Category Archives: Law Students

Research and Reference Resources to Support Your Journal Ambitions

At the end of the semester, you will have the opportunity to take a marathon write-on exam to test your Bluebook and writing skills under challenging conditions. The reward could be a staff position on Law Journal for Social JusticeJurimetricsSports and Entertainment Law JournalCorporate and Business Law Journalor the Arizona State Law Journal

Working on a journal is a great educational experience, giving you the opportunity to work with professional legal and policy arguments by law professors and legal practitioners while honing Bluebook skills. And it can help employers appreciate your resume.

So, how can you boost your chances of getting on Journal? The Law Library has resources to give you a leg up.

At the end of a rush of oral arguments, final briefs, and four final exams, you may all be welcoming the opportunity to wave goodbye to 1L. But, our First Year Legal Writing Guide provides many great resources to help you prepare for the written portion of your exam. So, just think of the All-Journal Write-on exam as your last act as a 1L. Resources for brushing up on memo writing will be critical, because this time you have only hours, not weeks, to polish a solid piece of legal writing. 

We recommend Legal Method and Writing by Professors Charles Calleros and Kimberly Holst. This resource is particularly useful for refining your logical demonstrations of why the law applied to your facts would create a particular outcome. Examples & Explanations: Legal Writing, which retired Professor Judy Stinson co-authored, helps you demystify the process and write fast, clear, efficient CREACs (or IRACs or CRuPACs). One of the big challenges will be organization: this will help you craft a logical, coherent, modular argument that marshals unfamiliar resources quickly. You can find this E&E on the Aspen study aids website. Professor Stinson’s own The Tao of Legal Writing provides a framework for achieving your full potential as a legal writer—and most importantly for write-on purposes, an efficient strategy for outlining and writing your response that will leave you plenty of time for revising and polishing to help you stand out to the journals.

You will also face a test of your citation acumen, and we have you covered there, too. Our Legal Writing library guide can help you navigate the Bluebook in the Legal Citation section, which features books and online resources that provide examples and explanations of the rules. Speaking of that, Examples & Explanations: Legal Research can help you brush up on the principles of citation in its appendices, so that you can better understand why we cite the way we do and begin to make complex citation decisions second nature. We recommend Understanding and Mastering the Bluebook to help you make sense of some complicated rules in the white pages of the Bluebook, which are the main focus of law journals but not first-year writing courses. 

The Interactive Citation Workstation on Lexis will put your skills to the test in advance of the write-on. The Bluebook can be notoriously finicky, so the instant feedback and machine precision that the workstation provides can help you get accustomed to the cite checking life. By clicking on the different topics, you can practice forming citation sentences, and the program will check to ensure compliance with standards for italics, small capitals, spacing, and abbreviation, and it can help you practice citing to unfamiliar sources such as administrative regulations, legislative histories, and law journals.

Finally, our Journal Cite Checking Research Guide will help you with one of the tasks most dear to the hearts of librarians—finding older or obscure resources in print or online. We have resources in place to help you do your research for cite checking, from interlibrary loan, to digital book repositories, to research databases, to government archives. And when you get stumped, our reference librarians are here to help.

Feel free to Meet with a Librarian; we can help you walk through complicated citation problems and get you started on research for your note or comment. 

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

Know Your Future Boss: Law Library Offers One-on-One Help in Job Hunt

Advances in technology aren’t just making our jobs as attorneys easier. They’re making it easier to land a job in the first place.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library’s research experts know the tools that can be the difference maker when employers decide who will get a callback.

Our Law Employment Research guide gathers materials to help you decide what job you want, develop networking connections, and get information on law firms, judges, and other potential employers.

Even more helpful in landing a job are the one-on-one appointments we offer to all students looking for a job. Click here to make an appointment! We can help you use new and old research tools, from cutting edge Litigation Analytics software to simple examinations of firm websites and blogs.

The information you gather can help you decide which experiences to emphasize in your resume and cover letter to maximize your chances, and it can even help you choose which writing sample you have that will be most appealing to particular employers.

Career Services can assist in constructing effective resumes and cover letters, as well as interview prep. But before you reach that stage, consider a brief, 15 minute meeting with a law librarian to make sure you know all you need to know about your potential future boss before you apply,

May It Please Your Prof: The Law Library Can Help You Develop Your Persuasive Skills

Legal research is not a one size fits all process. Different tasks require different strategies, different databases, different secondary sources. Few assignments will be as jarringly different as the first semester objective memo and second semester persuasive brief in Legal Advocacy class.

The Law Library is here to help. Our JD holding reference librarians have all been through the transition from dispassionate legal analysis to loyal, tenacious persuasion. If you make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian, we can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that can befall all research and find all you need to state your best case in court.

We can critique your research trail. Looking over your research and refining your strategies and search terms can make sure you can find your opponent’s best case to defuse it before it’s thrown at you.

We can also point to secondary sources that will be helpful for your particular assignment. Objective treatises and encyclopedias can help you grasp the law in the beginning. Practice guides can help you make sure you’re fully representing your client’s interests. And persuasive law review articles that can inspire you to construct your own arguments for why the law should be interpreted in favor of your client.

The librarians can also suggest texts and treatises that can build the writing skills necessary to craft a compelling brief. See our First Year Legal Writing and Persuasive Legal Writing research guides to get a jump start on honing your craft. The guides discuss everything from effective organization of your document, to choosing the best words to change a judge’s mind.

And our assistance doesn’t end with the four corners of your document, because we can help make sure your oral argument pleases your professor. We have a number of guides from the experts on how to craft compelling presentations for your judges, and how to field their questions to advance your client’s interests. We also have tips for calming and channeling the nervous energy that comes from facing a panel of decision makers in your best suit. To improve your skills, few things are more effective than watching the experts, so you should also check out our our compilation of links to oral argument recordings from the Ninth Circuit, Arizona Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court.

Finally, even with the experience of Bluebooking your first objective memos behind you, citation can be tricky. We are more than happy to field questions about your citation sentences; just Ask a Law Librarian.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

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

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

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

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.