Category Archives: Law Students

Blazing Your Research Trail: Tracking the Law as You Read It

We’ve all been there.

An ember of a memory of the perfect case we read a few days ago faintly glows. It’s the tantalizing last vestige of a good things whose value we failed to recognize as we allowed it to drift, unmoored to the abyss and become the buried treasure in the mental junkyard of jurisprudence.

Cases we too hastily reject may not be lost forever. We can find traces of them through labor-intensive analysis of our research history on our commercial research databases, or we might wade into the depths of our internet browsing history. We might have names at the tip of our tongue: Hammer v. SafewayAnnoyer v. Peff? But mining the lost, mislaid, or abandoned gems becomes especially taxing as all of our free time dries up and pressure to outline and submit drafts begins to mount.

There are ways to make sure you don’t wander lost along your research trail again!

  1. Keep a research log. This can be handwritten or recorded in. Even if you cross off a case or other source because it doesn’t seem to have much connection to your legal issue at first blush, the law can take you strange places, and you may want to revisit them later. Pro tip: Track the case name, key facts, holding, and key reasoning to create explanatory parentheticals efficiently later.
  2. Follow a trusted secondary source. It’s dangerous to go alone! Long, convoluted case opinions are trying to resolve a legal dispute, where legal treatises, encyclopedias, and hornbooks succinctly and efficiently explain how legal rules operate in practice. Researching beginning with cases can lead you down unfortunate rabbit holes.
  3. Highlights, notes, folders, and sharing. Legal research databases function similarly. You can access materials saved in your folders by clicking “folders” from the Westlaw homepage. To highlight and take notes in Westlaw, just select a passage of text and when you let go, you’ll have an option to highlight or make a note. You can then save your highlighted, annotated case into a folder, where your notes will be preserved. Lexis has similar features, with the history button on its homepage and in the top bar on every page, and with the “Folders” button hidden under the “More” option in the top right corner. Both databases enable you to copy passages into Word or Excel documents by highlighting them and clicking on Copy with Reference (Westlaw) or Copy (Advanced) (Lexis).
  4. You can Meet with a Librarian to get tips on how to use secondary sources, folders, highlights, and notes to preserve important discoveries from your journey toward a completed memo or the graduate writing requirement.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Connect with Us via Zoom, Chat, and Meet with a Librarian

The reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are happy to help you find or navigate research resources. We are now available to help you virtually. Watch these quick videos to learn how you can connect with us.

Connect with us today!

Zoom Reference
Meet with a Librarian
Chat with a Librarian
Email a Librarian
Call Us: 480-965-6144

Seven Reasons to Meet with a Librarian About Your Open Memo

  1. We can help you navigate research resources and identify relevant information quickly: We are here to show you ways to narrow down search results to cases and statutes pertaining to your legal issue without tedious, time-wasting trial and error using search bars. Taking advantage of tools such as annotations, headnotes, and secondary sources on Lexis and Westlaw can save you valuable time for your other classes.

  2. We have J.D.s, and we understand the process. The librarians have all been through law school, and understand the process of writing open memos. Our primary focus at the library is you, and we can help you succeed. Use our Meet with a Librarian form to set up an appointment in our private offices behind the circulation desk on the third floor.

  3. We are within the bounds of the Honor Code: We won’t read your writing, and your professors are happy to let us help.

  4. We can help you get used to Bluebook’s blue rules, white rules, and tables: Legal citation will become second nature as you practice during your 1L year, but we understand that it has a lot of unfamiliar intricacies. We can identify resources that will be helpful in your citation practice, such as the Interactive Citation Workstation exercises, Examples & Explanations (see Appendix B), and Legal Citation in a Nutshell. We can also guide you through the Bluebook’s rules and help you answer questions.

  5. CRuPAC, CREAC, IRAC, or IREAC? We can help you find resources, such as textbooksstudy aids and examples to organize your writing, whether you have a single, in-depth issue or need to analyze a variety of sub-issues.

  6. You will likely start working this summer or next fall: The lessons we provide in efficiently and thoroughly researching only the relevant legal issues will help you in practice. For now, it might seem like the only concern is reading and going to class—and that should be your primary concern—but our research tips will help you long after you turn in your research memo and start looking to build real-world legal experience for your resume.

  7. We can introduce you to materials that can help you succeed in your other classes too! Struggling with Civ Pro? Concerned about Contracts? Troubled by Torts? Need some peace of mind? Learn better with audio you can listen to on the light rail? The law library has a wide variety of study aids to appeal to your particular learning style, and you can make an appointment with the librarians for help.

