Author Archives: Tara

Research certifications keep you in business during winter lulls

Bloomberg Law, a research platform best known for its extensive collection of court dockets and for integrating business and legal research, has a new certification program. This program, along with similar offerings–Westlaw’s Knowledge Center and Lexis Learn—provides opportunities to hone your research skills and stand out to employers. They’re perfect for downtime during winter break.

Bloomberg’s training program gives students guidance on research fundamentals including primary and secondary sources. Other subjects include legal ethics, litigation practice, transactional practice, and subject specific lessons on tax research. Likewise, Westlaw provides basic and advanced legal research along with litigation and transactional training. Lexis Learn delves into constructing keyword searches, the basics of case and statutory research, and drafting legal documents.

Bloomberg’s new BLAW Skills Center contains more than just the certification program, with recorded webinars on legal research and career preparation. It provides checklists on handling a legal research assignment from beginning to end, along with a handy flowchart of the research and writing process. How-to guides help readers unlock the full potential of Bloomberg’s search tools, including dockets, EDGAR (a collection of filings the Securities and Exchange Commission uses), and litigation analytics.

All of these skills will be invaluable to law students making their early forays into externships or associateships in the legal profession. Moreover, all three platforms’ training programs require minimal commitment. They’re free with your academic login, and students can complete prerecorded video lessons and quizzes at their own pace.

For more guidance on advanced legal research, researching businesses, and preparing to enter the legal job market, Meet with a Law Librarian!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

New Titles in the Law Library Collection – Indigenous Peoples

In January the Indian Legal Program (ILP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and the American Bar Association (ABA) are hosting the Intersection of Tribal Rights with Environmental, Energy and Resources Development Conference. The conference will focus on natural resource development, water quality and water rights, clean energy and climate change resiliency, and international best practices. The Law Library’s Indian Law collection has a number of books relevant to the subjects that will be explored at the conference – we have highlighted two new titles in this collection below.

A Nation Within: Navajo Land and Economic Development (Ezra Rosser, 2021)
In A Nation Within, Ezra Rosser explores the connection between land-use patterns and development in the Navajo Nation. Roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia, the Navajo reservation has seen successive waves of natural resource-based development over the last century: grazing and over-grazing, oil and gas, uranium, and coal; yet Navajos continue to suffer from high levels of unemployment and poverty. Rosser shows the connection between the exploitation of these resources and the growth of the tribal government before turning to contemporary land use and development challenges. He argues that, in addition to the political challenges associated with any significant change, external pressures and internal corruption have made it difficult for the tribe to implement land reforms that could help provide space for economic development that would benefit the Navajo Nation and Navajo tribal members.

Indigenous Peoples, Consent and Rights: Troubling Subjects (Stephen Young, 2021)
Analyzing how Indigenous Peoples come to be identifiable as bearers of human rights, this book considers how individuals and communities claim the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as Indigenous peoples. According to international human rights discourse, ‘Indigenous peoples’ have the capacity to claim ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) to influence and control decisions that concern First Nation Peoples. The book argues that the subject status of Indigenous peoples emerged out of international law in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then, through a series of case studies, it considers how self-identifying Indigenous peoples, scholars, UN institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs) dispersed that subject-status and associated rights discourse through international and national legal contexts. It shows that those who claim international human rights as Indigenous peoples performatively become identifiable subjects of international law – but further demonstrates that this does not, however, provide them with control over, or emancipation from, a state-based legal system.

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

The Law Library Can Help with Homework on Employers

No matter how glorious your resume or how many glowing recommendations you collect, you have to know a lot about a job opportunity to let a potential employer know that you are the right person for the position. Success in the legal job market, as in law school, takes a lot of homework.

And we at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are here to help! Our Law Employment Research Guide compiles resources to help you get tabs on law firms, land a clerkship with a judge, or just build essential lawyering skills such as networking and compiling contacts.

The Researching Law Firms tab gathers resources to help you get a feel for how your potential employer operates, and how you can set yourself up to be its most appealing interviewee. Litigation analytics tools give you insight into practice areas, specialties, biographical details about attorneys. Legal news resources can help you brush up to keep the conversation flowing. Books give you background information on legal employment opportunities, and advice on your application materials and interviewing strategies. Online resources provide general career tips, and other online tools help you get a more complete picture of the life and culture of a law firm before you try to dive in.

