Rulemaking is the policy-making process for Executive and Independent agencies of the Federal government. Agencies use this process to develop and issue new regulations.
The recently redesigned " regulations.gov " website has made changes that facilitate the ability of any member of the public to comment on federal government regulations proposed by executive agencies. These changes are in furtherance of the mandates contained in presidential executive orders .
Executive Order 12866, "Regulatory Planning and Review," issued by President Clinton on September 30, 1993, instructs "...each agency should afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment on any proposed regulation, which in most cases should include a comment period of not less than 60 days. "
Executive Order 13563,"Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" , issued on January 18, 2011 by President Obama, directs agencies "To promote that open exchange, each agency, consistent with Executive Order 12866 and other applicable legal requirements, shall endeavor to provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the regulatory process. To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days. "
To further these requirements the new site attempts to :
• Enhance the ability of the public to submit and review comments on all supporting scientific and technical documents of the rulemaking docket
• Increase public participation in the regulatory process with easier navigation, improved search and social media links to share regulatory information with others
It includes features to help users understand the regulatory process, under the "Learn Tab". Easy access to searching by keyword and finding regulations with comments due soon and newly posted regulations are provided under the "Search Tab" . This tab also has Improved layout of search results, filters and a document spotlight. The New "Browse Tab", features regulations grouped in 10 industry-related Categories and also provides for Browsing by hundreds of topics.
Integrated social media tools like "Regulations.gov Facebook" and a revitalized Twitter page will help educate users and allow the public to offer input on Regulations.gov features.
The site provides the text of the proposed regulations as they appear in the Federal Register :
Clicking on "Submit a Comment ", provides the online form for entering your comment and some identification information :
As the site mentions, comments can be a few sentences long, submitted by an individual, or can consist of detailed and lengthy submissions by interested organizations. You can actually have the satisfaction of seeing your comment on the Regulations.gov site !
However, given that certain regulations may receive thousands of comments, a Federal agency may need several weeks to process and review them before they are posted to Regulations.gov.
The process is really very straight forward. You may want to give it a try, on an issue you care about.
A recent article in our own local CALL Bulletin ( Chicago Association of Law libraries) about new legal research instruction, mentioned a resource that was unfamiliar to me. Its rather prosaic name was "The Practical Law Company" (PLC). Apparently, this company has been doing business in the legal community of the United Kingdom for nearly 20 years. But only launched its operations in the U.S. this past December.
The "practical" in its name implies that it would be directed at the actual practice of law rather than theoretical or academic explorations of legal topics. Given the growing critique of much of US law school education as being too disconnected from the knowledge and skills needed to be a practicing attorney. One could assume that introducing access to this resource in law schools, might be one attempt to remedy this perceived imbalance.
The online resources produced by the PLC's own expert staff are designed specifically for transactional attorneys. One author describes the Practical Law Company this way, "PLC is the UK's pre-eminent provider of legal know-how, transactional analysis and market intelligence for business lawyers." The material is developed and kept current by by their own attorney editors who have practiced at top law firms and law departments. A majority of AmJur 200 law firms subscribe to PLC.
With an excellent reputation and large market share in the UK, PLC has decided to expand their particular services to the U.S. market. To meet the level and qualitiy of services expected by clients, PLC invested over a year and a half preparing content for its U.S. Launch. The main areas that PLC is concentrating on are Corporate & Securities , Finance, Labor and Employment and Intellectual Property.
They believe that there is a market here too, for their brand of 'outsourced knowledge management' for completing a variety of transactions and "getting the deal done". As their web site states, "We go beyond primary law and research. We take the expertise of our team and distill it in a way that actually helps you get your work done. Nobody in the US does what we do. Period. "
That is not to concede that the major US-based online legal services, LexisNexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law have not provided resources geared specifically to transactional attorneys' work :
"Lexis Transactional Advisor, designed for lawyers who work on transactional law. Transactional Advisor helps you analyze strategies, prepare for and perform due diligence, stay on top of compliance issues, draft documents and more—all from a single online location for various practice areas."
"With Westlaw, you can review authoritative documents drafted by top law firms, find and complete official forms electronically," via Westlaw Form Builder, Model Documents. Many treatises and practice guides are available. Financial and investment analyst reports and extensive Company Profiles are also provided.
