Category Archives: Law Students

Practically Attorneys: Tools for Efficient Legal Work

Pratically AttorneysBy now, all of us in law school are familiar with using Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg to find case law, statutes, and secondary sources. But all of the Big Three can do so much more to help you at your internships, externships, and clerkships.

The databases have compiled practical information on the substance and procedures of practices in various specific areas of law, from civil litigation to commercial real estate transactions. They each feature practice guides to help familiarize legal professionals with the substance and procedure of legal tasks. Standard documents consist of form agreements into which a client’s data may be entered to craft legal documents. Similarly, standard clauses provide customizable provisions to insert into other agreements. Checklists in all three databases compile the specific tasks necessary to complete transactions.

In Westlaw, click on “Practical Law” under “Content Types” on the homepage, or click on the black circle with the white arrow nest to the name “Westlaw Edge” to navigate to Practical Law. Here, you will find three main tabs:

  1. Practice Areas: Gathers resources for various legal practice areas, such as antitrust or international arbitration. Each link leads to key information specific to each area, such as market data, news, and common topics.
  2. Resource types: Enables users to browse compilations of resources, including customizable Standard Documents, resource compilations known as Toolkits, and State Q&As that enable users to compare and contrast the laws of different jurisdictions.
  3. Jurisdictions: Includes all states, the District of Columbia, and national/federal entries.

In Lexis Advance, click on the tic-tac-toe box at the top left and navigate to “Lexis Practice Advisor.” Here you will find five main tabs:

  1. Practice Area: Gathers resources that attorneys in particular fields, such as Corporate and M&A Law and Tax will often need to use. Each area offers up-to-date guidance, news, and information on legal developments.
  2. Content Type: Enabling users to browse for resources such as practice notes or forms.
  3. Jurisdiction: Includes the states, territories, and District of Columbia.
  4. Industry: Compiles legal resources related to established and booming industries, such as financial services and cannabis.
  5. Tools and Resources: Additional resources such as state law comparisons can also improve attorneys’ accuracy and efficiency.

In Bloomberg Law, click on the Browse icon at the top left and open the “Practitioner Tools” link. There, you will find “Practical Guidance Home.” Here, you will find resources arranged in a variety of practice areas, along with a search bar to find specific documents. Each practice area includes links to specific, commonly performed tasks and legal issues.

Bloomberg Law also offers:

  1. Chart builders that enable users to compare and contrast the laws of different jurisdictions.
  2. transactional precedents that enable users to browse or search resources such as bylaws and real property mortgages.
  3. EDGAR, a searchable compilation of business performance and financial information.

If you’re a 1L looking for your first job, schedule a time to Meet with a Librarian to get a leg up on researching your employer and finding the information that you need to prepare for interviews, especially that most dreaded query: “Do you have any questions for us?”

Speaking of that: Do you have any questions for us? Let the law librarians know if you need access to any of the databases or if you have any questions about how practical legal tools can help in your next placement.

Andrea Gass, Law Librarian

Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

Paper ContestDo you want to win $500?  Do you want something special to add to your resume? How about all the pats on the back you will get from family and friends if you win this prestigious award?  You better get to work!  The deadline to enter the annual Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research is March 30th at 9:00am.

The purpose of the award is to encourage students to focus on practical skills and to refine their research abilities beyond ordinary proficiency to achieve their personal best. We are most interested in your research process. Submissions may be, but are not limited to, papers written for a class or as a journal note.

Two award recipients will be selected.  The first place winner will receive $500.00 and a Certificate of Recognition.  The second place winner will receive $250.00 and a Certificate of Recognition.

A panel composed of two Law Librarians and one Legal Writing Instructor will judge submissions based on how well they demonstrate the following:

  • Sophistication, originality, or unusual depth or breadth in the use of research materials, including, but not limited to, online and print resources, search engines and databases, primary and secondary legal resources, interdisciplinary resources, and empirical resources
  • Exceptional innovation in research strategy, including the ability to locate, select, and evaluate research materials with discretion
  • Skillful synthesis of research results into a comprehensive scholarly analysis

To learn more about the award including eligibility, acceptable papers, selection criteria and application procedures, please visit: Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

And remember, if you need help with your research, don’t forget to Meet with a Librarian.

Good Luck!

Cite Check: Just Do It

Cite CheckWhy 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=ElQ3ab0qiDU&feature=emb_title

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.

https://nycriminallaw.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/ad1-relies-on-case-later-reversed-by-the-coa/

[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

 

3L Bar Exam Haiku Contest!

Haiku ContestWould you like to win a copy of Prof. Noreuil’s book The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam?  We will be giving away two copies to two 3Ls who write the best haiku about the bar exam.

What is a Haiku?
A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression. We want you to focus on the bar exam. To get you started, here is an example from our very own Prof. Noreuil:

You will pass the bar.
Create your reality.
Breathe… Believe… Repeat.

We are going to share your entries on our social media outlets so get ready for fame and fortune.

