Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association

A chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.


Leave a comment

Will Bots Disrupt the Legal System?

RobotThink the practice of law is insulated from economic disruption by artificial intelligence?  Check out the DoNotPay chatbot and – gulp! – think again.

A few years ago, a teenager in London racked up over 30 parking tickets. Rather than simply pay the tickets, Joshua Browder sat down, hammered out some programming code, and invented what many journalists are calling “the world’s first robot lawyer.”  Drafting a series of typical legal questions specific to London’s motor vehicle and traffic laws, DoNotPay automatically appealed Browder’s tickets and won 16 of his cases.  Browder expanded his chatbot to include tickets issued in New York City in May 2016.

Once debuted to the general public, roughly 250,000 people used DoNotPay by mid-2016 and the chatbot logged 160,000 successful appeals (including 9,000 in New York City) for a 64% success rate.  As a student at Stanford University, Browder then turned his sights on assisting Syrian refugees by “… producing English document based on Arabic text.”

By mid-2017, DoNotPay worked well for helping users fill out boilerplate legal forms like maternity leave and landlord-tenant contract violations.  Plus, it’s “disrupted” over 375,000 parking tickets.  Browder envisions the DoNotPay of the future to handle any complex litigation, like marriages, divorces, and bankruptcies.  Experts at TechCrunch (one of the world’s leading startup and technology news media sites) muse that new forms of artificial intelligence built on top of, or in conjunction with, already existing information systems will inevitably disrupt many staid industries – such as law.

Following the massive Equifax data breach first reported in September 2017, Browder built a chatbot aimed at assisting anyone affected by suing Equifax in small claims court.  As of October 2017, a link exists on DoNotPay’s home page to learn how to sue Equifax for up to $25,000.  Once clicked, the site will walk you through how to file a claim in New York or California – with more states to be added shortly.

Lawyers caution that DoNotPay isn’t a panacea – a professional’s expertise would likely be an asset when filing even a small claims lawsuit against Equifax.  As USA Today writes in Want Equifax to pay?, even authors of other do-it-yourself legal guides explain that a simple chatbot can’t print the documents, affix the plaintiff’s signature, send the documents to the correct court and correct Equifax registered agent, or pay any filing fees.  Then there’s proving the actual case: whether Equifax’s conduct was negligent, whether the plaintiff’s information was stolen through the Equifax breach (and not some other data breach), and whether the plaintiff suffered any harm. For more on why chatbots aren’t one-size-fits-all, see this Quartz article: The “world’s first robot lawyer” isn’t a damn lawyer

So what’s the truth?  Will innovative, state-of-the-art programming code toll the death knell for the legal industry?  Or will the combination of deft human touch and institutional knowledge stave off the infiltration of chatbots like DoNotPay?  Like many things in life, the truth is prone of the survivors.

Katherine Lowry, Baker Hostetler’s Director of Practice Services, won the 2017 AALL Innovation Tournament with an attorney-facing chatbot for legal information assistance.  AALL Members can watch the conference session here: Innovation Tournament recording.

What other questions might a law library chatbot answer? What opportunities might they create? See Greg Lambert’s 3 Geeks post Now I want a Chatbot!

WPLLA members: how are your employers reacting to artificial intelligence?  Do they see it as an opportunity or a scourge?  If you have any comments, reach out and let us know!  If you’ve used DoNotPay, we’d love to report on your experience!


Leave a comment

Link Roundup – October

Bulk Downloads of Congressional Data Now Available At the ProPublica Data Store, users can download information on all of the bills introduced during each Congressional session in a single file. Twice a day, ProPublica generates this zip file containing metadata for every bill introduced in the current congress, including the sponsors and cosponsors the bill, actions taken by committees, votes on the floor, and a summary of what the bill would do. A download of the bulk bill information contains the complete, up-to-date data set as of that date. Users can also download archives of bill data for past congresses, going back to 1973.

 

Sexual Harassment in the Library: When Patrons are the Perpetrators This informative blog post discusses a library employee’s rights if s/he is sexually harassed by a patron.

 

Technology is the Solution: What Law Firms Can Learn From LegalZoom This article posits: “If law firms used technology to automate tasks, lower prices and give personalized advice, they’d have an undeniable competitive advantage.”

 

*Note: Website requires registration to read full article

 

CLE Presentation Tips: Mastering Time Though you may not be the best public speaker (and as this article notes, great public speakers are rare), there are tips to help you manage your time – which is essential to flow and is a hallmark of a great presentation.