The Clerkship Interviews tab features litigation analytics on judges, their histories of motions, and the practice areas in which they tend to work. Books and legal news will help you connect with your judge on a human and intellectual level, and advice on finding your judge’s opinions will help you get more personal. Online resources help you find openings and land your clerkship.

Finally, the Professional Development tab includes resources to help you build the skills to be a more effective attorney, and to be a better-known job candidate. Networking opportunities resources will help you connect with different facets of the legal community to build a higher profile that can translate into job opportunities. Books will help with the transition from law school to legal practice, keeping yourself happy and balanced as you meet the challenges of life as an attorney.

Make an appointment with a Law Librarian so we can give you some pointers on research tools to uncover the information you will need to wow your future employers in cover letters and interviews. Career Services will also be an invaluable resource for career information and assistance with developing professionally. Good luck on all your interviews to come!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

New Titles in the Law Library Collection – Animal Law

The descendants of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s four captive hippos have made their way to the Magdalena River and now number nearly 100 animals, becoming a major problem for Colombian officials. A Colombian court case, in which the Community of Hippopotamuses Living in the Magdalena River is the plaintiff, is considering officials’ plans for the hippos. An American animal organization asked a U.S. federal court in Ohio to allow the attorney for the hippos to gather expert testimony in the U.S. – the court granted the request, and in doing so, recognized the hippos as legal persons, a first in the U.S. You can read more about this case via Bloomberg Law News, and if you are interested in animal law issues like this, you should check also out the two new titles in the Law Library collection described below!

Animals in International Law by Anne Peters (2021)
Anne Peters is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, as well as the director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. In her book Animals in International Law, Peters takes a global perspective, identifying and analyzing the top international laws and treaties addressing animals, as well as those regarding international trade law and laws of armed conflict, in terms of their impacts on animals. Ultimately finding that the current body of international law creates more harm than good for animals, Peters proposes new legal strategies for ensuring animals are protected.

The Future of Animal Law by David S. Favre (2021)
David S. Favre is a professor at Michigan State University College of Law and founding officer of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. His forward-looking book The Future of Animal Law focuses on the legal rights of animals in the future, with an eye towards how to think about obtaining legal rights. While briefly recounting the historical path that has led to the current animal rights framework, the book centers on dogs as companion animals that are the most likely vehicle for increased protections, with the ultimate goal of creating a legal framework that views animals as more than property and recognizes their feelings and needs. The book looks at laws of the U.S., as well as those of other countries, and includes model language for new laws and suggested legal reforms.

Dan Kimmons, Reference Librarian

Exam Time – Stay in Control During Times of Stress

Medical studies indicate that staying aware of the present moment can improve your focus and performance in stressful situations. It doesn’t take a deserted forest lake (although that sounds really nice), perfect lotus posture, or hours of a silenced mind to achieve mindfulness. It’s a skill useful for everyone, and particularly worthwhile for 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. 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. 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.

The Law Library has compiled resources that can help you build this skill on our Mindfulness and Mental Wellness in Law School research guide – we have provided information on, and links to, academic studies, guided meditations, and brief guides to improve your attention and awareness. We also encourage you to check out the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience at Arizona State University, which focuses on deepening ASU’s culture of healthfulness, personal balance and resiliency among students and employees.

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 Law Librarian to schedule a brief, efficient, time-saving appointment with a JD reference librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Graphics of Legal Research – Part 3: Ravel Law

When conducting legal research in Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, you will encounter a number of graphics and symbols that are simultaneously helpful and confusing. In this last entry of our three-part Graphics of Legal Research series, we take a look at Ravel View for case search results, exclusively on Lexis.

Ravel View on Lexis provides a unique visual tool for understanding case search results and incorporates Shepard’s treatment so you can see whether a given case has been treated positively or negatively. To access Ravel View after running a keyword search of cases in Lexis, click on the search view on the far right that shows circles connected by lines.