Bloomberg's "DealMaker contains deal news, editorial commentary, practice notes, legal treatises, deal timelines, checklists and a fully searchable EDGAR database. It also contains browseable and searchable model agreements, forms and publicly available documents." With its recent acquisition, Bloomberg also provides "access to BNA's Corporate Practice Series Portfolios, which include in-depth analysis of areas of interest to corporate law practitioners, texts of relevant laws, worksheets that contain forms and checklists, and subject bibliographies."
However, the exclusive focus on transactional work and high level of expertise they devote to their products may over time, eclipse the transactional offerings from the traditional U.S. providers.
Most of what The Practical Law Company does, seems directed at actual practitioners and at new associates who need to quickly get up to speed in a practice area. However, as with the big three use providers, marketing begins in the law schools. Exposure there can "imprint" a particular service on students who then continue using the service in their jobs after school. PLC is approaching law schools to acquaint law students with their products and possibly also provide missing career information for students considering practicing transactional law.
The terms are very attractive, as in "Free". "The free account includes: Unlimited access to our online legal know-how services while matriculated and until graduation (law students) or while affiliated with a law school (faculty and staff), plus full training and support.
Potential benefits for law student are described this way : "The law school home page for PLC has a link to a “Survival Guide” which includes over “50 step-by-step corporate, securities and finance resources to give you the tool to ace summer assignments.” The home page also links to “Interview Survival Guide” designed to quickly bring students up to speed “in the basics of corporate, securities and finance practice” to “[g]et the edge in interviews with your knowledge of deal trends and market practice.”
From a quick Google search, it appears that these law schools are at least exploring access to PLC for their students : University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago School Of Law, Brooklyn Law School, Cornell Law School, Roger Williams University School of Law.
While these benefits may seem a bit thin compared to what practitioners get out of PLC's resources, exposure to and knowledge of such resources can probably help correct that practice imbalance identified in the opening of the post.
At the request of the House Administration Committee,U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has collaborated with the Library of Congress to created an iPad app. The new app provides access to the daily edition of the Congressional Record dating from January 4, 1995. The app uses CR files and associated metadata provided by GPO.
Data presented by the app has been provided by the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, and the Government Printing Office.
The app allows users to:
* Browse editions of the Congressional Record by date.
* Perform keyword searches within individual documents or sections within documents.
* Identify the latest bills and resolutions considered daily on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
* Identify the latest bills, resolutions, treaties, and nominations considered daily on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
* Save documents to your preferred iPad PDF reader.
* Share documents via email.
link for the new app or you can search in the iPad App Store for "The Congressional Record."
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an online service of the United States Judiciary that provides case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. While the growth of PACER accounts appears to be very robust based on the findings of the "United States Courts Electronic Public Access Program - PACER Service Assessment (Sept. 2010).
PACER management appears to be doing more marketing and outreach recently. It is unclear whether this might be a response to re-occuring criticism that the Judiciary keeps much of their "public" information behind what is termed a "paywall". Or the occassional inquiries from the likes of Senator Lieberman about how the PACER generated funds are being spent. See:
Perhaps just like any entity that sells a service, PACER may just want to increase the usability of their service and expand its use into new markets ? Another graph from the PACER assessment about user constiuencies can be instructive.
While 75% of the users are lawyers and litigants, there are some other sectors that could be making greater use of the service. Several of the other sectors identified as 5% or less, could probably be grown by a more user -friendly site, expanded marketing, and accessible training for PACER.
The Office of the US Courts appears to me moving on all these fronts :
• Released the Case Locator, formerly the U.S.
Party/Case Index (March 2010)
• Increased the fee waiver to $10 per quarter
• Redesigned the PACER website, pacer.gov
And most recently have introduced a web site that provides basic orientation and training for PACER, using a subset of actual court filings for users to work with.
"Welcome to the PACER training site. Use this site to learn how to use PACER. The site is free of charge and has been populated with real case data from New York Western District Court from cases filed between 1/1/2007 and 7/1/2007."
The page provides suggested searches to try using the tabbed functions at the top of the page. Exeprimenting with the results from the training subset can orient a new user to the PACER interface.
It is also suggested that potential users download the "PACER Service Center User Manual" to familiarize themselves with the service.
Since the early 1990s, GPO ( Government Printing Office ) provided "GPO Access" on the internet, a service that has provided free electronic access to a wealth of important information products produced by the Federal Government. But over the years, GPO had failed to update its technological abilities to keep pace with changes in the information dissemination environment. The development of new technologies and new demands necessitated the development of a new information management and distribution system for government information.
