Winning The Game

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We interrupt this normally very serious legal tech blog for a life lesson. Or, more aptly stated, for any-excuse-to-watch-this-amazing-game-capper video again. With the hopes of a nation (plus a few more) heaped high on their backs, the clock ticking furiously away, the red white and blue painted faces of the fans at Loftus Versfeld Stadium looking very forlorn and lost, the U.S. Men’s National Team didn’t cave, didn’t fold, didn’t give up and go home, even after the 90 minutes of regulation play saw them facing yet another disallowed goal, a blatant, ignored red card-worthy and blood-inducing foul in the box and countless slightly-off scoring opportunities missed by a hair. Instead, in the first minute or so of stoppage time, that tiny cushion that signals the bitter end of the match, fans were treated to this. Enjoy and remember, never give up:

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Free Federal Regulations Trackers

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Check out these  free regulations trackers at RegInfo.gov and Regulations.gov. RegInfo.gov provides reliable, transparent information about regulations under development to enable the public to participate effectively in the regulatory process. It is produced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and the General Services Administration (GSA), Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC). What is cool is that it tracks administrative steps and processes that might be outside the Federal Register publication process. See what is coming down the pipeline in the Federal administrative process, complete with easy-to-read charts, scrolling news feed, regulatory review highlights, and the Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan data.

Regulations.gov offers an online source for regulations from over 300 federal agencies. On the site you can:

  • Search for a regulation such as a proposed rule, final rule or Federal Register (FR) notice
  • Submit a comment on a regulation or on another comment
  • Submit an application, petition or adjudication document
  • Sign up for e-mail alerts about a specific regulation
  • Quickly access regulations that are popular, newly posted or closing soon-directly from the homepage
  • Subscribe to RSS feeds by agency of newly posted FR notices

Regulations.gov is designed with the goal of increasing access to and participation in regulations as they develop and related documents as well as promoting more efficient and effective rulemaking via public involvement. Comment on proposed rules and review the comments of others. All hail, public discourse!

Hat tip to Peggy Garvin at LLRX.

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To The Google Scholar User: Buyer Beware

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Here is a bit of common sense from real life example: when using Google Scholar for your legal research, use care in making sure that versions of a case match. Legal Writing Prof Blog has a post about an attorney preparing a brief for filing who noted a discrepancy in the footnote numbering between the official Wisconsin Reporter version of a case and the Google Scholar version. The Blog quotes the attorney’s findings as follows:

The source of the discrepancy quickly became apparent.  In the official version of the case (as in all official versions of Wisconsin cases), the filing of a petition for review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court gets noted in the caption with a footnote placed at the end of the name of the party that filed the petition.  The symbol for this footnote is a dagger, not a number.  Google Scholar, however, designates this footnote with a number (in this instance, the dagger became “1”) and renumbers the remaining footnotes accordingly.  Where there’s more than one footnote attached to the caption – e.g., Ellsworth v. Schelbrock, 229 Wis. 2d 542, 600 N.W.2d 247 (Ct. App. 1999) – Google Scholar shifts the footnote numbers even more:  in Ellsworth, the caption has two footnotes, so the numbered footnotes shifted by two as well, making footnote 1 in the official version into footnote 3 in the Google Scholar version.

My thinking on the proper role of Google Scholar is this: the greatest cost in using the paid databases is the time spent poking around looking for the main cases on a point of law. Once you have identified those cases, the costs of pulling them down out of the paid databases is relatively inexpensive. I see Google Scholar as an effective (but not sole) tool for the former task. When writing an appellate brief to any court, I would not feel the slightest bit comfortable relying on Google Scholar’s version. At that point, I would be pulling the actual cases from the paid databases. While these sources are far from infallible, they do have a longer track record with respect to accuracy, as well as complete citations and the ability to Keycite or Shepardize, a must for briefs to be filed in any court.

So there you have it. Use the free resources with your eyes wide open to their possible shortcomings, and you should not go far wrong.

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Google Wave Review – GP Solo Technology eReport

I admit that I am a bit late on breaking the news on this one, but I do want to link to my article reviewing Google Wave that ran last month in the GP Solo Technology eReport published by the ABA. Already, the information appears a tiny bit dated, but that’s just the speed that the Web travels. Check out some of the other great articles too, you might recognize a few names and certainly will pick up some good information!

