Legal Research Blog


The Father of All Advice

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Here at Fastcase, we’re passionate about more than just social media – we’re passionate about using social media right. In the past, we’ve brought you expert opinions about social media etiquette and even issued a few of our own, but this morning we’ve hit the mother load. While trolling through Twitter this morning, we noticed a curious tweet via Alex Howard, author of the blog digiphile. The tweet led us to Howard’s post, “George Washington’s Rules for Social Media”, from back in 2010 translating the very rules of civility and decent behavior that the father of our country so closely studied, into a guideline for social media conduct. While we got a good laugh from many of the modern day interpretations, the value of each one is not to be missed. Below are just a few of our favorites:

At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

Whether you’re online or at home, welcome guests and don’t shout. (NO CAPS, friends.)

While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

Don’t poke or nudge people. Seriously. Just talk to them

Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say.

During meetings, be aware that updating a service or focusing on the social media backchannel instead of those present is often a breach of etiquette. Face to face meetings are too valuable to damage the relationship by prioritizing any request that can wait. Listen first, reply with context. And don’t always take a contrary position.

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

“Conscience is an ability or a faculty that distinguishes whether one’s actions are right or wrong.”-Wikipedia. Before using any form of social media, consider whether that action – tweet, link, comment, share or update – is ethical. “Google never forgets.” – Seth Godin

Take a few minutes to read through all 110 transformed tips here. George would surely appreciate it.

LTN Survey: More than anything, clients hate getting billed for legal research.

Last month, the results of a biennial survey about law firm cost recovery were posted on the Law Technology News website. The big news? Many firms are no longer charging clients for legal research. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of firms charging for legal research dropped from 97% to 73%. From the results:

Based upon follow-up discussion with respondents, clients seem skeptical about whether fees charged for legal research and word processing reflect the firm’s actual costs. Further, many clients feel these services should be part of a firm’s overhead — aka, the cost of doing business.

New best practice? “For legal research, develop a fair pricing policy that reflects the firm’s actual cost for these services.”

Which Artists Are Cited Most Often in Legal Opinions?

On Tuesday night, NPR’s Robert Siegel had a great interview with Alex Long, a music enthusiast and University of Tennessee law professor who surveyed American legal documents to find out which artists are most often cited. In short:

Prof. LONG: Yeah. It’s Dylan in a landslide. The Beatles, Springsteen, The Rolling Stones come up behind him. But, yeah, he’s way out in front…The most commonly cited song [among judges and lawyers] is “Subterranean Homesick Blues”…

Inspired, we did a search for “Bob Dylan” on Fastcase. Below are a couple of our favorite references to the America’s most legally cited musician:

1. 125 Cal. App.3d 155 (“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” – on expert testimony ),

2. 454 F.3d 637 (99 years – on what constitutes a very long prison sentence – with Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Ed Bruce, Bill Anderson, Chloe Bain, and Guy Mitchell on what constitutes a very long prison sentence), and

3. 640 S.E.2d 152 (“ashamed, to live in a land where justice is a game” – West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Starcher, in the dissent, on how the majority opinion makes him feel).

NPR’s full interview with Professor Long is available here. Enjoy!

Some Great Advice

Photo By Steve Debenport Imagery

The Oregon State Bar has been the latest to follow in the mandatory mentoring trend for newly minted lawyers started by the State Bar of Georgia and Utah State Bar. With graduation just around the corner, this can be a useful tool for new graduates as they face a challenging marketplace and could likely use some insight into the skills they need to become a successful professional. While there is some controversy as to how helpful these mentoring programs can be, the Harvard Business Review offers some things to keep in mind for a successful mentorship:


Build a cadre of people you can turn to for advice when you need it

Nurture relationships with people whose perspectives you respect

Think of mentoring as both a long-term and short-term arrangement


Assume that because you are successful or experienced in your field that you don’t need a mentor

Rely on one person to help guide you in your career

Expect to receive mentoring without providing anything in return

The major take away from the article is the nature of the mentorship has changed drastically. Jeanne Meister, a Founding Partner of Future Workplace and co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today says that in today’s world mentoring is “more like Twitter and less like having a psychotherapy session.” It no longer has to be this long term drawn out event. It is not uncommon to have more than one mentor as careers and circumstances change, one needs to be flexible with their sources.

It is a quick read and it should inspire those in all levels of their careers to reevaluate their situation and take an active role in their sources and/or imparting of guidance.

The Baseball Card that Changed The Sound of the Supreme Court

This week we hosted Jerry Goldman, founder of the Oyez Project, for a coffee talk at Fastcase DC headquarters. Today, Oyez is the comprehensive home for everything Supreme Court: audio and transcripts of oral arguments, summaries, briefs, Justice bios.  Oyez has grown a lot recently, with a move to Chicago Kent College of Law, and especially with new mobile apps Pocket Justice and OyezToday.

Photo credit: Nicholas Moline of Justia

And the whole thing sprang from a Cubs game and a baseball card.

Jerry was watching a Cubs game one day (the Cubs were losing badly, as Jerry remembers), wondering how he could marry his love of the law and his love of baseball.  And then it came to him: the statistics on the back of a baseball card could be just as interesting for Supreme Court Justices.

Oyez began in the late 1980s as the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court,” with baseball cards for Supreme Court Justices, including their “stats.”  And in the process, Jerry discovered that he could link audio on the stat sheet.  In fact, there was a huge trove of unused Supreme Court audio.  So the Hitchhiker’s guide was transformed into a comprehensive source of Supreme Court audio, and the rest, as they say, is history. From audio recordings and transcripts of oral arguments, to full synopses of cases and Justice biographies, provides appellate litigators and the public alike with a terrific inside look at the High Court.

Jerry also knows us, so he brought gadgets.  He brought out the iPad 2 to show off Oyez mobile apps – PocketJustice and OyezToday.  PocketJustice features constitutional decisions, with audio and written transcripts, as well as Justice bios. Just this spring, the Oyez Project launched its second mobile app, OyezToday, with deeper background on the cases of the most recent term.  He also previewed some sweet new clipping and sharing features that we’re really excited about for a forthcoming release – but you’ll have to wait for Oyez to announce those.  Oh, and did we mention, OyezToday is free?  Download for your iPhone or iPad here.