Law Librarians Present Travaux Préparatoires at Human Rights Conference

At the “What’s Next for Human Rights Scholarship?” conference on March 31, law librarians Ben Doherty and Loren Moulds presented the Law Library’s new searchable database of preparatory works, or travaux préparatoires,[1] of the United Nations’ core human rights agreements. More than 30 human rights scholars from North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania participated in the two-day interdisciplinary conference, which was organized by the UVA Working Group in Human Rights Research.

Ben began the presentation by explaining that, until the Law Library undertook the initiative, the travaux were only selectively available in electronic format, as excerpts in published guides to the travaux, and in hardcopy or microfiche at U.N. depository libraries. A Refdesk question from Professor Mila Versteeg led the law librarians to conclude that “it’s not available” was not an answer the Law Library was willing to give. Using the published guides and the United Nations’ UNBISNET database, the Law Library compiled fully-searchable, digital copies of as many of the travaux préparatoires as could be found. The travaux database and other recent digital initiatives, such as the Neil Gorsuch Project, a website that assembles all of Gorsuch’s written opinions and much of his other writings and speeches, are examples of how the Law Library’s content and services are driven by inquiry. Ben advised attendees that, “instead of thinking of research as simply being able to get what is already available,” a scholar can push “research methods forward by thinking about what you need for your scholarship and partnering with your associated library to create those datasets or resources.”

Loren likewise encouraged “scholars not to feel limited in our research plans, particularly when it comes to issues of access to materials, the creation of new types of digital collections, or the adoption of new analytical techniques.” His presentation included an overview of the website and a discussion of the technology used to create it, but he situated his technological discussion within the Law Library’s philosophical approach to scholarly research. Explaining that the Law Library provides ever-expanding expertise in a field that includes scholarly publishing, copyright issues, and the aggregation, management, and preservation of data, Loren stated, “We consider ourselves empathic stewards of knowledge production through collaboration with researchers, technologists, and other librarians working to develop the intellectual infrastructures necessary for new kinds of scholarship and research methods in a digital age.”

After the presentation, Ben and Loren took questions from the conferees. The conclusion of the ensuing discussion was that the travaux database is an example of modern librarianship: a specific inquiry (“What role did smaller countries play in drafting human rights treaties?”) was stymied by a specific problem (the lack of systematic, comprehensive access to the travaux préparatoires), which was resolved by the expertise residing in the Law Library.

[1] The travaux préparatoires are documents that are generated in the drafting and negotiation of a treaty. Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, treaty terms are to be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning. However, Article 32 provides that the travaux préparatoires can be used as a supplementary means of interpretation in certain instances.

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James McKinley

James McKinley, a 2005 graduate of the Law School, has been with the Law Library since 2016. He previously served as a career law clerk for United States District Judge Norman K. Moon in the Western District of Virginia. James holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from U.Va., and a M.A. in English and creative writing from Hollins University.

Virginia Lawyer: Mindfulness in Law Schools and Legal Practice

The June 2015 issue of the Virginia Lawyer features an article by U.Va. law librarian Kristin Glover, “Mindfulness in Law Schools and Legal Practice.” The article discusses the emergence of mindfulness programs at U.Va. and other law schools. Glover spearheads the Law Library’s mindfulness program, which offers mindfulness workshops for law students, a collection of mindfulness-related books and materials, and an ongoing series of twice weekly meditation sessions

– Amy Wharton 

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Amy Wharton

Amy Wharton has been the Research & Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia School of Law since 2008.

Law Disrupted, Part 2: ODR

One of the truly “disruptive” innovations in legal services isn’t a legal service and isn’t even new. It doesn’t use the judicial system or even lawyers, yet its methodology to settle disputes has been practiced for hundreds of years. Alternative dispute resolution, which got its start with the fair courts of the Middle Ages, has found its way to the internet. Known as online dispute resolution (ODR), it has the potential to transform access to justice.

One of the chief architects of ODR is Colin Rule, founder of Modria and former Director of Online Dispute Resolution for eBay and PayPal. Rule helped implement eBay’s ODR platform, which handles 60 million disputes each year, roughly half of which are settled by software alone. For comparison, U.S. federal district courts handled 372,563 cases while California state courts handled 9.5 million cases. One of ODR’s advantages is that it can handle low dollar value disputes that would otherwise slip by the court system. Nobody wants to pay attorney’s fees and court costs for a $20 dispute, but ODR can handle such cases easily and at high volumes. Likewise, compared to the judicial system, the process for resolving disputes through ODR is comparatively straightforward. The court system uses different sets of rules based on geographic location or issue (i.e. bankruptcy), a level of complexity largely absent in ODR. For nearly every major complaint about how the legal system operates – costs, court backlogs, length of time to resolve disputes – ODR has a faster, cheaper, simpler, and extrajudicial answer. 