The new system,”FDsys”, Federal Digital System, has been in development for several years. FDsys, should provide GPO with the technical and management capabilities to not only catch up the changes in it's environment but to aggressively move forward in the 21 Century. The two systems have been running in parallel, as data was migrated to FDsys. FDsys became the U.S. Government Printing Office's (GPO’s) system of record for online Federal Government information in December 2010. GPO is now in the process of a phased shutdown of GPO Access.
As of November 2011, GPO Access will be available only as an archive, with no new information added to it. While GPO Access will no longer be updated, it will remain accessible to the public. In the final phase, GPO Access will shut down permanently and will no longer be available for public use. A date has not yet been established for the final shutdown of GPO Access; however, it is slated for fiscal year 2012.
Libraries should take this opportunity (if they have not already done so) to review their Web sites, presentations, brochures, and other materials that reference GPO Access and work to update or replace these materials.
View instructions on how to create links to FDsys content ( For information on the URL structure for each collection, visit the Sample Searches and URLs page for the collections listed on this page)
While many individual federal courts make some of their opinions accessible on their websites, the periods covered and length of time they remain available, can vary widely. The Government Printing Office (GPO) has been working for years to try to make the court opinions from the Judiciary's for-fee PACER online service, available to the public through the federal depository library program (FDLP).
The first pilot project was in 2007 with access at 15 physical depositories having direct access to the PACER service with a password.. The second was in 2010 allowing access via the internet but to records from only from 12 courts. The latest pilot approved in 2011 plans to provide access to 30+ courts via the GPO online service, FDsys ( Beginning with 3,then 12, then more than 30 courts).
For the previous pilots the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) said they wanted to use the pilots to assess whether there was public demand for such a service through the GPO FDLP. However, given the very limited number of courts whose opinions were being made available, it was questionable whether the pilots could really provide an accurate reading of public demand. With 12 courts of Appeal and 90+ District and Bankruptcy Courts respectively, even the latest offering of 30 courts, seems too small to be a real test of user demand.
However, this time the joint project with GPO, seems to portend a possibly expanding service using the publicly accessible Fdsys service from GPO. GPO has created specific item numbers and SUDOC number designations for the court opinions to be made available. This would indicate the establishment of a permanent service that could expand over time to include many more courts. At least one hopes that is the implication.
PACER has to be supported by user fees because of the law that created it. It requires the creation of a billing account to use it. It contains not only the final court opinions but also all the electronic filings in these cases. This creates a massive store of online docket information in addition to the opinions. While PACER has not been charging for the opinions themselves, users still need to create an account to access them. The docket information has not been considered for no-fee distribution.
It would seem that PACER could make the opinions that they are not charging for anyway, more easily available by having GPO make them available online. The danger of hacking to the PACER site would be eliminated and users would not have to have an account on PACER to get them. PACER could continue to charge for access to the detailed docket entries, to support the PACER service.
The current joint project has the court records coming directly from the PACER service which GPO then processes and makes them available through their own interface on FDsys. This insures that the records can be authenticated by GPO and allows advanced FDsys searching capabilities to be provided for this new material.
The new collection is called, United States Courts Opinions collection. It can be linked to from the general FDsys page. "Initial testing is with three courts: the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, United States District Court District of Rhode Island, and United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Florida. The number of courts participating in the pilot will rapidly expand to twelve and, after testing, to more than thirty. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period."
The database includes both Browse and Search functions. The advance search includes such fields as :
• Case Number
• Court Name
• Court Type
• District Case Type
• District Cause
• Docket Text
• Nature of Suit
• Party Name
• Party Role
This is more than the native PACER site provides.
"Having opinions accessible through FDsys provides the ability for users to search for opinions from one court, from select courts, and from all available courts, along with the ability to search for opinions in conjunction with other FDsys content."
This joint project appears to be the most promising of those undertaken by GPO and AOUSC. Public users can only hope that it is eventually expanded to include all the public opinions to be issued by the federal courts which should be freely available to all citizens.