Enter here: 3L Bar Exam Haiku Contest Entry Form

The deadline to enter is February 14th.

Good Luck!

 

Writing an Environmental Paper? We’ll Help You Planet!

EnvironmentalDevastating wildfires, melting glaciers, impending extinctions, polluted oceans, persistent droughts, and greenhouse gases cry out for legal attention, and the challenges can be daunting. Sustainability concerns can arise in nearly everything we do, and the Ross-Blakley Law Library can help you get started by finding your focus area.

Our new Environmental Law and Sustainability research guide includes information on federal and state efforts to control land, air, and water pollution, including statutes, regulations, caselaw, news, and commentary. Beyond that, it provides focused materials for areas of the law involving consumption and preservation of resources while meeting the needs of industries and society. It is geared toward many of the courses included in ASU’s Law and Sustainability Certificate program.

The Energy and Public Utilities section discusses power, including the materials used to generate electricity, the regulatory systems overseeing the industries, and the systems in place to regulate power markets. It highlights the pros and cons of various energy strategies, such as low-emission wind farms that can threaten wildlife, low-emission nuclear plants that create toxic waste, and traditional fossil fuel plants and their climate impacts. Natural Resources and Public Land Management concerns not only the materials we extract, such as timber and mined minerals, but the protection of nature itself, including regulations of public land use. This area of law concerns preservation of wildlife and protection against wildfires in forested areas.

In contrast, Land Use and Urban Planning concerns governance of the built environment. It discusses zoning laws that compartmentalize incompatible land uses such as residential homes and industrial facilities, management of development “sprawl,” historic preservation efforts, and transportation planning. The guide includes information on Phoenix and Maricopa County agencies, as local governments usually address these issues.

Turning from the cities to the countryside, the Agriculture and Food Safety section explores the intersections between the living world and human needs. Farming and food production are complex legal processes involving real estate planning, tax law, environmental compliance, and labor law. Hot topics in the field include marijuana and the complexity of its inconsistent legal status, and bioethical concerns involving issues such as pesticides and genetic engineering. The guide also includes information on regulation of food to prevent illnesses.

Agriculture would not survive without irrigation, so the guide then pours on the Water Law. Hot topics in this field, particularly in the Western U.S., involve tensions between competing claims and governmental efforts to fairly apportion a scarce and vital resource. Tensions abound in discussions of a human right to water, in the cost of water infrastructure, and the environmental effects of human water use.

Finally, our Animal Law guide explores the law regarding animals, both domestic and wild. We have gathered resources concerning animal welfare, wildlife management, pest control, preservation of endangered species, and issues involving farm animals.

For state-focused scholarship, each of the sustainability law topics represented includes a section on Arizona law, including links to government agencies, statutes, and regulations.

We are here to help you find resources for your papers about sustainability or any other area of the law. We can even help you with your BluebookingMeet with a Librarian today!

Andrea Gass is a Law Library Research Fellow at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

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

Library Student Reference Assistant Position for Spring 2020

The ASU Ross-Blakley Law Library is seeking a 2L or 3L student to help provide reference and research assistance in the Spring 2020 semester.

Rate of pay: $15/hour

Work hours: Flexible; 5-15 hours per week (scheduled 9am-4pm, Monday-Thursday)

Please apply online by 3pm on 12/27/19 using the instructions below:

  • You can apply online by clicking on the following link: https://students.asu.edu/employment/search
  • Next, click on the “Search On-Campus Jobs” box
  • In the search bar, type 57599BR and then click “Search”
  • Click on the job title link to open job posting
  • Click on the “Apply to job” button at the lower part of the screen
  • Fill out the appropriate fields and attach your resume, etc.

Contact Tara Mospan at tara.mospan@asu.edu with any questions.

Exam Prep: The Law Library Can Help

Test Taking

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.
    WK Online Study Aid
    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!

New Law Library LibGuide: Mindfulness and Mental Wellness in Law School

CalmingIn the frenetic rush toward Thanksgiving and finals season, it may seem like you have no time for anything, but don’t forget to take a moment clear your mind, and take a deep breath. Lawyers increasingly are turning to mindfulness and meditation to relieve stress, to help them focus their attention on the present and their clients’ needs, and to stay in control in difficult situations. The Ross-Blakley Law Library’s new research guide on Mindfulness and Mental Wellness in Law School helps Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law students join this beneficial professional trend, sharpen your focus for finals, and feel better about yourself and others. It offers information about fully secular meditation practices, with resources to explain how and why it works, and how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your routine. Guides for mindful study and writing can help students succeed academically through improved focus. Organizations such as the Zen Law Students Association (ZLSA), as well as resources such as guided meditations, can make meditation part of students’ routine.

Exams, seminar papers, grad writing requirements, and final memo drafts are igniting signal flares to demand focused attention. But, try as we might to devote ourselves to study, we all find ourselves mentally juggling family and professional obligations, social commitments, personal interests, and mental noise—from innocent pop song earworms to destructive self-doubt.

