Monthly Archives: November 2019

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

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