Category Archives: Alumni

Library Tips for 1Ls

Why do you need the law library?

It’s where the law librarians are.

They are experts in legal research and are happy to help you and guide you. Students have already come in asking for help with finding the statutes they need to read for class, and for studying tips.

1. Ask the Reference Librarians . . . ANYTHING…um, but if you want to know where the bathrooms are in the library, you might want to consult the building map on the touchscreens.

Your full-time Reference Librarian, and several of the other librarians, have been to Law School, so they know what you are going through. If we can’t answer your question we will point to someone who can.

2. Use the same info to log into Westlaw as you use for TWEN.

3. You can get Reference help using chat, telephone and email .

4. Students and alumni can get into the Library 7am to midnight. See library user guide for more info.

5. Take a Library Tour to find out where study aids and course reserve materials are located.

6. Read this Blog regularly for tips, tricks, Library info and new research guides. Subscribe to this blog. Put your email in the box to the right.

7. Check out the Library’s web site for more information, and anouncements.

Understand the Legal System, Find the Law

This is the first in a series of blog posts based on the Law Student Research Competency Principles as developed by the American Association of Law Libraries.

The first principle is:

Principle I: A successful researcher should possess fundamental research skills.

  • Law students should have an understanding of the complexities of the legal system. They should know the processes and the hierarchical relationships between the three branches of government and the legislation, regulations, and case law they yield.”

Although the above legal research principle only mentions three branches of government, it is slightly more complicated than that.

The three branches referred to are:

  • The judicial branch
  • The legislative branch
  • The executive branch

But there are actually more like 6 branches for any given U.S. state, since these branches exist for both Federal and State Law.

So, now we have the:

1. Federal Judiary– This consists of the federal courts:

2.  Federal Legislative Branch – This consists of the U.S. Congress

3. Federal Executive Branch – The law that is produced by this branch, is referred to as administrative law, and is generated largely by federal agencies. It is called administrative law.

At the State Level, for California, the three branches of government are:

4. The California Judicial branch – this refers to the California Courts,

5. The California legislative branch – This includes the California State Assembly and the State Senate

6. The California  executive branch – The law that is produced by this branch, is generated largely by the California agencies such as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). It is called administrative law.

Beyond these six branches of Government, it is important to be aware of two other levels of government that affect you and your potential clients. The county government and the city government.

For San Diego Law students, we are looking at:

San Diego County Government: The County Government generates government documents, many of which are available online at the San Diego County Website.

City of San Diego – Mayor and other City Officials. Government documents produced by the  city government officials are in the care of the City Clerk. These documents include City Attorney Legal Documents.

By analogy to state government and the legal documents generated by the state government, what would be called statutes, generated by the California State Assembly, are at the city level, known as Ordinances and are adopted by the City Council.

Similarly, at the state level, administrative law refers to state regulations that are generated by state agencies such as the CPUC. At the city level, it is the city agencies such as the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency, that produces administrative law in the form of agency resolutions that are adopted by a particular agency.

The judicial branch at the city level is the City Attorney’s Office. The Mayor, the City Council, or any of the City Agencies or City Officials may ask the City Attorney’s Office a legal question either on a specific or more general issue, and the documents generated are analagous to the Case Law produced by State Courts.

It is important for attorneys to understand how government entities are related to each other and to the government information that they produce. Competent legal research goes beyond merely plugging in key words into database search boxes.

One fundamental research skill is the ability to think methodically about which government entity or entities creates the law that covers a particular issue, and to determine where to look to most cost effectively locate the relevant law. Sometimes, it will be freely available on the government website, and sometimes, it will be easy to quickly search the government website for that information.

At other times, it may be more cost effective to use the search tools available on a commercial database such as Westlaw or Lexis, but whether you need to find the right database first as you would with Classic Westlaw or Lexis, or search first and limit your results afterwards to the documents published by the right branch of government, having an awareness of the interrelation of government bodies and government information is essential to conducting legal research in a competent manner.

In general, Federal law preempts state law, State law preempts County codes, and County Codes preempt city codes. A recent example of this in the news lately is that San Francisco is not permitted to consider a local regulation banning circumcision of male babies because it would violate a state law.

The table below provides links to the freely accessible law produced by each of the government entities described in this blog post.

For researching legislative history materials at the federal and state level, there will be separate blog post.

