JLSS Survey

I went to look at the news on the JLSS site, and decided I’d agree to take part in the survey – I thought I might be able to give some feedback about the removal of the Library / research area, and why it should be redesigned. After all, it did say “We would greatly appreciate it if you could complete a short survey to help us improve the Journal website. Click here to have your say”…

Instead, I got presented with the most random of surveys:

Erm…hello?
Exactly what has my home ownership status, and my hot beverage choice got to do with the website redesign, and the missing Library usefulness?!?

Is someone there taking the pee? Were they scrambling to find a way to fill up SurveyMonkeys default setting of 10 questions, and threw in the tea/coffee option?

Come on JLSS, you did an otherwise great redesign of the website (we’re ignoring the Library ‘thing’ for just now), can you please not let it all down at the end with a silly, unfocussed survey?!

Selected Session Cases available online

The Scottish Council of Law Reporting, publishers of the Session Cases, have made selected cases available for free from their website.

In their own words:

For some years the Scottish Council of Law Reporting has provided the law-teaching universities in Scotland with a CD-ROM containing cases selected from the Session Cases® archive to distribute as a learning aid to their students. Technologies change, and the Council is pleased to provide a database of Scottish cases selected from their archive as an open access resource.

The only problem I’m having is finding out a listing or index of what these selected cases are, but hey, for allowing even some access to an otherwise subscriber access only database, I’m not complaining!

The Free Legal Web – who for?

The current Big Idea in the legal / library blog world is the Free Legal Web (FLW). Originally mooted by Nick Holmes, the idea is to pull all of the content currently floating about the ether (legal professionals blog posts, Government information etc) into one portal. That in itself is a big enough task, but what doesn’t seem to be clear yet is…who is this Free Legal Web for?

The people involved so far seem to be legal professionals and IT specialists. The legal professionals will be working out some way of getting the useful materials together, and persuading other legal professionals that giving up their valuable time and work (such as blog postings) for this enterprise will be a worthwhile investment, and will reap them rewards in the end. The IT professionals job will be to write the scripts and programmes that will get everything together in the one place, and working well with all the other bits and pieces.

That’s all lovely (although it’s hard to tell what’s actually being done, as the discussions are going on behind an invite-only Google Group, which to me, kind of defeats the purpose of harnessing the collective intelligence of the legal and information professionals), but when this all singing, all dancing portal is up and running, who’s going to be using it? I would have thought this was a core question, to be settled right at the start, yet it doesn’t seem to have been discussed at any point.

If you’re designing a portal to work alongside the subscription legal databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis, then I assume it’s being aimed at people already working in the law, and therefore able to understand and interpret the information being presented to them there. The content will be academic / in depth, and of relevance to other members of the legal profession. Certain assumptions can be made about the level of knowledge and understanding of the user, and their grasp of the content. It also means it’s unlikely to be being used by members of the general public. Since legal professionals are likely to be persuaded into contributing to the FLW by the prospect of it eventually increasing their business through building of a reputation, this is not a good start.

If it’s designed for the general public, to allow them access to the elusive laws they’re meant to keep within, then good interpretation of the law is needed, not just access. People working in the law can forget just how difficult it is to find out what legislation means for people without access to subscription databases, information professionals to check for currency and further discussions of legal points…and even the language of legislation, while precise and succinct, can be incredibly confusing for someone with no experience of reading it, confronted with it for the first time. Content for this FLW would need a different focus – explaining the law and its impact on the general public, with references to the original case law rather than references to law reports inaccessible to the general public. Guides equivalent to first year law students introductions to the various aspects of the law would be needed. Clear signalling of whether legislation applies to all of the UK, or only the devolved areas would be essential. In other words, it would be a very different beast then the FLW designed for legal professionals.

So…is it a Professional Free Legal Web, or a Public Free Legal Web?

Copyright joy for law firm libraries!

Yay!
As emailed out over lis-law last week, the Copyright Licensing Agency have developed a CLA licence just for law firms. Body of the press release below:

New licence for law firms

15th October 2008

CLA have announced the launch of a new licence designed specifically for UK law firms.

From 1 November 2008, the new Law Licence will offer law firms additional benefits to the existing photocopying rights.

The Law Licence now enables articles and clippings from law reports, journals and press cuttings (magazines, journals, legal and other periodicals, but not newspapers) to be scanned, stored electronically and distributed externally to clients.

The new licence has been developed in consultation with The Law Society of England and Wales and the City of London Law Society so that it meets the needs of law firms that wish to copy from law reports and journals, business titles and other published media.

Chris Holland, Librarian & Head of Information Services at the Law Society said, “CLA photocopying licences are well established within the legal sector. This new licence gives additional rights to make digital copies, reflecting the much increased use of digital technology in law firms, including the use of electronic case files and shared email folders. It also removes the previous limit on the number of photocopies that could be made for a single occasion or purpose, thus providing more flexibility than the previous law firm licence to photocopy.”

The licence will be officially launched at the Law Autumn event at Birmingham NEC on October 15 & 16 where customers will be able to find out more about the benefits from CLA licensing staff.

CLA’s Andy Greenan, who is leading the licence launch, says, “Law firms want to be able to digitise relevant articles and reports to share with individual clients by email or within a case-based file. For the first time this licence allows that and I am sure demand will be high.”

Law firms that already hold a CLA licence will be able to upgrade from 1 November.

For further information about the benefits of the new Law Licence, please contact CLA on 0800 085 6644, email licence@cla.co.uk or see www.cla.co.uk.

Now, I’m assuming that if the Law Society of England and Wales are happy with this, it’s equally applicable for Scotland. Hopefully. Being able to legally scan and store certain things can be handy, although we’ve often already negotiated these sort of agreements with individual publishers. Any reduction in the amount of time spent faffing abouttrying to work out what we’re allowed to do, and with what materials, will be very nice!