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A Collection of Government Comics – At Your Service

Not so much law, but still exceedingly cool from the curated information perspective , is this fabulous tip from two of my fav research resources, ResearchBuzz and ResourceShelf – a digital archive of comics created by the U.S. Government about government-related topics. Hit the jump here to browse the collection. Everything from Sprocket Girl, to Captain America Goes To War on Drugs, from Snoopy to Blondie and L’il Abner. Comics are shown gallery style, with attributing information, prompting hours of time-wasting fun. You can even download the entire comic as a PDF!

Go ahead – waste a few hours. It is a holiday week, after all.

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“Harry-Potterize” The IRS

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Admit it, don’t you wish you could pull a Dudley on the IRS sometimes? Well, now you can, with the IRS Wizard. CPA Brian Dooley created this wizard to search the IRS web site, comprised of more than 400,000 documents equaling over 4,000,000 pages. Dooley applies his own knowledge of tax jargon to overlay the documents and organize results. The search function is based on keywords, allowing you to include or exclude words from your results, which include both Dooley’s results and IRS documents.

I haven’t yet tried the site, but I am intrigued at Mr. Dooley’s attempts to magically bring order to the chaosed world of the IRS. If you have tried it or do try it, please come back and let us know how you fare.

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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"Harry-Potterize" The IRS

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...
Image via Wikipedia

Admit it, don’t you wish you could pull a Dudley on the IRS sometimes? Well, now you can, with the IRS Wizard. CPA Brian Dooley created this wizard to search the IRS web site, comprised of more than 400,000 documents equaling over 4,000,000 pages. Dooley applies his own knowledge of tax jargon to overlay the documents and organize results. The search function is based on keywords, allowing you to include or exclude words from your results, which include both Dooley’s results and IRS documents.

I haven’t yet tried the site, but I am intrigued at Mr. Dooley’s attempts to magically bring order to the chaosed world of the IRS. If you have tried it or do try it, please come back and let us know how you fare.

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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Get What You Pay For And Keep Those Expectations In Line

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Overseas outsourcing. For me, the jury is out and deliberating and has been that way for quite some time. Today, Ken Adams at Adams Drafting took the words out of my mouth (or my typing fingers): as long as the outsourcer has realistic expectations about the limitations on what may be returned from the outsourcee, then the practice has worth.

For Ken, there should be an inverse relationship between the complexity of the task and outcome in a given matter and the desire to outsource to a general-practice offshore vendor or captive firm.  In the case of contract drafting, real contract “drafting” (as compared to contract “tweaking”) requires a specific set of skills and experience, particularly with the peculiarities of the jurisdiction’s laws and treatment. Any vendor with insufficient experience in the task at hand can fall prey to pitfalls in creating a tight, effective product.

For me, the decision to turn over any research or writing project to a generalist rather than a specialist should not be a cavalier endeavor. The downside of investing in a case of discount soda at the bulk warehouse?  A nasty taste in one’s mouth. The downside of submitting a complex legal question for discount treatment? A  far more bitter taste and potentially longer-lasting consequence.

For those considering outsourcing to a foreign jurisdiction, consider all the alternatives. One of those alternatives might be turning the work over to a contract lawyer with a particular specialty or, in the case of a complex contract drafting matter, the drafting expert in the relevant jurisdiction. We might be a better bargain in the long-run than you think.

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A Big Keycite Ooops!

Imagine telling the world that a United States Supreme Court opinion is still good law, even though it had been explicitly overturned three weeks ago? Well, West apparently was doing just that with regard to the case Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, which was overruled by Montejo v. Louisiana.

The misreporting continued until late Friday, but appears to have since been corrected. Lexis/Nexis reported the correct posture from the start.

Interesting blunder, but not an impossible one. After all, this work of updating cases is done by humans. In some ways, it is no different than the partner who relies on the associate’s “shepardizing”, only to find the associate has missed some key treatment in a case.

So, what do you do in court when you mistakenly rely on authority that is no longer good law? Explain that you relied on West – one of the largest legal publishers in the world, which by all rights should be a legally reasonable thing to do.

Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog

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