Showing posts from March, 2015

Remember The Search Tips For Any Database

This morning I instructed on free or low cost legal-research databases. Databases like Casemaker , Fastcase , Google Scholar , Loislaw , and VersusLaw to name a few. When doing this type of instruction, I always try to reiterate to the students that each of the databases have nuanced search functionality, and the students should always look at the search tips from the respective database to maximize searching. Most of the databases allow for boolean searching , but it may not be the same type of boolean searching that you can do on WEXBERG. The search tips will generally tell you which proximity connectors to use in the particular database. Also, most databases provide a comprehensive user guide: Casemaker User Guide Fastcase User Guide Loislaw User Guide In addition to user guides, most of the databases also provide blogs or websites offering search tips: Fastcase Legal Research Blog Loislaw Expert Search Tips  or LoislawConnect Quick Tips Because many state bars pr

RIPS Blog Post - The Importance of Legal Research Skills for Practice

Check out my latest post on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog discussing the importance of legal research skills for practice.

Powerful Teaching

Law librarians generally spend a lot of time in front of classes instructing on legal research. To that end, we have to be jacks of all trades paying attention to our teaching styles. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently listed 4 properties of powerful teachers :  1. Personality:   Great teachers tend to be good-natured and approachable, as opposed to sour or foreboding; professional without being aloof; funny (even if they’re not stand-up comedians), perhaps because they don’t take themselves or their subject matter too seriously; demanding without being unkind; comfortable in their own skin (without being in love with the sound of their own voices); natural (they make teaching look easy even though we all know it isn’t); and tremendously creative, and always willing to entertain new ideas or try new things, sometimes even on the fly. 2. Presence:   The best teachers, as Lang concluded, are always "present" — fully in the moment, connecting with both their

LLSDC Federal Admin Law Overview

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. ( is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “ Federal Administrative Law: A Brief Overview. ” The site, which had been available only in PDF, has been substantially revised and its subheadings, each with numerous links, include the following: 1) A Brief Explanation of Federal Administrative Law, 2) Current Major Federal Government Regulatory Agencies, 3) General Federal Agency Directories, 4) Major Federal Administrative and Rulemaking Laws, 5) Some Other Federal Administrative Laws, 6) Types of Agency Rules and Notices Published in the Federal Register, 7) Federal Rules, Non-Rules and Other Terminology 8) Researching Federal Agency Orders, Decisions, Interpretations, and Letters 9) Selected Administrative Law Treatises 10) Selected Supreme Court Opinions on Federal Administrative Law 11) Selected Web Sites on Federal Administrative La

Watch Out For These Improper Phrases recently listed 10 improper (but common) phrases that can make you look bad. Of the list, I think that 5 are particularly common: Must of, should of, would of, and could of All those "of"s should be "have." As one reader points out, the proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as "must've." Worse comes to worse Another reader points out this should be "when worse comes to worst," which indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible. Unthaw Think about this one for a minute. How exactly is it possible to un-thaw something? Putting the item in the freezer would work, but probably won't produce the results you intended, which is to "thaw" it. (Someone) and I You probably know to use the other person's name first when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Brandon and I put the presentation together." But many people don't understand that wh

Skip The Bar Exam?

After the kerfuffle created last summer when the scores of the July test-takers showed a dramatic decrease nationwide, "[s]ome states, including Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire, are exploring or have adopted other options, questioning the wisdom of relying on a single written test as the gateway to legal practice." The NYTimes notes that last November, about 80 law school deans "jointly asked, for the first time anyone remembers, for details on how test questions were chosen and scored. The situation was already touchy after remarks made the previous month by a top bar exam official, who defended the [July] results as indisputably correct, and then, in what the deans viewed as verbal dynamite, labeled the test takers as 'less able' than their predecessors." This is just the latest criticism of the bar exam, as "critics have long questioned not only the expense and time devoted to taking the exam but also whether clients benefit from an admissions

Globalex For Foreign, Comparative & International Law Research

When it comes to foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) research, you can't beat Globalex . From Globalex's website: GlobaLex is committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world. The information and articles published by GlobaLex represent both research and teaching resources used by legal academics, practitioners and other specialists around the world who are active either in foreign, international, and comparative law research or those focusing on their own domestic law. The guides and articles published are written by scholars well known in their respective fields and are recommended as a legal resource by universities, library schools, and legal training courses. The tools available in GlobaLex will continue to expand to cover international law topics, countries and legal systems thus providing a coherent an

SCOTUS Internships & Library of Congress Positions

The Supreme Court of the United States has openings for 3 summer interns in the Library: Technical Services and Special Collections Department Technology and Collections Management Department Research Department The Library is willing to consider course credit eligibility for these internships. Any questions may be addressed to our Personnel Office (contact info listed at the bottom of the announcements). The Library of Congress also has quite a few open positions. Check out the LOC Job Openings website for more information. 