It is natural to feel some pressure during law school, just as it’s natural for the mind to wander. Without grades to indicate how well we have mastered the law, what would motivate us to push as hard as we do to succeed? It’s challenging training to prepare for a challenging, rewarding profession.

Regular meditation practice can reshape your mind in many ways, improving concentration, awareness, and compassion while reducing stress and anxiety. Even if you’re not regularly practicing, taking a break to breathe can help you manage in times of increased pressure. Here are instructions to get you started, adapted from The Anxious Lawyer co-author Jeena Cho on the legal blog Above the Bar:

  1. Sit on the floor or a cushion with your legs crossed in front of you, upright with your spine straight. Your arms should be relaxed with your hands resting on your knees. (Palms may face downward or upward depending on your preference.) Alternatively, you may sit in a chair with your legs uncrossed and your feet firmly on the floor. You can also meditate lying down if that is most comfortable.
  2. Close your eyes or allow their focus to soften, and take a deep breath or two. Feel your body make contact with your surroundings, and feel the tension in your shoulders relax as you exhale deeply.
  3. Pay attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the air.
  4. Your mind will likely wander. Don’t fret or mentally reprimand yourself; visualize the thought dissipating and return your focus to your breath. Our brains are made to produce thoughts, and law students will have a lot on their minds, particularly around finals.
  5. Alternative methods of focusing the brain include mentally expressing gratitude, repeating a word or phrase, or focusing attention on sensations throughout the body.
  6. You can set a goal to meditation for 5 to 10 minutes or more, but even short, calming breaks can provide rest and peace.

For more, stress-relieving help with your studies, memos, papers, and employer research, make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian. Some of our librarians on staff regularly engage in mindfulness and meditation practices, and Andrea Gass (algass@asu.edu) would be happy to provide more information on how ZLSA and our mindfulness resources can help you.

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow

Metadata: A Short Practical Primer & Why It Is Important to a Law Student or Lawyer

MetadataWhat is it?
For e-discovery purposes, the term metadata generally refers to information about an electronic file (email message, MS Office document, audio/video file, etc.) that is stored in the underlying contents of the file. While some of this information may appear on the face of a document, such as the file date or file name, there can be hundreds of additional metadata values that are not readily accessible without the use of technology to extract them. Some metadata values are easily updated by a document’s custodian, such as the file author or file name for an MS Word document. Other metadata values, such as a file’s date last modified, are computer generated and not available for manual input or manipulation. Diane Quick, Don’t Forget about Me(tadata), 25 Pretrial Prac. & Discovery 9 (2017).

Why is it important to a law student or lawyer?
Metadata can be exceptionally useful at a later date if you’ve organized it properly.  In fact, metadata was how they captured the famous BTK Killer in 2004.  It can tell you when, who, and where a piece of information was created or modified.  Actually, it can tell you basically anything – there’s no limit to the number of fields that someone could record in the metadata of (for example) a document or picture.

The problem arises when you unknowingly pass metadata to someone who you would prefer did not have that information.  Here are a couple of hypotheticals to illustrate:

  • You are working for an attorney during your first internship. The attorney emails you an MS Word pleading to use as a template for a declaration you’re about to prepare.  In that template’s metadata fields there is confidential information about another client.  You email the declaration to opposing counsel who opens it and now has access to that confidential information.
  • Your client provides you with electronic information (pictures, MS Word documents, etc.) for your case. During the eDiscovery process, your supervisor has you send hundreds of files to opposing counsel.  You did not remove the metadata from the files and end up sending along incriminating, sensitive, or privileged evidence to the opposition.
  • Your supervisor gives you a PDF contract template to prepare a contract for a new client. You spend hours meticulously drafting the perfect agreement to impress the client and your supervisor… but you forget to remove the metadata from the old agreement.  The new client sees the other client’s name and exclaims, “You attorneys are all crooks!  You’re just reusing the same boilerplate contract and charging me thousands of dollars!”

Note: If you’re working in Arizona, the State Bar has explicitly stated that opposing counsel cannot mine for embedded metadata to bring as evidence…. but how would you ever know if they had?

Current Legal Issues:
Can you take advantage of opposing counsel’s laziness regarding metadata during the discovery process?

Riccardo Tremolada, The Legal Ethics of Metadata: Accidental Discovery of Inadvertently Sent Metadata and the Ethics of Taking Advantage of Others’ Mistakes, 25 Rich. J.L. & Tech. 1 (2019).

Bulk biometric metadata and police surveillance:

Margaret Hu, Bulk Biometric Metadata Collection, 96 N.C. L. Rev. 1425 (2018).

Regulation by metadata-mining algorithms (robots):

Cary Coglianese; David Lehr, Regulating by Robot: Administrative Decision Making in the Machine-Learning Era, 105 Geo. L.J. 1147 (2017)

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian