Y2K (Throwback Thursday)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

y2kRemember Y2K, the crisis that prompted people to take up survivalism, stockpile rations in the woods, and predict the end?  Fortunately, the Law Society Library was prepared for the worst.  Y2K preparations made by the Law Society Library were detailed in a June 1999 Benchers’ Digest article entitled, Year 2000 Computer Compliance.

First, exactly what was Y2K?  The article explains,

What is everyone talking about “Y2K” and what does this mean for your law firm?  The year 2000 compliance problem is related to the turn of the century, when we change from the 1900’s to the 2000’s.  Computer programmers many years ago used two digits to indicate a year in their computer programing….This could pose a problem when January 1, 2000 clicks over on the computer.

What exactly was the Law Society Library doing to prepare for the impending disaster?  The Law Society had a plan,

There are no guarantees of exactly what will happen on January 1, 2000….The Law Society Library developed a plan after conducting research on what issues existed and looked for ideas on what we need to do to make sure our system is less likely to fail for our users on January 1, 2000.

The plan involved creating a detailed inventory of hardware, testing all software, accessing all data files using two digit years, conducting a full backup of the entire system before December 31, and “developing a contingency plan to help the library deal with issues in case something goes wrong on January 1, 2000…”

Ignoring the Y2K problem will not make it go away.  There is still time to act…before December 31, 1999….The tests and contingency plans are your best efforts to minimize the impact and possible damages before entering the new century.

While the Y2K furor may seem somewhat humorous in retrospect, I hear that we are coming up on the Year 2038 problem (Y2038) next.



Benchers’ Digest (June 1999): Baer, Susan. Year 2000 Computer Compliance. 8-10. Print

Remembrance (Throwback Thursday)

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During the First World War, all Law Society members who enlisted for active service were deemed to have paid their annual fees and continued in good standing until they resumed practice.  In 1918, 77 of 496 lawyers on the roll and 158 of 302 students-at-law were enlisted for active military service. A roll of honour was proposed for all Law Society members and students-at-law who served in the Great War. Scottish born Regina artist James Henderson was commissioned to create the paintings.

Honour Roll of Members of the Law Society enlisted in active military service during World War I, by James Henderson, 1917 (29.75″ width x 20.75″ height)

There was a marked reduction in the membership and activities of the Law Society during the Second World War. Many law students joined the army without completing their degree. Almost 20% of the law graduates enlisted, most of them as officers. The annual meeting of the Law Society was cancelled in 1942 and 1945 because of wartime restrictions on travel. All editorial work of the Saskatchewan Bar Review (renamed Saskatchewan Law Review in 1967) were taken over by the Faculty of Law in 1943 at the request of the benchers as both editors, David Tyerman and Stuart Thom, were on active service. In 1946, the Law Society’s secretary prepared a list of all enlisted members and students-at-law “in order that a correct and permanent record be kept”.

Law Society Members in active military service during World War II (15.25″ width x 20.75″ height)

A Humble Beginning: 32 Years of Saskatchewan Case Digesting (Throwback Thursday)

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An acoustic coupler used in the 1983 movie WarGames

The year was 1982 , and …

Time Magazine‘s Man of the Year was the computer,
Commodore 64 was the most popular home computer,
Sony Walkman was the hot new gadget,
the first movie with extensive 3D CGI Tron was released by Disney,
and mobile phone… no, there was no mobile phone yet. The first consumer mobile phone didn’t come out until the following year and weighed almost 2 lbs. and measured about 12 inches tall and 3.5 inches thick.

And what cool tools did we have in Saskatchewan for legal research in 1982?

In the early ’80s there was generally a 6 to 12 month delay for Saskatchewan cases to be picked up by printed law reporters. QL Systems (Quicklaw) was the only online service available and was already popular in courthouses. Searching QL back then was over a phone line dialing into Canada’s packet switched network Datapac using a modem or an acoustic coupler with a data transfer rate of 1000 baud (approximately 10 million times slower than the download speed of a high speed Internet connection these days). Remember WarGames? Finding caselaw and getting cases to the lawyers in a timely manner was problematic and expensive.  There was a need to provide a local digesting service and This Week’s Law, commonly known as TWL, was the resulting product.

A Radio Shack TRS-80 computer
A page from TWL, 1986

The first issue of TWL was released in 1982. One copy was produced on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. Copies for distribution were made on a photocopier because all office printers back then were dot matrix.  They were slow, noisy, and they printed on fanfold paper.  TWL was offered as a looseleaf subscription service with approximately nine releases a year. Over the years the contents of TWL expanded and many features were added. In 1998, the contents of TWL were imported into a new database platform that made searching on the Internet possible. This became the Saskatchewan Cases database. Data structure, search screens and reports were carefully designed to maximize the searchability of the contents and to take full advantage of the hypertext linking ability of HTML.  In order to enable fulltext searching of the judgments, a separate Fulltext database was created and linked to the Cases database.  The databases were initially available only for Law Society members for a subscription fee.  At the end of 1999 the benchers decided to make the databases available to the members for free.  A subsequent decision opened up the databases to the public. Since the databases were made available on the Internet and members have become more comfortable with computers and online searching , the demand for the printed TWL began to dwindle.  In 2002, after completing the 20th Anniversary volume, the Library decided to discontinue TWL.

Saskatchewan was the first law society in Canada to initiate an Internet-based search service for judgments. Today, Saskatchewan Cases database is one of the most popular databases produced by the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. It is being used over 3,500 times a month. From the database we produce Case Mail, a twice monthly electronic newsletter of case digests. We also provide our case digests to CanLII Connects. All these were started from a need to provide current case law for our members, a vision, and a few people quietly doing what needed to be done behind the scene to provide a great service.

UPDATE: A recent inventory indicates that the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has contributed 18,639 case digests to CanLII Connects, making us one of the biggest contributors to the service.

North America’s First Computerized Law Library – Throwback Thursday

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By Alan Kilpatrick

dtmacellvenDid you know that the Law Society Library in Regina holds the unique distinction of being the first computerized law library in North America? According to a Leader Post article from February 20th, 1980, which featured an interview with the library’s director, Douglass MacEllven, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library was the first in North America to have a computer system.

While the Law Society languished for much of the 1970s without any professional staff, the 1980s saw the Law Society Library boldly enter the computer age under MacEllven’s direction. With access to Quicklaw and a province-wide network of fax machines, the library was able to complete instantaneous research and send detailed materials to rural lawyers, “by telecopier using the telephone wire within a few hours.”

Douglass MacEllven served as director from 1977 to 1988. He oversaw the computerized modernization of the Law Society Library and was awarded honorary lifetime membership of the Law Society in 1988.



A Century of Integrity: The Law Society of Saskatchewan 1907 to 2007
Computerized law library in Regina is first in North America

A Little History of “Noting Up” or Why Noting Up is Called “Noting Up” Anyways

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By Natalie Wing, Law Librarian
Yukon Public Law Library

WARNING: this post may contain disturbing content for those with deep anti-marking-up-of-library-book sensitivities.

Back in ye olden days, law clerks and law librarians used to write in the margins of case reporters, literally “noting up” the pages with citations for subsequent appellate decisions. Indeed, it would seem that librarians both sanctioned and participated in the marking up of library books, but of course only for very specific purposes, and conceivably only with the tidiest of (and most tidily placed) writing. Here is an example of an old noted up reporter from the Sir James Dunn Law Library (Halifax, NS), found and shared by reference librarian Nikki Tanner:


References to the practice of “noting up” can be traced back to at least the 19th century, when The Law Times provided practitioners with “Notes for Noting Up”, and when proposals for legal textbook volumes included plans to bind in blank leaves specifically for noting up so that the textbooks could contain the latest law:

A MEMBER has suggested that the first text-book of the Society should be one which shall comprise the entire Practice of Law [….] It is further proposed that the volumes should be bound with blank leaves for noting up, and that in any digest of the Society a figure should refer to the page in the text-book in which the case or statute digested ought to be noted, so that the volumes should always keep pace with the existing law until a new edition is rendered necessary by the number of references (Verulam Society, (1844) 3 The Law Times 275).

This post was the result of a question asked of the broader Canadian Association of Law Libraries community. Many thanks in particular to Lynne McNeill, Nikki Tanner, and Katie Albright for knowing such things in the first place, and for sharing their knowledge.

Signing the Law Society Roll Book (Throwback Thursday)

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Roll Book Spine with Embossed Title
Signatures in the Roll Book, June-July 1906

It is that time of the year again! The students who have completed the Bar Admissions Program will be eligible for admission as lawyers. Those admitted will be required to sign the roll at the Law Society. The Law Society of the North-West Territories started in 1898 with 186 members on the roll. The Law Society of Saskatchewan continued to use this roll until 1911 when a new parchment roll book was procured. The first name entered in the parchment roll is Amédée Emmanuel Forget, the last Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories and the first Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Saskatchewan. The benchers hoped that every barrister and solicitor in the province would come to sign the roll. It remained open for one year after which the secretary was instructed to “cause the names of any members who have not signed to be engrossed on the roll in distinctive characters not liable to be mistaken for autograph signatures.” As a result, some early names appear in pencil in the roll. In December 1912, the benchers passed a resolution to create a rule making it a requirement of admission to actually sign the roll.

Signing Roll – Rule amended

Moved by Mr. Acheson seconded by Mr. Black that no one be admitted as barrister and solicitor until he actually signs the roll; and that the declaration of nonpractise required by the Rules be taken at the time of signing the roll and that the rules be amended accordingly. Carried Unanimously.

The same 1911 roll is still in use today. It has space for 13,000 signatures. Students can sign the roll in ballpoint pen or a dip pen and ink.

The Road to Equality (Throwback Thursday)

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By Jenneth Hogan

As most of you know March 8th was International Women’s Day. Marked as a celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women it was created as a day for empowerment and a chance to commemorate women around the globe for their economic, political, and social achievements. This year marks the 39th official celebration of International Women’s Day since its declaration by the UN in 1977, although some of the earliest Women’s Day events date back to 1909.

Women’s rights and gender equality issues have a deep history around the world and Canada is no exception. We have put together a timeline with a small sampling of that history in an effort to highlight some of the major events, challenges and triumphs met by the women of our country. Although the road to gender equality is a long and winding one, you can easily see how far we’ve come and how far we’re willing to go.