Uncooked Data


Library related events, questions and links: My professional life on a page

International Taxation

CLIG ran a seminar this week about tax.  I hope Anne Fairpo will forgive me for my surprise that her talk on international tax issues was so engaging. In the post-seminar drinks that was definitely one of the recurring themes of conversation. I suppose we just assume that tax, being a dry subject , would not be a natural choice for entertainment. But then surely we’d be guilty of the same assumptions that others make about ‘librarians’  (shhh)?Anne explained a number of key concepts around international tax:

  • Why and how rules arise
  • Worst and best case taxation scenarios
  • The role of the EU and the OECD and how treaties impact domestic measures
  • Subtle distinctions between planning, avoidance and evasion

The content also included plenty of anecdotes illustrating common pitfalls and a few wry asides about the consequences.It made a change to have little more to do at a CLIG event than help welcome attendees – it will help me transition to the autumn when I’m no longer a committee member. I spent an hour or so discussing various related and unrelated topics with people I’d been too busy to talk to at the Spring Party.

So my advice would be, Don’t reject tax topics out of hand. I found it really useful. And if you see Anne billed as a seminar speaker in future, go!


Filed under: Event report, Training, , , , , , , ,

More on learning US law

Today I was asked a question. A partner wanted a copy of a case from New York from 2002, Axa v Chase or similar.
I used Google Scholar to locate what looked like a likely candidate – this was close, but not close enough – what was needed was the judgment from the original hearing. I looked a bit further and found a report of said case, this time from the Supreme Court.

Bearing in mind the lessons from the recent seminar I attended, I did a bit of checking on state courts and checked in with one of my colleagues in the US, Rita Young-Jones.  It was such an entertaining exchange I thought it worth recording here.

Sara: I’ve got a classic UK to US query for you today. I’ve found this case I think this is the second judgment in the chain – if the Google link is to the appellate division, and this pdf is the Supreme Court, is there a lower state court? I checked the abbreviations list from the ALWD manual & there’s not one listed, does that mean there isn’t one, and this is the lowest judgment available or that it is not likely to be reported elsewhere, or both…?

Rita: NY confuses us all…I think this is actually the lower court decision.  Believe it or not, the trial court level for corporate & complex litigation claims is the supreme court.

and ….to make matters more confusing: the highest state court in the NY hierarchy is….

the Appellate Court.

Nice huh?

From the New York Courts website:

The trial courts of superior jurisdiction are the Supreme Courts, the Court of Claims, the Family Courts, the Surrogate’s Courts and, outside New York City, the County Courts. In New York City, the Supreme Court exercises both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Outside New York City, Supreme Court exercises civil jurisdiction, while County Court generally handles criminal matters.

The trial courts of limited jurisdiction in New York City are the NYC Civil Court and the NYC Criminal Court. Outside New York City, the trial courts of limited jurisdiction are the City Courts, which have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors and lesser offenses, and civil jurisdiction over claims of up to $15,000. There are District Courts in Nassau County and parts of Suffolk County. District Courts have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors and lesser offenses, and civil jurisdiction over claims of up to $15,000.

…  and … The Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, is composed of a Chief Judge and six Associate Judges, each appointed to a 14-year term. New York’s highest appellate court was established to articulate statewide principles of law in the context of deciding particular lawsuits. The Court thus generally focuses on broad issues of law as distinguished from individual factual disputes. There is no jurisdictional limitation based upon the amount of money at stake in a case or the status or rank of the parties.

…take two asprin and call me in the morning (I grew up in NY so had elementary civics/government lessons and remembered this well…I think they may be the only state that does things this way…)

Sara: (weakly)… thanks… !

One of the things in our projects pipeline is a cross-Atlantic collaboration: we get more explanations on the quirks in the state court system and also try to explain the intricacies of the EU to our US colleagues. I’m looking forward to it!

Thanks again to Rita for her help today, and on many other days…

Filed under: research, Training, , ,

US Legal System and Sources, 14 April

On 14 April Hester Swift of the IALS took 25 CLIG members on a whistlestop tour of the key points and main sources of the American legal system. I knew much of the terminology but what this talk did was to put those words and phrases in context. It felt a bit like being given a dictionary to help unlock the meaning of a foreign text and was an enormously helpful evening. Writing this blog post is part report on the event and part consolidation for my own purposes of the links provided and the information imparted.

Hester pointed us to good free sites for finding case law and statutes. She also compared the available content on the international versions of Westlaw and Lexis. I’ve previously used a well-known search engine to find both statutes and case law without incurring charges; but have never had a fairly definitive sense of which were the official free sources and why.

Points that I found of particular interest were as follows, in no particular order.

Federal and state courts

I generally needed to stop and think about which was which and which set of courts belonged to which, Hester’ explanation of the differences made this much clearer. We were also pointed towards the US Courts website which has an explanation and a comparison of the two kinds of court and associated processes. There’s also a Federal districts map via Westlaw.com.

Citations and abbreviations

There’s always been something about US legal citations that has flummoxed me. I don’t know why. I can be perfectly at home with [2008] 3 W.L.R. 345 or [2009] EWHC 1843 (Comm) yet feel all at sea with 318 F. 2d 406 or 518 U. S. 515 (1996). (Caution: fairly hefty pdf). I suppose it’s all a matter of familiarity. And whilst Raistrick or the Cardiff Index are familiar tools to help decode new abbreviations I’d not fully explored the Bluebook or the ALWD Citation manual appendices. These appendices which are freely available give, amongst others:

  • General Abbreviations (Appendix 3)
  • Court Abbreviations (Appendix 4) 
  • Abbreviations for Legal Periodicals (Appendix 5)
  • Law reporters

    Key to understanding these abbreviations in citations and where to start looking is understanding the way US case reports at state and federal level are reported. Supreme Court case reports, the Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement now have their place in my mental map of information. These are pretty self-explanatory. State cases are sometimes covered by official state publications – although not all states have an official series; of the states that do, some official series are published by a commercial enterprise… so the waters get a little muddier her.

    This map shows the regions that West’s Regional Reporters cover as it’s apparently not always obvious which state is in which region for the purposes of these reports.

    Like the UK, cases in the lower (trial) courts are not reported, only those in the higher courts. And another caveat: most states have a Supreme Court, which is of course different from the federal Supreme Court. The National Center for State Courts provides a list of links for the States.

    Heather also pointed us in the direction of good sources for the US Constitution and US Code. She also included warnings about unfriendly websites and those which are authoritative, but perhaps don’t look so.

    I came away from the evening with a better knowledge of which freely available sources are authoritative,  a greater understanding of the structure and terminology of the US legal system and, as with all these things, a sense that I have so much more to learn…

    Filed under: Event report, Training, ,

    Twitter: Work tool and research tool

    Yesterday I attended the pilot Digital Researcher event at the British Library, jointly presented with Vitae. Vitae is a body that promotes good practice within academic research communities. Apologies for the flood of #DR10 tagged tweets yesterday.

    My immediate and key thought is that we in the library world seem to be far ahead of other disciplines in our adoption of social media. I was surprised by this. I think, on reflection, it is because I have heard so much about how libraries have been promoting mobile and social tools. So I had naturally assumed they were common throughout all academia.

    Over at PhDinProgress I am going to be summarising and reflecting on how I can use what was discussed yesterday more effectively in my PhD. Over the next day or so I will post here on Uncooked Data my thoughts about the differences between academic and commercial practice. This will be further informed after hearing what’s discussed at this evening’s SLA Europe event around Twitter in the workplace. And a useful and related Business Week article for homework reading…

    Filed under: Event report, Training, , , , ,

    #DR10: Digital Researcher

    I’m cheating and getting two blog posts for the price of one, as I am posting this here and on my Other Blog. On Monday I shall be 1% of a crowd of research students at the British Library for an event run by Vitae: Digital Researcher – Managing your networks and building your profile.

    I’m looking forward to this for three reasons. Firstly, it will be interesting to find out how another tribe of people are using Web 2.0 tools. I’ve read, and heard, and done a lot of law-librarian things collaboratively online. But I have not really exploited these tools for my PhD.

    Secondly, it comes a handy 24 hours before the next SLA Europe event – about Twitter, and how we use it at work. A good opportunity to compare and contrast the two approaches: corporate life and research student life.

    And finally, as a part-time, distance student I don’t spend a great deal of time in the company of my research student peer group – I would probably struggle to even identify a peer group – so spending a day with 99 other PhDs-in-waiting should be a brilliant boost to the motivation levels.

    The organisers set up and emailed us all with the hashtag #dr10 for the event. It caused me mild amusement that this is also being used by a Dutch community somewhere, as a bunch of other tweets are in our search feed.

    Filed under: research, Training, , , ,

    Supporting new trainees

    Today is the last day of the new trainees’ formal induction fortnight. Monday is seat rotation day when everyone has to get up to speed in a new practice area as soon as they can. Next week we have a number of database sessions scheduled, so they’re not quite done with the library yet.

    This year I made some changes to the way we introduce trainees to the Library services, because their induction had also changed in line with the new competency programme for fee-earners. It has been a good opportunity to reinforce messages about the work we do, the resources we have and the ways we can support the new trainees. I have been able to draw on my experience of the kinds of problems that trainees bring to the enquiry desk to talk about these in context. We were able to embed library slots in other sessions run by external providers. For example, we discussed various methods of keeping up to date with clients’ news as part of the ‘Client Care’ element. If the trainees remember one thing from each session the Library was involved with, we will consider it a success. The induction period is a barrage of new information and we are only one part of that.

    Over the next week or so I’ll be asking for feedback from the trainees so we can evaluate this programme, and make changes where necessary for next time. We’ll also have a look at the database usage information to see if there are any patterns of change.

    In the meantime, though, we are preparing for the baffled faces of the new lawyers-to-be as they start to make sense of a new set of information resources.

    Filed under: Training, , , ,

    Always Cited In Preference

    The ICLR (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting) have launched a series of short films promoting their Official Series of law reports. You can find them on YouTube.

    If you’ve ever tried to explain to a trainee or a student why it matters where they find their case reports from, these are going to help. A Tale of Two Citations  illustrates the consequences of using the internet for case research and not checking the sources properly; although it feature extreme examples of disorganised v organised Counsel, the point is made. A second film features a number of practitioners discussing the various routes they would take through online and hard copy sources to carry out their researchMaking Legal History  explains the history of the ICLR and the way a law report is compiled.

    The ICLR have published this work and said that it’s freely available to use. Obviously, they’re advertisements for the ICLR’s series of reports, but the films’ content is not hidden under layers of intrusive promotion. The short format would make them ideal for adding to a session on law libraries. The three mentioned will be useful to show to work experience or summer students; enough of  a flavour of the way lawyers research without being too technical for non-lawyer or pre-LPC students. 

    So whilst the ICLR are promoting their product, they have also helped fill a gap in my toolkit for training.  The one pity is that there is no discussion of the way that neutral citation works. Of course given the nature of the films, it is to be expected that they would focus on their reports; but adding in even a brief mention of the citations would have made these videos even more useful.

    Filed under: Training, , , ,

    About me and Uncooked Data

    Batty Towers

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    Some possibly useful research links