Category Archives: Legal Research & Writing

Practical Research Skills Workshop Series: Get the Edge on How to Exceed Your Employers’ and Professors’ Expectations

The librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library have prepared a video series for you. Our Practical Research Skills Workshop Series will help you get the edge on how to exceed your employers’ and professors’ expectations. We share our expertise on legal research, in a friendly, fast-paced format that you can watch at your own pace. We help you navigate primary law including statutes and regulations as well as help you build your practical skills by sharing our insights on topics like litigation tools and legal search algorithms.

Practical Research Skills Workshop Series

What the series covers:

Federal Statutes & State Statutes

Learn how to find and navigate statutes in research databases and on government websites. We highlight case law that courts rely on to resolve disputes concerning statutory interpretation to help you perform professional statutory research for your employer.

Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register, Arizona Regulations 
Master how to navigate and use the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, and Arizona’s regulatory frameworks so that you can master interpreting and applying regulatory rules on the job.

Search Algorithms, Data Analytics, Ravel & Advanced Searching
Not all databases are transparent about how they return results based on your search terms but understanding how the search tools operate can help you research more effectively and efficiently.

Practice Tools: Settlements Data & Litigation Analytics, Litigation Tools, Standard Documents & Transactions, Practice Notes & Checklists
Practical tools can help you impress your assigning attorney. These include resources to learn the law, to manage a legal project, to efficiently draft legal documents, and to compare the client’s situation to past deals and cases.

We are always here to help you whether you are a current student or a graduate. If you have questions or want to discuss these subjects in more depth, feel free to Ask a Librarian or make an appointment to meet via Zoom.

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

 

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

New HeinOnline Database Alert: State Constitutions Illustrated

The State Constitutions Illustrated database is a treasure trove of information on constitutional histories.  It has a clean, simple interface that allows the user to find primary documentation about how the United States acquired each state in the union.  This new database is the helpful, local friend of the World Constitutions Illustrated that you may have seen in the Advanced Legal Research classes.

From HeinOnline, “Containing the text of every constitution that has been in force for every state with the original, consolidated and current texts and an extensive collection of documents from before statehood, State Constitutions Illustrated provides comprehensive coverage and allows researchers to compare multiple editions from multiple sources. It currently has nearly 9,000 historical and current constitutions and constitutional documents.”

heinLooking for more information about how a state came into being?  This database has an archive on each state that includes pre-territorial documents relating to other nations.

Hein 2

Would you like to read materials from pre-statehood, including colonial charters, laws, and royal instructions for the original thirteen colonies; treaties, territorial laws, and federal acts for the other states?

Hein 3

Here’s how to navigate to the database from the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s homepage:

Our Arizona Constitutional History Bibliography is also a great resource for researching Arizona constitutional history.

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

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

Blazing Your Research Trail SmallerWe’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. Safeway? Annoyer 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, Law Library Fellow

Seven Reasons to Meet with a Librarian About Your Open Memo

  1. We can help you navigate research resources and identify relevant information quickly: WePinClipart.com_clip-art-face_111485 (1) 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 Advance and Westlaw Edge can save you valuable time for your other classes.
  2. We have J.D.s, and we understand the process: Beth, Tara, Sean, and Andrea 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 textbooks, study 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, Law Library Fellow

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

researchAt 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, Law Library Fellow

Summer 2019 and Post-Graduation Use of Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw

Wondering which research tools you can use this summer?  We have outlined summer 2019 access and post-graduation use policies for Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw below.

Remember that you also have unlimited access to many other legal databases in addition to hundreds of interdisciplinary databases through the ASU Library this summer! The library staff is also here all summer long to help you with research. Call, e-mail, or stop by for assistance during reference hours.

Bloomberg Law
Bloomberg Law provides unrestricted summer access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Bloomberg Law account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Bloomberg Law for six months after graduation. You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access.

Please contact our Bloomberg Law representative, Heidi Stryker, with questions.

LexisNexis
LexisNexis provides unrestricted summer 2019 (May-August) access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Lexis Advance account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Lexis through December 31, 2019.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access – the transition from a regular law school ID to a graduate ID will occur on July 5, 2019. Students engaged in verifiable 501(c)(3) public interest work after graduation are also eligible for a 12-month password extension through the Lexis ASPIRE program.

Please contact our LexisNexis account executive, Alan J. Mamood, with questions.

Westlaw
Westlaw offers full access to Westlaw, Practical Law, Drafting Assistant, and Doc & Form Builder to current ASU law students who are participating in select academic pursuits over the summer. Permissible uses include the following:

  • Summer classes and study abroad programs
  • Law review or journal research
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Moot court research
  • Externship sponsored by the school

You do not need to do anything to gain summer access to these tools. Students with any other type of summer employment must use their employer-provided password for Westlaw access.

Graduating students:  Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law graduates now have 60 hours a month of Westlaw access for 18 months after graduation; this access can be used for either commercial (paid) or educational purposes. Graduating students will need to activate their 18 month password extension within their Westlaw account for this extended access.

Please contact our Thomson Reuters Academic Account Manager, Jeff Brandimarte, with questions.

New Content in the Law Library’s West Academic Study Aids Subscription

There are two new pieces of content in the Law Library’s West Academic Study Aids Subscription:

1) Newly added audio books – High Court Case Summaries® on evidence, criminal law, torts and property are now available for listening.
– Access the new audio content here.

High COurt case summaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The West Academic Library App is now available for phone, iPad, or computer so you can study anywhere and on any device.
– Learn more about the App here.

West Academic app