At the moment ODR is skirting the major challenges that firms like LegalZoom have faced by venturing into less adversarial markets (i.e. property assessment appraisals). However, ODR technology is battle-tested and is currently deployed by several major companies. Governments are also looking into ODR as a way to settle disputes quickly and at low cost with the European Union being a notable example.

– Jon Ashley 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

On-grounds interviews, moving into a new apartment, classes starting, not to mention moving to a brand new town for your first year of law school … the beginning of a new academic year can feel overwhelming! The law library is offering peace and quiet to help you ease back into the school year … and we’re not talking just about the new study carrels! We are building a collection of books (in print and on CD) and DVDs about mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. 

What does mindfulness have to do with law school and law practice?  A lot, say a growing number of law schools like the University of California at Berkeley, which has an Initiative for Mindfulness in Law and a student-run meditation group. As profiled in this recent ABA Journal article, “Mindfulness in Legal Practice Is Going Mainstream,” attorneys are also exploring its benefits. Hey, Google is bringing mindful meditation into its workplace, so it must be a catchy trend!

If you could use a deep breath or are just curious to learn more, come check out these new additions to our collection. They’re available in the library’s first floor reserve room, next to the DVDs:

This is just a start! Let us know if you have favorite books, CDs, DVDs about mindfulness, meditation, and yoga that you think your classmates would enjoy. Also keep an eye out for announcements about Library-sponsored mindfulness and meditation events coming this fall! 

 – Kristin Glover 

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

Law Disrupted: Part 1 in a Series

Law is broken. That’s the
common refrain among legal entrepreneurs and open law visionaries looking to
“disrupt” how law is accessed and practiced. Two conferences – ReInvent
Law Silicon Valley
and Stanford’s CodeX FutureLaw 2013
brought together students, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, and
academics to look at how innovation in the practice of law could make legal
services cheaper, faster, better, and more accessible. Like the $6 million
dollar man, we have the technology. Following are some of the areas where law
students will likely encounter it:

Document
Drafting & Attorney Referral.
With
the web it’s now possible for your uncle to draft a simple will for $99 instead
of paying an attorney much, much more.

Data
& Analytics.
More computing
power, more data, better decisions…? “Big data” is here and there are legions
of companies generating and sorting bits and bytes to help firms improve
workflows.

Online
Dispute Resolution (ODR).
Cheap, fast and
extra-judicial. ODR already resolve tens of millions of disputes a year and
they’re looking for more.

Visualization.
Design is all the rage these days, and
well-crafted legal visualization distills data and informs users. Part art,
part science, often cool — the ways in which users interact with legal data
are being re-examined and re-built.

Today’s post explores disruptions in law with
respect to document drafting and attorney referral. Future posts will cover
developments in data & analytics, ODR and visualization.

Law Disrupted, Part 1: Document Drafting &
Attorney Referral

There’s a common pitch among legal
entrepreneurs that everyone should have access to legal services, not just
those with deep pockets. LegalZoom and RocketLawyer attempt to do just
that. Both allow the average person to
draft simple legal documents for a fraction of the cost of an attorney. If
desired, consultations with a lawyer can be had for a modest fee. These sites
also have attorney referral components for trickier situations. The DIY
document-drafting concept isn’t new (Nolo Press has been
publishing self-help books for more than 40 years) but the
web has made access easier and a blitz of TV commercials has increased awareness.
Even so, while the pitch is perfect, not everyone cares for the tune.

In theory, fast, cheap, and widespread access
to legal services sounds good but in practice it’s made waves with both lawyers
and consumers. There are murmurs that the lower cost, while a boon for
consumers, has also “destroyed the small estate planning practices” in parts of
the country or at least interfered with the will-drafting-to-probate pipeline
that some attorneys take for granted. LegalZoom has also run afoul of laws on
the unauthorized practice of law in Missouri (see Janson v. LegalZoom.com, Inc.,
802 F. Supp. 2d 1053 (W.D. Mo. 2011
). With several bar associations joining the fray, more fights are
expected in other states. Finally, there are claims of attorneys having to undo
the damage that boilerplate legal documents have caused. Even with the best
decision trees, one size does not always fit all.

Regardless of which side of the debate you take
it’s clear that consumers are hungry for simple, affordable legal services. LegalZoom
and RocketLawyer are companies whose technological innovations meet Clayton Christensen’s
criteria for “disruptive” (see Clayton
M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997)
). They are tapping one of the cheapest markets in legal services
and it will be interesting to see if they start to move “upmarket” over time.

-       
Jon Ashley 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.