Everybody Researches – NC Bar Chooses Fastcase over Casemaker

June 15, 2012 Leave a comment

As students and faculty we have easy access to most of what Lexis and Westlaw have to offer.  Given this embarrassment of riches, it is easy to forget that practitioners are much more conservative in their use of these admirable yet expensive databases and prefer to substitute low cost search options when feasible.  Until recently, members of the North Carolina Bar had free access to Casemaker in their research arsenal.  However, as of June first, the NCBA switched to Fastcase, Casemaker’s rival.  NCBA’s Executive Director, Allan Head, cited Fastcases’s award-winning iPhone and iPad apps as a major factor in the decision to change.  With the recent introduction of an Android version of their FREE research apps, the NCBA should be even more pleased with its decision.

Attorneys who want to continue using Casemaker can do so, but it will now be at a cost and not as a member benefit.  Casemaker is reaching out to North Carolina attorneys with limited time special rates and is providing explanations of what makes their product unique, such as it’s “true citator service.”  Fans of Casemaker will need to weigh this feature against the fact that the North Carolina Jury Instructions will no longer be available on Casemaker but will be moving to Fastcase.

Whichever service you choose to use (or that your bar provides) there is no question that Casemaker and Fastcase will continue the battle for legal research service supremacy and for customers.  This should ensure continuing enhancements and improved access to free (for bar members) legal information.  However, as North Carolina switch shows, it is in every attorney’s best financial interest to be aware of changes in both services.

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Book review – The Cybersleuth’s Guide To The Internet, 12th edition

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Recently I had the privilege of spending the day learning about Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch’s latest book, the 12th edition of The Cybersleuth’s Guide To The Internet.  The very fact that this book is now in its 12th edition tells you how incredibly popular it has been over the years.  I consider the authors to be the gold standard among experts who write and teach on Internet research for lawyers.  Their other publications include Find Info Like A Pro Volume 1:Mining the Internet’s Publicly Available Resources For Investigative Research, Find Info Like A Pro Volume 2:Mining the Internet’s Public Records For Investigative Research, Google For Lawyers and The Lawyer’s Guide To Fact Finding On The Internet, all of which are published by the Law Practice Management section of the ABA. An electronic edition of this book will soon be available.

Levitt and Rosch’s Internet For Lawyers website, showcases information about their in-person and online CLE.  It also contains quite a few articles about the “latest developments in conducting efficient legal, business and investigative research on the Internet, as well as effective use of technology in your practice.”  Their blog, available from the website, includes the latest Internet research tips.  I recommend everything they write to every law student and lawyer who seeks to become a highly effective and efficient Internet researcher.

As an Advanced Legal Research professor I use all the Levitt and Rosch books in my course.  However, if you want the best of all worlds I recommend you start with this new 12th edition of The Cybersleuth’s Guide To The Internet.  It includes a lot of the best sources and information from their other more detailed books.  The Cybersleuth’s Guide focuses on free and low cost resources such as the search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, Justia and USA.gov.  There is an entire chapter on Google which is a great place to learn about Google’s advanced search features.  For example, they cover using Google to locate current news as well as using Google archives to locate historical information.  One of the best parts of this chapter is information they provide on hidden features in Google such as the glossary and using synonyms. 

Lawyers often need to use publicly available information and public records in serving their clients.  In depth coverage of how to do this research is covered in their books  Find Info Like A Pro Volume 1:Mining the Internet’s Publicly Available Resources For Investigative Research and Find Info Like A Pro Volume 2:Mining the Internet’s Public Records For Investigative Research.  But The Cybersleuth’s Guide provides extensive coverage on finding people living or dead using resources like search engines, blogs, social media and even databases from public libraries to find information about people.  If you have to use a pay investigative research database to find information like current and past addresses, cellular phone numbers, partial social security numbers and so much more use Chapter Ten on Pay investigative databases.  You’ll learn what these are, when you should use them and where they get their information.  One of the newest and most cost efficient pay investigative databases is TLO.  There is no monthly or annual fee and searches are as inexpensive as 50 cents with full reports available for $5.00. 