Take if from someone who could have used a lot more efficiency during her 1L research projects: You should Meet with a Librarian early on for your open memo. The time you save trying to navigate Westlaw and Lexis alone will be more than worth the 20-30 minutes for your appointment!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Speedy and Thorough: Research Tips for Time-squeezed 1Ls

At the end of June 2017, I finished my 1L year at ASU by sleepily turning in my final memo for Intensive Legal Research and Writing. After the All-Journal Write-on Exam, thirty writing assignments in one month instilled a sense of urgency in my legal research: I want it done fast and I want it done well the first time. My friends and I pulled off several all-nighters in that great class working on objective memos, persuasive motions, informative client letters, and tough-talking demand letters to learn the following lessons:

Look for ambiguities: A lot of the most interesting discussions in law come in the gray areas—where the law and the facts are not entirely settled or clear. This “it depends” territory can create interesting analytical puzzles for you to solve in your memo: you will want to show that you can see both sides to an argument, and you will want to demonstrate the critical reasoning skills to form a solid conclusion.

Seek secondary sources: If they’re available, secondary sources on your legal issue can quickly set you on the right path for your research. Not only can they provide a quick explanation of the law and an overview of the factors courts consider in deciding on those legal issues, but they list primary law that you will want to analyze. It’s tempting to want to “save time” by diving into the statutes and case law directly, but a little advance reading can make research a lot faster, easier, and more complete.

For relevant case law, use headnotes, KeyCites, and Citing Decisions rather than trying to “Google” everything: Lawyers at Lexis and Westlaw have analyzed cases and the legal issues they contain and have grouped together related authority to help legal researchers perform faster, more thorough research than keyword searching alone. In Lexis, when you find your legal issue, you can click “Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote” to find more relevant authority. In Westlaw, KeyCites will arrange the legal areas and issues that a headnote addresses, from general to specific. Click on the KeyCite codes for more relevant authority.

For statutes, start by looking at the statute, and find secondary sources from there: Underneath the statutory text, Lexis will break apart the statute into the key legal issues it addresses. If you find one of the issues that your memo is intended to address, you get a quick, one-line summary of a judicial interpretation of the statute, along with a link to a case that could be super-relevant. In Westlaw, you can find similar information in the Notes of Decisions tab at the top of the page, and navigate to helpful secondary sources that will collect relevant case law, such as the ALR Library, underneath the Context & Analysis tab.

CREAC tips: When you’re explaining a precedent case, it may not be enough to list the facts the court considered and tell the reader how the court ruled. You want to analyze why the court ruled the way it did on a variety of factors. Contrasting and comparing the facts in your writing prompt will then much more clearly indicate to the reader whether or not a particular ruling will further the legal principle at issue.

We are here to help. Meet with a Librarian today!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

The Socratic Method and You

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.  You can thank Christopher Langdell for that, who as the Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895 introduced this method to legal education.  Before Langdell, legal instruction was based on the lecture model, in which students memorized material from an instructional textbook and were lectured on that material in class.

Many law professors now combine the Socratic Method with the Case Method, in which they question students about appellate-level court cases to help them explore the rules that can be derived from those cases.  While this instructional model has a fair number of critics, it is a mainstay in law school.  Below are a few ideas from the Law School Academic Support Blog on turning the Socratic Method into a more positive experience:

1) Recognize what questions the professor almost always asks about each case during class.  Think about the answers to those standard questions during your class preparation.

2) Before class, consider the case from 360 degrees.  In addition to understanding the case deeply (its separate case brief parts and details), consider the case more broadly (how does it fit with the other cases read for that day and into the larger topic).

3) When called on, think about the question asked and take a deep breath before answering.  Many mistakes are made because students blurt out something they immediately realize is wrong or answer a different question than asked.

4) Remember that most people in class are not judging you when you are the student called on for Socratic Method.  About a third are relieved it was not them.  About a third are looking ahead frantically because they realize their turns are coming up.  About a third are busy taking notes and looking for the answers.

Be sure to also check out, Cracking the Case Method: Legal Analysis for Law School Success or 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School, both are available in the Study Skills Collection at the Law Library, for more ideas on how to master the Socratic Method.

Tara Mospan, Associate Director and Head of Research Services

How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?

Are you rudderless in a sea of books, guides, and online materials? Do you need help taming an onslaught of resources? Help is here. The Law Library’s Electronic Services Librarian, Sean Harrington has prepared a succinct study skills materials chart to guide you through the semester:  Study Aids Chart

Sean says, primarily the reason we collect such a wide range of study material is because they present (usually similar) material differently – we want to accommodate for different learning styles. To determine which you like the most it is best to skim the content (either in the library or online) to see which sparks your interest.