NOLO was established in 1971 as the first publisher of do-it-yourself legal books for consumers. Their bread & butter has been well-regarded, plain language legal guidance conveyed in affordable print publications. They also provided Online links to such reference information as State Laws & Info, Law Dictionary, Supreme Court Cases, Historic Documents and Law Blogs. Also available are nearly a dozen NOLO-produced, Free Legal Books on consumer issues plus a host of short articles for various consumer legal topics.
This past Summer, NOLO unveiled their first "Nolo Network website", www.landlordtenantlawfirms.com. This is to be the first in a series of NOLO-produced websites covering specific legal areas. This online initiative is a result the acquisiton of NOLO by Internet Brands, a new media company which operates online media, community, and e-commerce websites. Internet Brands' online expertise will make the NOLO Network part of its own Experthub website. ( www.experthub.com )
It looks like the marketing model connects free online consumer and small business content, to for-sale NOLO print publications and to referrals to attorneys working in specific areas of law. The listed attorneys pay a fee to Experthub for the leads.
The acquition of NOLO seems like a synergistic one. NOLO will continue to publish it's very popular print books. But will now also be able to produce and market new online content as part of the Internet Brands family.
Jake Warner, executive chairman and co-founder of Nolo, stated that "Nolo has always advocated for a more accessible and affordable legal system while giving consumers the plain-English information they needed to tackle everyday legal tasks," "We're confident that Internet Brands' proven expertise in e-commerce, consumer-focused products, and online SMB marketing services will maximize Nolo's online presence."
Last month Bloomberg Law announced a re-design of their interface to provide improved search capabilities. Other additions included new practice specific resources and enhanced workflow and collaboration features.
As the latest corporate entry into the lucrative legal research market, Bloomberg has had to build a system from the ground up to try to compete with the longtime market leaders, LexisNexis and Westlaw. It has taken a few years to create the comprehensive content and search capabilities to seriously challenge the incumbents.
Periodic reviews by Robert Ambrogi have charted the continuing growth and improvements of Bloomberg Law
But nothing signals competitive seriousness as much as the announcement yesterday that Bloomberg is planning to acquire the last of the independent major legal publishers, Bureau of National Affairs (BNA). They are paying a hefty premium to acquire BNA. This move makes it abundantly clear that Bloomberg Law intends have a major presence in this market.
At present, BNA online products can also be accessed via Lexis and Westlaw subscriptions through licensing. The press release indicates that existing BNA contracts will be honored. While possible antitrust concerns may be raised, there is plenty of money to be made through continuing these licensing agreements, even with it's competitors.
From the BNA perspective, a merger will significantly extend BNA's premium content to an expanded audience. BNA can also benefit from the data and technology expertise of Bloomberg. Wisely, Bloomberg will operate BNA as a stand-alone subsidiary. This will not disrupt the employee-owned culture that has made BNA a leader in their field.
This merger appears to be a mutually desired combination. As the the board of directors of both companies unanimously approved the transaction which is expected to close later in 2011.
We await Bob Ambrogi's next installment in his reviews of Bloomberg Law. But it appears that with this acquisition, Bloomberg Law may be fully prepared for prime time in the legal research marketplace.
The John Marshall Law School Library recently completed an initiative to digitize its collection of unpublished Illinois Appellate Court opinions. The Library inherited the former Chicago Bar Association collection of unpublished opinions. The collection includes nearly 350 volumes of unpublished opinions from 1900-1975. The opinions, most of which were typed on onionskin paper, are slowly disintegrating due to age and use.
The school received a grant from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries of Illinois (CARLI) to digitize these volumes as part of CARLI’s Book Digitization Initiative. CARLI partnered with the Open Content Alliance to provide digitization services. The partnership seeks to digitize important Illinois materials to build a significant digital collection and to promote access to Illinois materials via digitization.
Researchers can access the digitized unpublished opinions from the website http://www.archive.org/details/johnmarshalllawschool. In order to locate an opinion, one must first locate the appropriate volume of the Illinois Appellate Court Reports. So, for example one looking to access the full text of the unpublished opinion in People v. Dismuke, 66 Ill.App.2d 162, would first need to locate volume 66 of the Illinois Appellate Court Unpublished Opinions, Second Series online and then page forward until reaching the opinion. The easiest way to get started is simply to search for the volume number as such “66 Ill.App.2d.” Page numbers are not indexed. (Source: email from Thomas Keefe, JMLS staff )
The digital files are actually maintained at The Internet Archive which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded in 1996 to build an Internet library.