Voter ID requirements are having an effect on suppressing voters, especially those of color, a recent research paper claims.

UCSD’s political science department has conducted research on the recent voter ID law changes, and have found that they are changing the makeup of voters. In the past few years there has been a wave to restrict voting to those that cannot show a proper ID. The motivation has come from the sentiment that if you need an ID to board a plan, then you should need one to vote. There is growing concern that allowing citizens to vote without showing proper ID could open up the process to fraud, via people using the names of the recently deceased to cast illegitimate votes. Other reasoning behind the updates to the law have stated that requiring an ID is a minor barrier to voting and should not have an effect on the process. This has been backed up by past research that showed that there was no difference between the voters who had to show an ID and those that were not required to in order to vote.

The problem is that these laws seem to be fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. It has been reported that most instances of voter fraud tend to be baseless. In contrast, the creation of an ID requirement has been found to be a barrier for voters.  It is estimated that 10% of Americans do not have the proper ID in order to cast a vote. As a result, the voting population gets skewed to being more white and more conservative. Some Republicans have admitted that defense of the new voter ID laws are aimed at the democratic voters.

The researchers found that these claims were turning out to be true. “We find that strict voter identification laws do, in fact, substantially alter the makeup of who votes and ultimately do skew democracy in favor of whites and those on the political right.” They even draw a broader point from this finding: “These laws significantly impact the representativeness of the vote and the fairness of democracy.”

Voting is not a privilege, it is a fundamental right of our democracy. Before 2006, not one state required that a person have a photo ID in order to cast a vote. Although past research may not have indicated that Voter ID laws would become a barrier to a civil right, this research generally pre-dates the especially strict voter ID laws that are on the books in many states today. Although the most recent study is still under peer review, it results are enough to cause alarm about the state of our voting rights in America.

Article via, 9 February 2016

Photo Proof Voter ID Lowers Turnout by Democracy Chronicles [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Handshake Software, a provider of SharePoint-based products and services to the legal market, announced its tech integration Ravel Law, a legal search, analytics, and visualization platform. The move is based on the need to provide a legal search product to law firms that will allow them to be more efficient in their practice.

Glenn LaForce, vice president of global sales & marketing at Handshake Software stated, ““Attorneys are under tremendous pressure from their clients with regards to the billable hour, so bringing together as many data sources as possible into one universal search is paramount for their practice,” he said. “To be able to perform legal research while seeing key financials, internal documents, contacts and internal expertise helps the attorneys become more efficient and effective.

This move is a strategic integration between the two companies products. By combining these technologies, the users Sharepoint experience will include search that allows for all knowledge to be in one place. LaForce confirms this by saying, “Lawyers, CIOs and knowledge management professionals tell us they want one system to deliver one-stop [knowledge management] information to their users. Our integration with Ravel Law is another important aspect of the Handshake Software’s all-encompassing solution that includes integration to online legal research and other major legal applications.”

The goal is to provide and environment where users will have access to critical firm data as well as online law research materials. This allows attorneys to more effectively manage the business and practice of law. We’re excited to bring these technologies to lawyers in one easy-to-find location,” said Nik Reed, co-founder and chief operating officer at Ravel Law.


Article via LegalTechNews, 12 January 2016

Photo:Assignments by Ryan Hyde [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Gone are the days when law firms could rely on business from traditional sources. Due to the financial crisis in 2008, many law firms are still operating on a leaner staff and are looking for ways to cut expenses. To mitigate this need firms are looking to grow their expertise by connecting with outside experts, while also lowering their costs. In the information age, this means relying more on external digital sources for research instead of traditional in house law libraries.

Many prominent law firms have cut their costs by shrinking the size of their law library. In this leaner model, law firms cannot afford the costs of duplicate content and a buffet style approach to purchasing information. The demand for sophisticated research has increased, making law firms more dependent on access to vast amounts of content.

Two venders, LexisNexis and Westlaw are leading the market of law firms looking to meet the high information demand. As outsourcing has become more accepted in the legal community, there are more new companies coming aboard to meet legal information needs. Outsourced consultants are valuable to law firms because they can deliver high level services and expertise at scale. The companies allow law firms to take advantage of both broad and deep information, along with industry expertise, something that in house libraries alone cannot match.

For law firms, this means a lower administrative burden while increasing efficiency. As law firms conform and adjust to a changing market and economy, these services offer a means of staying relevant and competitive.


Article via LegalTechNews, 1 October 2015

Photo: law books via  Mr.TinDC [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Larry Lessig is a lawyer, political activist and scholar on a mission to bring important legal research to light. Legal scholars spend many years researching deep topics, such as who is really financing political campaigns, that never make it to the public consciousness. In order to change that, an  event called Hacking iCorruption was created. This is a hackathon meant to attract accomplished programmers, scientists, journalists and academics together to push this research to the internet and into the hands of the public at large.

Lessig launched Safra Research lab in 2010. Since then, the lab has amassed a data from legal research that he believed should be involved in political debate. This mission, combined with investigative reporter Brooke Williams idea for a hackaton, was the spark that created Hacking iCorruption. In the article Williams states, “A lot of us had simple problems that required a technical solution, but we had no budget or ability to hire an expert to solve it.” It became clear that having a hackathon would be the way to bring together the diverse group that they needed.

Due to the success of this hackathon, new ones are springing up. WeCott is a hackathon that has been created to help people organize boycotts and receive crowd funding. Hackathons are a movement according to the organizers of WeCott, and they are focusing on efforts to keep the momentum going in their communities.


Article via ABAJournal, 1 September 2015

Photo: Hackathon via Ferderacao das Industrias do Estado de Sao Paulo[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Robert Ambrogi of the blog Law Sites believes “that crowdsourcing can help democratize legal research and enable free research sites to become more viable alternatives to paid sites.” Unfortunately for those who believe strongly in the impact crowdsourcing can have upon the law profession, most websites focused on sharing legal issues have failed. Crowdsourcing relies on users to contribute freely to the conversation at hand, whether that be by posing questions about certain law practices, sharing new insights or research that can educate others, or arguing hypothetical cases. Due to the fact that users are posting of their own free volition and not because they are looking forward to being paid, they need an incentive to keep coming back to the site and adding to the growing bank of knowledge. In the past, as shown by a multitude of legal crowdsourcing websites that have disappeared or gone dormant, finding the right incentive can been difficult. As Apoorva Mehta, the creator of one such failed enterprise, explains“I didn’t know anything about lawyers when we started. Turns out, they don’t like technology, and they don’t like to share things.”

Even though many have failed in the past, crowdsourcing legal research could still be effective at accumulating knowledge. Three sites—Casetext, Wex, and CanLII Connects—are proof that lawyers can collaborate using technology. Each site has a slightly different way of encouraging lawyers to contribute. For example, Casetext has created little niches called Casetext communities that allow lawyers with similar interests to discuss and network together online, prompting discussions and drawing more users to the communities. Additionally, Casetext provides an outlet for lawyers who love writing about law without the added worry setting up an individual blog or analyzing SEO. This publishing platform, called Legalpad, even comes with built in readers from the Casetext communities. Wex approaches incentivizing a bit differently by narrowing down the type of crowdsourcing it hopes to generate and focusing on becoming a sort of legal Wikipedia. Those that contribute to Wex articles are then listed as one of the authors. Lastly, CanLII boasts a bit of exclusivity by only allowing registered members the ability to engage in crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing websites have to focus on what is going to make people want to contribute and how to make those contributions useful to others. Though sites are still trying to pin down exactly how to accomplish the former, the free availability of legal research that Ambrogi dreams of may not be just a dream much longer.

Article via Law SitesAugust 10, 2015

Photo: The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library via Chris Guy [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]