A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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2009 Brings ADA Changes

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) took effect on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA, which was signed by President Bush on September 25, 2008, is intended to restore Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions that had been eroded by a series of Supreme Court decisions.

Trapp, Greg. National Federation of the Blind (2009). Articles>Accessibility>Legal>United States


Answering the Critics of Plain Language

Plain language has to do with clear and effective communication -- nothing more or less. It does, though, signify a new attitude and a fundamental change from past practices.

Kimble, Joseph. Plain Language Network (2003). Articles>Writing>Legal>Minimalism


The Anywhere Office = Anywhere Liability   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The 20th-Century office is dead. According to Telework Trendlines 2009, WorldatWork’s new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, the number of Americans working remotely at least once a month jumped 39%, from 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008. Last year Congress even introduced bills that would encourage and expand telework programs in the federal government. Although the disap- pearing office boundaries caused by technological advances have obvious benefits for employers and employees, something else is dissolving along with those cubicle walls: clear limit lines of employer liability.

Genova, Gina L. Business Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Legal>Telecommuting>Workplace


Authors Can’t Be Sued For Linking To Libelous Material

Hyperlinking is fundamental to how information spreads on the web—it’s the reason why traffic spikes on some sites and also explains why false information can funnel outward so quickly. One question that publishers and lawyers have long wrestled with is whether sites are legally liable for the accuracy of material they link out to. In a major ruling today, a court offered an answer to that. Authors should not be held liable for providing links to websites that contain defamatory material, according to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Roberts, Jeff. PaidContent.org (2011). Articles>Legal>Hypertext>Canada


BlockShopper v. Jones Day: The Right of Web Sites to Link

Cases that have addressed links and copyright dealt with the permissibility of "deep linking"—linking to a page other than the home page—which, of course, is indeed permitted. Ticketmaster famously lost a lawsuit against Tickets.com about just this. But that case was about copyright infringement; by making a trademark claim instead, Jones Day opened up another legal avenue.

Davis, Wendy. Slate (2009). Articles>Web Design>Legal>Hypertext


Breaking Professional Boundaries: What the MacCrate Report on Lawyering Skills and Values Means for TPC Programs   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In 1992, the American Bar Association released the MacCrate Report, which listed the ten skills and four professional values that all attorneys need and critiqued law schools and state bars for not doing enough to teach and encourage the development of these skills and values. In response, law schools have significantly increased the skills-based components in their curricula, and most state bar exams now include a performance test. Technical and Professional Communication (TPC) programs already provide substantial instruction in all of the skills and values described in the MacCrate Report; further, an education in TPC prepares graduates to excel in law school and on the bar exam. This knowledge offers opportunities for growth if educators, administrators, and scholars take steps to encourage students to consider not only writing for but also joining in the legal profession.

Todd, Jeff. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Legal>Business Communication


Communicators and Lawyers: Winning in Both Courts

Professional communicators and attorneys have long stood side by side as both fought to win in court—one in the court of law, the other in the court of public opinion. These two sometimes wary compatriots, however, are now beginning to partner more frequently to garner the best results for the executive suite.

Deveney, John and Meghan Ozcan. Communication World Bulletin (2005). Articles>Business Communication>Legal


Contracts: An Introduction to the Skills of Legal Writing and Analysis   (peer-reviewed)

Contracts is a computer program designed for first year undergraduates studying Obligations in Glasgow University's School of Law, written by Paul Maharg and Professor Joe Thomson. It aims to improve students' written work.

Maharg, Paul. JILT (1996). Articles>Writing>Legal>Contracts


Customer Profile: Ernest Svenson, PDF for Lawyers

A well-known advocate for the effective use of new technologies in the legal profession, New Orleans-based attorney Ernest Svenson finds Adobe Acrobat and PDF to be highly valued tools in a document-intensive field.

Foss, Kurt. Adobe (2007). Articles>Information Design>Legal>Adobe Acrobat


Disability Discrimination Act: An Update for 2005

Many organisations are confused and concerned about the latest requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which came into effect on 1st October 2004. Failure to make reasonable adjustments may mean that organisations are discriminating against disabled people. Yet what does 'reasonable adjustments' mean and what exactly do organisations need to put in place?

System Concepts (2005). Articles>Accessibility>Legal>United Kingdom


eDiscovery: A Company's Worst Nightmare

EDiscovery: You don't want it to happen. Borne of the term discovery, used by lawyers to describe collecting evidence, electronic discovery comes about because of a possible violation in regulatory compliance. Whatis.com defines it as "to any process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured, and searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case."