Secondarily, some of the materials serve different functions: One title may restate class materials in a summary form (Examples & Explanations), while another may give you a boatload of practice multiple choice questions (Q&A), and another may be audio lectures for your commute (Sum & Substance).

We hope the chart helps and remember you can always Meet with a Librarian.

Study Aids Chart

1L Meet with a Librarian Contest!

1Ls: Would you like some expert help and a chance to win a signed copy of Prof. Noreuil’s book, The Zen of Law School Success? Make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian and you will be entered into a drawing to win one of 6 copies of Prof. Noreuil’s book which offers a comprehensive approach to succeeding in law school based on the principals of simplicity and balance.

Our expert librarians can provide you with 1L memo assistance. We can teach you how to conduct a preemption check, help you choose a paper topic, offer feedback on your research strategies, Bluebook guidance, and so much more!

The deadline to enter is October 31, 2020.

Help is just an appointment away. We can’t wait to meet with you.

Wolters Kluwer and West Academic Online Study Aids – Create Your Accounts Today!

The Law Library is pleased to make available to you two online study aids services.

Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aids provides unlimited online access to hundreds of titles. Some series that are available include:

  • Examples & Explanations (a law student favorite)
  • Emanuel Law Outlines
  • Glannon Guides
  • And much more!

Click here to access WK Online Study Aids

Click register to create an account. Once you create an account, your WK login will ensure off-campus access to the study aids. You will also be able to print, download, highlight, and take notes. You can download the WK Study Aids Mobile App and study anywhere. 

Wolters Kluwer Study Aids – Instructions on how to download an ebook

West Academic Study Aids offers you easy online access to hundreds of study aids, treatises, and audio lectures to help you succeed in law school. To access the collection, go to the West Academic webpage

You must use your ASU email address to create an account. West Academic will recognize you as a member of the ASU community and allow you to create an account when you use your email address as your username. Once you create an account, your West Academic login will ensure off-campus access to the study aids and will also enable you to print, download, highlight, and take notes. You can download the West Academic Library Mobile App and study anywhere.

For assistance, Ask a Librarian.

1L of a Ride Video Course and Much More from West Academic

West Academic has a video course for first year law students. The 1L of a Ride video course is by Andrew McClurg, a professor at the University of Memphis School of Law. He wrote the law school prep book, 1L of a Ride on which this course is based.

  • 1L of a Ride Video Course is a candid, comprehensive road map to both academic and emotional success in law school’s crucial first year.

You may also want to take a look at these digital books from West Academic.

Critical Reading for Success
Presents critical reading strategies in a systematic sequence so you can become an effective reader in both law school and in practice.

Get a Running Start
Covers all the major concepts taught in each of the courses most commonly offered in the first year of law school.

A Short and Happy Guide® to Being a Law Student
Learn how to be your best in and out of class, how to prepare for exams, how to cope with stress, and how to create value in everything you do.

If you don’t have a West Academic account, you can create one here: Create Your West Academic Account 

Law Library Tour and Orientation Videos: Quick YouTube Videos to Get You Up to Speed

The Law Library has a YouTube channel!  We have a series of New Student Orientation videos you can watch at your convenience to get you started on your road to success in law school. You will learn about our resources and what our expert staff can do to help you throughout your law school experience.

Here, you can watch Associate Director, Tara Mospan take you on a short tour of the third floor library space, the circulation desk, and the library’s dedicated Zoom reference room.

The reference librarians are happy to give you advice on which study aids may be right for you. You may check them out using the self-checkout machine located on the east end of the circulation desk or with the help of the friendly circulation desk staff.

We also introduce you to the resources available on the Law Library’s homepage and in its catalog, with tips on making an appointment with a librarian and the plethora of resources to help you that we have compiled in our New Student Guide. The video One Search and Library Catalog demonstrates searching for materials and accessing them, including an explanation of how to retrieve materials from other branches of ASU Library.

We also introduce the wide variety of extremely useful study aids available to you through our subscriptions to West Academic and Wolters Kluwer, including how to set up your own account so you can access all study materials away from campus. Materials on CALI can supplement your course lectures when you run into tricky topics.

For your clinical classes, we have a First Year Legal Writing Guide to help you write memos and deliver winning oral arguments. We can also help you format your citations. The video Meet with a Librarian tells you how you can set up an appointment with us to discuss all your research assignments, in which we can provide feedback on your research and tips on how to quickly find what you need.

Finally, we will discuss our social media presence, and how checking out our blog can help you succeed. We will have advice for you throughout the semester. So welcome! And best of luck!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian