Annual CALI Conference for Law School Computing Wrap Up

The 27th Annual CALI Conference for Law School Computing was held on June 15th and 16th in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. The temperature reached a high of 108, but it was cool inside the newly constructed and beautiful ASU Beus Center for Law and Society building.

As usual in law library conferences, change was the theme: the conference name was The Changing Rhythm of Legal Education. For the rhythm part, the conference kicked off with a drum circle experience facilitated John Fitzgerald, Manager of Recreational Music Activities at Remo, Inc. Participants worked together, playing drums and other percussion instruments, to create not only beautiful music but also to build community and create wellness and positivity for the next two days.

The keynote address, entitled Collaboration and Control:  Building the New Collaborative Web, was delivered by Michael Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University – Vancouver. Mr. Caulfield argued that the initial promise of Internet facilitated collaboration remains unfulfilled and that even contributions to Wikipedia have started to decline. He expressed disappointment with this loss of possibilities and discussed his ideas about how student collaboration and open access can benefit both students and society. He had specific suggestions on how the legal academy can encourage law students to contribute their knowledge and skills for the greater good. He pointed to the shortcomings of the Wikipedia article about reasonable doubt, pointing out that the entry about this important legal concept has been flagged since 2009 as one needing “additional or better citations for verification” and “attention from an expert in law.” He noted that law students could greatly contribute to the public understanding of law and increase access to justice by contributing to Wikipedia, creating access to justice apps, or writing open source textbooks.

Though I didn’t notice it on the schedule at the time, the conference presentations were identified by type – those that might appeal to faculty, librarians, technologists, or everyone. There were four presentations specifically designated for librarians:  The Human Element in Search Algorithms: Bias and Accountability in Legal Databases; How to Talk to your Dean (or other Decision Makers); Visual Thinking:  Strategies, Assets and Tools; and Legislative Advocacy and the Law School:  Librarians Unite?!

For faculty, most of the presentations focused on online courses – student retention, effective asynchronous delivery techniques, introduction of online courses into the curriculum, creation of PlayPosit interactive videos, effective synchronous video techniques, student video preferences, and use of CALI QuizWright.

My favorite presentation was Deborah Ginsberg’s Blocked! What is Blockchain and What Will It Mean for the Future of Law? I was pretty vague on blockchain so luckily, Ms. Ginsberg started at the beginning. She explained that blockchain is a distributed ledger that runs on multiple computers and keeps track of records (blocks). It can be used to keep track of anything – money, titles, deeds, or even identities or votes. Since the digital ledger is decentralized it doesn’t rely on a government or organization to establish trustworthiness. Currently, blockchain is mostly associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin but there are lots of potential uses in the legal field for anything that requires recordkeeping – land records, intellectual property rights, and smart contacts, to name just a few examples. As for information I can use, I didn’t know much about cryptocurrencies but once she said that one could buy some with apps such as Coinbase I got out my phone to install it and, after a fashion, became the proud owner of $10.00 worth of both Bitcoin and Ethereum!

The conference had a lot of great presentations and I am looking forward to attending again in the future.

Blocked on Twitter…By the President

The Washington Post reported on June 13 that author Stephen King had been blocked on Twitter by @realdonaldtrump, the Twitter account Donald Trump uses regularly instead of the official @POTUS account. Is this a violation of the First Amendment? A letter from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University says yes: “The government may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in a designated public forum, but it may not exclude people simply because it disagrees with them.”

However, in a Wired article, Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University’s Law School, and expert in First Amendment theory, points out: “The question of whether the President’s Twitter feed is a public forum is a more complicated question. The law here is famously muddled, because it’s trying to prevent the government from discriminating against people who speak on public streets and parks, but it’s trying to fight the urge to make everything a public forum.” Eugene Volokh is more pointed in disagreeing with the Knight Institute’s stance; in a ProPublic article Volokh states, “The @realdonaldtrump account is very much, ‘I’m Donald Trump. I’m going to be expressing my views, and if you don’t like it, too bad for you.’ That sounds like private speech, even done by a government official on government property.”

The Knight Institute cites the recent Davison v. Loudon County decision to support its claim that a government official blocking citizens on Twitter is a violation of the First Amendment. In Davison, the court said, “The Court is not required to determine whether any use of social media by an elected official creates a limited public forum, although the answer to that question is undoubtedly ‘no.’ Rather, the issue before the Court is whether a specific government policy, applied to a specific government website, can create a “metaphysical” limited public forum for First Amendment purposes. See Rosenberger v. Rector, 515 U.S. at 830, 115 S.Ct. 2510. That answer to that narrower question is undoubtedly ‘yes.’” Davison v. Loudoun Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 2017 WL 58294, at *5 (E.D. Va. Jan. 4, 2017).

While legal scholars disagree as to whether Trump’s blocking of Stephen King and others on Twitter is a violation of the First Amendment, librarians agree that this area is ripe for further research (as is the question of social media and public/open records laws), and as the more private citizens bring law suits against government officials and agencies for suppressing speech on government and politician-run social media outlets, librarians will be watching with great interest at how it all unfolds.

Further Reading:

David S. Ardia, Government Speech and Online Forums: First Amendment Limitations on Moderating Public Discourse on Government Websites, 2010 BYU L.Rev. 1981 (2010).

Enrique Armijo, Kill Switches, Forum Doctrine, and the First Amendment’s Digital Future, 32 Cardozo Arts & Ent. L.J. 411 (2013-2014).

Alysha L. Bohanon, Tweeting the Police: Balancing Free Speech and Decency on Government-Sponsored Media Pages, 101 Minn. L. Rev. 341 (2016-2017).

Litigation Analytics on Bloomberg Law

By Sarah Gotschall

Bloomberg Law entered the legal analytics fray at the end of 2016 with the addition of Litigation Analytics to their legal research platform. It joined competitors such as Lex Machina and Ravel Law as companies harnessing the power of big data analytics to provide information about the litigation landscape to law students, lawyers, law firms, and companies. The data behind Litigation Analytics comes from published and unpublished court opinions and docket information. With a few clicks, the user has easy access to a wealth of litigation data about judges, law firms, and companies which can be used to inform litigation, business, or employment strategies.

Litigation Analytics has three categories of information: judges, law firms, and companies. Some examples will illustrate its usefulness.

Read more ›

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What to Watch for at the CALI Conference & the AALL Annual Meeting

One of the privileges of being a CS-SIS member is learning from and networking with our colleagues at conferences. Below are just some of the programs CS-SIS members are presenting at the CALI Conference and the AALL Annual Meeting.

Don’t see your program listed? Contact Mari and she will add your program to the list.  

CALI Conference

CALIcon17 will be held June 15-16 at the Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona.


AALL Annual Meeting

The AALL Annual Meeting will be held July 15-18 in Austin, Texas.

CS-SIS is sponsoring the following events at AALL in Austin this year:

CS-SIS Roundtables:

And don’t miss these programs at AALL by CS-SIS members:

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Waking up….

The blog has been a bit quiet lately, but we planning new things here soon.  Look for posts about CS, AALL, CALI, tech tips and more.  Want to contribute?  Contact Debbie Ginsberg and we’ll get you on our schedule.

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2017 Winner of the CS-SIS Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award!

I am happy to announce that Vicki Szymczak, Library Director & Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii, is the 2017 recipient of the CS-SIS Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award.

The Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award honors a CS-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the SIS, to AALL, and who is well regarded for their service to the profession. The inaugural award recipient was Ken Hirsh, in whose honor the award is named.

Vicki has been an active member of both CS-SIS and AALL. She has served on the CS board as both President (2008-2009) and Secretary/Treasurer (2003-2007). In AALL, Vicki currently serves on the Copyright Committee. Vicki regularly presents and moderates programs about topics relevant to CS members at the AALL Annual meeting. In all she does, Vicki is known as an enthusiastic and generous member of our community.

Please join me in congratulating Vicki for this well-deserved recognition of her commitment to the SIS, AALL, and the profession!

Cindy Bassett

CS-SIS Chair, 2016-17

Making the in-person connection: An AALL review

by Mari Cheney

After every AALL Annual Meeting, I am struck by how much more productive in­-person networking, learning and meeting is compared to the virtual counterparts. An IRL conversation is more lively than an email exchange or even a phone call. However, technology can play a huge role in helping these in­-person exchanges get started.

  • Thanks to Twitter, I started talking with another academic law librarian about the possibility of writing a paper We exchanged tweets and email, and finally met at the annual meeting in person.
  • Thanks to Instagram, I heard about a PEGA­SIS event called Beer & Edits, so I submitted a paper via email for peer review and met the readers of my paper in
  • I attended an excellent program called Attorney Research Skills: Continuing the Conversation Between Law Firm and Academic Law Librarians and while we conversed in person with the other librarians at our table, the conversation was enhanced with a Twitter feed using the hashtag #attyresearch.

When I returned home from AALL, I started thinking about the power of in­-person communication as opposed to virtual communication, especially as it relates to law students. At my library, reference services are available through chat, email, in person, or by phone. We have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to promote library services. However, as most law librarians will agree, reference interactions are down, especially by phone. So how do we reach students, especially if they don’t open their email or navigate to the library’s home page to learn about our services?

I think in­-person interactions are the key to success, and used in conjunction with technology and online communications, our reach would be much further. Librarians should eat lunch where students eat lunch (and eat with them!); librarians should attend student­-led events; librarians should offer support to clinics and law reviews; and in doing so, librarians become the face of an otherwise generic reference desk.

Once that in-­person connection is made, our students will pay more attention to electronic communications from the library, in whatever form that may be, because they know us in person. And vice­-­versa, an introduction to the library on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or a welcome message to new students sent from the library’s email account may be the brief introduction a student needs to be comfortable greeting you in person. Use your technology to break the ice with a student IRL, whether it’s pointing out a Poke Stop or the nearest printer.

Mari Cheney, J.D., M.L.I.S., is the Digital Resources & Reference Librarian at Lewis & Clark Law School, Boley Law Library

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CS-SIS Grant Winner Lacy Rakestraw on the 2016 AALL Exhibit Hall

Lacy Rakestraw, Director of the St. Louis County Law Library, received a grant from CS-SIS that enabled her to attend this year’s AALL Annual Meeting and Conference. Here’s what she had to say about it:

No trip to an AALL Annual Conference would be complete without a visit to the exhibit hall, and at the recent conference in Chicago, I did just that.  I was immediately struck by all the bright colors, glowing lights, and flashy screens. At one point I stopped at the end of a row and looked down the alley.  From that viewpoint I counted at least 17 computer screens at 10 different vendor booths.  I stopped and thought how foreign this must look to librarians who have been in the business for the past 10 or 20 years.  As a digital-age millennial, all these screens are par for the course for me.  But what exactly did the exhibit hall of yesteryear look like?

I asked around, and the more seasoned librarians told me what they remembered.  There were obviously less screens and visual effects.  And apparently there was less swag. (maybe lanyards weren’t a thing in the 1990s?)  But what there was in the 1980/1990 exhibit hall was print.  Because that was what these vendors were selling.

In today’s vendor market, that’s why there is a proliferation of screens and flash at conference exhibits; because now that’s what vendors are pushing. Even those vendors who are print based had laptops with them at their booths, presumably to look up their company’s online catalog to check the availability of a product.  Or perhaps they had laptops in order to pass the time while conference attendees visited the bigger, more digital based vendors.  It did make me wonder how much longer we would have book-based vendors at the AALL Conference exhibit halls.

It also made me wonder, in 10 or 20 years, when I’m one of the more seasoned librarians visiting the Conference exhibit hall, what will I see?  Will there even be vendor reps, or will they all be machines, telling me to assimilate and that resistance is futile?

Call for CS-SIS Annual Meeting Grant Applications

CS-SIS Members are invited to apply for one of two annual AALL Meeting and Conference grants:

AALL CS-SIS Grant for Students and New Librarians: The purpose of the AALL CS-SIS Grants Program for Students and New Librarians is to provide financial assistance for new librarians or students in library or information school to attend the AALL annual meeting, or a workshop offered at the annual meeting. Among the factors taken into consideration are qualities or activities that indicate the person shows promise of future involvement in the law library profession, especially those who are directly involved in providing technology support of any kind within law libraries.

AALL CS-SIS Grant for Experienced Librarians: The purpose of the AALL CS-SIS Grants Program is to provide financial assistance to librarians who have a demonstrated commitment to the law library profession, especially those who are directly involved in providing technology support of any kind within law libraries.

Grants will cover registration costs to attend the AALL conference, or registration fees for a workshop, held in Chicago. All funds are provided by the AALL CS-SIS.

Successful CS-SIS Grant awardees are expected to write an article about some aspect of attending the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference in Chicago. The article may feature an in-depth review of one program attended or an overview of your whole conference experience, for example.

To apply for a grant, send a letter outlining how you meet the criteria for the applicable grant, listing relevant job duties, other activities and articles written, above to Jean L. Willis, Chair of the CS-SIS Grants and Awards Committee, at Application letters are due by COB on Thursday, March 24, 2016.

Call for Nominations – Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award

The Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award honors a CS-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the SIS, to AALL, and who is well regarded for their service to the profession. The inaugural award recipient was Ken Hirsh, in whose honor the award is named.


  • Outstanding leadership through committee work, service on the executive board, involvement in special projects or other activities
  • Participation in professional development activities in furtherance of the section and its interests, including educational program planning and presentations
  • Involvement with mentoring activities to foster interest and participation in the section and its activities
  • Evidenced commitment to the section, its purpose, and its role within the association in furtherance of the law library profession

To be eligible for the award, a nominee must be an active or retired member of the CS-SIS.  Section officers are not eligible for this award during their term of office.  For a list of past award recipients, please check the CS-SIS blog.

The CS-SIS Awards committee welcomes self-nominations, as well as nominations of your colleagues. To nominate yourself, or a colleague, send a nominating letter outlining how the nominee meets the criteria, above, to Jean L. Willis, Chair of the CS-SIS Grants and Awards Committee, at  Nominations are due by March 18, 2016.