Monthly Archives: March 2022

It’s Never Too Late to Research Efficiently: Meet with a Librarian

Legal researchers should never let a late semester time crunch let them get sloppy. Taking shortcuts in legal research can slow you down and add confusion, pressure, and tedium.

The law is a vast web riddled with complexities and exceptions. Going without a plan can lead a researcher to struggle through an enormous list of largely irrelevant results, misunderstand the law, or even select the wrong database altogether, missing important resources.

Meetings with reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are short, sweet, and efficient. We have the expertise to quickly identify appropriate legal research databases and suggest efficient research strategies that can help researchers craft quality writing projects, even in a time crunch at the end of the semester.

We can help you appreciate the time savings and increased certainty that comes with consulting quality secondary sources. And we can help you improve your search strategies. For example, HeinOnline is a vast database of databases in which search results commonly number in the thousands due to its vase holdings of current and historical legal materials. We can help you focus your searches: Instead of skimming a vast sea of irrelevant results for the valuable nuggets interspersed within, we can reduce the volume of noise and concentrate the legal wisdom.

We can also help you find appropriate interdisciplinary research databases to help you supplement your legal research with materials in related academic fields. We can critique your research strategies so far, and help you ensure that you are using reliable sources for your final submission. We can even demystify the Bluebook and help you find solid answers to time consuming footnoting conundrums.

In fact, we have already done a lot of the legwork ahead of time, and turning to our collection of research guides can help you identify helpful resources for your particular topic.

Meet with a Librarian to get expert advice on all of your research projects, from office memoranda to seminar papers to graduate writing requirements and Journal notes.

Flow Charts Made Easy: Whimsical.com Website Eliminates Much of the Formatting Effort

Flow charts are an amazing resource for final exams when time is of the essence; they pack in a lot of information and help break down complicated legal analyses into simple steps. They also help ensure that students write about each step of their legal analysis rather than resort to conclusory statements.

The tradeoff is the amount of time it takes to create flow charts. Formatting can be a hassle depending on which program a student uses, and even handwriting them can be a pain.

The website Whimsical.com provides some free opportunities to create flow charts with a variety of adjustable shapes for text, arrows that tilt and bend, and labels that cleanly and automatically fit into the shapes.

All you have to do is select a shape and drag it onto your workspace. You can even fill it with a particular color for color coding or distinguishing different steps in the analysis. When you have shapes on your board, arrows to indicate “yes,” “no,” or some other answer to the question are just as easy to use, and will flexibly flip and loop around to make your flow chart production a snap.

Visual learners can even upload images directly into the flow chart to help jog their memory about particular legal principles. Icons, likewise, are available for addition into flow charts to provide more visual flair. Students can even add links to websites to their flow charts.

Whimsical is not just about flow charts either. Users can create text documents as well as mind maps. Mind maps can be useful for brainstorming ideas and keeping concepts organized as they automatically sort notes in a visual way similar to a flow chart.

If you’re a visual learner looking for an extra edge heading into final exams, make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian. We can suggest study aids geared toward your particular learning style.

Outlining in the Alternative: Anki’s Online, Multimedia Flashcards

Students learn differently from one another, and the traditional law school methods may not resonate as strongly with one student as the next. And that’s OK. Students who may not feel inspired by the traditional outline can do more to remember the key information necessary for an optimal finals performance.

One tool that will make that easier is Anki, an online platform for multimedia flashcards where students can make their own decks or download decks that others have prepared and then put their legal minds to the test.

Each Anki deck can be as small or as large as necessary to compile all information that will be helpful. For a class like con law, it might mean a fairly large collection of cards. But Anki makes it easy to manage these flashcard sets, enabling users to color code cards or even bury those that might not be useful any longer.

For students who learn better with visual cues, Anki makes it easy to upload images or videos to be associated with each flashcard, helping to build mnemonic associations. Anki also enables students to embed an audio recording onto cards for students with audio or audio-visual learning preferences.

Anki is free to download and it can keep your flashcard collection in sync across multiple devices.

