If you are headed up to Olin Library for library materials, your trip may not be instantly rewarding.  Olin is in the midst of a Fire Safety Improvements Project, which means various floors of the library and certain collections will not be accessible.

For specifics on the status of collections at Olin, check their schedule online, as well as the latest updates.

In the closed areas, the materials are still available but library staff will have to get them for you.  They will retrieve materials once a day, Mondays through Friday, after 2:00 pm.  No weekend retrievals.

To avoid a wasted trip, remember that many books can be sent to you here at the Law Library from Olin (and other libraries on campus).  When you find the item in the online catalog, click “Requests” on the screen and complete the information, selecting LAW as the library to which you want it sent.

Pardon the dust while safety improvements are underway!

The Law Library is looking for 2Ls or 3Ls to work as Research Fellows to conduct research for various faculty and library projects. The hours are flexible and most research can be done online. Research Fellows receive the same hourly wage as faculty research assistants. Adding “Research Fellow” to your resume is a great way to show potential employers that you are proficient in a key lawyering skill. To apply submit your resume and short writing sample to Jean Callihan, Head of Research Services. You can drop off the materials at the Circulation Desk in the Reading Room.

Dear 1L student,

No doubt friends, family, and complete strangers have given you advice about how to handle the law school experience.  The research attorneys at the law library have some advice for you too: using the study aids found in the library’s reserve collection will improve your study experience.

The books discussed below are available for two-hour checkout from the circulation desk, or overnight if you check them out within two hours of closing.  The library circulation desk closes at 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5 p.m on Friday-Saturday.  You can renew the book when it is due if you are still using it.

Overview of law school.  What are my classes about?  How should I study and take notes?  How do I prepare for exams?  Cornell Law School Orientation does a great job answering these questions, but take a look at these resources for more info:

  • Law School Success: A Guide to Studying Law and Taking Law School Exams.  Call number KF 283 .B871x 2008  Easy to read and conversational in tone.  I recommend Chapter 10, Learning After Class, and Chapter 12 on Exams.  The last part of the book provides sample exams and answers.
  • Understanding Law School.  Call number KF 283 .U53 2004.  Provides a detailed overview of 1L classes.  I recommend Appendix B, American Legal Systems: A Resource and Reference Guide by Toni M. Fine.
  • Preview the available sample exams from your professor on the registrar’s Web site (login required; availability varies).

See the Big Picture: Nutshells.  The Nutshell series of books provide an overview of legal topics.  These books are helpful introductions to the topic before and after you study to help you get the perspective you need to put all the pieces together and make sure your outlines make sense.  They are brief, quick reads.  This semester you should look at:

Refine the Outline: Hornbooks.  Hornbooks are more detailed than Nutshells.  Basically, hornbooks are textbooks for studying law.  In contrast with the case books used in class, hornbooks provide detailed explanations.  Use hornbooks to help you review the finer points you may have misunderstood in class.  One caveat: your professor may emphasize points not found in the Hornbook and skip over others.  Pay attention to what is covered in class so you focus your efforts on the right topics.  Here are some hornbooks to use this semester:

Deepen Your Understanding With Examples & Explanations.  The Examples & Explanations series from Aspen Publishers provides hypothetical examples with explanations showing how legal principles apply to those examples.  These books are great for preparing for exams and helpful for those of us who learn better using concrete examples.  This semester you should look at:

Questions about study aids?  Ask a research attorney at the reference desk or email your Lawyering research instructor.

IFLA World Report Country MapThe International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) just released its new World Report which analyzes freedom of information and freedom of expression in 122 countries, in the form of a country-by-country fully searchable database, complete with graphical map interface.  The report includes questions of:

  • Internet access in libraries and freedom of access to information;
  • Copyright; and
  • The role of libraries in universal primary education and environmental sustainability.

The report was developed by a team at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, led by Professor Theo Bothma and contains details of the library environment in 122 countries.  The analysis of the data shows that, on the one hand, there are still many countries where violations of intellectual freedom occur — such incidents were reported in 109 of the 122 countries — while on the other hand, many individual libraries have implemented innovative projects to improve access to information.

CFR app logoThe U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a non-profit dedicated to helping citizens better understand foreign policy throughout the world, has a handy iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app that brings CFR’s resources to your fingertips.  This app is FREE.  Keep current on the latest major world news, read analysis and expert briefs on foreign policy topics written by CFR’s staff, and learn background information about major issues in the world today.  Many articles are brief and to the point.  Here are some examples of what’s available from the app:

The app also offers access to transcripts of CFR meetings and interviews with international experts.  I recommend the CFR app to anyone interested in keeping up with international law and relations.

Between 1950 and 2008, about one out of every 23 opinions of the U.S. circuit courts of appeals cited at least one article from a law review or law journal.

That is one of the findings of a new article posted on SSRN entitled The Use of Legal Scholarship By the Federal Courts of Appeals: An Empirical Study by David L. Schwartz, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and Lee Petherbridge, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles.

Surprised by that number?  Not only that, but the rate at which U.S. appellate courts cite law journals has been increasing over the past 59 years, from a rate of 3.4% of opinions during 1950-1970 to a rate of 6.21% of opinions during 1999-2008.  This finding challenges the conventional wisdom that courts have been paying less attention to legal scholarship lately (challenges–but doesn’t disprove).