The book also covers using the Internet for substantive legal research including:

  • Legal portals like Justia and FindLaw
  • Government portals like USA.gov and FDsys
  • Academic and legal association portals like Cornell’s LII
  • Free online case law resources like Justia and court websites
  • Free alternatives to Shepard’s and KeyCite like Google Scholar’s cite checking service
  • Free statutory research using the House Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s U.S.C. database, Cornell’s LII and FDsys’s U.S.C. database.
  • Federal Executive Branch research like using FDsys to search the Federal Register, the e-CFR and finding Presidential materials
  • Resources for state, local, U.S. Territorial and Tribal Government research
  • Finding dockets and how they can be used for investigative research
  • Finding legal websites that are topic, jurisdictional or format specific
    • Such as areas of law like insurance, intellectual property, medical malpractice
    • Forms
    • Journals and magazines both general and legal

The index includes more than 1200 entries of sites indexed by name, type of site (e.g. Search Engine: Google) and type of information sites contain (e.g. Bankruptcy Dockets: PACER). 

Jim Robson, President of JurisPro.com wrote in the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine that “Given how easy the authors make it to use the Internet to find pertinent information on companies, people, experts, judges, government resources, substantive legal content, and more, it may be malpractice not to the use skills contained in this book”. 

I highly recommend this book and if you get a chance to attend a CLE program taught by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch, go for it!

Categories: Uncategorized

Health Care Law Research in the Limelight

May 21, 2012 2 comments

There are many ways to describe health law.  Health Law is comprised of not only the law of the delivery of health care and the financing of these systems, but also all areas of law that are intersected between law and health.  These areas of law include bioethics (e.g. the ethics of end-of-life decisions), criminal law (i.e. the role of the government protecting elders and children from mistreatment), medical malpractice (i.e. the deterrence method for civil liability for health provider negligence), and employment law (i.e. occupational health and safety and worker’s compensation standards).  You may find that there are individual categories that make up health law as a whole.  For many, health law is subdivided into laws governing health care law, public and population health law, bioethics, and global health law.  This overview is just a mere snapshot in the big picture of what is health law. For the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to focus on health care law.

Much of health care law focuses on legislative, executive, and judicial rules and regulations that govern the health care industry.  The intended audience of these laws include hospitals and hospital systems, public and private insurers, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, and the individuals who treat patients.  You may be familiar with some of the subcategories that include fraud and abuse dealing with insurance claims, food and drug laws and regulations (FDA), medical malpractice, and heath care mergers and acquisitions. Health care law researchers must deal with a variety of legal sources.  These sources range from the traditional statutes and cases to more complex administrative materials, which includes rules, agency decisions, commentaries, manuals, and guidelines.

Health care law exists at both federal and state levels.  The ability to regulate health care institutions is a policing power left to the states, and must further health, safety and the general welfare.  Licensure or certification is the primary method chosen by state legislatures to regulate the health care industry and its facilities. That being said, the major height of authority behind health care regulation is the federal-state Medicaid program.  In other words, a state’s authority under the Medicaid program is subject to federal regulation, specifically the federal Department of Health and Human Services. In order to participate in the Medicaid program, a state must submit a state plan that meets federal standards under the federal statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1396(a). Each state subscribes to different approaches for regulating the health care institutions within their borders.  To research each state, a 50 state survey may be extremely helpful for you to compare the differing laws and regulations. BNA, LexisNexis and Westlaw allow for you to access various 50 state surveys by topic.

Here are a few short (2-3 minute) video tutorials on how to access 50-State Surveys on each of the above resources.  For this example, assume you are looking for a state-by-state comparison of power of attorney laws and regulations:

As already noted, states have the ability to regulate health care facilities under their policing power.  Conversely, the federal government’s power to regulate this industry is derived from its financing authority or from the constitutional Commerce Clause.  The federal government as a purchaser, under the federal health care programs of Medicare and Medicaid, regulates health care facilities through a certification program.  Thus, in order to receive payments under either one of the federally funded insurance programs, the health care facility must be certified and sign a provider agreement with the Health Care Financing Administration for Medicare and with the state’s Medicaid agency for Medicaid. In sum, because the federal government provides a significant amount of funding to these programs, they are given the power to regulate the receiving facilities quality of care.

The majority of health care federal statutes are contained within the following U.S.C. Titles:

To make life easier, Westlaw and LexisNexis have created specific databases that house these collections of Health Care Federal laws:

But a better tactic than merely going and searching through these various databases or large statutory schemes, try to start your research with a research guide.  The following guides outline the various topics and relevant statutes for issues addressed in health care law.

Still have questions?  Jot it down in a comment and we’ll see what we can do to help you find the answer!

