CALI 2016 – Libraries as Publishers of Affordable E-Books

At CALIcon 2016, my colleagues Diana Donahoe, Matt Zimmerman, and I presented on how the library published Diana’s TeachingLaw: Legal Research and Writing textbook.

LegalED – Igniting Law Teaching Conference

I spoke on transliteracy at LegalED’s “Igniting Law Teaching” conference last week.  Since it is a TEDx conference, it is high-energy, exciting, and exhausting.

My slides (with speaker notes) can be found here.

And since I didn’t post it at the time, here is the video from last year, “Going Hollywood on Your Desktop”

Virtual handout to my CALI presentation, “Going Hollywood on Your Desktop”

As soon as I have it, I will post the link to the recording of my presentation at CALI 2014, “Going Hollywood on Your Desktop: How to Create Great Screen-Capture Video.” I am happy to answer questions in comments below.  Until then, here are some notes and links:


In the presentation, I outlined my process to create screen-capture video and some of my reasoning (my program of choice is Camtasia, and the way I work is based on my experience with it.  If you haven’t tried Camtasia, they offer a 30-day free trial that allows you to use the program in its entirety – no watermarking, no nonsense):

  1. Script
    I create a three-column script that includes what I will say, an idea of what will be shown on the screen, and how I intend to enhance or alter the visuals in post production (e.g. zooms, highlights, etc.)
  2. Create any visual assets needed for the production
    Usually just using PowerPoint (possibly with an assist from Photoshop).  These include title cards and any animations I will be using to illustrate concepts.
  3. Record all video – animation assets and live video
    I try to record in order because it makes my life easier when I am editing (I am able to name each clip in sequence, which keeps things easy to keep track of – if I decide to insert something after clip 2, the new clip becomes 2a).  I generally read the script out loud as I record, just to get general timing and also because it’s really easy to record too quickly and not leave enough time for the voice over to run.
  4. Rough edit
    Here is where I trim out the really excessive bits and frequently add callouts, which I can reposition later if the timing is poor.  Having the callouts in before I read the voice-over again helps with timing – I know I can breathe a little bit with a callout because they take time to fade in and out and they should be present long enough for the viewer to register their existence and meaning.
  5. Voice-over
    This is where I close my door, take deep breaths, and try to remember everything I ever learned in a misspent youth in the theatre.  Enunciation, taking time, reading for meaning.
  6. Fine edit
    Trim excess pauses, refine the timing of callouts and highlights, generally tighten the whole thing up.
  7. Add closed-captioning
    With the voice-over complete, I let the auto-caption process roll, then tighten it up using the original script to copy and paste when the text recognition software starts turning “citators” into “sigh taters.” Don’t bother doing this at the production level when you are using YouTube – they have their own closed captions which aren’t compatible with Camtasia.
  8. Add transitions
    Don’t add these until you are fairly sure you are finished editing – any trimming of video content at the ends of clips will break the associated transitions and you’ll have to re-add them.
  9. Produce & upload
    Select your file format and any additional production settings, and let your project render.  Upload final result.
  10. Profit!!!
    (with apologies to South Park)

Aspect ratios:

Educational video in action:


Great white shark with message:

Also appearing at…

My colleague Russell McClain and I have started a new blog to talk about academic technology in law libraries – it’s called Socratic Robot.  If you are interested in law school academic technology, please take a look!

CALI Presentation – “What We (and Better Yet, Our Students) Learned from Using All the Toys in the Toybox

From the Computer Aided Legal Instruction Conference, June 2013 (actual content starts at around the 16-minute mark):

Belated self-promotion

I have a not-so-new article published in Law Library Lights: Librarian 2011: Using Basic Library Science Techniques to Manage Technology Requests.

Thanks to my colleague Pamela Bluh, I also have my own corner of our institutional repository.  Hopefully in the near future I will have the inspiration and time to write more blog posts and traditionally published material.

From the Legal Skills Prof Blog, a redirect to an excellent essay about giving great presentations.  It ends with this epigrammatic bit of truth:

If we focus on the audience, not ourselves, whether in a one-on-one meeting or a packed auditorium, we’ll deliver a crowd-pleasing, even praiseworthy, performance every time: because success is ultimately about connection, not perfection.