Proximity For Partner

The NYTimes reported on a new study that shows that law school proximity matters for big-law partner prospects. And it may matter more than the rank of the law school. "The study is called Does Law School Still Make Economic Sense? An Empirical Analysis of ‘Big Law’ Firm Partnership Prospects and the Relationship to Law School Attended [and] will be published in the May issue of the Buffalo Law Review." The study looked at "33,000 lawyers at the largest 115 law firms in the country [and] found that the dozen highest ranked law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Northwestern, had a high correlation between their status and the number of alumni who made partner." No surprise there. "But some of the other 100 schools examined showed greater differences between their ranking and their alumni partner numbers.... For example, Suffolk University Law School in Boston is not ranked nationally but it has 167 graduates who are partners in top law firm

Using A Memo Proposal To Organize Scholarly Writing

After an enlightening conversation yesterday with a colleague concerning the creation of a scholarly writing course, I thought I would share her method for organizing a scholarly article: The Memo Proposal. I have adapted the memo for academic legal writing purposes. To: Professor X From: John Smith Subject: Proposal for a Study of _________________ Date: Background: Provide a brief overview of the history of the law leading up to the problem. Statement of the Problem: Describe the problem. Thesis/Proposed Solution: Describe the workable standard, new legislation or court interpretation that will help alleviate the problem. Scope: State the focus of your article. What are the primary elements that you will concentrate on to substantiate your arguments? Methods: Describe where/how you will gather your information. Schedule: Note due dates for topic selection, preemption checks, outlines, drafts, and final paper. Cost:  Will there be costs associated with yo

Law Library Times They Are A Changin

Last fall, Robert Ambrogi posted on his blog, Law Sites , about the challenges and opportunities facing information professionals. He noted the current time of unprecedented innovation "when two guys in law school who think they have a better idea for a legal research site can run with it and create the company Ravel Law by the time they graduate." So what does this mean for information professionals? According to Ambrogi, "[f]or too long, librarians were defined in the public consciousness by the place in which you work. Many now believe that that place is irrelevant, unnecessary and too expensive to keep around. At both law firms and law schools, there are some who argue for doing away with the physical library altogether." While this can cause worry and panic, "it also provides an opportunity to examine what it is [information professionals] provide. As soon as you begin to look at it that way, you see immediately that what you provide is something

Libraries Are Not Like Football

Library Babel Fish (aka Barbara Fister) alerted me to a recent NYTimes article discussing college for a new age. Joe Nocera of the NYTimes recently profiled Kevin Carey and Carey's new book, "The End of College." “'The story of higher education’s future is a tale of ancient institutions in their last days of decadence, creating the seeds of a new world to come,' he writes. If he is right, higher education will be transformed into a different kind of learning experience that is cheaper, better, more personalized and more useful." A telling quote from the book: "You don’t need libraries and research infrastructure and football teams and this insane race for status,” he says. “If you only have to pay for the things that you actually need, education doesn’t cost $60,000 a year.” It's not a new criticism that universities have gone beyond the necessary to the lavish, which ups the cost for all. But libraries? Really? Libraries are more in line wit

SEO To Maximize Discoverability

The ABA Journal recently posted an article on search engine optimization (SEO) geared toward attorneys with websites (nearly everyone this day and age). We know that the Internet is generally the first place people go to find an attorney , and maximizing your website's SEO is a great way to make yourself even more discoverable. If you maximize your SEO for Google, say, the Google algorithm will favor your content and your website will move higher on the results list. As ABA notes, "[s]taying current about what Google Search is favoring—and adjusting the design and content of your website—can be critical for getting your name at the top of search engine returns. (Not an easy task, since the search goliath often changes its algorithm to combat those who try to game its system.) These days, that means ensuring your website offers text and longer articles that reflect quality writing about a specific topic, according to experts in search engine optimization." Here are

