Category Archives: Law Students

Checking Out and Returning Books after Thanksgiving

To check out law library books after November 25, you can place a request through the library catalog.  When the items are ready, library staff will contact you to arrange a time to pick up the books in the first floor lobby.  If you are unable to pick up the books in person or need assistance with placing a request, contact Carrie Henteleff.

In most cases, you will be able to keep your library books until the beginning of the spring semester.  If you need to return library material over break, you have several options:

  • Items can be returned to the first floor lobby of the BCLS building.
  • Items can be returned to exterior library book returns located on each ASU campus.  The closest exterior return to the law building is on the north side of Polk St., between 1st St. and Central, outside the University Center building.  Please do not return Flash Cards and Interlibrary Loans to exterior book returns.  These items must be returned to the BCLS building.
  •  Items can be shipped back to the law library:

Ross-Blakley Law Library
Arizona State University
Mail Code 9620
111 E. Taylor Street, Suite 350
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4467

Creating Logical Arguments for Essays and Exams

logicHaving trouble in legal writing?  Is it because your arguments are illogical?  Nobody wants to admit that they have trouble putting together a logically coherent argument but logic, like many things, is a skill you can improve with practice.

Students that come from backgrounds in Philosophy, Poli Sci, and Math may get this type of training included in their undergraduate education.  Other undergrad disciplines (like my English Literature B.A.) may gloss over this information or assume that students understand these concepts intuitively.  Regardless, you can get this training on your own if you have a good guide.  Luckily for you, the Ross-Blakley Library has your back:

At LogicMatters.net they have a resource called “Teach Yourself Logic 2017: A Study Guide.”  This is a free PDF that will lead the reader from novice to expert.  It also gives thorough explanations of the resources so that you can jump in mid-stream if you already have previous training.  Guides like this are the next best thing to taking formal classes.

Many of the resources in the guide are available through the ASU catalog; either in print or digitally (and some are even free – like the Modern Formal Logic Primer).  Also remember that we can get materials from other institutions through the Interlibrary loan (ILL) so don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it at the ASU libraries.  Just fill out the form and we do the rest.

If your issues are more stylistic/format-centered, then we have a host of useful resources in-house to help you with these problems:

The 1L Resource Guide has general recommendations for structuring law school answers and how to approach questions.  The Legal Writing Guide will give you more directed advice on finding a book that is specific to the type of writing you want to do.  For example, Eugene Volokh has a fantastic book if you are specifically writing an article for Law Review.  West Academic has many study guides on the subject of legal writing (that hyperlink will take you directly to the Legal Writing materials).  On Wolters Kluwer we have the Examples and Explanations for Legal Writing (which was written by ASU’s phenomenally talented Judy Stinson).

West Academic even has audio lessons in the form of Sum and Substance Audio on Exam Skills: Essay Writing.  You can download the mobile app and stream this in your car, on the light rail, or at the gym.

Don’t hesitate to make an appointment to come see us.  We’ll help you in any way we can.  If you can’t make it to campus, you can always email us.  Also don’t forget to decompress with our Mindfulness and Meditation guide.

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

Exam Prep: The Law Library Can Help

The Law Library has an abundance of resources to help you prepare for your exams. Our online study aids subscriptions will help build your confidence.

Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aids


West Academic Study Aids

  • CALI tutorials are written by law faculty and librarians from American law schools. They are reviewed and revised on a regular basis. The lessons are designed to help you become accustomed to taking multiple-choice examinations and provide feedback to your answers.
  • Our print Study Skills Collection is located on the third floor of the Law Library across from the Circulation Desk. The collection brings together an array of study aids to help you prepare for your exams. All the materials in the Study Skills Collection may be checked out for two weeks and are renewable twice. We also have a print collection of Exam Preparation Guides you may find useful.
  • You may access Law School Past Exams from the Law Library’s web site. Many faculty members make their past exams available to students as a teaching aid.

If there is anything specific you might need help with as you prepare to study for your exams, please don’t’ hesitate to schedule an appointment to Meet with a Librarian.

We wish you the best of luck!

Flash Cards and Flowcharts: Optimizing Study for Your Learning Style

With stare decisis imbuing law and legal study with a sense of tradition, you might hesitate to deviate from the well worn strategies to prepare for your finals. But the law is a dynamic beast, and if something isn’t working for you, it’s up to you to make a change.

Study aids are increasingly catering to the vast diversity of learning methods that suit different law students best, from visual aids such as flow charts to practice questions to audio and visual resources.

MAKE YOUR OWN FLOWCHARTS

Flowcharts guide you through a legal issue, asking questions about the facts each step of the way to determine whether an element applies, and whether the analysis should continue. The structure of arrows and boxes is a big help for visual learners who quickly absorb information in tools such as graphics and maps. It can also help break down a complicated legal analysis into manageable, bite size bits, demystifying questions about estates in land or the Erie doctrine.

You can make your own flowcharts in Google Slides. You can choose shapes with the shapes tool that symbolize steps along the way of a legal analysis, such as rectangles for yes or no questions and ovals for the various potential outcomes of the analysis. The line tool includes an option with arrows to help you organize a complicated analysis, including curves and angled lines to help you fit all elements of a rule into your document. Making your own flowchart helps you process the rules yourself, and understand the process in a different way from traditional distilling of the rules into words alone.

MAKE YOUR OWN FLASHCARDS

It’s no secret that part of the challenge of studying law is memorizing vast swaths of information. It’s a big part of the bar exam. Your outline is an important part of that process of committing the law to your memory, but reading and rereading does not always work optimally for everyone. Sometimes we want to hide the ball from ourselves and see if we can remember what res ipsa loquituris all about without seeing the answer right underneath, and that’s where flashcards come in handy.

The Law Library has a collection of flashcards in its study skills section, and online study aid platforms have a few more resources that may be helpful. Writing your own cards can help you process the information on a much deeper level, though, as you process the law and craft your own rule statements. Here again, Google Slides can help, with a template that helps you quickly craft slides with the title of a legal doctrine, say, promissory estoppel, on one side and the explanation or rule statement on the other. This also enables you to add images that you associate with particular concepts—say, a shoe for personal jurisdiction, or a barrel for res ipsa loquitur.

TRADITIONAL OUTLINING TIPS

  • Organize your outline by topic. Your syllabus may be a good guide. Write solid rule statements that you can quickly transcribe or modify to use on your exam. As we can see from past exams on the library website, you won’t always have lots of time to reinvent good rule statements on test day.
  • Write a one page attack outline just listing all of the legal doctrines you discussed in class and studied in your casebook. Test conditions can push your brain into overdrive and legal issues may be well hidden in a fact pattern. Just glancing at your sheet and seeing the rule that you should be analyzing can be the difference between spotting an issue before time runs out and realizing you missed an issue while watching Emily in Paris after you turn it in.
  • Again, know yourself! You won’t have a lot of time to review your outline during the exam, so you want to be concise. Focus your attention on areas that might not be intuitive to you. Trying to rewrite your casebook, however, might just be an exhausting distraction from more productive study activities, such as running through practice questions.

Meet with a Librarian for more study tips. Good luck!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Be Here Now: Advice for Practicing Mindfulness

Much of law school involves looking ahead: I am in a professional school and want to make connections and do the right things academically to get my dream job. Unfortunately, it also involves looking behind: did you spot that issue in the Torts final?

Visualizing our ultimate success can help make it so! But some of the best advice you’ll get in law school is to quietly leave it in the past after you turn in an exam. Post-exam celebrations (be safe) with friends can be fun, not stressful re-enactments. Be here now.

You will be able to save so much time and regain valuable focus by practicing mindfulness, taking a moment to be aware of your breath, your feelings, your thoughts as they pertain to this moment in time. Living in the moment can prevent you from dwelling on distractions and refocus your attention, and it just might help you let go of harmful stress.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library has resources to help you build mindfulness into your law experience. Our Mindfulness and Mental Wellness library guide can help you unwind and build mental strength for your studies and writing through meditation. ASU Law’s own Professor Chad Noreuil offers practical tips on studying, taking exams, developing healthy thoughts, and building relationships with peers, professors, and professionals in The Zen of Law School Success, available in our study skills section on the third floor. Professor Noreuil also can help 3Ls beginning to think about the bar exam get past negative thoughts and emotions and focus on practical skills to sharpen their legal analysis in The Zen of Passing the Bar ExamMindfulness for Law Students can help you train your brain for academic success, let go of pain and worry, and improve your physical health. Professors can also learn to incorporate mindfulness into your classroom, or even teach a course on the growing trend of mindfulness in the law.

The ASU Mindfulness, Compassion, and Resilience Center offers more information, resources and events to guide you along the path to mindfulness.

For more stress relieving advice on research and study skills, please click on Meet with a Librarian on the Law Library home page.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Meet with a Librarian: Deadline to Enter is October 31st

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.

Cite Check: Just Do It

Why do law librarians and legal writing professors make such a big deal about the cite-checking process? In this blog post I will give some examples of legal research and cite-checking (or Shepardizing) gone horribly wrong.  Imagine that you’re standing before your legal writing professor and arguing your appellate brief, or that you’re being shadowed by your supervising attorney during your first court appearance, or that you’re presenting your brief to a senior partner that you greatly admire.  Now imagine that you didn’t take the time to properly check your work and missed a crucial piece of information.  As a law librarian, these terrifying scenarios cause me to break out in a flop-sweat.

Example 1: The classic, often-cited example of a failing to Shepardize comes during the biggest pop-culture trial of the last 50 years – the OJ Simpson trial.

Marcia Clark was center-stage during a trial where around 95 million people across the world tuned in daily to see if OJ Simpson would be convicted of murder.  To give some context, that’s nearly how many people watched the Superbowl last year (this was before streaming services when most people had basic cable).  The stakes were high and the pressure was incredible for Ms. Clark.  During this clip we see Judge Ito probe Ms. Clark about a law that (he knows) has been applied in a criminal context, despite her claim that it has not.  Ms. Clark’s claims end up being wrong because it turns out that she’s relying on second-hand information from one of her junior associates – and that associate has not performed thorough research.  To be fair to Ms. Clark, this trial was enormously stressful for her for a number of reasons.  Regardless, this is a situation that could have been avoided if a proper research plan had been executed.

Example 2: Court clerk’s failure to Shepardize results in defendant’s conviction being reversed.

[The case was subsequently recalled and vacated… but I bet this clerk got an ear-full.]

Example 3:  Attorney is sanctioned and later sued for malpractice because they did not adequately research the law.

McCandless v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., Inc., 697 F.2d 198 (7th Cir. 1983)
(Westlaw password required.)

“Before filing suit, it would seem to be a reasonable expectation that the attorney do some basic research on the applicable law.”  – Judge Pell

Ouch.

Example 4:  Ostrich-syndrome related to subsequent rulings results in sanctions.

Precision Specialty Metals, Inc. v. US, 315 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2003)

“Counsel’s ‘ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against [his] contention does not exist[] [is] precisely the type of behavior that would justify imposing Rule 11 sanctions.’”

CaseText provides a useful analysis of various automated cite-checking resources (to double check your work).  Keep in mind that CaseText is a software company that is trying to sell their product.  If you want a more neutral take, please refer to our Legal Citation  research guide.  This guide is in progress and is likely to see substantive updates and the semester continues so make sure to check back in once we get close to the end of the semester (and your papers are due).

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

Reference Services Survey – Win a Prize!

We need your help. We are assessing the Law Library’s reference services during these unprecedented times. We want to ensure you are receiving the help you need, whether it is finding a resource, using databases, citation help, or anything else. Your feedback on this short survey will enable us to serve you better. 

Take the survey here: Reference Services Survey

If you take the survey and provide us with your email address, you will be entered into a drawing for the prize of your choice. 

The deadline to complete the survey is November 3rd.

Thank you for your help and have a great rest of your semester. 

The Law Library is Here for You Over Fall Break

The reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are happy to help you find or navigate research resources. You can connect with us via Zoom, Chat, and Meet with a Librarian. You can also send us an email or give us a call.

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

Have a great fall break!

Racial Justice Resource Guide

This past summer we launched the new Racial Justice Resource Guide. The guide focuses on resources provided to you by the Ross-Blakley Law Library and also to external resources to support our community in considering racial justice and reconciliation. The guide’s focus is on resources concerning racial justice in the United States including information about:

National Social Justice Organizations
Local Social Justice Organizations and Government Entities
Resources for Protesters
Research Resources including Databases, Books, Law Reviews and Journals
U.S. Federal Government Hearings and Reports

We are always here to help you. If you have questions about accessing resources or want to discuss these subjects in more depth, feel free to Ask a Librarian or make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian via Zoom.