"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Friday, May 19, 2017

LOC Makes 25 Million Catalog Records Available for Bulk Download


Earlier this week, the Library of Congress announced that it was making over 25 million of its catalog records available for free bulk download. These records will be available at data.gov and on the Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/cds/products/marcDist.php. Previously these records were only available individually or by subscription. This new free service of the LOC will be an invaluable resource for anyone doing bibliographic research.

The records are in the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging Records) format, the international standard for bibliographic data. To learn more about MARC records, see this tutorial on the LOC website.    

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Problem of Dark Data

A March New York Times article sounded warning bells for researchers: the scourge of dark data. Dark data doesn’t refer to anything secret or illegal, but rather data developed by the government and other organizations subject to loss. A more complete definition, often used in the corporate context, is "the information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes.” Concern over the loss of data that could lead to new discoveries has been especially equated with the loss of scientific data stored by agencies and other organizations. Much of this data is stored on government servers, with no legal obligation to remain available. The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to scientific research and agency funding has only increased the alarm felt by scientists and other researchers.

An additional problem is that dark data, by definition, is unknown. It can’t be verified if it can’t be found, even though we know it’s there. Somewhere. Right now, data.gov is the central repository for government created databases, but it relies on agencies to self-report and is, by many researchers’ estimates, only a fraction of data created by the agencies. The use of proprietary code and data.gov’s practice of linking to data housed on websites, instead of the databases themselves, makes it even more difficult for researchers.

While there does not seem to be any federal legislation prohibiting the destruction or decentralization of these types of data, several non-profits have formed to save this data from going dark, by identifying and downloading  data viewed as vulnerable to deletion.

To learn more about dark data, here are some resources to get you started:




Dark Web: Exploring and Data Mining the Dark Side of the Web, Hsinchun Chen

Friday, April 28, 2017

Law Firm Cybersecurity

The ABA  has recently published Law Firm Cybersecurity by Daniel Garrie and Bill Spernow, which is now in the law library's collection (KF318.G37 2017). This book begins with an overview of cybersecurity and the law firm, discussing issues such as law firm vulnerabilities to cyber breaches, ethical violations that could result, and the potential liability for clients because of the breaches. The second chapter provides "Ten Commandments of Cybersecurity" that law firms should implement immediately to prevent a cyber attack. There is a chapter that provides a detailed overview of cyber threats that exist and another chapter provides advice on password management, encryption, firewalls, and perimeter security control. Cryptography, the International Organization for Standardization 27000 series (which cover cybersecurity standards), and framework for improving critical cybersecurity infrastructure are among the other topics covered. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

New GPO Websites


The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) recently announced the launch of its beta.gpo.gov website, which will eventually replace the old GPO website launched in 2009. Among other things, the new site features a mobile-friendly design, access to GPO social media platforms, and a directory of Federal Depository Libraries.

This follows closely on the February launch of the beta website govinfo.gov, which will eventually replace the Federal Digital System (FDSys) as the GPO’s free, searchable repository of government documents, including regulations, statutes, legislative documents, and court opinions. For more information about govinfo.gov and what is available there, see this Q&A.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

States Perform Website


Looking for a way to compare the states on various performance measures?  One resource that can help with this is States Perform.  This website, from the Council of State Governments, allows users to compare all 50 states on various measures related to fiscal and economic issues, education, transportation, energy and environment, public safety and justice, and health and human services.  For instance you can compare states on their crime rates, renewable energy generation, or percentage of children who are immunized.  You can also view or compare state trends in the data.  If you don’t want to compare, you can select a particular state to view all of its performance measures.  Finally, you can create customizable charts and maps with the data, which can be printed or downloaded in various file formats. 

To explore this data and compare the states, visit the States Perform website. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Images with Impact: Design and Use of Winning Trial Visuals

The American Bar Association has recently published Images with Impact: Design and use of Winning Trial Visuals by Kerri L. Ruttenberg. This title is now available in the law library (KF8915.R88 2017) on the new titles shelf across from the reference desk. This book, ideal for both the trial lawyer and law student, focuses on turning themes into visuals to communicate effectively with the jury. The author begins with a discussion of the importance of visual communication and then covers tools such as charts, maps, diagrams, graphs, tables, outlines, photos, and timelines. Those who are not familiar with the basics of graphic design will also find the chapters in Part III to be very helpful. Tips on spotting misleading visuals, practical tips for creating and using visuals at trial, and an overview of the law on demonstrative evidence are among the other topics addressed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Legal Research AI Gains Venture Capital


The legal research company Casetext has announced that it has acquired $12 million in venture capital to expand on its CARA ("Case Analysis Research Assistant") AI software, a virtual research assistant currently capable of scanning a legal brief and retrieving cases relevant to but not cited in the brief.

CARA is not alone in the world of legal AIs.  When it was created last year, it joined the ranks of AIs including ROSS, an IBM Watson-based legal research AI, DoNotPay, a website founded in 2015 to automate the preparation of parking ticket appeals, and an amateur AI judge capable of predicting European Court of Human Rights decisions with 79% accuracy.