Law Online

Jurisdiction Judicial branch Legislative branch Executive branch
Opinions Rules
Library of Congress Research Help On Finding Federal Court DecisionsFind State Court Decisions Federal Court Rules – Compiled by Cornell Legal Information Institute Find Federal Statutes Find Federal Administrative Law
Highest Court
U.S. Supreme Court Opinions U.S. Supreme Court, Court Rules U.S. Code Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (not official)
Appellate Courts
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Opinions and Orders United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Rules of PracticeFederal rules of practice, procedure and evidence
Appellate Courts with jurisdiction over CA
Federal 9th Circuit Courts
Published Opinions (Posted 01/03/05 +)Published Opinions (Posted prior to 01/09/2009)Unpublished Opinions (11/10/2009 +)Unpublished Opinions (12/08/2008 – 11/10/2009)

Unpublished Opinions (Prior to 12/08/2008)

Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP), Ninth Circuit Rules
Federal Trial Courts Opinions are not generally available online for free California Southern District (Federal Trial Court for San Diego), Local Court Rules
California – Highest court and appellate courts CA Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Opinions CA Rules of Court CA Statutes (Browse or Search) CA Code of Regulations (Browse or Search)
California – Trial Court (San Diego) Opinions are not generally available online for free San Diego County Superior Court Rules
San Diego County San Diego County Counsel Other San Diego County Government Documents (Not an exact analogous mapping onto Court Rules) County Ordinances Code of Administrative Ordinances & Code of Regulatory Ordinances
San Diego City City Attorney Legal OpinionsCity Attorney Memorandum of Law City Attorney Legal Documents (Not an exact analogous mapping onto Court Rules) City of San Diego Municipal CodeCity Council Resolutions and Ordinances Agency Resolutions and Ordinances

Resources for TJSL Alumni at TJSL Library

Gaining Entry to the Library

In order to gain access to the TJSL library, alumni must request an application for a TJSL borrower card at the 4th Floor Circulation Desk. After that they may show this to the security guards to access the library.

In the Library

Once inside of the library, TJSL alumni may use the ThomCat Catalog to find print materials in the library

After finding the catalog entry for a particular item, they may use these Subject Guides and Maps of the library to locate the item in the stacks.

If, after consulting the ThomCat Catalog and the Library Maps, alumni are unable to find the desired print item, they may ask for help finding print materials in the library at the 4th Floor Circulation Desk (ask for Circulation Librarians Torin Andrews or Hadas Livnat) or  at the Reference Desk during hours when it is staffed.


Alumni may access two databases from onsite, OnLaw and Westpac.

In order to access the Westpac database database, alumni must go to the 4th floor Circulation Desk. Then the alumni should let the student library assistant know that they need the assistance of a circulation librarian, or reference librarian in order to access Westpac.

Research help

Alumni may contact the reference librarians via email. The librarians may invite you to make an appointment for a reference interview to instruct you on how to do your desired research using the print catalog, Westpac, or free online resources.

 Email: June Mac Leod   Email: Catherine Deane

June Mac Leod, Part-time Reference Librarian

June Mac Leod, Part-time Reference Librarian

Catherine Deane, Full-Time Reference Librarian

Catherine Deane, Full-Time Reference Librarian

Online help

You may use the Library’s virtual reference service, AskThom, to ask questions about the library or about library resources, for example:

  • Do you have the book, Animal law : welfare, interests, and rights by David S. Favre?
  • Are you open on Christmas Day?

For longer questions such as:

  • What books do you carry on Animal Law?
  • How do I find a contract covering the production of a commercial film?

You will need to send an email to one of the reference librarians, Catherine Deane or June Mac Leod to ask for instruction on how to do your research using the ThomCat catalog, or other available resources. They may in their discretion jump start your research by providing preliminary answers to your research questions by email.

Networking Tips for Law Students

If this blog post is too long for you to read, at least take a glance at the Networking Resource Guide.

Who is Who?

So you have been invited to a dinner or cocktails with judges or with lawyers, some of whom work at a firm that you have been investigating, because it is a firm that you would like to work at. What the heck do you talk about? Beyond discussing your shared law school experience, it’s probably good for you to be able to discuss the latest news. You should know who is the Governor of California, and who is the Mayor of San Diego, and what they look like.

Attending classes in law school does not make you a lawyer. Beyond the bar exam, you need to remember that you are becoming part of a local legal community. The community has a shared history, and has its own celebrities. I am not talking about Lohan, Spears and Hilton although that sounds like the name of a law firm. I am talking about local legal celebrities and pariahs. The way to have something interesting to say to lawyers is to read the news about legal issues, especially about legal issues that local or national impact.

But before your speak, the most important thing to do is to listen.


Most of the legal history of the community is local knowledge that is only known to other lawyers and judges. The most important part of networking is listening to lawyers talk about themselves, each other and the judges. You should always be more interested in learning about other lawyers and what they do than you should be about telling them about yourself.

