Feel Confident that Your Legal Research is Complete

Feel Confident that Your Legal Research is Complete by Family Law and Estate Planning attorney, Jeremy Byellin

One of the worst experiences as an attorney is realizing that a vital authority is missing from your legal argument.  Your case appears weaker and incomplete as a result, and – worst of all – the omission may directly lead to an adverse result in the matter.

Given the peril associated with incomplete legal research, it’s clearly important to ensure that your research is as comprehensive as possible.  But how can you do that?

Although different circumstances may warrant their own appropriate strategy, the vast majority of the time, you can ensure that your legal research is sufficiently thorough by asking yourself four questions during your research endeavors.

Are my authorities up-to-date?

This question is listed first because it is arguably the most important one.  After all, the newest cases and laws are the ones you’re most likely to have missed during your research.

How can you tell whether you have found the most current authorities?  There are a few different places in Westlaw to check.

First, and perhaps most obviously, you may sort all of your searches to display the most recent cases at the top of your results.  This allows you to parse through the newest cases first and work chronologically backwards from there.

Next, the latest cases can be found by navigating to the “Cases” content from the Westlaw homepage and then selecting the jurisdiction or jurisdictions most relevant to your case.  The ten most recent cases will be listed first, and you may further search for specific terms within this jurisdiction (also with the option to display the most recent decisions first in the search results).

Third, you may likely be able to discover whether any of your primary sources have received any negative treatment from other such sources by checking on whether the sources has any KeyCite status flags.  These flags may sometimes relate to issues that aren’t relevant to your specific case, but more often, you can usually find valuable additional authorities by exploring these flags – specifically those authorities that have impacted the ones you’ve already researched.

Finally, Westlaw Bulletins & Topical Highlights provides an excellent resource for finding the newest cases on a variety of topics – the only downside being that only a limited number of jurisdictions are covered.

Are there any relevant secondary sources?

Most of the time, you shouldn’t cite to secondary sources as being authoritative in your legal arguments.  That doesn’t mean, however, that they aren’t a phenomenal resource for helping to locate and process pertinent primary sources.

And Westlaw certainly has no shortage of quality secondary sources that cover both general knowledge to get you up to speed and also go deep into a specific question. Law reviews and journals can be useful for delving deeper into a specific issue. American Law Reports and Restatements of Law help not only in understanding the basics of a particular subject, but also pointing to important cases on the topic related to your specific jurisdiction.  And 50 State Surveys may provide effective insight into where your jurisdiction stands in relation to others on a particular matter.  And of course, let’s not forget state practice guides and handbooks too for researching state-specific questions of law.

The full extent of secondary sources available on Westlaw can’t be fully discussed in the limited space here, but they are definitely something to look to in the course of your research endeavors.

Read the entire article here.

Five Fascinating Books for Lawyers and Law Students

Five Fascinating Books for Lawyers and Law Students by Nashville personal injury attorney and founder and lead attorney of Keith Williams Law Group, Keith Williams

If you’re like a lot of lawyers I speak to, you’re constantly watching out for good books that might lead you to rethink the way you run your practice and/or the services you render to your clients.

I’m just like you. The truth is, my computer bookmarks are full of links to books that I intend to read.

A few months back, I was telling someone about a few of the fascinating books I have already read, and he mentioned I should share them with other attorneys. It seemed like a great idea.

But, I have read literally hundreds of books. And the reality is, not all of them are all that notable.

So this is what I decided to do – I spent almost a month going through all of the books that I have read. I put together a list of books, then deleted anything that I thought would not add value to your legal practice, or your professional life as an attorney. I also eliminate any book that I thought was simply mediocre. And when I was all done, I had what I believe to be five of the most fascinating books ever written for, or about, lawyers.

In my opinion, these are the best of the best, so I am sure you’ll appreciate them as well. Read on…

1. End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services by Richard Susskind

An insightful analysis of the ways in which emerging technologies are transforming the landscape of the legal profession. As the world becomes more connected, and information shared more easily, there is increasingly more pressure to reassess the way legal services are provided and to make them more efficient and less costly. Susskind brilliantly argues that the current market can no longer bear the weight of expensive attorneys billing for tasks that a paralegal can and should perform at much lower rates and that this will lead to the obsolescence of traditional lawyers who fulfill these roles today. Furthermore, the author provides a variety of tools and tips to assist lawyers in planning for the future. Although this book has been superseded by a variety of more recent books on the topic, it is still a highly recommended read.

2. Storytelling for Lawyers by Philip Meyer

Sometimes, good attorneys make good raconteurs, and this book explains how the best attorneys can transform a simple set of factual circumstances into a fascinating and believable narrative that has the ability to capture the heart and the minds of everyone in the courtroom. This book provides a new perspective on the role of evidence in the courtroom. The simple yet elegant manner in which Philip Meyer illustrates this anecdotal structure makes it a must-read for anyone associated with the law. This book can benefit law professors and students alike, as well as, the most accomplished lawyers, and should be kept on hand at all times.

3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

To many, Bleak House is Dickens’s greatest novel; it is surely one of the writer’s most compelling and entertaining. It deals with the themes of loss, law, social class, secrecy, and inheritance, as well as, the effect the process of law has on clients and their businesses. Although throughout the book the legal cases it deals with seem like mere backdrops to the central plot, all of the main characters are connected to these cases in one way or another and suffer tragically as a result.Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, the central case in the novel, has become synonymous with cases that border on the absurd and for which there is no real resolution. Dickens interweaves the serious with the comical in ways that make this 19th-century creation an utter masterpiece and relevant to us even today.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

While it is common knowledge that lawyers are considered by some to be selfish, cagey and of questionable integrity, this novel contrasts this image with one of a lawyer, Atticus Finch, whose integrity is unwavering. Although the book deals with the disturbing issues of rape and racism, it is both tender and hilarious. The main character’s stand against racial prejudice, at a time and place where this was far from the norm, serves to remind us all of an obligation than should not be ignored–to ply our craft with both moral and ethical integrity. A classic for all time.

5. Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

Written as if it were a long blog post, Anonymous Lawyer recounts the experiences of a dynamic lawyer who endeavors to become chairman of his firm. His lust for power has no boundaries and there is no price we won’t pay to achieve his goals. However, there are several obstacles that he must overcome on his way to ultimate success, including a bitter rival and a wife who spends his money as fast as he earns it. Not only is this book is easy to read and entertaining, it comes across as a rare glimpse of the inner workings of some the biggest law firms in the nation.

Read the full article here.

Study Rooms Available at Central Library

Did you know that San Diego Public Library’s Central branch has study rooms available for free to anyone with a library card? The library has 22 study rooms that seat 2-6 people on several different floors of the library. These rooms can be checked out with a library card for two hours, and can be renewed for an additional two hours. Rooms cannot be reserved in advance. Library personnel at the front desk can assist you with checking out a room. For more information, call the Central Library at (619) 236-5800.

Supreme Court Upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action Plan

Supreme Court Upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action Plan by CNN Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas, saying that the plan taking race into consideration as one factor of admission is constitutional.

The 4-3 ruling greenlights the limited use of affirmative action polices by schools.

“The Court’s affirmance of the University’s admissions policy today does not necessarily mean the University may rely on that same policy without refinement. It is the University’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House, praised the decision.
“I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society and this country should provide a high quality education to all our young people regardless of their background,” Obama said. “We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody. And that’s what was upheld today.”
The 4-3 split Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kennedy against the conservatives. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote his own dissent and Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent.
Read the entire article here.

Ten Great Novels About the Supreme Court

10 Great Novels About the Supreme Court by  lawyer in Arnold & Porter’s appellate and Supreme Court practice and author of The Advocate’s Daughter , Anthony Franze

At the U.S. Supreme Court, a single vote can alter the outcome of the country’s most hot-button disputes – abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, gun control and immigration, to name a few. So it’s no surprise that within minutes after the announcement of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, members of Congress began drawing battle lines about the next nominee. Conspiracy theories flashed across the Internet. And with President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, the battle rages on.

The Supreme Court is back in the spotlight. It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last. If you’re interested in the high court, but want an escape from the pundits and political theater of the coming months, several novels have explored the mysteries of 1 First Street. Here are 10 notables:

  1. Murder in the Supreme Court by Margaret Truman
  2. The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer
  3. Nine Scorpions in a Bottle by Max Lerner
  4. Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
  5. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
  6. Supreme Justice by Phillip Margolin
  7. Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
  8. Supreme Ambitions by David Lat
  9. Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt
  10. Tuttle in the Balance by Jay Wexler

Murder in the Supreme Court, The Tenth Justice, Nine Scorpions in a Bottle, and Supreme Courtship are all available in our collection for check out.

Read the entire article here.


Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!


It is the 273rd anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth today. Please come join us in the library tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. to have some cake to celebrate. While you are there, please check out our Thomas Jefferson collection located near the circulation desk, next to our study aids collection. We also have a display of United States currency featuring Thomas Jefferson, generously on loan from Professor Steve Semeraro.

Happy National Library Week!

library week 2016

Celebrate National Library Week 2016 (April 10-16) with the theme “Libraries Transform”

We will celebrate National Library Week with a few events. On Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in the library lobby, please join us for cake to celebrate both National Library Week and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (which is on April 13th). While you’re there, take a look at our display of U.S. currency featuring Thomas Jefferson, generously on loan from Professor Steve Semeraro.

Starting on Monday and continuing all week, there is a legal research trivia contest open to students. A correct entry in the trivia contest enters you into a drawing to win a gift certificate to Macy’s. Handouts of the trivia contest will be available next to the circulation desk on the fourth floor library.

Also starting on Monday and lasting all week, we will have a student survey on library services. After completing the anonymous survey, you can enter to win a gift certificate to Macy’s. I hope everyone participates in the survey, because we depend on your feedback to improve the library.

You may access the survey here.