New Wellness Libguide

Working from home on this Wellness Wednesday, and with all the stress and news about the COVID19 virus around the world and in my own neighborhood, I decided to focus my attention on creating a new Libguide on Wellness.

This Wellness Libguide is designed to foster the development of healthy habits and lay the groundwork for students to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle. The goal is to promote student wellness and to assist them in finding the resources they need to help cope with the stresses of law school. It points to topics relating to mental health & wellness within the legal profession.

Wellness Wednesdays have become a symbol of support for mental health awareness and advocacy, and we can do that even from our homes. Please see this new guide here.

 

Legal dictionaries through the centuries

A new exhibition is on display at the Nahum Gelber Law Library. Legal dictionaries through the centuries.

It presents items from its Wainwright and Canadiana Rare Books collections published between 1616 and 1882.

A very unique dictionary is the Vocabvlarivm ivrisprvdentiae romanae from 1718, a handwritten small book that provides a quick and simple reference guide to the principle terms and concepts of Roman civil law. Aspects covered are from inheritance and property rights through to contracts and martial law. A section also deals with “Iuris Primordia”, detailing the structure and development of the Corpus Iuris Civilis.

Another interesting work is the Dictionnaire de cas de conscience : ou, Décisions des plus considérables dificultez touchant la morale et la discipline ecclesiastique. Tirées de l’Ecriture, des Conciles, des Decretales des papes, des peres, et des plus célebres théologiens et canonistes. A three volumes set published in Paris in 1730 donated to the Library by Paul-André Crépeau.

A work dedicated to the French King and dealing with feudal Law in France is the Dictionnaire des fiefs et des droits seigneuriaux utiles et honorifiques : contenant les définitions des termes, & un ample recueil des décisions choisies, fondées sur la jurisprudence des arrêts, la disposition des différentes coutumes, & la doctrine des meilleures feudistes … by Joseph Renauldon, published in Paris, in 1788.

A recent donation to our Rare Books also presented in this exhibition is the New law-dictionary: containing the interpretation and definition of words and terms used in law… by Giles Jacob, published in London, in 1782. It was donated and restored thanks to the generosity of Penny Polk and Gordon Echenberg.

The exhibition was curated by Sonia Smith.

Focus on: LITE Newsletter

Today we rediscovered Lite Newsletter, a newsletter published between 1968-1974 by the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the United States Air Force. After it was found, we decided that it was too rare of an item to keep in our regular journal collection, and so moved it into our rare book collection to ensure preservation (McGill owns volumes from 1970-1974). The content was so unique and interesting, we thought we would share a little bit about the newsletter and its contents!

Lite Newsletter was a newsletter dedicated to sharing news about the LITE System, a computerized information retrieval system for legal research that was developed by the Air Force and which provided search service to government agencies in the United States. LITE, which stands for Legal Information Thru Electronics, seems to have been a game changer in legal research in the Department of Defense in particular, saving “countless hours of manual research”.  Run by a staff of attorneys, LITE was meant to help lawyers deal with the “information explosion” of the time. The LITE attorneys were trained in building effective queries for the LITE system to run. Based on descriptions of the search functions, it looks like LITE attorneys were essentially researchers who were particular adept at using Boolean and proximity operators (!).

LITE included many databases, including the United States Code, decisions of various boards and tribunals, published and unpublished international law agreements, and extensive regulatory material. The LITE Newsletter would keep government lawyers up to date with new additions to the databases, interesting and common LITE searches, and more. Eventually, a library was built with these searches, to save “computational time” on urgent requests that effectively repeated a previously completed search.

In one issue of the newsletter, a list of potential explanations for not using LITE were enumerated. Particularly entertaining reasons included:

2. Dreamed of the possibility of computerized research, but didn’t know that it was feasible.
9. Didn’t realize the breadth and depth of a computer-produced research report. Didn’t realize that some problems which may have been impossible to research manually can now be researched by the computer.
12. Does not trust any kind of research prepared by a machine.

Other explanations might resonate with fellow librarians today:

5. Was afraid, or at least nervous asking for information on the system.
6. Didn’t believe that LITE data bases were relevant to the user’s problems, however, didn’t bother to inquire.
7. Satisfied with manual research techniques.

One issue of the newsletter also goes into the importance of using computers for research: “The computer is the only tool of technology that can store, manipulate and retrieve data of any kind in many different and general ways […] It is the most powerful tool ever available to man and to society.”

It is interesting to note how far we have come with computer-assisted research, and yet sometimes, our struggles remain the same. “Information explosion” is now known as “information overload,” and is one of the most significant challenges of the Digital Age. People may now be comfortable with researching using traditional databases, but when artificial intelligence is thrown into the mix – for instance, with new document analyzers – there is increasing skepticism. Finally, students continue to struggle with library anxiety, and librarians continue to put significant efforts into library outreach.

The LITE Newsletter is available by consultation only, Mondays to Fridays, from 9am-5pm.

  • Lite service for government agencies

Two new databases and a new agreement with the CAIJ

The Nahum Gelber Law Library is proud to announce the launch of two new databases, Practical Law Canada and Lexis Practice Advisor, as well as the signing of an agreement between the CAIJ and McGill University, granting CAIJ memberships to students, librarians, support staff and professors of the McGill Faculty of Law.

Access to Practical Law Canada and membership to the CAIJ are restricted to the Faculty of Law only; a consent form, available at the circulation desk or by emailing law.library@mcgill.ca, must first be completed. Access to Lexis Practice Advisor is available to the entire McGill community.

Practical Law Canada

Practical Law Canada (PLC) is a research tool that provides a variety of practical resources to help lawyers get their work done more efficiently. Practice notes, which provide guidelines and explanations of current law and practice, precedents with detailed drafting notes, and checklists, timelines and flowcharts, are created and maintained by a team of expert lawyers, who ensure that their material reflects current practice. The practice areas covered are:

– Capital Markets & Securities
– Commercial Real Estate
– Commercial Transactions
– Competition
– Corporate and M&A
– Employment
– Finance
– Litigation (Corporate & Commercial)

In addition, PLC offers a provincial comparison tool, allowing users to compare laws and requirements in a particular area of law, across the country. Last, their product What’s Market allows you to easily analyse and compare terms or features across publicly filed deals.

Guides, video tutorials (in both languages) and interactive eLearning (English Only) are available here:  https://store1.thomsonreuters.ca/learning/practical-law-canada (Eng)  https://store1.thomsonreuters.ca/apprentissage/practical-law-canada (Fr). A training session in the library will be offered during the course of the semester.

Lexis Practice Advisor

Lexis Practice Advisor is another practitioner-oriented research tool. Similar to PLC, the platform also features practice notes, precedents with detailed drafting notes, checklists and flowcharts, as well as forms and articles, all maintained by a team of expert lawyers. The practice areas covered are:

– Capital Markets and M&A
– Commercial
– Corporate and Private M&A
– Employment
– Family Law (BC and Ontario only)
– Finance
– Insolvency & Restructuring
– In-House Counsel
– Intellectual Property & Technology
– Litigation & Dispute Resolution
– Personal Injury (BC and Ontario only)
– Wills, Trusts & Estates (BC and Ontario only)

While the content is primarily Canadian, some international, US, UK, and EU content is also available.

Training on Lexis Practice Advisor will be offered during the course of the semester.

CAIJ

Le CAIJ met à votre disposition des ressources couvrant l’ensemble des champs de la pratique juridique. Vous retrouverez notamment du contenu et des outils afin d’appuyer vos études et recherches, notamment :

– Jurisprudence québécoise et canadienne.
– Lois des juridictions canadiennes.
– De la doctrine à valeur ajoutée et développée au CAIJ, telle que :

*une banque de question de recherche documentées (TOPO) comprenant plus de 5000 questions pour vous aider à commencer une recherche;
*des dossiers spéciaux sur des sujets d’actualité qui rassemblent toute l’information pertinente pouvant vous aiguiller dans vos recherches
*plus de 100 lois annotées pancanadiennes incluant les annotations d’ouvrages comme les AlterEgo de Wilson & Lafleur, le Code civil annoté de Baudouin-Renaud, etc.
*un accès exclusif à la Collection de droit de l’École du Barreau.

– Des banques de données accessibles à distance telles que : dèsLibris (Irwin Law’s e-library), LexBase, et bien plus encore.

Bénéficiez également du soutien personnalisé d’une équipe de recherchistes-formateurs qualifiés pour vous accompagner dans vos recherches en mode clavardage, de 8 h à 20 h du lundi au jeudi et de 8 h à 17 h le vendredi.

Finalement, Mon CAIJ, l’espace de travail personnalisé et confidentiel, vous offre des fonctionnalités adaptées à votre pratique, notamment :

– Sauvegarde de vos requêtes de recherche, de sources et d’archivage
– Alertes personnalisées associées à vos requêtes
– Prêt, réservation et/ou livraison de documents (des frais peuvent s’appliquer)

Une formation sur les outils du CAIJ sera offert à la bibliothèque le 27 janvier 2020. Inscrivez-vous dès maintenant.

All databases are accessible directly from the Law Subject Guide. If you have any questions regarding these new products, please contact us at law.library@mcgill.ca.

New Exhibition: The Unfinished Path to Reconciliation

“Reconciliation is not an Indigenous problem – it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was tasked with investigating and commemorating the residential school system.

As Justice Sinclair and many others have said, education is key to reconciliation. As institutions that are both repositories for knowledge and natural gathering places, libraries can play an important role in reconciliation. With this goal, the Nahum Gelber Law Library offers to its visitors a new exhibition: The Unfinished Path to Reconciliation.

 

The blended-media exhibition features primary documents, books, reproductions of archival documents and memorabilia and highlight important cases on native’s rights. The exhibition includes digital materials presented on an interactive touch-table.

The use of touch-table for this Law Library exhibition is a part of the McGill Library Innovation in Service project. The exhibition was curated by Sonia Smith.

Four new study carrels available in the library

Thanks to the generous support of the Law Students Association (LSA), we now have 4 brand new carrels available for library patrons. The carrels are located on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Nahum Gelber Law Library, facing the south windows that overlook Old Chancellor Day Hall and the front lawn of the Law Faculty. Each carrel features a regular power outlet as well as two USB charging ports. Privacy dividers separate two adjacent seats.

The library would particularly like to thank Marie Pilote, the 2018-2019 VP External of the LSA, and Diane Koen, Senior Director, Planning and Resources at the McGill Library, for their efforts in bringing this project to fruition!

new study spaces on 3rd floor

outlets available in each study space new study spaces on 3rd floor

Our library’s first escape room – are you up to the challenge?

Gamification is a hot trend in libraries these days, particularly when it comes to teaching information literacy. It is no stranger in the teaching of legal research either – legal scavenger hunts have long been a favourite way for librarians and professors to introduce students to a variety of legal resources.

Over the summer, after learning about escape rooms in libraries, I decided that I wanted to build my own escape room for McGill Law students as a way of promoting the library while teaching legal research. Between codal provisions in Quebec civil law and the detailed rules laid out in the McGill Guide, I had a feeling that I could build the ultimate escape room for our students with locks and puzzles galore. A quick poll on social media suggested that students were a fan of the idea.

Soon after I drafted my scenario, I was approached by the McGill Law Journal‘s executive editors, who were looking for a fun way to test and improve their editors’ research skills. After sharing my escape room plan, we decided to put my theory to the test. I came up with a series of questions that tested the main skills the journal wanted to focus on, and integrated them into our scenario.

The scenario: You are a co-author of a research paper that needs to be submitted to the MLJ by the end of the month. The publication is time-sensitive, as a competing research team is set to publish in the coming weeks. Your co-author, who has the most recent version of the article, has died in a tragic accident (he was in fact, eaten by a polar bear while on vacation in Manitoba). Thankfully, you know that your co-author kept a USB key with the latest version of the paper somewhere in his office. You need to recover the USB key to continue working on the paper and submit in time. (Click here to read the entire scenario, made bilingual thanks to the translation work of Guillaume Lebrun-Petel of the MLJ.)

What to expect: The game includes 14 problems, though you do not have to solve all 14 to “escape”. They deal primarily with citation rules, international and foreign law research, and legislative research. Search throughout the room – including through Professor Leresponsable’s laptop and personal email – for clues.

How they did: Four groups of three-to-five students were given 35 minutes to escape, and hints were provided along the way. While ultimately none of the groups made it out, a lot of fun was had by all! The closest team was just two questions away from finding the USB!

Are you ready for your turn? That’s right – the escape room is now open to the rest of the Faculty! The game will run 9 more times between September 23rd-October 3rd in room 4020 (see updated escape room schedule here). Sign up as a team* of 3-5 individuals and put your legal research skills to the test! Students and professors alike are invited to participate! A small prize will be awarded to the team that manages to escape in the fastest time. Contact katarina.daniels@mcgill.ca to register.

*you are free to sign up individually, but you will be added to a team.

New mural by Saulteaux First Nations artist Robert Houle on display

The Nahum Gelber Law Library is proud to play host to an incredible mural by Saulteaux First Nations artist Robert Houle (McGill B.Ed. 1975). The recently-restored three-panel mural was installed late last week, right in time for the first day of classes. It is featured prominently on our ground floor, just to the right as you enter the building. Untitled Robert Houle mural on exhibit in Nahum Gelber Law LibraryIt is accompanied by a trilingual wall label, with an English, French, and Ojibwe description of the mural and brief biography of the artist.

Trilingual wall label (Ojibwe, French and English)

Since the release of the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the library has been bolstering its Aboriginal law collection in order to support our Faculty’s commitment to teaching Indigenous legal traditions. This new installation serves to reinforce our library’s own commitment to improving accessibility to Aboriginal law content as well as to information on residential schools.

Thank you to the Students’ Society of McGill University, the Faculty of Law and to our head librarian, Mtre Daniel Boyer, Ad.E., for their generosity in the restoration of the mural, and thank you to the Visual Arts Collection for loaning us the work.

LégisQuébec – The (In)completeness of an Official Consolidated Law

Earlier this week, a patron called the library asking about the publication procedure for Quebec legislation. He wanted to know whether the consolidated statutes and regulations published by Publications Québec on LégisQuébec were actually consolidated and up to date, and included any amendments soon to come into force. Specifically, he was seeing some inconsistencies with the Consumer Protection Act.

My initial response was affirmative – after all, the consolidated legislation on LégisQuébec includes an update date and has official status. If a bill amending the legislation had been passed prior to the update date, it would be reasonable to expect that the amendments had been integrated somehow into the official consolidated version.

This expectation was reinforced in me in particular as a result of my experience regularly seeing gray boxes with the amended provisions and coming into force information integrated throughout official consolidated legislation.

Consequently, I believed it was in error that the new section 119.1 of the Consumer Protection Act, introduced via section 27 of Bill 134 and set to come into force on August 1st, 2019 (order in council 987-2018), was excluded from the official, consolidated Consumer Protection Act. To that end, I sent an email to Publications Québec, asking them if this was an unintentional error.

Publication Québec’s Approach to Consolidating Laws

The next morning, I received a phone call from a representative of Publications Québec informing me that there was no error on their part. Rather, the absence of 119.1 from the consolidated act was the result of an editorial decision taken by Publications Québec years ago (and which was too complicated to explain in writing, and better explained verbally).

In sum, I was told that despite the signs that led me to believe that the consolidated legislation published on LégisQuébec does integrate amending legislation not yet in force, in fact, Publications Québec does not integrate all amendments brought in by a new law. This is true even if an order in council has been published in the Gazette officielle du Québec proclaiming the coming into force of the various provisions of the amending law. Confusingly, Publications Québec only integrate SOME amendments.

According to the representative from Publications Québec, an amendment will only appear in a gray box if it modifies a provision currently in force and its coming into force date has been published; anything that is entirely new law will not appear in the consolidated law until it actually comes into force. The justification for this editorial decision? (1) To reduce the number of gray boxes that appear throughout the consolidated legislation and improve the readability of legislation. (2) To minimize the risk of integrating amending provisions that would end up never coming into force.

Implications of Publications Québec’s Editorial Decision

According to the representative from Publications Québec, there is no plan to change their editorial process. What this means concretely, is that:

  • When you are looking at a piece of legislation on LégisQuébec, you can never know for sure if tomorrow, that piece of legislation will look entirely different.
  • When you are looking at a piece of legislation on LégisQuébec and you see gray boxes with coming-into-force information, you should not assume that it gives you a complete picture of the law soon to come into force.
  • In order to obtain a complete picture of a law or to be sure that the piece of legislation you are looking at has not been modified by a law soon to come into force, you will have to:
    1. Search for a modifying bill;
    2. Confirm it has received royal assent;
    3. Search Part 2 of the Gazette Officielle du Québec for coming into force information; and
    4. Consolidate, either manually or by using a consolidating tool like this one.

Legal (Library) Tech

Legal technology has never been more in the spotlight than it is now. In 2018, investments in legal technology companies reached US $1 billion. Then, just days into the new year, a new $200 million investment was announced in a single legal tech company, signaling yet another record year for legal tech. Once a field associated with just a handful of “pioneering” legal databases, legal tech is now a glamorous, trendy alternative legal path attracting the best and brightest law students.

So What is Legal Tech, and Why is it Relevant to Libraries?

Legal tech has been defined in a number of texts – academic and nonacademic – with no clear consensus to be found. Definitions range from the extremely narrow to the unhelpfully broad, from the practical to the theoretical. The definition that I like best comes from lawyer Christian Lang, who defines legal tech as “(1) the technology that helps facilitate the practice of law for lawyers and (2) the technology that helps consumers access legal expertise or access justice.” While in some cases technologies may benefit both user groups, so far, the vast majority of legal tech targets one or the other group.

Law librarians in academic, government, courthouse and private law libraries should be paying attention to legal technologies because they are changing the practice of law and giving law librarians greater opportunities to implicate ourselves in the delivery of legal services. In particular, legal tech has been changing the nature of the game when it comes to legal research, document drafting, document management (including contract management, IP management, and eDiscovery), and document review. While law librarians have historically only played a role in the first item listed, increasingly, we are being tasked with knowledge management and project management of legal tech initiatives in other areas of legal service.

Librarians who work in public libraries may also want to follow legal tech companies. With the well-documented problems involving access to justice, citizens often turn to public libraries for assistance related to legal matters. Public library librarians should be aware of the different legal technologies that exist and which may help users with legal problems.

Law and Technology and Applied Innovation

In February of this year, I was given the opportunity to develop and teach an intensive legal tech workshop at McGill’s Faculty of Law. The course, entitled “Law and Technology and Applied Innovation,” was one of six optional courses offered during the Faculty’s Winter Focus Week. My instructions were simply to design the course “in a way that offers more than the usual classroom format”. It was suggested that “the focus be more on hands-on student engagement with exercises designed around real-world challenges”.

Leveraging my role as liaison librarian at the Nahum Gelber Law Library, I contacted select legal research technology companies, asking for demos and access to their platforms. Canadian-founded ROSS Intelligence and Blue J Legal, along with American-based Casetext, answered my call. All three leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in different ways, turning the legal research process on its head. Despite their relative unknown status across the majority of Canadian law schools, I knew that they were key players in the market: ROSS Intelligence already counts the largest global law firms among their clients, Blue J Legal counts the largest Canadian law firms and accounting firms as their clients, while Casetext counts over 35 Am Law Firms among their clients.

Students used the tools to attempt to solve legal questions, and were impressed at just how different the research process looked using these tools. Both ROSS Intelligence, which leverages the power of IBM Watson, as well as Casetext allow for natural language searches as alternatives to traditional Boolean searches, allowing users to ask legal research questions in their own words. Both platforms also allow users to narrow their search results by motion or by a particular set of facts. While ROSS Intelligence requires a user to type in this factual context, Casetext allows users to upload a document that gives context to the search; their AI-powered search engine CARA then reads the document to gain an understanding of the factual scenario, and ranks results that share this contextual background higher in the list of search results. As a competing feature, ROSS Intelligence highlights cases with a “deep match” (where the system is fairly confident the answer to your legal question can be found in that decision) or a “fact match” (cases that share a similar set of facts and deal with the same or similar legal issue). ROSS even provides custom, AI-generated answers to your question through the “generate overview” feature, pulling key sentences from the decision and developing a coherent answer to your legal question in a matter of seconds. In addition, both tools also provide a “find similar language” feature across their content, allowing users to easily find additional authorities on a point of law. Last, both offer document analysis, allowing users to import legal briefs, which the AI reads to verify the treatment of cited cases, ensuring that you or opposing counsel are not citing bad law.

Blue J Legal’s research tools, Tax Foresight, Employment Foresight and HR Foresight, by contrast, are not designed with the traditional search engine format. Rather, they are built modularly to answer specific questions, with predictive AI at their core. Users select a specific legal issue, and use one of three tools available to assist with their research: a classifier, which, after a user completes a brief questionnaire, predicts how a court would rule in a particular matter; a case finder, which retrieves cases sharing a similar fact pattern; or a navigator, which is essentially a built-out decision-tree. A machine-learning built memorandum is also produced following the use of the classifier, justifying the prediction based on the facts of the file. Unlike the other two tools, Blue J Legal uses human (lawyer)-powered tagging to avoid errors in the dataset, and will only produce a classifier if it can predict future decisions with at least 90 per cent accuracy.

Access to Justice, Changes in the Legal Profession

Interacting with these and other tools, students were invited to consider how legal tech is changing the way law is being practiced, and how technology might prove to be useful tools in increasing access to justice.

Increased efficiency and decreased research costs were recognized as significant benefits, which could translate into increased access to the legal system. However, concerns were raised about the quality of research results using an AI-search, particularly at this early stage in the development of AI research tools. The risk of a two-tiered legal system, whereby people who could not afford lawyer fees would put all their trust in the research capabilities of – essentially – a robot, potentially putting them at a disadvantage compared to individuals who can afford to pay lawyer fees, was also raised.

While students were excited about just how streamlined the research process could be, they were also concerned about loss of essential research skills among a new generation of lawyers. In particular, these research tools are all geared towards finding “the needle in the haystack,” arguably eliminating the need for lawyers to first gain an understanding about the area of law in which they are working.

Last, privacy concerns were mentioned, particularly with regards to tools like Casetext’s CARA, where documents containing sensitive information. As document analyzers become more common in AI research tools, privacy concerns will necessarily rise.

As legal tech continues to change the way law is practiced, law libraries will necessarily need to adapt. The Nahum Gelber Law Library is continuously on the lookout for new, innovative legal research tools, and is scanning the legal market to see what is being used by practicing lawyers, all to ensure that our students have the right tools to prepare them for life after law school.

Interested in legal tech and its implications? Click here to read some of the blog posts written by McGill Law students for the Law and Technology and Applied Innovation course, which were published by the Blogue du CRL of the Young Bar of Montreal.