Juris-M: support for legal and multilingual scholarship

Juris-M a research environment that is based on, but separate from, the well-known Zotero reference manager. It adds support for legal materials, legal citation styles, and multilingual materials.

Juris-M is one-of-a-kind: no other research support platform provides these facilities.

Juris-M began life in 2010 as the “Multilingual Zotero” plugin for the Firefox browser (MLZ). When changes to Firefox in 2015 made plugin distribution more difficult, the project was rebranded as “Juris-M,” and is now distributed as a standalone program only.

See below for further details on the MLZ→Juris-M watershed.

What’s New

Website consolidation
Materials related to Multilingual Zotero (MLZ) have been scattered across several websites. This site (juris-m.github.io) is the new project home. The old site at (citationstylist.org) will be decommissioned early in 2016.
The name

The name “Multilingual Zotero” suggested a tighter connection with the Zotero project than actually exists. The only thing shared by the two is code, and removing “Zotero” from the name helps to make that clear. The new name also reflects the fact that legal referencing support is a flagship feature of the tools hosted here.

You can pronounce “Juris-M” any way that you like, but the obvious choices seem to be either Juris-em (as in “Auntie Em”) or Jurism (as in “formalism”). The “j” might be hard or soft, depending on your own linguistic habits. If Lennox & Stewart hadn’t gotten there first, we could form a band and call it The Jurism-ics. But I digress.

Standalone distribution

Firefox will soon require that all browser plugins be approved and signed (as a hedge against serious security flaws and malware). Zotero has completed the approval process. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to follow suit. The end is near: from version 42, Firefox will completely block the installation of Juris-M and its companion plugins.

Like Zotero, Juris-M can be built as a Standalone client, separate from the browser. This avoids the code signing requirement. It also means that Juris-M can be shipped with its supporting plugins in a single bundle. There are still some details to work out—the Mac and Windows Standalone clients should be properly signed, and I need to work out how to process automatic updates—but at the end of the day, Standalone distribution may turn out to be a very good thing for the project.

Modular legal styles

Modular support for legal referencing is a core feature of Juris-M. Ordinarily, citation forms depend on the chosen style (Chicago, APA, Harvard, etc.). In legal writing, references to primary legal materials do not work that way: each jurisdiction has its own citation conventions, and these do not change greatly with a change in the selected citation style. Modular style support allows us define legal citation forms separately from the “parent” style. The new approach enables correct citation to multiple jurisdictions, and style maintenance will be much less burdensome.

In ordinary use, modular styles “just work:” no special setup is required. Those interested in improving or extending legal style coverage should visit the “Style Development” area of this site, which provides a full-service previewing editor, an extensive tutorial, and an automated submission system (login requires a GitHub account).

Zotero 5.0 and sync support

As I mentioned in a recent post, Zotero 5.0 is coming, and it will be a doosie: the method of accessing the local database will change dramatically; and the online sync service will be replaced with an entirely new system. The two changes are a package: to maintain sync for Juris-M users, the database code for Juris-M must also be rewritten. These are both positive developments, but the impact on Juris-M code will be significant.

It has been a busy summer, but I am happy to report that the hardest part of the code rewrite—the database layer and the user interface—is now complete and appears to be working. I am now well positioned to follow upstream developments as the Zotero team push their project toward a 5.0 release. If all goes well, there will be no gap in Juris-M sync support.