of each of these guides provides the names of the author and credential.

Also, the legal technology provides great tools and resources to lawyers as well as law students.  These legal technology includes E-discovery, Gadgets & Gizmos, intranet, knowledge management, websites, blogs & Wikis.  It is essential for all lawyers, whether you are solo practitioner, work in public interest, government, or big firms to better utilize their time and effort through adopting new technology that keeps popping up.

Third, the beSpacific blog.  Even though it has bespacific section on top and right side of its website, it is a separate blog website run by same person, Sabrina I. Pacifici.  beSpacific provides daily law and technology news with links to reliable primary and secondary sources on topics including e-government, privacy, government documents, cybercrime and ID theft, the patriot Act, etc.  This is similar to LLRX, but provides news daily rather than monthly.  This blog started from 2003, so it’s been around for quite a while with vast number of compiled article.  Users may browse news by either dates or by topic of his interests.  On right side of the website it provides topics column.

All in all, LLRX is a great resource for lawyers, librarians and journalists in providing useful resources and up-to-date news.  The contents are getting richer by contribution of authors, a group of librarians, lawyers, information pros and journalists who contribute columns each month, as well as authors who provide feature content.  Many of the readers also become the authors, so the community is self-sustaining.  I hope to see LLRX continue its success in coming decade as it had stood firm in past decade.

Categories: Uncategorized

Free Foreign Legal Websites-3

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

This blog is the last of the free foreign legal website series.  To recap, I wrote on previous blogs 1 and 2 that GlobaLex should be the first website to visit when you have no prior knowledge of the country you need to find legal information on and GLIN is a good source if you know what you are looking for because many of original contents can be viewed directly from the GLIN website.  The last website I want to share with you is Lexadin.  Unlike previous two websites, I must warn you from the beginning; Use this site as a secondary source complimenting your research because there is not much information about this website.

I came across Lexadin while searching for foreign laws.  My first encounter with the website did not make such a good impression as it did not seem like a reliable source.   There is no “about us” section, which most of website have.  I still do not know who the authors are, what their purpose is on establishing this website.  I can only guess from its Top Level Domain that it is Netherlands website.  On the bottom of the webpage, it states copyright 1998-2008.  So, it is uncertain when last update was made and so forth.  Also, there are some links that does not work, but most of them worked find when I tried them.  Despite these credibility issues, I still recommend this website from my personal experience with the website and it really did a good job of compiling useful information in structured way.   The credibility of the founder of the website would influence the quality of the contents because unlike GlobaLex where an author actually prepared the article on each country, Lexadin only directs you to foreign websites where relevant information can be found.   Now that I explained about Lexadin’s rather mysterious background, I will delve into explaining its features.

Lexadin states that it has more than 65,000 links to legal sites in over 180 countries.   Unlike GlobaLex where scope of contents varies from country to country because contents are prepared by different authors from each country, you can expect consistency in scope of contents from Lexadin as it has a set structure.  When you first enter the website, you will see 10 topics listed on top of the page; Legislation, Law Firms, Courts & Cases, Law Schools, Articles, Legal Software, Indices, Organizations, Law Journals, and Search.  I will briefly explain what’s under each topic.

Legislation:

When you click the legislation, you will find list of nations in an alphabetical order.  Legislation section provides substance law of each country and usually follow the following order: constitutional law, legislation and court procedure, electoral law, administrative law, criminal law, civil law, commercial law, company law, labor law, health law, mining law, tax law, banking law, communications and media law, transport and maritime law, environmental law, intellectual property law, energy law, construction law, agriculture law, arbitration law and law sources.  As stated previously, Lexadin do not provide contents of legislation on its website directly, but rather links to the original site where the relevant information can be found, thereby assuring users of credibility.

Law Firms:

Countries are listed in an alphabetical order.  By clicking the country of your interest, you may find the list of local law firms in that country.

Courts & Cases:

Again, countries are listed in an alphabetical order.  By clicking the country of your interest, you may find the list of various courts in that country.  It gives brief information on court structure of a country and provides links to various courts (Supreme Court, court of appeals, district court, constitutional court, etc).  Looking at this page gives you an idea of how the court system is structured in that country.

Law Schools:

It provides links to law schools located in each country.

Articles:

Articles section is categorized by subject of law; administrative, civil, commercial, banking, etc.  It provides the name of the author, where the article came from, and the title of the article which is linked to the original website where you can read the article.

Legal Software:

I have not personally used contents of provided by this section, but it seems like they are providing useful software for various occasions; litigation document management, trial presentation software, case management, time and billing, etc.  These are not free software and it only provides information on where you can find useful software.  If there is something you are interested in using, you will have to purchase them from the original website Lexadin links to.

Indices:

It provides list of useful research websites such as Findlaw, GLIN, Cornell’s LII, etc.  This is useful because even though we are familiar with U.S. research websites, it is difficult to discover such websites of foreign countries.  Here, it provides such sites of various countries.