For additional study tips, make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian. The law library’s JD holding reference librarians have all successfully taken law exams and can help you identify study materials that will click with your particular learning style.

Internship, Externship, New Job: Stand Out from the Crowd on Day One

Starting a new internship, externship, or job during law school can be nerve-wracking.  We want our work product to stand out so that we looked especially competent. To help you prepare, the Ross-Blakley Law library has put together a handful of resources from our legal research databases so that you can look your best on day one!

1 – Interactive Videos from Hotshot Legal:

Hotshot Legal is a company that makes attractive training courses for law students and junior associates.  Many Am Law 100 firms use these training courses to prepare their new associates to be “practice ready.”  These courses are also implemented by Harvard and Stanford to get students ready for clinic work and Big Law internships. 

As an ASU Law student, you can sign up for a selection of entry-level courses like Civil Litigation Basics, Depositions, Mergers and Acquisitions, and more.  All you need is your @ASU email address. 

https://www.hotshotlegal.com/

2 – Lexis

Lexis has recently started to provide updated Summer Associate Resource Kits.  These extensively hyperlinked guides, “review the fundamentals of key transactions within a practice area with step-by-step guides, checklists, practice notes and forms, giving you a starting point and confidence to tackle assignments from senior associates and partners.”

There are currently 78 kits available and they cover a wide range of areas of law:

Link to all available kits:
https://plus.lexis.com/api/permalink/e653f284-e398-4454-bb7d-7509cf46f545/?context=1530671

3 – Westlaw

Westlaw provides year-round access to their legal research certifications through their Knowledge Center:

https://trainingtools.thomsonreuters.com/

If you’re working at an institution with Westlaw, they are a great way to get prepared so that your research stands out for your supervisors.  In addition to generic research certifications, they also provide narrower instruction on areas like transactional research and litigation. 

4 – Bloomberg Law

Bloomberg Law has developed an In-Focus Center called “In Focus: Core Skills – Litigation” dedicated to getting future litigators ready to practice.  The Core Skills Toolkit provides Practical Guidance on research, writing, document review, and other key aspects of litigation practice.  In addition to providing useful BLaw content for new associates, this resource has infographics of work processes so that you can make sure you’re doing a thorough job.

If you are graduating this Spring, make sure to check ouSummer 2021 & Post-Graduation Use of LexisNexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law post so you know when your accounts will close.  As always, if you have any problems with access or want personalized, 1-on-1 training with any of these tools Make an Appointment with a Law Librarian

Sean Harrington, Electronic Service Librarian

Bar Prep’s Not Just for 3Ls: The Library Equips You for the Ultimate Final

Graduating from law school is a huge achievement and a new beginning, maybe more so than finishing high school or college. For most students at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, even after they submit their last exams and papers, the ultimate final exam awaits. 

And bar prep isn’t just for 3Ls. The courses you take and study skills you learn during law school can help you clear the final hurdle on your way to a legal career. 

Whether you’re a rising 2L or 3L or newly minted grad, the Ross-Blakley Law Library is here for you. Our Bar Exam and MPRE Resource Guide gathers the resources you’ll need to reach the magic passing number: 273 points on the Uniform Bar Exam in Arizona

First, we have tips for getting started, such as choosing a jurisdiction, planning a study strategy, and finding the right books for the job. We also point you to the requirements in Arizona and other states to sit for the exam and join the bar. 

Analyzing and answering legal questions on the bar exam is a skill that strengthens only with practice. Print and online study aids help you develop essential exam skills and provide lots of opportunities to test your knowledge. Especially helpful resources include Professor Chad Noreuil’s The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam, which helps students find the proper mindset for success, and Steven L. Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, which provides concise reviews of all multiple choice subjects, with dozens of practice questions for each. 

We also point you toward the commercial bar exam review courses that most students find essential. The guide also breaks down the elements of the Uniform Bar Exam administered in multiple states, including Arizona, so you’ll know what you’ll be facing: two hundred multiple choice questions, six essay questions, and two closed-universe legal documents. 

The bar exam is difficult, but as ASU students, you can be confident in your likelihood of success, given the College of Law’s first in the state pass rate in July 2021. The bar exam and the array of aids can be a lot to take in, so our reference librarians are happy to help you navigate the options and find the right study aids for you. 

Best of luck on the bar exam!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

New Library Titles Provide Second Opinions on Famous Cases

Feminist Judgements: Rewritten Property Opinions (Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod & Elena Maria Marty-Nelson eds., 2022)

This entry in the Feminist Judgments series revisits many of the cases that have achieved, or should have achieved, seminal status in property law through a feminist and intersectional lens. These rewritten opinions aim for fairer outcomes for women, marginalized people, and even animals. These opinions are not simply written with all eyes on the outcome, however; all follow the precedent and law in effect during the time in which they were decided, with facts available in the original opinions and court documents. This helps draw attention to ways in which biases such as sexism have perpetuated inequities in the law. It also highlights cases that have gone underrepresented in academic curricula, such as Botiller v. Dominguez, a Supreme Court case dealing with denials of land titles held by Mexican American women. An advisory board helped determine the list of cases to be rewritten, and writers served either as commentators on rewritten opinions or drafters of the opinions themselves. Examples of rewritten cases include the law school staple Johnson v. M’Intosh, with a reversed outcome rejecting the Eurocentric view of Indigenous people and to equalize the Indigenous perspective, and a Pierson v. Post that considers the interests of the animal and not just the hunters trying to lay claim to non-human bodies.

What Obergefell v. Hodges Should Have Said (Jack M. Balkin ed., 2020)

The Supreme Court is not as insulated from political winds and popular culture as we may like to think. Politics, and the understanding and expectations of society, modify views of the Constitution that the courts must interpret. Even though courts may sometimes lag behind public opinion, they are often influenced to expand forward as in the case of Obergefell, just one of many instances in which the judiciary enshrined rights that once seemed unthinkable, in this case, the right of same sex couples to marry. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion with a focus on dignity rather than the traditional rights typically associated with the Supreme Court, such as privacy, and one of the goals of the rewritten opinion was to place Obergefell more squarely in Supreme Court tradition. The writers also wanted to help resolve future disputes with the case, and to set down what they would like to see Obergefell become as it is reinterpreted in the future.

Reliable Sources: Law Librarians Can Help You Identify Sources to Boost Your Article’s Credibility

For the academic researcher working on a law review article, book, or graduate writing requirement, traditional, academic sources continue to have advantages over websites. Namely, they offer more reliable, complete, and professionally vetted information that can be and often is superior to more convenient Internet resources. (please see reference at the end of this post)

The Internet is unquestionably an important tool for all legal researchers and all academics. Yet, for all its benefits in bringing forth up to date, widely accessible information, it can and does lead writers astray. False information can flourish online, and researchers might struggle to identify questionable resources. Websites can change or disappear, even in an age of permalinks and Internet archives. And, perhaps most importantly, experts who publish academic books and articles have a depth of expertise and a level of detailed knowledge that popular Internet pages cannot match.

The reference librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library are specialists in finding these academic materials written by experts. We understand the allure of using reading accessible Internet information. We even can point you toward more reliable Internet resources (.edu and .gov websites) and away from more suspect resources (Wikipedia and purveyors of “fake news”). We also understand that overreliance on suspect materials can make your grade and your publication chances suffer.

We cannot do your research for you, but we can show you the way. The Law Library offers a series of specialized legal databases that can help you ensure that your article is reliable. We can also help you navigate the vast array of interdisciplinary databases that ASU Library offers to elevate suspect footnotes in your research. And yes, sometimes dusty old books (or dust free digital ebooks) will give your paper more credibility and authority.

We can help you at every stage of your research process, from choosing a paper topic to beginning your legal research, upgrading the sources you cite, and formatting your citations in conformity with the Bluebook. If you’re noticing too many .coms and .orgs in your citations, Meet with a Librarian to learn where to find information that your academic audience can trust.

[1] See, e.g., Carrie W. Teitcher, Rebooting the Approach to Teaching Research: Embracing the Computer Age, 88 L. Libr. J. 555 (2007).