Is the conventional wisdom just plain wrong?  Was it caused by several earlier empirical studies that found a decrease in citations (those studies were done on a much smaller scale)?  The authors of this new study found that about 14% of judges are responsible for about 50% of the citations but do not break this statistic out over time.  Could it be that the percentage of judges citing to legal scholarship is decreasing, and there are few judges now who cite to legal scholarship albeit citing more often?  Does the conventional view stem from negative statements about legal scholarship made by Justice Roberts, Judge Posner, and other prominent jurists?  Is it the result of some combination of these, or is something else going on?

The article makes several suggestions for future research, such as, how do judges really use legal scholarship?  As the authors point out, the methodology of the study isn’t adequate to making fine-tuned observations.  Then there is the even more difficult question: how should legal scholarship be used by the judicial system?  Knowing the answers to these questions will help lawyers and academics be more effective in 1) citing legal scholarship in pleadings submitted to the court; and 2) producing legal scholarship.

As a side note, I was really impressed with the search query the authors used to search for opinions that cite law review and journal articles in Westlaw:

da(YYYY) & ((“l.j.” “l. rev.” “l.rev.” “j.l.” “law review”) /10 (20** 19** 18**)) % ((j.l. /4 v.) ti((j. /2 l.) lj jl j.l. l.j.) (at(lj jl l.j. j.l.)) (“nat! l.j.” “national law journal”))

 The first part of the query looks for opinions published during a year period that cite law reviews or journals, the second part after % (BUT NOT) limits the query from retrieving cases where L and J are cited as someone’s initials and citations to the National Law Journal (not an academic publication). The query is not perfect, but it is about as close as you can reasonably get.

Hat tip to Legal Informatics Blog for the SSRN posting.

Last week Ken Strutin, the Director of Legal Information Services for the New York State Defenders Association and a contributor to the New York Law Journal, published an annotated bibliography on solitary confinement. The bibliography provides links to reports, law review articles, expert statements, standards, books, news, and organizations pertaining to solitary confinement. Here are a few examples:

LLRX publishes many bibliographies on a wide variety of topics to help jumpstart your research. Browse or search here.

Law.gov logo

“The primary legal materials of the United States are the raw materials of our democracy. They should be made more broadly available to enable an informed citizenry.”

From Law.gov’s declaration and 10 supporting principles. Here are the 10 principles, in my words:

  1. No direct fees for accessing the law. (Indirect fees, primarily taxes,  are preferred because the cost of providing access is shared by many.)
  2. Copyright on legal materials must be done away with; this practice limits access. (Some states and local governments assert copyright on their laws!)
  3. People should be able to download the law in bulk (e.g., the entire U.S. Code, not just a section here and there.)
  4. Online law needs to be authenticated so we can trust that it hasn’t been messed with by mischievous or angry hackers (or worse).
  5. Old stuff is important too! Earlier versions of the law need to remain online in a stable location.
  6. We shouldn’t be required to cite to commercially-produced versions of the law, which creates a burden for those who don’t have access to Lexis or Westlaw.
  7. We need good technical standards for online versions of the law. We need some uniformity in those standards.
  8. Governments need to make the law available in a format that can be processed by computers. That way web designers can use the law to develop useful Web sites. The law also must be the official, definitive version.
  9. Government needs to fund research into the challenges of putting the law online, including privacy issues.
  10. Some government entities, especially at the state and local level, need help complying with these principles. We need a program to educate and train them.

Click here for more on Law.gov.

U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq“Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated more than a trillion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world.”  So begins a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) entitled Costs of Major U.S. Wars.  The report, dated June 29, 2010, provides cost estimates in historic and current dollar amounts for all major U.S. wars beginning with the American Revolution.

Two things from the report stand out to me:

  1. The report provides a valuable discussion of the difficulties inherent in comparing costs over time.  Inflation, GDP growth, and increasing sophistication in military technology, combined with the challenge of developing an accurate cost estimate for war, cast an unavoidable shadow of inaccuracy over the figures. Nevertheless, the statistics are valuable provided we remember their limitations.  The report itself is an excellent example of how to provide proper context for statistics–something we rarely get in mainstream reporting.
  2. The war cost calculated as a percentage of GDP during the peak year of the war is the most interesting statistic in the report.  Looking at the figures, it is obvious why World War II left such a mark on the generation that survived it.

CRS publishes many reports on a wide variety of topics of interest to Congress and the public (including attorneys).  Locating the reports can be a challenge.  Some are available here.  A guide to locating CRS reports is available here.

Image from the U.S. Army’s Flickr stream

Google Wave logoIn a surprise move, Google announced it plans to shut down Google Wave at the end of this year.  Google Wave combines character-by-character live typing with saved messages to create an instant-messaging-meets-email technology great for distance collaboration.  Wave is more conversational than Google Docs and allows for dragging and dropping images and video into the text.  Much of Wave’s code will continue to be open source and available for incorporation into other applications.

I am honestly surprised that Google has given up on Wave so quickly.  Wave adoption has been slow but that is common with new technology.  Google search and Twitter took several years to go viral.  If Google has an idea for a bigger, better application, I would have expected the company to continue promoting Wave until the new app was ready for release.  More likely Google’s expectations for Wave were too ambitious.  Google did not do a stellar job marketing Wave and what Wave can do because Google didn’t understand itself how Wave would fit into our lives.  Google relied too much on third-party developers to create add-ons that would make Wave an “I can’t live without it” tool.  Remember how Google released Wave to developers before anyone else last year, encouraging them to create add-ons?  When the Wave “killer apps” didn’t materialize, Google realized it still didn’t know how to position Wave in the market.

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