Monday, January 18, 2010

You Know the Recession is Bad When...

You know that the recession has really hit the legal profession hard when the latest article about the legal job market - No Longer Their Golden Ticket - is in the Styles section of the NYTimes. There have been many articles in such law-related publications as Above the Law with its weekly (what else) feature This Week in Layoffs. But when the fortunes of recent law school graduates begin to share space with the Wedding Page you've got to know that this downturn has really reached the mainstream. The Styles article even mentions LawShucks with its famous (or infamous) Layoff Tracker.

What's the alternative? Take a look at this short video that accompanies the online version of the article in Styles. It seems that some new lawyers are doing what many law students originally had in mind when they applied for law school - provide services for the poor.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

They're Singing Scalia's Song

And what is it? Well. After a night at the opera, reported here in the NYTimes, Scalia, once reluctant to give any interviews, gave one to WQXR, the NYC classical music station. As reported by the on Friday, Scalia, in a far-ranging discussion with Gilbert Kaplan, told all - his favorite rock and roll song is Sh-Boom, a 1954 classic from the Chords. His comment about Sh-Boom? Another classic. Apparently, it was the last pop piece, "that I really remember liking before rock descended into noise and ugliness." See for's an acapella version from a 1980 show.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop - Westlaw on the Ropes?

Is it possible that Westlaw has come to the realization that it must change its business model? The last few years have not been kind to the legal research division of Thomson-Reuters. Let's begin to connect the dots. Here are the first four...
1. In early December, Westlaw laid off 240 legal division workers in North America - 120 in the West bastion city of St. Paul alone.

2. Follow this link to Richard Leiter's analysis of Thomson-Reuters stock price back in March and his further analysis later that month. Some may say that this is only a function of the recent recession. In fact, Thomson-Reuters stock appears to have begun its slide in mid-2007, before this recession was a recession. The stock price has recovered since March but not on par with the rest of the market. See for yourself - on the NYSE the Thomson-Reuters symbol is TRI.

3. Competitors have started coming out of the woodwork. Changes in research behavior at the lawfirm level may move the low cost research providers to the forefront. Readers may recall this post from September in which LOISlaw, the newly revitalized Kluwer-Wolters research system, figured prominently. You may recall from this January 1st post, the threat from the upstart Google Scholar LOJ as a first-choice free legal research research system cannot be ignored.

4. And, how long can West continue its current business model when major academic libraries like Stanford are reviewing their subscriptions of West print resources? When Stanford starts to cut subscriptions it won't be long before others follow.
New competitors, economizing customers, layoffs ... are these symptoms of the need for a minor mid-course correction or the beginning of a long term decline? Regardless, it seems clear that Westlaw needs to begin a serious review of its business model.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Google Scholar LOJ - Tectonic Shift in Legal Research?

Many practitioners (and students) are still unaware of the new Google Scholar Legal Opinions and Journal (LOJ) search features. As we transition into the new year it is worth taking a moment to remind ourselves that this new legal research tool could become as popular as Google itself, i.e., a ubiquitous free "first search" tool for the legal community. If it does, it will certainly fulfill its promise of being a legal research game changer.

Researchers still need to become more familiar with LOJ. There have been several blog posts by law librarians about LOJ functionality and searching issues. For a quick refresher about how the new LOJ search works you should probably read this fine summary by David Tsai and Courtney Minick on LLRX.

Not unlike Google itself, the actual functionality of Google Schoolar LOJ will remain a secret but, with a little use, it has not been too difficult to figure out the broad strokes. The main problem will always be the same: as attorneys we are tasked with the difficult job of being accurate and thorough. Using Google Scholar LOJ does not change that obligation. We must still exercise care in using any search engine and Google Scholar LOJ is no exception. You might be able to find an answer by using LOJ; but, is it the right answer? You can certainly start with LOJ but you must be prepared to use traditional research methods to make sure you are being thorough.