 

New on LLRX – The Fight to Bring Legal Research to the Front Law librarian and professor Brandon Adler identifies core issues to support educating third year law students in a wide range of reliable free and low cost legal resources. Many law librarians acknowledge that there is a lack of awareness and use of alternative legal resources, with the law student community as well across a large swath of attorneys in firms both large and small.

 

NJIT Launches Annotated Patent History Archive The Federated History Department at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University-Newark has launched the Annotated Patent History Digital Archive. Funded by a faculty seed grant from NJIT, this project makes use of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research to explore the history of patents in the United States.

 

New Google search feature links to local libraries to borrow ebooks From @Google on Twitter: “Calling all U.S. bookworms! Now you can take a look at what e-books are available to borrow at your local library, right in Search.”

 

Upcoming Webcast: Getting What You Want for Your Legal Tech Budget On 09/20/2017, Cindy Cicco sent an email to the WPLLA Distribution List alerting its members to a Thursday, October 5, 2017 webcast panel hosted by Lex Machina featuring speakers Greg Lambert (AALL President and CKO of Jackson Walker) and Josh Becker (CEO of Lex Machina). The two will discuss budgeting strategies, tools, and techniques. It will begin at 12:00pm EST. Registration for the event can be found at: http://pages.lexmachina.com/Webcast_The-Future-of-Law-6_FoL-LP-Social.html

 

LC – An App to Answer Your Questions about the Constitution Links to the online version of the publication, “Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation” as well as information on an app called “Constitution Annotated” (which originally debuted in 2013 and has since been updated).

 

Know Your Rights: Whistleblower Protections for Federal Sector Employees A web resource for federal sector employees, the Project on Government Oversight (“POGO”) put together a “starting point” on whistleblower rights.

 

New Title 34 in United States Code Empty since 1956, Title 34 of the United States Code has been updated as of September 1, 2017. New Title 34, called “Crime Control and Law Enforcement”, contains editorially reclassified sections of Title 18 (“Crimes and Criminal Procedure”), Title 28 (“Judiciary and Judicial Procedure”), and Title 42 (“The Public Health and Welfare”). No statutory text was repealed or amended through this reorganization.

 

The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do Information on the steps people who may have been victims of the Equifax Data Breach can take to protect their vulnerable private information and identity.

 

How To Use Google Feed For News And Replace Facebook With the complete rollout of Google Feed, users have more control over what they can read about in Feed. Now, right from the search results, one can choose which topics to follow. In some cases, users will see a new Follow button, which can be used to add topics to their Feed. After that, based on search history and engagement with Google products, users will be served news stories. Right from the Feed, users can also unfollow the topics.

 

These To-Do List Methods Will Help You Finally Get Organized Nine different ways to organize a To-Do List that will actually help you complete your tasks!

 

GPO and LC release digital Congressional Record 1921-1930 The U.S. Government Publishing Office (“GPO”) has partnered with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1921-1930 on GPO’s govinfo. This release covers the debates and proceedings of the 67th through the 71st Congresses.

 

Hearing: Transforming GPO for 21st Century and Beyond: FDLP Held at the Longworth House Office Building, five experts discussed the topic, “Transforming GPO for the 21st Century and Beyond.”

 

GOP 9 page tax plan framework and corporate impact This beSpacific blog post links to multiple reputable news outlets with stories detailing the first iteration of the Republican Party’s tax overhaul.

 

Supreme Court October Term 2017: A Preview of Select Cases The 2017 SCOTUS term has the potential to be one of the most consequential in years. Though a full discussion of every case that the Court will hear during the upcoming term is beyond the scope of the report linked by this beSpacific blog post, the included information provides brief summaries of the cases the Court has thus far agreed to hear.

 

 


Leave a comment

OCLC and Wikipedia Content

Guest post by Sarah Steers, WPLLA Treasurer

WikipediaLike most WPLLA members, I remember a world before Wikipedia – a world before a web-based encyclopedia with articles on every conceivable subject, updated in real time, by hyper-focused lay experts devoted to their niche obsessions. As Wikipedia grew in popularity, it quickly became the first stop on a research expedition (or even just the go-to website to settle a debate amongst friends). But experts warned against using the site as an academic resource; after all, if anyone could edit a Wikipedia page, who knew what sort of unverifiable chaos was being presented as undeniable fact?

The OCLC Online Computer Library Center  recently announced that it has paired withOCLC World Cat the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library. Now, when Wikipedia editors identify a citation within a Wikipedia article, and that citation is represented by library material held in WorldCat, the editor can link the citation to WorldCat material. WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services.

The partnership between the OCLC and Wikipedia Library allows editors to generate a full, official citation for the cited material in the individual Wikipedia article. With formal citations, Wikipedia articles gain more clout in professional and academic circles. OCLC also hopes that the links to library materials from Wikipedia articles will encourage Wikipedia users to more fully utilize in-person library services.

The partnership announcement on the Wikimedia blog includes detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to use the newly developed citation tool.

If any WPLLA members are active Wikipedia editors, we’d love to know if you’ve used this tool yet.  Any feedback would be fantastic – drop us a line and tell us all about your user experience!


Leave a comment

Postcard Collection

Where would we be without our daily beSpacific roundup?  On one hand, the latest news in cutting edge tech and legal information.  On the other, sending us to the delicate and lovely corners of the internet – encouraging us to look at something beautiful and gaze upon something charming before it’s lost to time.

1276

Springfield, Mass. Public Library –  Image Courtesy of the Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University Archives 

A recent link sent readers to the Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection housed at the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The collection contains approximately 535 different digitized pictures and postcards of both American and European libraries.

Clicking through the images sends an online visitor back in time.  The earliest images are from the beginning of the 20th century, and the color palette from that era evokes a sense of nostalgia.  Check out the bright blue skies, large expanses of verdant green lawns, elongated perspectives that focus on majestic columns and balustrades.  As you race headlong into the later decades, you’ll still see some bucolic images.  But the postcards from the 1960s have some definite “General Electric Theater,” “better living through chemistry” vibes.  And by the time you get to the 1970’s era images, things get pretty groovy: indoor arboretums and hippies lounging on lawns!

Regardless of the decade, exterior views definitely feature a lot of stone masonry and brick facades.  Academic and public libraries seem to occupy an architectural space that exemplify permanence, respect, and classicism.

A jaunt through the Koopman Collection may even inspire a new hobby: collecting antique postcards.  Check out Ebay or Etsy or any number of other websites that promote postcard trading and collecting, or sell rare, vintage, or antique postcards.

The Koopman Collection doesn’t feature any images of Pennsylvania libraries.  If any WPLLA members have antique postcards with Pennsylvania library representations, feel free to share with us or send to University Library!  We’d love to see the pictures and share it here on our website.  Or, if you have any interest in collecting, or have any tips or tricks for how to get started – drop us a line and we’ll do a follow-up blog post.


Leave a comment

Productivity Tools

Guest Post by Sarah Steers

With technology putting us on call 24/7 and the needs of family, friends, community, and work stretching us in about 187 different directions (combined with that nagging feeling we’re not enjoying the last few weeks of summer as much as we should), maybe a few new productivity tools would help us get a better handle on things?

The startup scene, blossoming here in Pittsburgh, is famous for waxing rhapsodic about the newest and latest productivity “hacks.”  I thought I’d steal a page from their book, and link to an article listing fifteen great new productivity tools: 15 Productivity Tools for Your Startup.  Published on TechDay, the article links to a host of new productive apps and tools meant to make your day easier.

For smaller firms or other law libraries trying to manage their social media accounts in-house, Buffer might be a way to post across a wide variety of platforms in one fell swoop; Buffer says it can mass- or bulk-post across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  It proclaims to provide web analytic information.  I don’t use Buffer and I don’t know if it does a better job than Google Analytics, but it might prove to be a worthy competitor.

For lawyers looking to establish a reputation as an authority in a specific practice area or give their firm a media boost, you might want to suggest that they try HARO (“Help a Reporter Out”).  HARO lets you list yourself as an industry insider; next time a journalist needs an expert, they consult the HARO list and know just who to call.  As online media and news outlets explode, new cub reporters are going to need to get their soundbites from somewhere and someone – this idea sounds promising!

If your firm permits internal messaging systems, I would be remiss not mention Slack.  It’s the current gold-standard of messaging tools. “Slack is so well-known and widely used…” that it almost wasn’t included on this list of new up-and-comers.  In the end, though, Slack is so good at what it does – and so ubiquitously used – that any firm looking to install a messaging app may want to give it a try (provided it meets the firms compliance standards, of course).

So readers – have you used any of the apps mentioned in this blog post or listed in the TechDay article?  If you have user feedback, we’d love to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Reach out to WPLLA and let us know what productivity tools you use to make your life a little easier.  Goodness knows we all deserve a bit of a break!

