Juris-M, Bluebook, and other things I don't understand

I'm supporting some law school faculty and I have questions.

1. According to one faculty member, Zotero and the Bluebook CSL seem not to cut it for legal research. I've asked for a list of specific discrepancies and will report back when I get it. Has anyone taken a crack at the Bluebook CSL lately? I see it was last updated in 2015.

2. I know about Juris-M, but not enough to support it here, and I'm really uncomfortable recommending something that seems to be a one-person operation. My question is, if Juris-M is a fork of Zotero, can't its law-specific features be rolled into Zotero proper? I'm assuming that Zotero would roll them in if it was feasible, so I guess I'm just curious as to what makes Juris-M so different that it necessitates a different product altogether.

3. I suppose I just had two questions, but two items isn't much of a list.
  • 1) No. It should be OK for secondary sources but there's only so much one can do for legal documents. It could likely be improved, but there's just no way to get this completely right.

    2) Zotero's citation processor is run by the same person who runs juris-m, so if Frank somehow stops, we'd all be in a bit of trouble. It's used pretty widely and in a worst case the data can be synced back to Zotero.
    The reason this can't be easily ported in Zotero is that, frankly, law citation requirements, particularly for cases, are completely crazy (they depend on the jurisdiction, how a case is reported, sometimes you have to chain multiple citations ["parallel citation"] etc.) and Frank has had to built in a lot of specifics that would just add a ton of stuff to Zotero that I don't think the devs would all be happy with how it's implemented in detail, so essentially this would mean Zotero doing nothing else for many months.
  • The reason this can't be easily ported in Zotero is that, frankly, law citation requirements, particularly for cases, are completely crazy
    Yeah, mostly we just don't have the domain knowledge to build and support these specialized features. If Frank stopped developing Juris-M, someone else who did would need to take over. We're just not the people to build this product.
  • Thanks for the explanation. I totally understand now and will recommend Juris-M.
  • As someone who struggles with the issue of sustainability of my own project -- essentially a one-person operation -- I have a "business plan" that someone could use to hire the right number of people (FTEs) to continue and expand SafetyLit in my absence. I would love to see progress on such a similar -- perhaps more substantial -- plan if key Zotero people were lost. What if more money was made available to further expand existing Zotero staff? I for one would shout for joy if the multilingual part of Juris-M were incorporated into Zotero. What might be that cost in terms of adding permanent FTEs to the Zotero team. How might the leadership of the RRCHNM respond to outsiders working to get additional grant funding to the CHNM for this purpose? Dan, would that be part of your strategy for Zotero if there were funds for hiring additional developers? Also, Dan, I don't know how you have the time and patience to do the program development and respond here. Allow me to temporarily move this thread from a technical support forum to a discussion group and thank you for the extraordinarily high quality of your work and dedication to the project.

    Please, no one should take my comment as anything against Frank Bennett. From the quality of his work and the kind and patient style of his responses to questions on this forum, I believe him to be one of the few truly great people alive.
  • What if more money was made available to further expand existing Zotero staff? I for one would shout for joy if the multilingual part of Juris-M were incorporated into Zotero.
    It's not a money issue — I just don't think this makes sense as part of Zotero. There's a huge amount of necessary complexity in the multilingual and legal functionality, and developing it requires a high level of specialized knowledge that we (and most developers we would want to hire) simply don't have. Even if we hired domain experts, I think trying to incorporate this functionality into the core product would both negatively affect the user experience for most users and dramatically impede ongoing development, all for functionality that most Zotero users don't require.

    I think it'd be great if a larger development community formed around Juris-M, and it's possible that could involve grant funding. But I think that would have to be something for Frank to pursue.
  • @denlinkd just off the press, someone posted a law-oriented juris-m guide at the top of "specialized documentation" here: https://www.zotero.org/support/third_party_documentation
  • @denlinkd (and others who drive by): It is true that Jurism is pretty much a one-man show at the moment, and I understand why that may give pause. On the other hand, at the time the posts above were being written, I was immersed in research work from which I didn't emerge for a good eight months. Apart from a couple of server outages, Jurism ticked away for people in the meantime. I don't seem to be essential to the persistence of libraries. ☺

    There are two primary reasons why the work on Juris-M has unfolded as it has. Dan captures one of them, where he cites the cost and risk of supporting "functionality that most Zotero users don't require." That is not a Zotero-specific issue: the same logic applies to every shop active in this space. By definition, scholars operating across languages and jurisdictions are a motley, scattered lot. No enterprise is going to bet the farm on a product that may or may not catch fire among them. That was true ten years ago, and it is still true today. The market isn't going make this one happen until it happens.

    The second reason is quite topical these days: capital concentration. Two large firms (Westlaw and Lexis, sometimes referred to not-so-fondly as "the Wexis twins") entirely dominated the publishing and dissemination of primary legal materials in the U.S. market, from the first appearance of the Internet and for a period of 30 years. In part for that reason, and in part because the style of legal reasoning gifted to the U.S. by Christopher Landell rewards those with deep access to archives of precedent, monolithic content+research services are the expected thing. Bundling personalized library management with content subscriptions—essentially what Elsevier seems to be working toward with Mendeley—is a formula for lock-in and dependence, of course. It came early to law, with the result that most U.S. lawyers and legal technologists wouldn't recognize the value of a standalone reference manager if it bit them on the nose.

    Juris-M is one effort to shift the landscapes described above. Early development was furious and chaotic (as a trawl through the archives will surely show, I'm afraid), but the functionality of the tool hasn't changed in quite a while. Most of the time I've put in over the past several years has gone to chasing changes in Zotero, and adapting the Zotero development tools (the test suite, the release chain) for use with Jurism. The innovation is pretty much done.

    I don't have a plan to quit work on Jurism anytime soon. I have three years to go to age of retirement here, after which I'm sure to continue with maintenance work as time permits. There have been some encouraging recent developments in funding and in collaboration; but securing the future does not depend on Jurism development alone. We will stand on firmer ground in the cross-border research space when multilingual and legal users come to expect that their needs will be met by reference management platforms. Meanwhile, we continue plugging away.
  • edited March 19, 2019
    There is another law-oriented Juris-M guide by Lisa Lilliot of the Harvard Law Library; and Jonathan Lewis of Hitotsubashi University has begun work to improve the main Juris-M documentation.
Sign In or Register to comment.