Tim Rosa Associates (2008). Articles>Legal>Policies and Procedures


The Effects of Print and Other Text Media Developments Upon the Law in America   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The law has long been shaped by the technical aspects of compiling, writing, storing, and accessing textual verbiage. Text media technology affects all areas of the law, from its intellectual basis to its promulgation, dissemination and enforcement. From America's Colonial period, the operative state of the art of printing has accordingly shaped the development of the law in America, and has caused it to grow in a different direction from the law of England. Since the Colonial period, the state of the art of text media technology has made quantum evolutionary leaps forward, impacting American law in the process. Artifacts of these text media technologies are to be found in the statutes, legislative histories, judicial decisions, and other legal materials. Modern technology has accelerated the pace of text media technology development, and has impacted the law accordingly. Current developments continue to impact the law on an ongoing basis, and future developments in text media technology can be expected to leave their impact upon the law.

Ryesky, Kenneth H. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>Publishing>Legal>History


Free Web Tools for the Way You Work

While law firm IT spending frequently flattens out in tough economic times, that doesn't mean you or your colleagues have to restrict yourselves to using the same technology. A host of free Web applications are surprisingly effective in helping law firms from solo practitioners to large firm in-house PR and marketing staff, stay on top of the game. The trick is knowing which tools out there are worth your time. Here are the applications that made our top-24 list.

Legal Technology (2009). Articles>Legal>Software


Harnessing Collective Expertise: Delivering Market and Client Intelligence Research Within a Law Firm   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Explains how a leading global law firm manages its market and client research. Outlines the firm's divisions, business activities and client base. Explains in detail how the firm uses business research, covering use of market intelligence on the business issues that an individual client faces, and the gathering of intelligence about the client, to disclose the nature and extent of the firm's ambitions to advise the organization concerned. Discusses the staffing of a law firm's business research capability, pointing out that not only staff expertise but also confidentiality concerns mean that it is not always efficient for lawyers to access internal and external information sources directly. Suggests that defining the minimum business research necessary improves the usefulness of the information delivered and saves the firm time -- and that removing the uncertainty about what is required improves job satisfaction as well.

Blaxland, Diane. Business Information Review (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Legal>Collaboration


The Hazards of Translating Legal Documents

The issue of translation is a global one and doesn't just relate to mistranslations by American and British English speakers. Today, poor translation can be particularly dangerous given the speed at which events are reported. How dangerous? According to the Dow Jones Newswire of 12 May 2005, one mistake was worth several billion U.S. dollars.

Frievalds, John. Communication World Bulletin (2005). Articles>Language>Legal>Translation


A Hegemonic Model of Crisis Communication: Truthfulness and Repercussions for Free Speech in Kasky v. Nike   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study utilizes the hegemonic model of crisis communication to critically analyze the ideological implications of Nike's sweatshop labor crisis that culminated in the Kasky v. Nike court case. This groundbreaking case merits further examination and, informed by Gramsci's notion of hegemony, reveals the underlying ideological struggle present in the Nike crisis: a struggle for voice, power, and free corporate speech. Activist voices opposing sweatshops, Nike's defenses, and eventually, the legal decisions of the U.S. court system constituted competing voices in these ideological struggles over what is acceptable or right corporate behavior. This hegemonic struggle influenced standards for international labor, public relations efforts that misrepresent facts, and consideration of corporate public relations as free or commercial speech. This hegemonic model of crisis communication, unlike previous theories, recognizes the dynamic struggle between voices with various levels of power and the important ideological implications resulting from competing voices in crisis communication.

McHale, John P., Joseph P. Zompetti and Mary Anne Moffitt. JBC (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Legal>Public Relations


The Impact of XML on Contract Law and Contract Litigation

It is unclear how adoption of Web services contracting systems based on XML standards will affect the frequency of litigated contract disputes among businesses. During the more than 20 years that business-to-business EDI contracting systems have been in use, there have been no reported cases of litigated contract disputes involving EDI contracts. By contrast, there have been many litigated disputes involving business-to-consumer contracts formed through the use of clickwrap and browsewrap Internet interfaces that have been in use for only a decade. B2B EDI contracts are usually formed between businesses that are already in a long-term trading partner relationship, and the high initial investment required to use EDI may provide additional incentives to resolve disputes informally. Businesses without long-term relationships should be able to use B2B XML contract technologies, and the absence of a relationship of trust may make it more difficult to resolve disputes informally when they arise. B2B XML contracts should still have a lower rate of litigation than B2C Internet contracts, however, because most businesses prefer arbitration to litigation.

Winn, Jane. IDEAlliance (2005). Articles>Legal>Contracts>XML


Internet Advertising and the Law

The Internet is a new marketing frontier where the rules and regulations are rapidly evolving. Governments throughout the world aim to redress this imbalance by providing protection to their citizens through laws and regulations which control the use of advertising.

Hudson, Roger. Usability.com.au (1999). Articles>Web Design>Legal>Marketing


Iolis Authoring in a Web Environment   (peer-reviewed)

Recently, there has been increasing focus on the acquisition of research skills by law undergraduates. One reason for this interest is a belief that many such students do not acquire an adequate level of research skills by the time that they graduate. Reflecting this concern, the Law Society/Bar Council's Joint Statement on Qualifying Law Degrees and the Quality Assurance Agency's Benchmark Standards for Law both place great emphasis on the need to improve research skills training at University level. In the light of these developments, Durham University's Centre for Law and Computing was asked to develop a self-paced learning package providing more advanced training on the skills necessary to do legal research projects. It was envisaged that the learning package in question would take the form of an Iolis style workbook. Rather than use traditional law courseware authoring tools, however, the Centre chose to experiment by attempting from the outset to develop the workbook as a website comprising interlaced text and interactions. If successful, such an approach would have the benefits of producing a prototype that was: (i) readily accessible across the Internet, or a campus intranet; (ii) customisable to the needs of individual law schools; (iii) flexible enough to reflect more of an author's own personal approach; and (iv) massively interconnectable with campus intranets and with the Internet at large.

Widdison, Robin. JILT (2002). Articles>Education>Legal>Online


ITIL Explained

Over the past six months in particular, experience with ITIL, or ITIL certification itself, has been appearing more and more often. Moreover, just in the last month, ITIL has been moving from the rated requirements of proposal requests and standing offers for analysts and project managers, to become one of the top mandatory requirements as well. So why is it only now that we are seeing such resurgence in ITIL?

Weedmark, David. DavidWeedmark.com (2010). Articles>Technology>Legal>Canada


Review: Law and Internet Cultures

Kathy Bowrey's Law and Internet Cultures critically deconstructs the law in the context of legal culture, and especially looks at how U.S. law, practice, and culture has influenced technology law. Bowrey, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales, writes as an "Australian author" but her analysis clearly contains a global perspective as she looks to global structures and laws in other countries such as the United States. The book's analysis draws upon an incredibly broad range of literature including but not limited to traditional "literature" (e.g., Orwell's 1984), economic analysis, communications theory, and cultural studies. She stretches her analysis, connecting the heretofore disconnected (like Foucault, Coombe, Mandeville's travels, Napster, Grokster, etc.) and makes these horizontal connections in the context of discussions of verticality--like globalization, international standards, international patent norms, and global governance. The reading will be difficult for folks without a solid background in information technologies and law (and is just plain difficult for reasons mentioned below), but Bowrey does provide at least brief definitions and description of acronyms where need be. She tends to begin chapters with details and then brings things together at chapter's end--but this strategy seems to work for the complex subject matter. This is a great book for reading out of order or skipping to particularly relevant sections. Each section of each chapter can hold together on its own. Numerous diagrams and illustrations add to the flavor of this unique and much-needed book.

Rife, Martine Courant. H-Net (2006). Articles>Reviews>Legal>Technical Writing


Legal Code: When Intra Becomes Extra

And somehow, on March 8, months of chat logs--what a CEO and his management team talked about in their almost daily online chats were the ordinary, boring aspects of running a company. But a few posts involved company strategies. The posts revealed negotiating tactics the team planned to use with business partners, and some of those tactics revealed a fundamental lack of good faith. If the public message logs didn't increase the company's liability exposure, they certainly poisoned its hard-earned business relationships.

Fausett, Bret A. WebTechniques (2001). Articles>Communication>Legal>Online


Legal Communication in Technical Communication Programs: Worth Thinking About?   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

What, if anything, should technical communication programs teach their students about the nature of law and the production of legal discourse? When is technical writing also legal writing, and vice versa; when is legal writing (really) technical? Are there distinctions worth maintaining and dissolving here? Do lawyers' relationships to, and problems with, legal writing contexts and processes parallel in important ways technical writers' relationships to, and problems with, technical writing contexts and processes? If they do, is a conversation between the disciplines worth institutionalizing, at least experimentally, in each other's programs?

Stratman, James F. CPTSC Proceedings (2001). Articles>Business Communication>Legal>Technical Writing


Legal Issues Involved in Monitoring Employees' Internet and E-Mail Usage

Many employers have determined that there is a need to monitor employees' computer usage. According to a 2003 survey by the American Management Association, more than half of U.S. companies engage in some form of e-mail monitoring. Often, this is in addition to monitoring work-related communications and activities—including reviewing Internet usage, videotaping the work-site or recording employee telephone calls. More and more employers are engaging in some form of monitoring. Unfortunately, without a full understanding of the risks, employers may open themselves up to potential lawsuits. In addition, such techniques may result in low morale among employees who resent being told that they cannot use e-mail for personal messages and feel that their every move is being monitored.

Towns, Douglas M. Communication World Bulletin (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Legal>Email


The Legal Position of E-mail Disclaimers

Legal 'disclaimers' in e-mail messages, like those in faxes, are now commonplace. These disclaimers attempt to limit the sender's liability for the message's content. This article discusses the effectiveness of these disclaimers under English law.

Halberstam, Simon. GigaLaw.com (2001). Articles>Publishing>Legal



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