Tag Archives: Legal Research

Find out what research skills you will be expected to have as a new law firm associate

Acting Library Director Patrick Meyer recently gave a presentation that summarized his 2010 law firm legal research e-survey findings.

The survey answers the questions of:

  • what research tasks must new law firm associates know and in what format(s)
  • the particulars of law firm online pricing plans
  • common costly online research mistakes, and
  • which print sets are likely to stay in most firms

The accompanying PowerPoint slides and a draft law review article that contains the updated 2010 research results are available at his SSRN homepage at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1093004. The documents in question are numbers 2 & 3 on this page.

2.  2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

3.  2011 Presentation on Law Firm Legal Research Requirements of New Hires

Legal Research Training Opportunities at TJSL

Photo Courtesy Alexander Henning Drachmann

You can have a say in how and when you learn how to conduct legal research.

Check out this new 10 question survey prepared by the TJSL librarians.

Let your voice be heard on when, where, and how you would like to learn how to do legal research?

Do you want a mini-class right a few weeks before your final paper is due?

Do you want a legal research boot camp over the break?

Do you want to wait until you are an alumni, doing research for your new boss?

When would you like to learn legal research skills?

Tell us!

Help With Final Papers

As your final papers become due, let me remind you of the resources that are currently available to you for help with final papers.

For help with legal research, you may contact the TJSL reference librarians

June Mac Leod jmacleod@tjsl.edu

and

Catherine Deane cdeane@tjsl.edu

or circulation librarians:

Hadas Livnat hlivnat@tjsl.edu

and

Torin Andrews tandrews@tjsl.edu

If you need help immediately, you can try the legal research tutorials and research guides, you may be able to find one on your topic.

As always the library provides a virtual reference service, AskThom, you can use this to contact library staff for immediate answers during hours when the library is open.

To find books and journals available at TJSL, use ThomCat, the online catalog. Be sure to type in the name of the book or journal. A search for the title of an article will yield nothing in ThomCat.

To search for individual articles, search Westlaw, Lexis or HeinOnline.

For legal news on a particular topic, try the Westlaw and Lexis news databases, or check to see if there is a BNA publication for your area of law. You can find the BNA database on our Library Research Page. Login with your email user ID and password.

You can also access our online databases through ThomCat.

2Ls: Consider Advanced Legal Research

As the the time draws near to begin selecting courses for the Spring 2012 semester.

2Ls may want to consider two things:
1. Legal Research is in the top 10 skills needed to succeed in the legal field

2. Advanced Legal Research will be taught in the Spring

Do you know the difference between a statute and a regulation?

Do you know how to find administrative law materials?

Can you find out the lawmakers’ intent with respect to a particular statute?

Do you know the difference between court rules and local rules?

Do you know how to find a brief that has been filed in a federal or state case?

How will you conduct research if your firm does not have access to Westlaw or Lexis?

What is a Case Digest?

How do you make sure the law you have found is the most recent version of the law?

Do you know how to Shepardize all the citations in a document at once?

You can learn all this and more in Advanced Legal Research. Sign-up and find out what all the fuss is about.

The video below was made by law students to showcase the kinds of legal research tips that can make your research experience more successful.

Tips for Using CalJur in Print

Recently many 1Ls have been coming to the library and using the legal encyclopedia. Some users have reminded me greatly of the classic Sesame Street clip where a boy gives an alien directions to his mothership. In their haste to get to the answer, some law students have been rushing to search for their keywords in the text itself, or rushing to look in the text for the reference given in the index without following the steps to do so. The result is that students have been becoming frustrated unnecessarily because they are not using a step by step procedure.

Step By Step Flow Chart for using CalJur in Print (pdf)

Scenario

Let us say that you have been hired at a small law firm that does not have a subscription to Westlaw or Lexis, or that does not allow new associates to use the online databases for fear that they will unwittingly run up huge bills. You are tasked with looking up in the print legal encyclopedia, a particular issue related to your case.

Key Words

You brainstorm and come up with the terms:

  1. Controlled Substances
  2. Children
  3. Forfeiture of property

Index

You look them up in the Index in that order (If you look up Children first, when you get to where Controlled substances would be located as a subheading under children it will send you to the Controlled Substances and Drug Abuse heading in the index).

You find that the section on forfeiture of property belonging to children and minors is referred to as: CLCADM § 149

Table of Abbreviations 

Since you do not know what CLCADM stands for, you flip to the beginning of the index where there is a table of abbreviations. You look up the abbreviation CLCADM and you find that it stands for “Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice”

Encyclopedia: Alphabetic Order

You then look for this entry in the set of encyclopedia. You browse the volumes looking for where this entry falls alphabetically.

You find that the term “Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice” is written on the spine, and you look for your entry in the volume labeled:

“Criminal Law: Core Aspects

to

Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice and Public Order”

Now, what if the term were not visible on the spine.

For instance, let’s say you were looking up the reference INVESTSEC § 39

INVESTSEC refers to Investment Securities and if you browse the volumes of Cal Jur, you will see that the volume you need is

“Interference with Economic Advantage

To

Judges”

The term “Investment Securities” falls alphabetically between these two terms, so you know that you can find the term “Investment Securities” in this volume.

 Topic first; Section second

Going back to our Example of CLCADM § 149 which we know refers to Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice § 149, you open the book that contains this reference, and then you first need to find the right topic. There is more than one topic in this book and therefore possibly more than one § 149. First look at the top of the page and make sure you are looking at the Criminal Law: Crimes Against Administration of Justice topic. Then look within this topic for section 149.

 Footnotes for citations to Primary law

When you find the part of this section that discusses your issue, you may need to find the primary source that supports that particular answer. To find the primary source, you need to see if there is a footnote related to the sentence discussing your issue. Footnotes will be at the bottom of the page, Look first in the footnotes for the Section number, eg [Section 149] then for the specific footnote. Numbering for the footnotes for each individual section begins with 1. This means you must be careful to find the right section before you look for the numbered footnote.

Update in Pocket Part

Once you have found your entry, your task may not be over, you still need to update your research. Recent changes in the law will be reflected in the pocket parts. These are softbound publications placed in the back pocket of the relevant encyclopedia volume that indicate changes in the law between the time when the hardbound edition was published and the time when the softbound pocket part was published.

For the CLCADM § 149 entry, there is no pocket part and no update available at this time. However for INVESTSEC § 6, we find that there is an entry in the pocket part. To determine when the pocket part was published, look at the first page of the pocket part. It will say “ISSUED” followed by the date of publication. Stamped on the pocket part is the date it was received by the library. If you need information that is more up to date than the Issued date, you will need to examine the online database version of CalJur from Westlaw or Lexis.

 Video Tutorials 

Here is a video tutorial from USD on Using CalJur and Witkin’s.

TJSL Video on Using Secondary Sources

Your Westlaw/Lexis student account is for Academic Use Only

  • Use your school Westlaw or Lexis IDs only for school research.
    • The one exception  at TJSL is:
      1. If you are a research assistant for a professor at TJSL, you may use your school Westlaw/Lexis ID to perform academic research for that professor.
  • Use law firm resources to do research for a law firm.
    • It is illegal and a violation of professional ethics to use your Westlaw/Lexis school ID to do law firm research.

Law Students need to be aware of the restrictions on the use of Westlaw and Lexis student accounts.

The agreement that TJSL students have with Westlaw regarding use of their accounts is provided here for your convenience. In short, it says that:

  • you may not use your Westlaw account to do research for a law firm you are interning/externing with for the summer.
  • you may only use your Westlaw account to do research for a class that you are enrolled in at TJSL.

The Lexis agreement says almost the same thing, and is available for you to read on the Lexis Website under Terms. In plain English their policy regarding law student use of Lexis is available at the Lexis Website, under Company Information.

Unlike Westlaw, Lexis has two specific exceptions to the rule that students may not use their accounts to do research for law firms. If the student is doing:

  1. a for credit internship/externship, the student may use their academic Lexis ID to do research for the law firm.
  2. an unpaid internships  for a pro bono or non-profit law firm, the student may use their student Lexis accounts to do research even if their internship/externship  is not for credit.

