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Posts Tagged ‘How-To’

Everybody Researches….But Not Everybody Researches Well

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

It may only be March, but summer jobs are just around the corner.  Are you ready?  While you may have the job, the three new suits and your smart phone at hand, that is not all you need.  How confident are you about your legal research skills?

In a white paper titled “Research Skills for Lawyers and Law Students”  Thomson-West (now Thomson-Reuters, “parents” of Westlaw) shared the results of numerous roundtables with law firm and academic librarians, and the resulting forum in response to the conclusions regarding legal research and writing.  In response to the question “What are the most important research tasks (online or in print that entry level attorneys must know?” the overwhelming top response was “cost effective research.”   When asked “[w]hat research tasks should usually be conducted in books vs. online?” “secondary source research” was the clear first recommendation.

In addition to the research skills that you will need to know, there are electronic resources other than Westlaw and Lexis that many law offices are using.  Some offices subscribe to Loislaw while others, particularly small firms, may rely extensively on services provided by state bars such as Casemaker or Fastcase.  If all this seems a bit overwhelming, you might want to hone your research abilities by attending “Boot Camp for Your Legal Research Skills.”  This program, offered March 29, from 4:00 -7:00 p.m.,  is intended to make you a lean, mean, researching machine.  It covers how to start your research project, tips for keeping billable hours, how to research cost effectively, and will provide you with a chance to hear from and question two students who have been employed in various jobs requiring legal research.  The program will conclude with the opportunity to visit a number of different “stations” where you will be able to view practice materials, databases, and apps that can help you conquer the most rebellious research assignment.  To keep your strength up, food and drink will be served.

Least you think that we are trying to blackmail you into attending our program (alas, I was outvoted), there are ways that you can firm-up flabby research skills even if you cannot attend the “boot camp for your brain.”  First, take advantage of the “prepare to practice” type classes offered by database vendors.  Their classes will focus heavily on practice materials, and on how to do cost effective research.  You should aim at taking these classes soon, before exams absorb your mind and the reps go back to headquarters for the summer.   Second, even after exam you can take a little time to familiarize yourself with the research materials in the areas of law that your firm focuses upon.  Even if it is too late to take a class in corporations, it is not to late to skim the Nutshell.  Also, make an appointment with one of our librarians.  Whether you are seeking to learn more about a topic area, or about the resources in a particular state, we will be able to help you filter the vast quantity of materials out there and select the best.  And third,  do not forget that the best research can be rendered ineffective by poor writing.  Make sure that you always keep the words “clear and concise” in mind when submitting your research results.  Good luck and good research.

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A Catalog That Doesn’t Come in the Mail

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

According to a recent New York Times article, some pilots are now using iPads in the cockpit for accessing operating manuals and checklists instead of lugging around piles of reference books in flight bags as they once did. One sure hopes they refrain from watching funny YouTube videos while in flight!

Several recent news and blog articles have discussed ebooks and online content; looking at issues like whether or not they can or should replace the physical printed word and showcasing innovative features that enhance the reading experience – like in-text links to explanatory information or even embedded soundtracks.  Is it possible that one day the online version of Black’s Law Dictionary will play Mozart? At any rate, ebooks and online versions of printed materials are here to stay and are often the preferred mode for reading and reference these days.

Different scenarios call for different formats, however. Ebooks and electronic content are an important option in academic environments. Print resources still are too, however, and will continue to be for many reasons. Those reasons include the need to accommodate different learning styles and the fact that some information is presented better in a physical format. More importantly for the legal field, print is often the official record.

Fortunately, you can find records for both print and online resources living together harmoniously in the Professional Center Library catalog. The aforementioned Black’s Law Dictionary, for example, is available through the library in print and online formats. You can do a quick search for a title in the catalog search box on the library website and get results for all different formats including physical and online resources, and in some cases videos, audio recordings, microform, etc.

An online resource is identified as [electronic resource] in the catalog.  If you only want to see titles in that format, click the post limit button on the right side of the results page. On the search limit page, select “computer file” as the option for limiting the search results by format.

Click the title Black’s law dictionary, 8th edition [electronic resource] for the full record and see information on how to access the content online. This title is available through Westlaw and requires a login and password.

Often, starting your research in the library’s catalog will help you save a lot time searching in disparate places. You will uncover a wealth of resources in just about any format you could need. True, you won’t find any books that play music but you never know what might be next . . .  stay tuned.

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