Lawyers Say Legal Research Skills Are Important

BAR/BRI has released the first of what it intends to be an annual survey on the “State of the Legal Field.” The objective is to “evaluate industry perceptions about the state of the legal field,” establishing benchmarks related to student practice readiness, employment expectations, employment trends, and law degree return on investment. Faculty, law students, and practitioners were surveyed. As one law library director noted, "[m]ost telling for [law librarians], I think, is “key finding #2." The report noted that: "Faculty placed very little importance on research, with just 4 percent citing it as the most important skill for recent law school graduates. In contrast, 18 percent of attorneys named research the most important skill a new lawyer should possess. Look at the difference in the relative weight accorded legal research by law faculty compared to practicing attorneys that took part in the survey. This survey conveys similar information as  a survey f

Researchers Conclude That Value Of Law Degree Stays Consistent In Bad Economy

The ABA Journal posted an interesting article about the value of a law degree. "[T]wo researchers who previously concluded that the present value of a law degree is about $1 million more, on average, than the value of a college degree" are now concluding that a bad economy has a relatively small impact on lifetime earnings. The researchers conclude that "[g]raduating from law school in a bad economy has a relatively small impact on lifetime earnings relative to graduating with a bachelor’s degree, according to a preliminary draft research paper by the researchers, Rutgers University economics and business professor Frank McIntyre and Seton Hall University law professor Michael Simkovic, a visiting research scholar at Fordham University’s law school." They find that "[t]hough unemployment levels at graduation affect pay for the first four years, particularly in boom times, the impact fades as law graduates gain experience, according to the new paper ( avail

Structure In Scholarly Writing

After years of teaching scholarly writing - specifically for law reviews - I have come to the conclusion that structure is often the biggest hurdle for students (and authors, in general) when it comes to writing lengthy articles. In class, we discuss outlining and organizing early so that the students can lay a good foundation to write their articles. But the thing about writing is that an organization that you thought logical in the beginning may run amok once the article starts to take shape. A post on Chronicle Vitae discusses helpful hints to overcome this issue: Reverse outlining:  Print out the entire draft of your text and break out your red pen. In the margins, jot down each paragraph’s main idea. If it has more than one, flag it. If it doesn’t seem to have a concrete purpose, flag that, too.  The Humpty Dumpty Method: Requires a full printout of your text. It also requires a large, flat space—either a conference room table or a floor will do. Step one: Take a pair of s

On Plagiarism: Part II

In my past post on plagiarism , I discussed some of the pitfalls of not discussing plagiarism in a seminar class. Often, the students are not aware that what they are doing (or not doing) can be considered plagiarism. In anticipation of a plagiarism instruction session that I am giving to a colleague's seminar class, I thought I would post this " nifty plagiarism infographic " that asks questions to determine the severity of plagiarism. In scholarly writing, it is expected that an author use a considerable number of footnotes to substantiate assertions and arguments given in the text. There is absolutely no reason not to give credit where credit is due. And this infographic gives an idea of when credit is due.

Wrangling The Wild Web Through Deliberate Searching

The Washington Post shared a recent article about a historian who tried to use the wild-web (aka Internet archive ) to do historical research and mostly failed. As the researcher described, "[historians] use anything we can to get a view of how humans behaved in the past. In the 21st century, the web gives us a unique window onto society. Never before has humanity produced so much data about public and private lives – and never before have we been able to get at it in one place." The British Library and Institute of Historical Research created a research project to mine this data. The researchers were "among the first in the world to use the web archive for academic research." And the researchers thought that searching the web archive would be as simple as a Google search.    "[S]ince we could navigate Google reasonably easily, we thought we could use the archive in the same way. Do a search. Get a group of webpages on a particular subject. Read them. Draw

9 Studies Outlining Why Print Is Still Superior

In the ongoing discussion of " why do I need a book when everything is online? ," we look to nine studies that HuffPost Books brings to our attention discussing why print still has a promising future. 1. Younger people are more likely to believe that there's useful information that's only available offline.  While 62 percent of citizens under 30 subscribe to this belief, only 53 percent of those 30 and older agree. These findings are from a promising study released last year by Pew Research , which also found that millennials are more likely to visit their local library. 2 . Students are more likely to buy physical textbooks. A study conducted by Student Monitor and featured in The Washington Post shows that 87 percent of textbook spending for the fall 2014 semester was on print books. Of course, this could be due to professors assigning less ebooks. Which is why it's fascinating that... 3. Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when