The resulting graphical view of your top 75 case search results organizes the cases by court level and year of decision. Each case is represented by a circle on the graph – the graph’s Y-axis shows the level of court (with higher level court cases represented towards the top of the graph) and the X-axis shows the date of each case (with more recent cases toward the right of the graph). Further, it displays which cases have been cited to the most via the size of the circle – the bigger the circle, the more that case has been cited by other cases. Lines connecting the circles detail the citation relationship between cases and use color-coding to show either positive, neutral, or negative treatment. The most important color to watch for is red, which indicates that the later case treated the earlier case severely negatively.

Below is a Ravel View representation of federal and Arizona state cases retrieved by searching for “dram shop”:

Here you can see that state court cases are represented at the bottom of the graph, with federal trial court cases above them, appellate court cases above the trial courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States above all. If your search includes only state courts, you will not see the same level of separation of court levels. Below is a representation of just Arizona state cases retrieved by a keyword search for “dram shop”:

This Ravel View of the resulting cases has clearly identified a single most frequently cited, or seminal case, on this topic in Arizona – it is the largest circle (indicative of citing frequency) and located at the top of the graph (indicative of court level).

Hovering over the circles highlights the citation relationship between the case you are examining and other cases within your search results, and it will show whether the case has negative treatment in subsequent cases in your search results. To find the text of a case, simply click on the circle and find the case in the panel to the right.

Clearly, we love Ravel View – it is a fast, user-friendly tool that will be of particular benefit to visual learners and researchers. It should not be the only tool you rely on for accurate searching of case law, however, as it will not show all negative citation history for every case and only shows the cases retrieved by your keyword search. Thus, the utility of the results is highly dependent on how good your keyword search was to begin with. For guidance on how to craft a great keyword search, see our previous blog post on the topic here. We also encourage to you Meet with a Law Librarian for help with crafting keyword searches and/or navigating Ravel View in Lexis!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Graphics of Legal Research – Part 2: Depth Analysis or: Don’t Get in Too Deep!

When conducting legal research in Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, you will encounter a number of graphics and symbols that are simultaneously helpful and confusing. In this three-part Graphics of Legal Research series, we are going to demystify some of the most common graphics that you may encounter when conducting legal research:

Part 1 – citator symbols
Part 2 – depth analysis
Part 3 – Ravel Law

Lexis shows how deep into the case one must read to find references to the authority in question. A depth bar with four blue boxes will be more likely to be relevant to your research than one with fewer colored spaces. Cases and statutes may be merely mentioned and not discussed in depth in opinions, so paying attention to the color bars will help you find useful analysis without wading through irrelevant cases. It’s a good, but not foolproof, way to research efficiently without spending undue time on irrelevant case law.

  • Open the case you want to research further.
  • Click on “Citing Decisions” at the top of the page.
  • Citing references are arranged by courts, with cases from the same jurisdiction as the authority being examined at the top.
  • Find the depth graphics below the names of the citing decisions.

Westlaw provides depth tools in its “Citing References” tool in legal materials. A depth bar with four green boxes will be more likely to be relevant to your research than one with fewer colored spaces.

  • Open the case you want to research further.
  • Click on “Citing References” at the top of the page.
  • Citing references are arranged by the nature of the treatment of the authority you are researching, with the most negative treatment at the top.
  • Find the depth graphics at the right side of the screen.

Bloomberg Law also includes depth signals, with a ranking out of five instead of Lexis’ and Westlaw’s four. However, it functions much the same.

  • Open the case you want to research further.
  • Click on “BCite Analysis” along the right side of the opinion.
  • Open “Citing Documents.”
  • Find the depth graphics at the right side of the screen, next to the case name.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Graphics of Legal Research – Part 1: Citators

When conducting legal research in Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, you will encounter a number of graphics and symbols that are simultaneously helpful and confusing. In this three-part Graphics of Legal Research series, we are going to demystify some of the most common graphics that you may encounter when conducting legal research:

Part 1 – citator symbols
Part 2 – depth analysis
Part 3 – Ravel Law

On to citator symbols!

A citator is a tool that provides you with a list of documents and resources that cite to a specific document or resource, and alert you to whether any of those citing references are negative. Westlaw’s citator is KeyCite, Lexis’ is Shepard’s, and Bloomberg’s is BCite. A citator is helpful to a researcher who is trying to determine whether a particular piece of primary authority is still “good law” – it is vital that a lawyer does not rely on primary authority that is no longer “good law.”

  • Cases – “good law” means that a case has not been reversed or overruled by a subsequent court opinion or legislative action
  • Statutes – “good law” means that a statute has not been repealed by legislative action or invalidated by a court opinion
  • Regulations – “good law” means that a regulation has not been repealed by an executive agency or invalidated by either a court opinion or legislative action

Watch the short video below for a famous example of a lawyer who did rely on primary authority that was no longer “good law.”

KeyCite
KeyCite uses status flags to alert researchers to negative treatment. Not every piece of primary law will have a status flag – if it does not, the law is still “good,” but if it does, it means the law has at least some negative treatment. For cases, this negative treatment could be overruling, superseding, or another negative action. The two most significant symbols to watch for in Westlaw are the red flag and yellow flag.

A red flag warns that the case is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains.
A yellow flag warns that the case has some negative history but has not been reversed or overruled.

Shepard’s
Shepard’s also uses color-coded symbols to alert researchers to negative treatment. A lack of a citator graphic indicates the law is still “good.” The two most significant symbols in Lexis to watch for are the red stop sign and the yellow trinagle.

A red symbol indicates that citing references contain strong negative history or treatment of the case.
A yellow symbol indicates that citing references contain history or treatment that may have a significant negative impact on the case.

BCite
BCite has a red/yellow color system as well for its two major citator symbols.

A red box with a white line in the center indicates the most negative results from the Direct History of Case Analysis, indicating the case was reversed, vacated, or depublsihed in full or in part.

A yellow box with a white triangle in the center indicates some negative/cautionary results from the Direct History or Case Analysis, indicating the case was modified, clarified or amended.

**IMPORTANT LAST NOTE ABOUT CITATOR SYMBOLS** – just because a piece of primary authority has a citator symbol next to it in one of the legal databases does not automatically mean it cannot be used for your purpose(s). The legal databases add a citator symbol for ANY negative treatment; that treatment could be from a different jurisdiction as the primary authority or for an issue unrelated to the one that you are relying on the law for – in both of those instances, the primary authority may still be “good law” for the legal issue on which you want to use it.

It’s Never too Late to Research Efficiently

Legal researchers should never allow a late semester time crunch lead to disordered research. Taking shortcuts in legal research can slow you down and add confusion, pressure, and tedium to the process. In addition, going without a plan can lead you to struggle through an enormous list of irrelevant results, misunderstand the law, or even select the wrong database altogether, missing important resources.

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

A few specific examples of what the reference librarians can help you with:

(1) showing you how to access and navigate the many available legal secondary sources so that you feel more confident in your search results

(2) identifying databases, both legal and interdisciplinary, outside of Westlaw and Lexis that may have relevant content for your inquiry

(3) providing tips and strategies for reducing the volume of irrelevant or unhelpful search results

In addition, we may already have a research guide that can help you identify helpful resources for your particular topic. We have guides on Bankruptcy Law, Tax Law, International Law, and much more!

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

Magna Carta Display in the Law Library

Magna Carta, which means “The Great Charter”, is one of the most important documents in Anglo-American legal history. It established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and it guaranteed due process protections to citizens.

The Law Library was gifted a beautiful illuminated copy of Magna Carta by Emeritus Professor Myles Lynk. It is hanging along the west wall of the third floor library space. This copy of Magna Carta is printed in an early form of English instead of the Latin of the original and is spread over six or seven heavy paper pages, instead of the one vellum sheet on which the original was written. It was produced for the 800th Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta and purchased by Professor Lynk from the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple Inn of Court in London, England. Professor Lynk was participating as a panelist on comparative legal ethics at the American Bar Association’s commemoration of the 800th Anniversary event.

Professor Lynk’s generous gift was presented to the Law Library in appreciation of the Library staff’s “incredible support and assistance to the students and faculty at the law school.” We welcome you to stop by and take a close look at this beautiful document!