Everybody Researches: What the heck is a §?

May 18, 2012 Leave a comment

In a previous blog post we looked at some of the more unusual words found in the legal research vocabulary.  In today’s post we will  focus upon some words that are commonly misspelled or misused, as well as a couple of symbols that are frequently encountered when conducting legal research.

A perennial problem in the realm of spelling is the word “judgment.”  Unless you plan on becoming a solicitor or barrister instead of an attorney, judgment should not be spelled with an “e” after the “g.”  To help you remember think “judgement is the English spelling. (Yes I know that they are the UK, but that just is not going to work as a mnemonic so be flexible).   Another word that causes spelling grief is “harass” and all its variations (harassed, harassment, etc.)   Those of you planning on a career in employment law, pay particular attention to this one.   While you should always try to do your best, do not feel TOO (not to or two) bad if an occasional mistake creeps in.  Comfort yourself with that fact that at least you are not a university that misspelled “university”……on its own website!

Some words can be spelled correctly but used incorrectly.  This type of word is particularly insidious because spell check will not detect it.   A “citation” can be a ticket or a method of referring to legal authority.   Want to make it more complicated?  What if you have a question about how to cite a site?  Make sure to proofread carefully and determine if you are referring to legal citation or a website.  For more commonly misspelled words in legal writing and some practice exercises, check out this page from the University of New England’s law school (Australia).

It is not just words that can cause confusion.  Certain symbols  frequently used in legal research are not common to most other types of research, or at least are not used in the same way.  One of the earliest “legal runes” that you encounter may be the section symbol §.  Resembling a double S, it is used to indicate  a section of a document, often a statute or code.  When two symbols are used [§§] it indicates multiple sections.

While it is not hard to remember S=section, locating the symbol may take a bit of searching. If you are lucky, it is available form the insert menu on your computer. If not, instructions are differ for Macs and PCs.  On a PC, holding the  “Alt” key and hitting “21” on the numeric keypad should make the symbol appear. When using a Mac is “Option+6” should work.  If you think that you will be using the symbol a lot,  the University of Washington’s Gallagher Law Library has some handy tips on how to create a shortcut on your computer instead of having to key in numbers every time you want the symbol.

The paragraph symbol  (¶) may only be familiar to some from edits on term papers or legal writing submissions, but it has been commonly used in legal publishing for years, usually in place of page numbers, in looseleaf services such as Commerce Clearing House (CCH).  (See Part (b) of Bluebook Rule 19.1 below), Also, as more and more legal materials become available in various formats and as many state courts have begun to require that cases be cited in a medium-neutral format   the paragraph symbol is becoming much more common (see Bluebook Rule 10.3.3 for more details on using the symbol).

As with the section symbol, The paragraph symbol is not  going to be located in exactly the same place on every computer but, for those using Word, it is likely to be found by going to “Insert” and selecting “symbols” from either the drop down menu or the picture icons.  If you do not see it in the first batch of symbols presented, check that you are viewing Latin symbols and not Greco-Roman.  If  you prefer, or need, to use the keyboard, type “Alt+20” if using a PC or “Option+7” for a Mac.

Don’t let the Machines Win – (Part II) We took the stairs!

So, if you read Part I (Don’t let the Machines Win – Take the Stairs – April 25), you know that the staff of the Professional Center Library has been involved in a ‘competition’ or (as we called it) a Team Challenge.   The library staff was divided into two teams who were challenging each other to see who could take the most ‘steps’.  Ours was a two-fold purpose or goal of wellness and team building.

Six weeks ago, we all were given pedometers, and a spreadsheet on which we recorded daily the number of steps we had taken during that day.  We had a conversion chart, so that if any of us choose to participate in some other form of physical activity (besides walking) we could convert the time spent doing that activity into ‘steps’.  So if I went biking for 1 ½ hours, I was able to multiply the minutes I had spent cycling (90 minutes) by 116, which would give me an additional 10,440 steps! There are lots of other activities on the chart, like gardening,  roller skating, tennis, canoeing, chopping wood, or even waxing  the car.

So we’ve been in a friendly competition….of sorts.  Encouraging each other, but still trying to be the one who takes the most steps.

So how did we do?  Well, all together, both teams combined took a total of 6,058,088 steps.  This comes out to about 2297 miles, or the about distance to drive to Dallas, Texas, and back.  Or, a little more than the length of the entire Appalachian Trail, from Mt. Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Well, we took a lot of steps, but how about our goals of wellness and team building? We had a number of staff members who had success stories to tell.  One told of having had 2 heart attacks 12 years ago and how the event had, until now, slowed her down.  Our Team Challenge encouraged her to start the No Boundaries training to begin preparing for a 5K.  Another told of making a lifestyle change of never sitting during commercials while watching television, choosing instead to run errands around the house, or simply run in place.  And another told of being motivated to start training for a Sprint Triathlon.  On the team building  goal, I think we had many opportunities to come together as teams to encourage one another and relate as team members.

So, are we there yet?  No, probably not.  But one step at a time towards our goal! We’ll keep stepping!

Amendment One: last minute update

Hopefully it comes as no surprise to people that the North Carolina primary election will be this Tuesday, May 8th.  One of, if not the most debated measures on the ballot is Amendment 1.   This hotly contested issue was discussed generally on an NPR’s segment Friends And Foes Of Gay Marriage Woo Voters In N.C.  and in a detailed look at the amendment’s languageFamily law professors from North Carolina law schools (including our own Professor Reynolds) have uniformly expressed their opposition to passage of the amendment, while North Carolina business owners are divided on whether passage of Amendment 1 would harm business or have no effect.

Newspapers across the state acknowledge that the advocacy is strong on both sides and positions tend to vary with the state’s geography.  For a sampling of letters advocating both  sides, click the links below the respective images.   If you have questions about voting, such as where you should go to vote, visit the Forsyth County Board of Elections page (the polling place locator link will allow you to search all counties in North Carolina).  You can also use the Board of Elections page to view a sample of YOUR specific ballot based on party affiliation.  You might also wish to visit  Ballotpedia for a general explanation of voting and to see potential measures.

Don’t Let the Machines Win – Take the Stairs!

April 25, 2012 1 comment

Did you know that it takes approximately 2000 steps to equal one mile?  That means that if an average, inactive person takes 3000 steps in a day (which is about average), he/she is walking 1 ½ miles.  But is that enough to promote good health?

Have you seen the motivational quotes about walking have appeared around the library? Perhaps you have noticed recently that our Professional Center Library Staff are all wearing pedometers. If you haven’t noticed, well, we are. Our staff members are currently involved in a team challenge to see which team can take the most steps during a 6 week period.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NC has donated pedometers, we have divided out staff into 2 teams (Team Happy Feet and Team Sole Survivors) and we are competing to see who can be the top ‘step’ team.  Each day we are recording the steps we have taken and then report our weekly total to our team leaders on Monday mornings. We also have a conversion chart that multiplies the minutes we spend doing some other physical activity (like swimming, biking, yard work, etc) by a particular number to translate into additional steps.  So if your preference is say . . . scrubbing floors, you can multiply each minute you spend scrubbing floors (maybe 65 minutes)  by 174, and you get to add 11,310 steps to your daily total.

The program in which we are involved is called the PCL Step Into Spring Team Challenge and it is designed to promote teamwork, as well as physical well-being.   According to the American Psychological Association, “As many as 50 million Americans are living sedentary lives, putting them at increased risk of health problems and even early death.” We are encouraging each other to walk as much as possible, because beyond it being good for us, there are prizes involved here!

NPR recently did a piece on the health of Americans stating that we have basically ‘engineered’ walking out of our lives.  Everywhere you look, there are ways to avoid walking, or for that matter, any physical activity.  When there is an option to ride up/down in an elevator, or take the stairs, do you opt for the stairs, or do you cave and take the elevator like everyone else.  Or how about when you have to go to an event on the other side of the WFU campus.  Do you drive – or do you choose to walk because you need the exercise?  We drive up to our banks, cleaners, pharmacy, post office box, library book return, fast food restaurants, and many others which eliminates the opportunity to get out of our cars and walk inside.  And how often do we drive through a car wash, rather than get out there and do it ourselves? (Those minutes spent washing a car, by the way, would be multiplied by 87.)  We are becoming a nation of fat, flabby butterballs whose muscles are atrophying at an alarming rate!

If you’re feeling inspired and want to start walking more, find out your local WalkScore  – how “walkable” is your neighborhood? That could be something to think about when you’re looking for summer housing or even debating between jobs! Even taking a quick walk around the courtyard (or the portico, if this rain keeps up) can give you a little air, some exercise, and a fresh perspective on that exam you’re studying for. Get stepping!

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