Category Archives: Law Students

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.

Making the Most of Midterms

Midterm season is just around the corner. Too soon, you say? I remember the olden days of 2016 when I was a law student walking into my torts final with only an outline, some grim prophecies, and uncertainty, because newfangled midterms hadn’t spread to my section yet.

Midterms are your crystal ball showing your future exam-taking self, and a window to the essence of your learning style. They may be more important in informing and adjusting your study habits to achieve your academic apotheosis in December than their nudge to your final grade. Some students have taken them without much extra study just to see how well they can do on just regular, daily reading. But, of course, many of us are type-A achievers, so here are some tips from the Ross Blakley Law Library to help you excel.

  1. Study aids for exam practice: The book Getting to Maybe has helped many budding lawyers learn to thrive in a field laden with slippery “it depends” answers instead of familiar, concrete facts. Crunch Time, on Wolters Kluwer provides flow charts, multiple choice, short answer, and essay exam questions. West Academic’s Exam Pro Series provides practice questions for multiple-choice and essay exam practice, and Mastering the Law School Exam for tips that will help you throughout law school. CALI offers podcasts featuring panels of experts on outlining, time management, exam prep, and the grading process.

  2. Meet with a Librarian about your open memo to buy yourself valuable study time for other classes: We can help you navigate Westlaw and Lexis to find all relevant good law efficiently and thoroughly.

  3. Take past exams to prepare: Thinking like a lawyer involves more than just repeating memorized knowledge. Unexpected scenarios will test your ability to apply and analyze the law. The library’s Past Exams archive can help; even if it’s not from your professor, authentic issue-spotting exams offer invaluable practice in Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts, and upper-level classes. (Of course, when you come across questions that might be clearly outside the scope of your class, don’t sweat them and move on!)

  4. Refine your outline: Making an outline is probably the best way to study legal doctrine and make the connections between the rule of law and the court’s reasoning. ASU’s past outlines are most useful to check your own work as you process your notes and readings. Your classes’ teaching assistants can help you resolve discrepancies.

  5. Breathe: Remember that no one exam will make or break your professional dreams, not even the ones you’ll take in December. Good luck!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

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