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Lessons Learned from the AALL 2016 Annual Conference in Chicago

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We are back from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2016 Annual Conference in Chicago. I was happy to present with Abbie Grotke at the Legal Information Preservation Alliance’s annual meeting.  I discussed several Law Library related web archiving initiatives, including: adding the historic Congressional Record from THOMAS to; the recent Archives Unleashed eventusing in our research reports; our currently accessible web archives; and future projects.

In what has become a tradition, after I return from an AALL conference (in Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, and Philadelphia again), I compile a list of our “lessons learned.” This year the professional development conference was in Chicago.

A Glimpse of Chicago / Photograph by Andrew Weber
A Glimpse of Chicago / Photograph by Andrew Weber


This conference was packed with interesting programs.  One very useful program  for helping patrons was “Asian Legal Information in English: Availability, Accessibility, and Quality Control.”  In just 60 minutes, the speakers covered locating English translations of primary law for China, Hong Kong & Macau, South Korea and Japan.  They referred to print sources, such as EHS Law Bulletin Series, Japan, and online sources, such as Korean Laws to the World.


I find that one of my biggest challenges with the annual AALL meeting is choosing among the several intriguing programs being offered simultaneously. This year I enjoyed the session on “Harvesting Democracy:  Archiving Federal Government Content at End of Term” that focused on the volunteer efforts of three institutions to archive websites of government agencies at the end of a presidential and/or congressional term. This work is essential to ensuring the long-term preservation and availability of these websites for future researchers.  Abbie Grotke from the Library of Congress noted that a primary goal of the end of term (eot) project is to work collaboratively to preserve all U.S. Government websites–a challenge since there is no centralized registry of .gov sites.  Jefferson Bailey of the Internet Archive suggested that eot web archiving be embedded in Library and Information Science educational programs as a way to broaden the community of those recommending URLs and to help sustain the effort going forward. Analyses offered by Mark Phillips, University of North Texas indicated that 83 percent of PDFs present in the 2008 eot crawl did not appear in the 2012 crawl, underscoring the critical need for web archiving. He invited audience members to nominate URLs via an online URL nomination tool.


This year my highlight of the conference was presenting a poster with Janice Hyde on the “Power of the Crowd.” This poster described our crowdsourcing project going on this summer to index US Reports volumes 1-542 (years 1754-2003) with the help of over 75 remote interns across the country, and even two interns overseas! They are future lawyers and librarians who are working to create metadata for our digital projects in the Law Library. We had a great response from visitors to the poster and it was a unique way to share the success of the project!

The Power of the Crowd - Law Library of Congress Poster
The Power of the Crowd – Law Library of Congress Poster / Photograph by Andrew Weber


I attended several sessions that discussed the impact of new technologies on the practice of law. One session discussed a platform that applies artificial intelligence to legal research, allowing lawyers to type in a natural language search and quickly receive a summary of results. The platform continually learns from its interaction with the lawyer to retrieve the most relevant results, asking the lawyer at the end of each research session whether the results were relevant to their research.

I also attended a session that discussed the collection and analysis of data to create databases that can help lawyers anticipate how a particular judge might decide a case based on his or her prior rulings. The collection and analysis of this type of data will help lawyers and clients make more informed decisions as to whether and how to pursue a claim.

Another session discussed how outsourcing to lower cost providers and legal technologies, such as the application of predictive coding to document review, are eliminating some of the work that has traditionally been the task of new associates. Some law schools have responded by recognizing how new technologies are changing the practice of law and are now offering courses on information technology in order to better prepare their students for challenges of the new legal marketplace.


As a member of the Annual Meeting Program Committee, I was eager to attend as many sessions as possible and excited to hear the positive feedback from colleagues on sessions they attended.  The session “Practical Magic:  Capturing Institutional Knowledge” was an engaging presentation by librarians and archivists in court, academic, and law firm libraries about collecting, preserving, and providing access to unique collections in their institutions (e.g., Chambers Rules, items related to school history, photos of former staff).

The program “Who Owns This? Researching Copyright Status and Ownership” was packed with information for helping researchers understand the relevant laws (which help determine time period of rights protection) and tools for researching ownership (e.g., Catalog of Copyright Entries, Copyright Renewal Database).

Andrew Winston (a recently awarded AALL Emerging Leader):

The annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries provides an opportunity for law librarians and other legal information professionals to share ideas, make connections, and learn about best practices and emerging trends in the profession.  The theme of this year’s meeting was “Make it New: Create the Future,” and I attended several educational sessions that provided insight into how we can do just that.   The first, entitled “Can Robots Be Lawyers?  Meet ROSS, and Glimpse the Future of AI in Law,” explored the use of artificial intelligence in legal research and practice.  Andrew Arruda, the CEO and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence, an AI platform built on top of IBM’s Watson, and Brian Sheppard, professor of law at Seton Hall University Law School, wrestled with the question of whether robots can be (or could soon become) lawyers.  Arruda believed that robots could not be expected to fill the lawyer’s role, but Professor Sheppard predicted that machines would be capable of legal interpretation by the last quarter of this century.

In a session entitled “Disruptunity:  The Legal Research Revolution is Now!,” Senior Director of Research and Knowledge Jean O’Grady at DLA Piper, and Senior Director of Research and Intelligence John DiGillio at LibSource, spoke about how technology is opening up new frontiers in legal and business research, particularly in big data and predictive analytics.  All three of these sessions—and many others I attended at AALL’s annual meeting—provided insight into changes that will shape our profession as we work together to best meet our world’s legal knowledge needs.


On Tuesday morning I attended Roman Law, Roman Order and the Restatements. Professor Timothy Kearleyof the University of Wyoming described the journey of Fred H. Blume (1875-1971) from immigrant itinerate farm laborer to University of Iowa philosophy student to self-trained lawyer to Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court and translator of the Justinian Code into English.  Prof. Kearley also discussed his own experience of creating an edited, digitized edition of Justice Blume’s Annotated Justinian Code.   Prof. Kearley situated Blume’s project against the backdrop of the 19th Century codification movement and the beginnings in the early 20th Century of the American Law Institute’s Restatements project.  Next, Angela Spinazze, who consults with museums in website design, described her experience helping create a searchable image database of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.   Because museums like the Oriental Institute at any given time only display a small fraction of their holdings, websites like this one provide public access to otherwise mostly inaccessible collections.

Cook County Law Library Welcomes AALL Members
Cook County Law Library Welcomes AALL Members / Photograph by Andrew Weber

Update: Lessons learned from Luis were added.

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