Author Archives: Andrea Gass

Warming Up to Cold Calls: The Socratic Method

As a law student you experience the Socratic Method instructional model, which is based on the asking and answering of questions in class with the goal of stimulating critical thinking. 

The Law School Academic Support Blog has advice on turning the Socratic Method into a positive experience:

  • Predict: Think about the answers to questions you hear frequently in class while you are doing your class preparation.
  • Contextualize: Consider the case not only on its own, but in the context of other cases you’ve read and the development of legal doctrines.
  • Pause: A deep breath can be the difference between a well thought out answer and a blurted out mistake.
  • Relax: Your classmates are not judging you because they are busy taking notes, feeling relieved they are not on the spot, or preparing to answer next.

Here are more tips from the reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library.

  • Find your study aid: The law library offers a variety of guides so you can find a study strategy for your particular learning style and understand the cases before you go to class. Study aids may include more information than your professor’s syllabus covers, so don’t sweat the irrelevant stuff. Learn more about study aids hereNew Student Resource Guide: Study Materials and here How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?
  • Case briefing: Whether you are highlighting, book briefing by marking the areas of text containing issue statements or the controlling rule, or composing marginalia as you study and write your case brief, focus on identifying the most important facts, rules, and the reasons for the court’s decision. Are you highlighting all the facts, or zeroing in on the key details? It’s a skill you can learn, and CALI provides a lesson on effective case briefing.
  • Active listening: Try to imagine how you would answer if you were on the hot seat when a classmate is talking. If you pay attention to what the professor tests your classmates on, you can give yourself an edge for finals week. Learn more about active listening here, Active Listening and here, Listening Skills in the Law School Classroom.
  • Meet with a Librarian: With JDs and experience instructing students, the reference librarians can help you find study aids and research strategies that will help you succeed in doctrinal and writing courses, even though they cannot help you interpret your cases. Make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian or contact us with questions: Ask a Law Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Research with Conviction: New Criminal Law Research Guide

United States criminal law is a complex beast, with variations among all states and the federal government. Researchers and advocates challenge criminal convictions at several stages of the criminal process. And heated criminal justice policy controversies pervade scholarly and popular literature.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library’s new Criminal Law Library Research Guide helps students, practitioners, and scholars navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system and the vast array of resources that explain and critique it.

To find primary law, researchers should turn to the Federal and National Criminal Law & Procedure and  Arizona Criminal Law guides. Treatises explain the effect of these criminal provisions in courts and synthesize the constitutional provisions and cases establishing the law of criminal procedure. Statistics and data on crime can assist scholars considering particular crimes and criminal issues.

For practitioners in Arizona and elsewhere, our Criminal Law and Postconviction Practice gathers resources including in-depth practice guides to explain how to handle various cases, as well as research databases providing law, courts’ rules, and legal news.

More focused, subject specific pages will be useful to researchers of particular aspects of the justice system. For example, anyone interested in how criminal victims can influence court proceedings will find information on victims’ rights, specialized legal services organizations, and policy debates in our Victims in Criminal Procedure guide.

Whether you are an intern seeking guidance on a criminal motion or an academic researcher delving into criminal justice policy, the J.D. holding reference librarians have the expertise to critique and guide your research. Click on Meet with a Librarian to set up a one on one session with a research expert.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Welcome, New Students! Get an Edge by Meeting with a Librarian

The Ross-Blakley Law Library can help you chart a path to success as you begin your first semester. Check out our New Student Resource Guide to get familiar with library materials and services, including our collection of online study materials. Our video collection can get you up to speed quickly, and our blog will provide timely advice as you progress through the semester.

 We also strongly suggest meeting with a reference librarian early and often for expert advice on efficient study, research, andexam prep methods and materials: Click here! The reference librarians have been through this before, each of us successfully completing our JDs.  

Whether you are pursuing your master of legal studies degree, a master of laws (LLM) degree, or you are a 1L beginning your three year journey to a JD, we can help with all of the following:

  1. For your doctrinal courses, we can suggest popular and effective study aids in the library collection you can use to keep up with course readings, prepare for the cold calls of Socratic legal instruction, actively participate in class discussions, and write effective outlines to prepare for your exams.
  2. If final exams are already on your mind, we can point you to useful past exams in the library collection, as well as study aids specifically designed for test preparation.
  3. For your writing courses, we can demonstrate efficient research methods, introducing valuable secondary sources that can help you stay on the right track and find the most important and relevant primary authority. We can demonstrate how researchers who find relevant authority can use research databases’ tools to quickly find all of the cases, statutes, and other legal materials they need. (Students in fields of study other than the JD who are preparing to write seminar research papers can find guidance on navigating specialized legal and academic research databases.)
  4. We can help you access the resources the library provides to you, quickly troubleshooting when you struggle to access Lexis, Westlaw, or other legal research platforms.
  5. We candemystify the Bluebook, explaining how you can use its two sets of rules and array of tables to craft accurate, professional citation sentences or footnotes.
  6. When you have questions, we can chat on the phonevia email, via our web based chat, or you can meet with us
  7. When the time comes, we can help you build your professional resume, helping you research employers and volunteer opportunities. 

Welcome to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law! The reference librarians are eager to meet with you and provide support on the path to your degree and your career.

Summer at the Library: Research Heats Up

Summer is not a vacation for the librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library. The end of spring semester only renews our focus on research and study services. Meet with a Librarian to get professional, expert advice from JD holding research experts on the following:

Summer classes and bar exam prep

Summer employment and externships

  • Summer job/externship research project assistance.Our work is not done when classes are dismissed. We can meet with you to discuss non-confidential questions related to your internship, externship, or clerkship
  • Evaluate and strengthen your sources. We can critique your research and suggest stronger academic sources if you fear your paper may be too dependent on less than reliable materials. 

Academic and professional development

  • Prepare for journal work. We can show you some tricks of the trade for finding resources you’ll need for cite checking. When all else fails, give interlibrary loan a try! We can provide lessons to ease the citation transition from the Bluebook’s practice oriented blue pages to the academic white pages. 
  • Be a star research assistant. If you’re working for a new professor for the first time, the librarians can get you up to speed. We work closely with most law school faculty members and can help you become a shining academic aide.
  • Land your next job. We know the ins and outs of evaluating employers and gathering intel on what they value in job candidates. We can show you the latest tools to get a sense of an employer’s operations and needs.

For your reference

  • Clarify Bluebook citation. Sometimes, the Bluebook gives clear, unambiguous guidance on citation questions. We are here to help for the many times it does not.
  • Get answers. We will continue to provide reference services through Ask a Librarian, and our circulation staff will be on hand to help you track down and manage library resources.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

It’s Never Too Late to Research Efficiently: Meet with a Librarian

Legal researchers should never let a late semester time crunch let them get sloppy. Taking shortcuts in legal research can slow you down and add confusion, pressure, and tedium.

The law is a vast web riddled with complexities and exceptions. Going without a plan can lead a researcher to struggle through an enormous list of largely irrelevant results, misunderstand the law, or even select the wrong database altogether, missing important resources.

Meetings with reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are short, sweet, and efficient. We have the expertise to quickly identify appropriate legal research databases and suggest efficient research strategies that can help researchers craft quality writing projects, even in a time crunch at the end of the semester.

We can help you appreciate the time savings and increased certainty that comes with consulting quality secondary sources. And we can help you improve your search strategies. For example, HeinOnline is a vast database of databases in which search results commonly number in the thousands due to its vase holdings of current and historical legal materials. We can help you focus your searches: Instead of skimming a vast sea of irrelevant results for the valuable nuggets interspersed within, we can reduce the volume of noise and concentrate the legal wisdom.

We can also help you find appropriate interdisciplinary research databases to help you supplement your legal research with materials in related academic fields. We can critique your research strategies so far, and help you ensure that you are using reliable sources for your final submission. We can even demystify the Bluebook and help you find solid answers to time consuming footnoting conundrums.

In fact, we have already done a lot of the legwork ahead of time, and turning to our collection of research guides can help you identify helpful resources for your particular topic.

Meet with a Librarian to get expert advice on all of your research projects, from office memoranda to seminar papers to graduate writing requirements and Journal notes.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Stay in Control in Times of Stress

Staying aware of the present moment can improve your focus and performance in stressful situations, mindfulness and meditation studies indicate. It doesn’t take a deserted lakeside forest, perfect lotus posture, or hours of a silenced mind to achieve mindfulness. It’s a skill—a secular skill–useful for everyone, and particularly useful for lawyers and law students who maintain a busy schedule with overlapping work and academic deadlines as well as networking and social commitments.