Organization:

It is categorized into National IP offices, arbitration organization, law firm associations, national banks, national competition authorities, etc.  When you click on each of these topics, you will find the associations listed by countries in an alphabetical order and it links you directly to associations’ website.

Law Journals:

Journals are listed in an alphabetical order and covers not only U.S. Journals, but of various countries.  Clicking the name of law journal will link you to the original website of each journal.

Search:

You may search for law firms and laws from Lexadin’s advanced search.  It allows you to narrow down search by country and keywords.

Lexadin is a well structured, easy to use site, which links you directly to relevant website of countries.  It provides many useful government and organization links, which would require so much time and effort if you have to find them on your own.   Also, the Lexadin links to English version of official websites, making research a lot easier.  I hope three free sources I have introduced—GLIN, GLobaLex, Lexadin—will help you in conducting foreign legal research.

Categories: Uncategorized

Free Foreign Legal Websites II

February 3, 2011 1 comment

Continued from last week’s blog, today’s blog will introduce one of most useful, yet free online resources I have encountered; GlobaLex.  Whereas GLIN from last week provides legal documents such as, official texts of laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and other complementary legal sources directly on its website, GlobaLex provides more general legal information on country of your interest and provides links where you can find relevant legal documents.  So, GLIN is a place to go to when you know what you are looking for and GlobaLex is a place to go to when you first start the research of a country and are not certain what you need to look for.

Globalex is a highly credible website published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law.  It is constantly updated and shows when it was last updated on the main page of the website.  It is committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world.

Now, I will briefly explain how to look for information on GlobaLex and what kind of contents it provides with emphasis on foreign law research.  When you visit GlobaLex, the main page will have four headings: (1) International law research, (2) Comparative law research, (3) Foreign law research, and (4) Tools for building foreign, comparative and international law collections.  To navigate, click on a section heading and scroll down the page.  International law guides are alphabetized by subject, which includes human rights, international commercial law, international criminal law, international trade, international health, etc.   You may click on each subject to read an article, which provides comprehensive guide on that subject with links to various websites holding relevant information.  Comparative law guides are alphabetized by article title, and topics include comparative civil procedure, comparative criminal procedure, a comparative approach to immigration law, etc.  Again, you may click on each topic and it will provide comprehensive guide on that researching in that field.  Foreign law guides are listed alphabetically by country name, covering 139 jurisdictions.  When you click on the name of country, it will provide comprehensive legal information on that nation; government information, legislative process, constitution, the judiciary and other research links.  This information is prepared by scholars well known in their respective fields and are constantly updated to reflect any changes made.  Because it is prepared by different scholars, depth of information provided varies from country to country.  It is a great way to start a research as it provides country’s general legal system and helps you to progress your research by providing various links, such as legal guide and various agencies.  The last heading, Tools for building foreign, comparative and international law collections, provides various sources you may use to gather foreign, comparative and international law information.  It doesn’t provide information directly, but, I recommend you to take a look at these articles if you are interested in foreign law research as it provides a great sources for conducting foreign legal research.

In summary, GlobaLex is a very useful website, especially for lawyers with no prior knowledge on country they are to conduct legal research.  Two sources that I have introduced so far, GLIN and GlobaLex, may be used together for more convenient foreign law research.   I will introduce yet, another very helpful free source next week.

Categories: Uncategorized

Free foreign legal research websites I

January 28, 2011 2 comments

In today’s globalized world, international transactions are on steady rise, which in turn increases instances where American lawyers need to be acquainted with foreign law.  However, in law school, legal research is focused on lexis or westlaw research that when it becomes necessary at work, you are basically on your own.  It is daunting tasks for someone with only U.S. legal education to research the relevant foreign law or even know where to look for them. Unlike U.S., where there are centralized database systems, such as westlaw and lexis, there are many countries, in fact, more countries than not, that do not have such centralized legal guide and it may be frustrating to search for law or cases that are scattered over various websites.  Of course, there are some excellent foreign legal guides such as Reynolds & Flores.  However, access to these websites are limited as they are subscription based.  Fortunately, there are some non-profit organizations that put together foreign legal documents online.  Among these websites, I found three to be most useful and well organized; GLIN, Globalex and Lexadin.  Today, I’d like to introduce GLIN and will continue with other websites on my next post.

GLIN (Global Legal Information Network)is a searchable online database containing official texts of laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and other complementary legal sources contributed by governmental agencies and international organizations.  They do have membership, but most of the material in GLIN is freely accessible to the public and the system does not require a user ID or password for search purposes.  I had an opportunity to attend the Annual GLIN Directors Meeting held at the Korean National Assembly last year and it seemed really devoted about making legal documents available to public through online.  It seems to be realizing its mission to acquire, store and provide timely access to body of critical research and reference material.  I believe this website will continue to be an important source and suggest you to use this website as a starting point of your foreign legal research.   The website is user friendly and provides various ways to conduct research.  For the first time users, I  suggest clicking the help center tab to learn about various search functions it provides.

Next time, I will continue with other free online foreign law guides.

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