Pay Attention

This is your future profession. Give yourself a fighting chance when competing against other job candidates, by being able to impress your potential employers with your understanding of the lay of the land.

To make it easy for you to keep up with current events in local law, I have created a Resource Guide for you where you can go to read legal news online with your morning coffee. If you can find a way to work current awareness into your day, you will be a much stronger candidate when standing next to the summer associate or judicial intern who can only talk to the lawyers and judges about their substantive academic accomplishments.

Be Consistent

You need to be consistent about paying attention to what is going on in your State and your city. Putting in the effort now to make current awareness part of your day makes you an informed individual. This means that when it’s time to network you can just be yourself, because you will have plenty of things to talk about.

The Good News

If you haven’t been reading up on legal and political news, do not despair, you may not be able to come across as someone who knows about these kinds of things, but you can still be impressive.

Be Fun and Interesting

Lawyers don’t necessarily want to talk about legal and political news all the time. Get a hobby so you have something non-legal that you can talk about with passion with lawyers who have similar hobbies. This could be as easy as making sure you budget time in your study schedule to catch that Ball Game.

Remember, partners are not just looking for associates who can Am Jur their Torts class, they are looking for rainmakers who know how to network. If you are interesting to them, you will probably be interesting to clients. If you are not a natural extrovert, you may want to join Toastmasters or take an Improv theater class, these are the kinds of activities that will give you the skills you need to be able to  impress others when networking.

To make it easy for you to keep up on the legal news and local California Politics, I have created this Resource Guide for you. You should know what I look like too so you can come and ask me for when you need legal research help. I also recommend that you subscribe to this blog to make sure you are alerted when a new blog post is out. Below is a list of other Web resources on networking for law students.



TJ Alumnus News: Mark A. Kutzer, was recently promoted to associate attorney

Alumnus Mark A. Kutzer, holds a J.D. from  TJSL and earned a

certificate in the Pro Bono Honors Program at TJSL. We congratulate him and celebrate his promotion to associate attorney.
For the full story, see:

TJ Alumnus News: Shauna Hill is highlighted for her successful Las Vegas Law Office

Congratulations to TJSL alumnus Shauna Hill, who was recently featured in eBrandz for her success as a small business entrepreneur.  Her hard work and attention to the values of ethical, competent legal representation and personal happiness make her a positive representative of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and we wish her every continued success in her Nevada practice.

For the full story, see:

“I define success as happiness. If you are happy, then you are successful.” eBrandz (Nov. 30 2010).

TJ Alumnus News: TJ Alumnus appointed to IRS Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC)

TJSL alumnus T.J. Turner, Director of income tax research at Vertex Inc., an international company specializing in corporate enterprise tax solutions, has been elected to the ETAAC as of November 23, 2010.

To read the full story, see:

Vertex’s T.J. Turner Appointed to the IRS Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC), Business Wire (Dec, 06 2010).

Local News: Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumnus runs for San Diego Superior Court Seat

Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumnus, and second generation attorney Jim Miller is running for San Diego Superior Court Seat 20. He aligns himself with the policies of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, and is endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party. The full article, entitled Bench Seats: Judicial Candidates Monroy & Miller Field Questions can be read in the East County Magazine. For more information about Miller, and his opponent, Richard Monroy see:

MCLE: People’s Money (Ethics credit)

As previously announced, the TJSL Library now has a collection of MCLE materials available for checkout by all TJSL Alumni.  Stop by the Library and take advantage of this opportunity for free MCLE credits! Here’s just one of our new MCLE holdings:

People’s Money

Learn the perils of the use and abuse of client funds. What funds should be deposited into a client trust account and what funds should not be? When should money stay in a client trust account, and when should it be withdrawn? This program includes practical suggestions on proper trust accounting, including compliance with record-keeping standards.

Shawn M. Harpen, Esq., Irvine
Edward J. McIntyre, Esq., San Diego
Dianne Jackson McLean, Esq., Oakland

1.5 Hours MCLE Credit Legal Ethics

MCLE: Ins and Outs of Employment Law

As previously announced, the TJSL Library now has a collection of MCLE materials available for checkout by all TJSL Alumni.  Stop by the Library and take advantage of this opportunity for free MCLE credits! Here’s just one of our new MCLE holdings:

Ins and Outs of Employment Law

Recorded September 2008, this presentation reviews often-encountered issues in employment law from the plaintiff, management,and neutral perspectives.

Suzanne M. Ambrose, Executive Officer, State Personnel Board, Sacramento
Lori J. Bien, Esq., San Francisco

2 Total Participatory MCLE Credits (No Ethics)