As reviled as it has become in certain corners, that is why I use the Socratic method in the classroom – it helps to focus the class on my class, and not on me.

“A Plagiarism Carol” – or why I wish I had paid attention when my grandmother tried to teach me Norwegian

If you don’t happen speak Norwegian and the subtitles are not showing, be sure to click the “cc” button to turn the subtitles on.  Though I have to say, if you know what the movie is about, you don’t really need the subtitles all that much.

Huge hat tip to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for this one.

Context, Part 2

Comprehensive resources can be dangerous things.  Many humans are creatures of habit and will go to the usual well for their answers, but a well that produces fresh, clean water is not much use if what you really want is milk.  This can be especially pernicious for law students, who begin to get the idea that the entire universe of knowledge is contained within Lexis or Westlaw.  But not all the things a practicing lawyer needs to know are contained in statutes, cases, or treatises.

Consider the case of an accident in a warehouse – your client is injured in a forklift accident and there is some question as to the safety procedures and equipment.  “Quick – find me Jones on Forklifts,” right?  Certainly there is such a treatise in one of the big two databases, right?

Wrong.  Also silly.  But it would be a safe bet that most law students who have had an introduction to those databases would turn instantly to them and do a keyword search for “forklift.”  And there are undoubtedly cases galore having to do with forklift accidents.  Perhaps there are even mentions of such accidents in Prosser or other tort resources.

But what does our hypothetical law student really know about the operation of a forklift?  Doesn’t the fact pattern turn on the safety equipment and procedures?  Some judges can write wonderful, detailed, and educational factual backgrounds that give plenty of context for the cases they are adjudicating, but it is a safe bet that reading through them is a woefully inefficient way of looking for information on the topic of forklift safety.  The facts of the particular case at issue are potentially important here: they provide the context for the entire claim.

So, on the one hand we have a doubly expensive resource – a database that costs a great deal to use and is inefficient in terms of providing the factual information that will enable an attorney to assess the potential merits of the case.  On the other hand, there are more precise, non-legal resources that can give the attorney the factual grounding in an unfamiliar subject he or she needs (e.g. the public library, OSHA’s website, possibly even Uncle Fred who is a supervisor in a warehouse and has done this kind of work for 20 years).  Many or most of these are also free for the user.

Thinking about what sort of non-legal information is necessary to provide context for the claim can save a world of aggravation and grief and make the later search for legal authority far more efficient, cost-effective and fruitful.

(For people interested in teaching the combined use of legal and non-legal resources to solve legal problems, I can highly recommend Carrie Teitcher’s fantastic article, “Rebooting the Approach to Teaching Research: Embracing the Computer Age.”)

Context, Part 1

When I worked for the Nasdaq Stock Market, I would often meet with people who asked me a very basic question: “Is [this number] good?”  They didn’t mean, “Is this number correct?” they were asking for a qualitative answer.  They wanted me to evaluate the number they were handing me.

I always wanted to say something flip like, “Yeah – three is a very good number.  But five – look out for five.  Five will cut you.”

I kept my flippancy to myself and instead asked, “Compared to what?”  An earnings per share ratio that is phenomenal in one industry is anemic in another.  Context is key.

Likewise, the iterative and narrow way many people are used to searching for information in their daily lives tends to strip away the idea of context.  Looking for a phone number is not particularly complex.  Finding a restaurant review is fairly mechanical.  But the answer to a client’s question in the real world is not “Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code.”  It is going to be application of that code section to a specific fact pattern.  It is going to be contextual.

I have read a great deal about how students (in general – not just law students) frequently have a much higher opinion of their ability to find things then their ability actually warrants.  Some blame the “Google-ization” of finding tools: plug in a few keywords, get an answer.  This piece of our current landscape probably does shift thinking: much of the “data in/data out” searching we do on a daily basis might as well be context-free.

Considering a fact pattern in law is not a matter of placing code or regulations or case law on top of the facts, but a complex and sometimes lengthy matter of analysis.  How does this law here relate to and intersect with that fact there?  If this fact changes, how does that affect the whole?  If the law changes, how will it shape the facts of behavior moving forward?

How does this type of analysis change and shape searching strategies and behaviors?  How do other forces (availability of resources, cost, time) shape those behaviors?  Just as in legal analysis, there really is no one answer.  It depends on the context.