Westlaw and Lexis are aware that not all law firms have access to their databases. As such, they monitor student accounts during the Summertime. They are looking for unusual patterns of search, such as:

  • Searching for items that are more commonly looked for by practicing attorneys than by law students.
  • Searching from a law firm’s IP address.
  • Warehousing material, that is, downloading and saving many items.

If students are found exhibiting these types of behaviors which give the appearance of misconduct, they will be investigated and charges may be brought against them. In addition, the California State Bar Association will be informed of the student’s violation of their user agreement and this may be grounds for refusal of admission to the California State Bar for unethical, illegal behavior.

To avoid being accused of misconduct and potentially ruining your career before it begins:

  • Only use your school account to do research for your classes
  • For law firm research use firm accounts, or if they do not have access, then use:
    • print resources from the nearest law library
    • Google scholar to search for patents, legal opinions and journals
  • Do not do school research from the law firm office

If your law firm pressures you to use your school account, even after you have informed them of the terms of your agreement with the database vendors, I recommend that you inform career services at TJSL of your situation.

Be informed! Know the limitations on the use of your student Westlaw and Lexis accounts.

Legal Research Help for TJSL Law Students: When to Ask, Who to ask, How to ask, What to ask for?

Click Image for Video on How to Ask Questions at the Reference Desk. Image (courtesy Kristian D.)

When to Ask?

When you:

  • are doing an Internship and you are asked to research something.
  • are doing a course that requires you to write a paper or a memo, ask early on in the semester, as soon as you have your writing assignment.
  • are getting ready to propose an independent study class and you need to do preliminary research on your topic
  • are writing a note for the Law Review
  • are doing a moot court competition and you have just received the question
  • don’t know where things are in the library

Who to ask

First contact the reference librarians

  • By email
    • Catherine Deane, Full-time Reference Librarian, and Professor of Law (Advanced Legal Research)
    • June Mac Leod, Part-time reference librarian and Professor of Law (Advanced Legal Research)
    • Phone (for urgent questions)
      • Catherine Deane – 619.961.4339
      • June Mac Leod – 619.961.4335
      • Reference Desk – 619.961.4351
    • AskThom Virtual Chat (for questions that can be answered in one sentence, eg. What time do you close? Do you have an economics news database?)
    • In person at the 4th Floor Reference Desk

If the reference librarians are not available because it is after normal business hours then ask for:

  • Hadas Livnat, the Evenings/Reserve/Circulation Librarian
    • By email
    • Phone – 619.961.4292
    • In Person – ask for her at the 4th Floor Circulation/Reference Desk

If the reference librarians are not available during normal business hours because they are on vacation/out sick, etc. then ask for:

  • Torin Andrews, Circulation Librarian
    • By email
    • Phone – 619.961.4206
    • In Person – ask for him at the 4th Floor Circulation Desk

If none of these are available you may contact the Acting Director of the Library:

  • Patrick Meyer, Interim Library Director and Professor of Law (Advanced Legal Research)
    • By email
    • Phone – 619.961.4296
    • In Person – ask for him at the 4th Floor Circulation Desk after you have asked for any of the other public services librarians listed above first.

How to Ask

Please be polite when asking for help.

Ask the student library assistants if what you need is:

  • office supplies – look in the copy room
  • directions to the bathroom or copy room – look at the touchscreen map
  • help with printing or wireless issues –contact IT on the 3rd floor
  • a known book on course reserve – 4th floor circulation desk
  • to reserve a room – 4th floor circulation desk

The student library assistants are available at the circulation desk to help you with these matters.

What to Ask For

Ask for:

  • a tour of the library
  • help using Practice Guides or other print items to do research
  • help navigating Westlaw/Lexis or other databases
  • help finding and researching your paper topic
  • help coming up with a research strategy for a particular research problem
  • guidance doing research in general
  • help learning how to use Google more efficiently to find items
  • help evaluating the validity of an information source (can I use this in my paper/memo?)