Is It Time For a Legal Research Component on the Bar Exam?

Editor’s Note: Reposted from The Ginger Law Librarian with author’s permission.

By Jamie Baker, Associate Director at Texas Tech University School of Law Library

The Wall Street Journal (sub req’d) is reporting on pushback against difficult bar exams (particularly California’s bar).

“One camp of law-industry watchers blames the drop in passing rates on the declining credentials of incoming classes. Others point to changing study habits of so-called millennials, who grew up with the ability to find information at their fingertips and aren’t accustomed to the intensive memorization and writing skills needed to pass a bar exam.” The article ultimately asks: Does the exam even test what incoming lawyers need to know?” It seems that, based on what a lawyer actually does, the test should be about spotting legal issues, research, and proper legal analysis.

  • A law school education prepares students to spot the multitude of legal issues to
  • Explore those issues using sound (efficient and effective) legal research methods
  • To do a proper legal analysis of the various issues (or the call of the question, as it were) with cites to relevant codified law and case precedent.

As a very basic example, if the test-taker spots a potential negligence issue, why should the test taker also have to memorize all of the elements (and sub-elements) of negligence? In practice, lawyers research the elements.

If the test taker was taught to perform effective legal research, the test taker would know how to easily look up the elements of negligence in any database. For example, all that the test taker has to do is set the jurisdiction in Westlaw and type: what are the elements of negligence in the search bar.  And the following answer is retrieved:

“To establish a prima facie case of negligence, a plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.”
Quinto v. Woodward Detroit CVS, LLC
Court of Appeals of Michigan. April 29, 2014305 Mich. App. 73850 N.W.2d 642311213*
*Let’s ignore, for a moment, that this might not be the “best” case to cite.

The test taker then uses cases retrieved through the legal research process to do a proper legal analysis (IRAC or CREAC).

While this would require reconceptualizing the bar exam, it would more fully represent what a lawyer actually does in practice. It would also adjust the test to the digital age where the current crop of law students grew up with the ability to find (and USE?) information at their fingertips.

 

 

 

ABA Day at the Law Library of Congress

LOC - card catalogs

By Kelly A. McGlynn, Sr. Research & Knowledge Analyst, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

In conjunction with ABA Day festivities last month in Washington D.C., the Law Library of Congress (in coordination with the ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress), hosted an afternoon program on April 27th.  Members of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington D.C. (LLSDC) were invited to attend the event as well, and I jumped at the chance, as I had yet to visit the Law Library of Congress.  Here is a recap of what we saw and learned. Continue reading

PLLIP Summit

The 2017 Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Summit, “Navigating the Critical Nexus of Knowledge and Legal Technology,” will take place on Saturday, July 15, at the American Association of Law Libraries Convention in Austin, TX.

Keynote Speaker:  Professor Gabriel Teninbaum

Prof. Gabriel Teninbaum began his legal career by attending law school at night while serving in the U.S. Secret Service. After graduating from Suffolk Law, he had a two-year stint as a trial attorney at a Boston firm before joining the full-time faculty at Suffolk University Law School in 2007. Gabe currently serves as Director of Suffolk Law’s Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation, and Director of the Law Practice Technology Concentration at Suffolk, teaching classes such as “Lawyering in the Age of Smart Machines” and “Coding for Lawyers and 21st Century Legal Profession.”  Gabe also puts theory into practice, having built SpacedRepetition.com, an app that harnesses scientific research to allow law students and bar preppers to learn far more in far less time. In addition, he participates in the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission’s Web/Tech Working Group.  He was named one of the 2016 FastCase 50, and currently is a Visiting Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Professor Teninbaum’s full bio is available here.

Morning Session: Can Librarians Help Legal Organizations Become More Data Driven? – Professor Daniel Katz

Professor Dan Katz is a scientist, technologist and law professor who applies an innovative polytechnic approach to teaching law. He is actively involved in the legal technology industry – he is the Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of LexPredict (a Legal Analytics company). Professor Katz joined Chicago-Kent in 2015 from Michigan State University College of Law, where he co-founded the ReInvent Law Laboratory, an innovative multi-disciplinary center that focused on the intersection of entrepreneurship, informatics, programming and design thinking to better understand, analyze and design the law. He earned a spot on the Fastcase 50 and was named to the American Bar Association Journal’s Legal Rebels in 2013, both recognizing him as a leading innovator in the legal profession. Professor Katz’s full bio is available here.

Afternoon Session: Surviving – and Thriving – in a Period of Change –  V. Mary Abraham

V. Mary Abraham is a law firm consultant and knowledge management thought leader who has also built a practice facilitating strategic conversations and interactive educational sessions for a variety of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Active in the legal industry since 1991, she is a frequent speaker and writer on knowledge management, collaboration, innovation, and technology issues. Since 2013 she has been a member of the faculty of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy where she teaches collaboration, facilitation, social capital, innovation, and knowledge sharing. Her report, Optimizing Law Firm Support Functions (Ark Group, 2014), provides guidance to law firm executives on how to transform administrative staff from cost centers to strategic partners of the firm. She also contributed chapters to Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results (Ark Group, 2014) and  The Talent Management Toolkit for Law Firms (Ark Group, 2016). You can follow Mary on her blog (AboveandBeyondKM.com), Twitter and LinkedIn.

Getting Users Out Of Their Seats

By Erik Y. Adams, Electronic Resources Librarian at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Erik Adams’ post below is reposted with permission from the RIPS Law Librarian Blog.  Published by the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, the RIPS Law Librarian Blog covers “trends in research, instruction, and patron services within today’s law libraries.”  Erik is a member of RIPS-SIS, and also a member of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS).

In law firms we have struggled for years with how to get attorneys to stop relying on books, which are expensive to acquire, store, and maintain, and start using online resources. (Which are also expensive, but at least we aren’t the ones who have to acquire, store, and maintain them.) Recently, however, I had a problem new to my experience: an attorney who didn’t want to get out of his seat and use the print version.

This particular attorney wanted to read a section of the California Code. We offer several different ways to achieve this online via the firm’s intranet, and several of us have walked the attorney through the process multiple times. But in this particular instance, he wanted to look it up in the book. My firm has a complete copy of the California Codes in his location, but recently this office had been remodeled, and the attorney found he is on a different floor than the library. He could walk up one flight of very stylish stairs to the library, but that wasn’t nearly as convenient as when his office had been right next to the library.

Video game companies have wrestled for years with the problem of how to get gamers out of their chairs and into the world and to get more exercise. Nintendo had some success last year with the release of Pokemon Go, where the goals of the game could only be achieved by walking around your city, and by exploring new neighborhoods. Now, as electronic resources are taking over, I’m facing the exact same issue: how can I get attorneys out of their seats? Especially when, generally, that’s the best course of action? Continue reading

Making Access to Library Resources Seamless

By Ellyssa Kroski, Director of Information Technology, The New York Law Institute

[Editors’ note:  The New York Law Institute (NYLI), the oldest circulating law library in New York City, serves as a full information services organization, and offers its members materials in various formats, including 24/7 availability of electronic databases.  NYLI has an impressive collection of current, unique, historical and hard-to-find materials.   Membership provides access to significant print resources enhanced by remote access to an array of online databases, including eBooks.]

As an information services organization, we’ve always sought to offer our members effortless access to our resources.  To this end, we developed the capability for our members to integrate all of our bibliographic records into their own online catalogs.  At the time, we thought that this would make accessing our 300,000+ title print collection easier, as well as help streamline functions such as interlibrary loans.  After launching the initiative, the Seamless Catalog Module, we also gained an eBook collection boasting over 100,000 titles, making the access to our bibliographic records even more attractive.  The dozen member libraries who are using this application module have been able to instantly add all of those records into their own catalogs for their users.
Continue reading