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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.

1st Annual WFU Student Costume Contest

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

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Justice Older Than Law… In the Limelight

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

With the beginning of each year, faculty and students get together for an evening of fun and literature.  This year, the 1L Book Discussions are centralized around the book, Justice Older than Law: The Life of Dovey Johnson Roundtree.  Behind the story: Katie McCabe & Dovey Johnson Roundtree wrote an amazing book together published in 2009.  Justice Older than Law is one of  those books you don’t forget – it’s one that details the story of a woman that tells the story of a nation.

So here’s a snippet of what to expect (I am going to apologize in advance for any injustice done to Katie McCabe’s voice and Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s story in this excerpt).  For an audio excerpt by McCabe, click here.

Dovey Mae Johnson was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and her story begins at that the lowest vantage point: her grandmother’s feet.  Johnson tells the story of how her grandmother’s feet were deformed and mangled by fighting off one of the slave masters of her childhood.  The story tells of how her grandmother fought off the white man, but left her permanently scarred by the attack.  The scarring had to be soothed daily as her grandmother’s feet were never healed.  Throughout the book, Johnson refers back to this story of injustice, the constant pain of the battles fought for justice, and the courage and ferocity she learned from her grandma Rachel.  “Like a mighty stream, her courage flowed through [Johnson’s] childhood, shaping [her] as rushing water shapes the pebbles in its path” (p. 5)
Johnson’s quest for greatness started simply: her eighth grade teacher, Miss. Edythe Wimbish.  With the love and support of her mother and grandfather, Johnson found her way through education.  Whether reading the encyclopedias bought penny by penny by her grandfather or her own mother’s vision of Johnson’s greatness, Dovey found a way into a different world: Spelman.
At Spelman, a literature professor named Mary Mae Neptune became her mentor, encouraging Johnson to think critically and question world events through scrutizing newspapers, with particular attention to the articles detailing Hitler’s rise to power in Germany.  According to Johnson, “the New York Times was our Bible, and [Miss Neptune] expected everyone who crossed the threshold of [the Campus Mirror newspaper office] to read it — not quickly, not at a glance as we typed up our stories, not on the run, but closely and carefully and analytically” (p. 28). In those years, Johnson “learned a truth [she] would carry with [her] in the years to come: what had cowed those half million folk upon whom Hitler had set his sights was the same kind of intimidation [she] had known every day of [her] life” (p. 30).
After Roundtree’s adventures with the military, she found herself at Howard Law School right at the heart of the civil rights movement.  Roundtree witnessed first hand oral arguments that forever changed America.
That’s all for now folks, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you.  We have a couple copies of the book in our collection available for our students, staff and faculty to check out. Also, Katie McCabe wrote an excellent article in the Washingtonian that parallels the book, She Had a Dream, The Washingtonian (March 2002).  Look forward to more reviews and insights after this week’s 1L discussions!

Attribution: It’s Not Just for Law School OR How Not to Celebrate Your Law School Graduation

May 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Preston Mitchum, a student at N.C. Central University’s law school, was president of the student bar association, published two law reviews, and was asked to speak at his commencement ceremony. His future, even in this dreary economy looked bright, that is until he plagiarized a humorous speech that he discovered on YouTube.  Now he is now looking at the possibility of disciplinary charges.

Anthony Corvino, the student at Binghamton University who originally delivered the speech, confirmed that Mitchum had contacted Corvino via Facebook and asked permission to use a revised version of the speech. Although Corvino assented, Mitchum failed to credit Corvino when delivering the speech.

Mitchum is contrite and has apologized, but NCCU’s law dean, Raymond Pierce, who described himself as “disgusted” by Mitchum’s actions, has announced that a disciplinary committee would be considering possible sanctions.  While the dean admits that, since Mitchum has graduated there are limits on what the law school can do,  Pierce did point out that the matter may well be passed on to the North Carolina Board of Examiners.

View a local ABC report on the matter.