 


Leave a comment

Link Roundup – June

 

Copyright Office Releases Updated Draft of Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition

 

First proposed updates to the Compendium since it was released in 2014
Give Philly libraries the resources they deserve

 

Philadelphia libraries need a larger operating budget
OCLC and Wikipedia Library link citations to millions of library materials

 

OCLC and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library are working together to make it easy for editors to link citations in Wikipedia to millions of library materials represented in WorldCat
LexisNexis Legal & Professional Acquires Research Company Ravel Law LexisNexis Legal & Professional announced that it has acquired Ravel Law, the legal research, analytics and visualization platform
Harvard Obtains Continued support for the Caselaw Access Project LexisNexis affirmed its commitment to continuing Ravel Law’s support for and fulfillment of the objectives of the Caselaw Access Project
AALL Funding Research Opportunities Grant

 

On this date, Cindy Cicco emailed the article “TS/OBS FROF (Funding Research Opportunities Grant” Awarded” to the WPLLA Distribution List
New on LLRX – Competitive Intelligence – A Selective Resource Guide – Updated June 2017 2017 annual update to the Competitive Intelligence guide now available
New on LLRX – New ABA Email Guidelines: How Can Lawyers Comply?

 

Advice for lawyers on a range of applications and technology from which they can choose to establish standardized secure, encrypted email communications

 

UN Digital Library On this date, Joel Fishman emailed the article “Virtual Meeting: Learn more about the UN Digital Library and Meet the New Chief Librarian of the Dag Hammarksjold Library” to the WPLLA Distribution List
CRS – Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Options for Independent Executive Investigations CRS report on special investigative independent inquiries into executive branch actions
Availability of Legislative Measures in House of Representatives (The “Three-Day Rule”)

 

Legislative measures reported from House committees must be available for three calendar days, excluding weekends and legal holidays unless the House is in session on such days
Harnessing the Power of Google New book detailing tips and tricks to get better results from Internet search engines
How To Write A Work Email When You’re Really Pissed Off

 

Two general rules to help you write business emails
PA Election Archive

 

“Pennsylvania Perspectives on the 2016 U.S. Election”, a web and social media archive documenting diverse viewpoints from Pennsylvania on the 2016 elections.
TEN SITES THAT GIVE FREE ACCESS TO QUALITY EBOOKS LIBRARIANS AND PUBLISHERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT [READERS, TOO]

 

Ten sites noted by NSR for free ebooks and econtent
ABA’s Free Legal Answers Site

 

A virtual legal advice clinic funded in aprt by the ABA
GPO Issues Digital Release of Historical Congressional Record for the 1950s

 

Newly released digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1951-1960
Appropriations Bill May Finally Make Congressional Research Reports Public

 

EveryCRSReport

The House Appropriates Committee requested the Congressional Research Service make all non-confidential reports public in its proposed appropriations; other websites attempt to archive every CRS report


Leave a comment

Pew Report: Lifelong Learning and Technology

Guest post by Sarah Steers

Lifelong learners, personal and professional learners, major technology adopters: regular library users can be identified in a myriad of ways, according to the April 2016 Pew Research Center report Lifelong Learning and Technology.

The Pew Research Center offered a good synopsis of the report on March 22, 2016.  Pew found that:

  • 73% of adults consider themselves lifelong learners
  • 74% of adults are “personal learners” – people who have “participated in at least one” activity in the past year about something that interests them or something that they care about (like reading, taking a course, or attending an event).
  • 63% of working adults (which equates to 36% of all adult Americans) are professional learners – people who have taken a course or gotten some sort of training to advance their career or improve their job skills.

The report notes that many people weren’t aware if their local library offered “key learning and educational resources”:

  • 22% didn’t know if their library offered e-books for download;
  • 38% didn’t know if their library offered career resources;
  • 47% didn’t know if their library offered GED or high school equivalency courses;
  • 47% didn’t know if their library offered help for starting a new business;
  • and 49% didn’t know if their library offered online certification programs.

Pew’s “Libraries and Learning” report noted a few other community concerns.  For example, it’s more likely for women, parents of minors, people under age 50, and people with more education to use libraries and digital library resources.  Satisfied library users and those happy with available learning opportunities tend to be female, black or Hispanic, aged 30 or over, and/or from lower-income households.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Offerings

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers downloadable e-book services for cardholders, career and resume help for those in the workforce and help for recent high school grads  wondering about next-steps (students can also find practice exams and scholarship info), and multiple resources for new entrepreneurs. Check out CLP’s website for more info on the great services and events hosted by the Library.

Drop WPLLA a line if you have any comments or concerns about this report or any of its takeaways.  Or, let us know how you feel about your local library and some of the creative or helpful resources it offers!  We’d love to hear from you!