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Citations have you seeing red? Get clarity on the Bluebook at the law library

The basic rule of abbreviating, ignored by the authors of The Bluebook, is to avoid nonobvious abbreviations. The words of living judicial legend Judge Richard A. Posner in The Yale Law Journal ring out clear in the Uniform System of Citation, which includes dozens of head-scratching short versions of words.

Leaving aside the 21st edition’s new rules and abbreviations, the Bluebook has always been complicated.  It runs to hundreds of pages of rigid commands, and they are divided into two overlapping sets of rules: blue pages for professional documents, and white pages for academic writing. New 2Ls facing their first round of Journal cite checking must not only learn a new citation system, but unlearn certain rules from their first year writing courses: case names are not always italicized in academic writing—only sometimes. (Italicize when using a short case citation but not a full case citation in an academic footnote.)

Even for a citation specialist, the complexities and inconsistencies can be infuriating. The rules on altering quotations can be so arcane and intrusive that even the Supreme Court has decided sometimes to just forgo them for a cleaner approach. Nevertheless, proper citation is important. Footnote formatting can affect your grade and publication chances. Other commentators note that consistency and clarity of citations can help legal readers notice the nature of information sources at a glance, easily distinguishing primary case law from secondary books and articles. Plus, learning the vast assortment of rules can be useful for instilling certain concepts of legal reasoning. Learning the Bluebook, and understanding the logic at play behind citation signals such as see and cf., turns law students into better lawyers, as painful as the process may be.

The Ross-Blakley Law Library can make that process less painful. The reference librarians have the know-how to walk you through the most complicated citation conundrums and confidently turn in quality, polished footnotes even if they reference materials that the Bluebook does not explicitly rule upon. While we cannot check all of your footnotes and make them conform, we can shine a light even into the most obscure corners of the reference tables.

Whether you are a 1L gearing up for the Journal Write-on Competition, a 3L polishing a graduate writing requirement or Journal note, or a tenured professor more familiar with earlier editions of the citation manual, Meet with a Librarian so we can make the Bluebook’s gray areas a little clearer.

Women’s History Month: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Research Guide

It remains extremely rare for a law school to name itself after a woman, but on April 5, 2006 Arizona State University’s law school became the first, choosing Arizona native and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as its namesake.

President Reagan nominated her to be the first woman to serve in the United States Supreme Court in 1981, and she retired in 2006. During that time, she established a reputation as a moderate conservative with a pragmatic view of jurisprudence.

She served as an attorney, judge, and state Senate leader in Arizona before her time in Washington.

Our research guide, Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Life and Legacy helps researchers as well as those simply curious better understand this renowned judicial pioneer.

We provide a biographical timeline, from her birth in Texas through her early career in Arizona and post Supreme Court highlights. She retired from public life in 2018.

Our collection of United States Supreme Court Opinions arranges many of the most important cases O’Connor authored by subject matter, from abortion, capital punishment, and civil rights to tax, Title IX, voting rights, and waters. We also gather a select few U.S. Court of Appeals Opinions she authored, as well as Arizona Court of Appeals Opinions.

O’Connor is also a distinguished author beyond the courtroom, as our collection of non-judicial Publications attests. She is listed as an author of eight books and numerous articles.

We have also gathered publications about and tributes to Sandra Day O’Connor, along with various other honors the retired justice has been given.

If you are researching the judiciary in general or Sandra Day O’Connor in particular, Meet with a Librarian for expert help from a JD holding reference librarian.

There’s Still Time to Win Library Research Contest

The deadline to enter the Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research is Monday, March 28, 2022 at 9:00 am.

Current 2Ls, 3Ls, MLS students and LLM students are eligible to submit their entries. See the rules here. The top prize is $500 and a Certificate of Recognition and second place receives $250 and a Certificate of Recognition. Students must complete a minimum 3,750-word scholarly paper with citations in Bluebook format. Students also must submit a 250- to 500-word description of their research processes, which can include reasons for writing the paper, selection and execution of research methods, and lessons learned during the process. The abstract should not summarize the paper.

Applications must be submitted electronically via the online Submission Form.