Awareness of the present moment can not only dull stinging worries about the future. It can improve an attorney’s concentration, active listening, and understanding when meeting with clients or representing them. Law schools and universities are increasingly recommending mindfulness training and offering mindfulness programs to help students cope in times of increased academic pressure. And although it might sound like a luxury or one more task for an already bloated schedule, mindfulness can actually save time, with improved attention and performance.

Mindfulness is not a luxury for people with lives of leisure or an all consuming experience that must dominate a busy person’s time. In fact, some experts suggest that simply taking a minute or two to calm the mind can calm stress, and lead to a more focused practice that can clear a cluttered mind and improve health and wellbeing.

Whether you are a regular attendee of the student Zen Law and Mindfulness Association at ASU Law or you have never considered a mindfulness practice before, the law library has compiled resources that can help you build this skill. Check out our research guide Mindfulness and Mental Wellness in Law School for academic studies, guided meditations, and brief guides to improve your attention and awareness.

And as the semester winds down, the reference librarians are here to help with research questions, legal citation, or to bolster research you’ve already done. Click on Meet with a Librarian to schedule a brief, efficient, time saving appointment with a JD holding reference librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Seeing Red Over Bluebook? Get Clarity at the Law Library

The basic rule of abbreviating, ignored by the authors of The Bluebook, is to avoid nonobvious abbreviations. The words of living judicial legend Judge Richard A. Posner in The Yale Law Journal ring out clearer than ever with the 21st Edition of the Uniform System of Citation.

The Bluebook lists a litany of newly updated abbreviations, which may be more intuitive in some instances, such as the upgrade of the shortened “professional” from “prof’l” to “pro.” and “evntl.” to “env’t.” But they can trip up legal researchers: a seeker of case law involving professional conduct rules may need to complicate their terms with a clunky (prof’l OR pro.) in parentheses. Moreover, keeping track of all these changes can be infuriating for longtime legal writers who have internalized the now obsolete abbreviations.

Leaving aside the 21st edition’s refresher of rules and abbreviations, the Bluebook is inherently complicated.  It runs to hundreds of pages of rigid commands, and they are divided into two overlapping sets of rules: blue pages for professional documents, and white pages for academic writing. New 2Ls facing their first round of Journal cite checking must not only learn a new citation system, but unlearn certain rules from their first year writing courses: case names are not always italicized in academic writing—only sometimes. (Italicize when using a short case citation but not a full case citation in an academic footnote.)

Even for a citation specialist, the complexities and inconsistencies can be infuriating. The rules on altering quotations can be so arcane and intrusive that even the Supreme Court has decided sometimes to just forgo them for a cleaner approach. Nevertheless, proper citation is important. Footnote formatting can affect your grade and publication chances. Other commentators note that consistency and clarity of citations can help legal readers notice the nature of information sources at a glance, easily distinguishing primary case law from secondary books and articles. Plus, learning the vast assortment of rules can be useful for instilling certain concepts of legal reasoning. Learning the Bluebook, and understanding the logic at play behind citation signals such as see and cf., turns law students into better lawyers, as painful as the process may be.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library can make that process less painful. The reference librarians have the know-how to walk you through the most complicated citation conundrums and confidently turn in quality, polished footnotes even if they reference materials that the Bluebook does not explicitly explain. While we cannot check all of your footnotes and make them conform, we can shine a light even into the most obscure corners of the reference tables.

Whether you are a 1L gearing up for the Journal Write-on Competition, a 3L polishing a graduate writing requirement or Journal note, or a tenured professor more familiar with earlier editions of the citation manual, Meet with a Librarian so we can make the Bluebook’s gray areas a little clearer.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Reliable Sources: Law Librarians Can Help You Identify Sources to Boost Your Article’s Credibility

For the academic researcher working on a law review article, book, or graduate writing requirement, traditional, academic sources continue to have advantages over websites. Namely, they offer more reliable, complete, and professionally vetted information that can be and often is superior to more convenient Internet resources. (please see reference at the end of this post)

The Internet is unquestionably an important tool for all legal researchers and all academics. Yet, for all its benefits in bringing forth up to date, widely accessible information, it can and does lead writers astray. False information can flourish online, and researchers might struggle to identify questionable resources. Websites can change or disappear, even in an age of permalinks and Internet archives. And, perhaps most importantly, experts who publish academic books and articles have a depth of expertise and a level of detailed knowledge that popular Internet pages cannot match.

The reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are specialists in finding these academic materials written by experts. We understand the allure of using reading accessible Internet information. We even can point you toward more reliable Internet resources (.edu and .gov websites) and away from more suspect resources (Wikipedia and purveyors of “fake news”). We also understand that overreliance on suspect materials can make your grade and your publication chances suffer.

We cannot do your research for you, but we can show you the way. The Law Library offers a series of specialized legal databases that can help you ensure that your article is reliable. We can also help you navigate the vast array of interdisciplinary databases that ASU Library offers to elevate suspect footnotes in your research. And yes, sometimes dusty old books (or dust free digital ebooks) will give your paper more credibility and authority.

We can help you at every stage of your research process, from choosing a paper topic to beginning your legal research, upgrading the sources you cite, and formatting your citations in conformity with the Bluebook. If you’re noticing too many .coms and .orgs in your citations, Meet with a Librarian to learn where to find information that your academic audience can trust.

[1] See, e.g., Carrie W. Teitcher, Rebooting the Approach to Teaching Research: Embracing the Computer Age, 88 L. Libr. J. 555 (2007).

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Talk the Talk: Law Library Resources Enhance Oral Advocacy

Lawyers and librarians alike have a way with words, spending much of their time with books and internet databases, reading, researching, and writing. But we also must step up and let our voices be heard. Whether law students are undergoing the first year rite of passage of delivering oral arguments in their finest legal attire or honing their presentations for a moot court championship, the librarians can help budding public speakers maximize their persuasiveness.

Students preparing for the Legal Advocacy argument should check out the Law Library’s First Year Legal Writing page. This research guide points to useful resources for modeling and enhancing oral arguments. Our print study skills collection includes the updated classic Little Book on Oral Argument, which can help students nervous about public speaking channel their energy into a powerful oratorical performance. Other resources include commentary from legal communication experts and a late U.S. Supreme Court justice.

We point you to resources such as an online treatise titled Art of Advocacy—Appeals, which provides tips on presenting and engaging and persuasive case, with full length, annotated examples of effective oral arguments from which students can draw lessons about tone, style, and structure. It also helps prepare students preparing for a career in litigation for what to expect in navigating judicial procedures at courthouses.

The library also provides links to archives that enable students to observe real world court proceedings across the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Arizona. Students may learn from the examples of the professionals, and get a sense of how quickly the judges will begin peppering them with questions.

The library’s Advanced Legal Writing: Persuasion guide includes further resources to help orators prepare persuasive presentations. Books include discussions of cognitive science as the basis for recommending certain persuasive techniques, and provide concrete examples of effective rhetorical tools to employ in writing as well as oral argument.

For critiques of your oral argument’s content and technique, contact your professor or teaching assistant. And for more guidance on library resources, feel free to Meet with a Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

MPRE Jubilee: Library Resources to Help You Pass the MPRE

The MPRE, or Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, is a preview of the bar exam to come. And it’s your opportunity to get a preview of a bar prep course for free as you study the rules of professional conduct.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library highlights MPRE study resources and exam preparation courses, including free professional responsibility/MPRE courses from bar prep providers Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan, as well as resources from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The MPRE is administered only three times per year, in spring, summer, and fall, so students who miss the minimum 85 score required to pass in Arizona could face a long wait to retake it. To help you avoid this potential speedbump, In addition to valuable resources in the print Study Skills collection on the third floor in front of the circulation desk, the library subscribes to online study resources to help you master legal ethics. Wolters Kluwer offers Strategies and Tactics for the MPRE, which provides tips and dozens of practice questions to help you prepare for the two-hour MPRE, which includes sixty multiple choice questions. West Academic, for its part, offers an efficient resource for last minute MPRE preppers, The Weekend MPRE, which includes two full length practice exams.

For students seeking more depth in their knowledge pool of professional responsibility, CALI offers a series of lessons highlighting specific issues arising under the law governing lawyers. Wolters Kluwer, in addition, provides detailed guidance in solving legal ethical problems in Examples & Explanations: Professional Responsibility.

Finally, we have compiled Web resources including the full texts of the rules and commentary governing attorney and judicial conduct, as well as resources offering valuable advice on study and exam taking skills.

For additional help choosing materials to prepare for the MPRE, the bar exam, or law school exams or research projects in general, please Meet with a Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian