Thursday, April 30, 2009

So Long Souter?

Oral arguments for the 2008-09 Term came to a close this week, but things are just beginning to heat up at the U.S. Supreme Court. NBC News reports that Justice Souter is planning to retire at the end of the Term in June, creating President Obama's first opportunity to nominate a justice to the high court.

It is that time of year when rumors and reports of imminent retirements spread like wildfire, and speculation begins about how the Court will decide the remaining cases. What will the voting line up be? Who will author the majority opinion?

The Court generally issues opinions each Monday morning at 10 a.m. EST until end of the Term in late June. No one outside of the Chambers knows which cases will be decided on any given Monday, and the most controversial cases are often saved until the final days of the Term.

To keep abreast of breaking developments at the Supreme Court, check out the SCOTUSblog (SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States). With new postings every day, SCOTUSblog reports breaking news, provides analysis and commentary, and compiles statistics for the Term. The blog is maintained by lawyers in the Supreme Court practice group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and features posts by veteran litigators, reporters, and law students in Stanford's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

If you're interested in more information about a particular case, Akin Gump created a companion website, SCOTUSWiki, as a one-stop shop for information and briefs for each case. The Wiki is organized by Term, and then chronologically in the order in which the cases were argued.

-- Jackie Woodside

Swine Flu Watch

To stay informed about swine flu here in Seattle and Washington State, around the country, and around the world, visit these sites:
You can also sign up for email news and RSS feeds from these sites.

Black's Law Dictionary for the iPhone

For $50, you can get a copy of Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed. for your iPhone.

As reported on Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog,
The iPhone edition includes more than 43,000 definitions and nearly 3,000 quotations from legal authorities spanning five centuries of jurisprudence. It features hyperlinked cross-references and audio pronunciations for some of the more difficult to pronounce terms.
The developers talk about the product on YouTube.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Word Tips for Briefs

Have you ever wrestled with creating a professional-looking table of authorities or table of contents in your brief? There are features in Word that make it MUCH easier than the old-school method of scattering index cards all over your desk. See our new guide, Word Tips for Briefs.

Tips for all kinds of writing are in another guide, Word Tips to Make Your Life Easier.

Free Program on Legal Research

Join us for the 14th annual Bridge the Legal Research Gap program on either May 20th or June 24th.

This free program is intended to help law students gear up their legal research skills for their summer jobs. Sessions will cover the following topics:
  • practice materials
  • legislative history
  • administrative law
A panel of new attorneys will also talk about their experiences and a wrap-up session on legal research in the real world will conclude the program. Sources and research dealing with Washington State and U.S. law will be covered.

The May 20th program will be held at the Seattle University School of Law and the June 24th session will take place here at Gates Hall.

Visit the Bridge the Gap website for more information and to register.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Data Than You Can Count on Your Fingers!

Social scientists -- including folks doing empirical studies of legal institutions -- gather data and write articles about what they found. But how can anyone else work with the raw data? The investigators can now share it online, courtesy of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, in its IQSS Dataverse Network.

In this collection, you can find background data for studies such as:See this post by Carolyn Shapiro at the Empirical Legal Studies Blog.

7 Top Law Journals Launch Web Magazine

Seven prestigious law reviews have launched an online magazine, The Legal Workshop, to present scholarship to wider audiences. Law Journals Band Together to Launch Web Magazine, Business Wire, April 21, 2009.

The journals are: Stanford Law Reviewl,l New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review, and University of Chicago Law Review.

Authors of articles that are forthcoming in the different law reviews write pieces -- dubbed Editorials -- making the arguments in their longer, more scholarly work. If a piece grabs you, the full article is just a click away.

Links also make it easy to email the pieces or share them on Facebook or LinkedIn. You can subscribe to the magazine in a feed reader or email.

An interesting development in the world of law reviews!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

US News & World Report Rankings

They are finally out.

The UW's ranking is at 30, same as last year (although we shared the 30th spot with the College of William and Mary).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Washington Pattern Jury Instructions

For the past year, the Washington Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions has contracted with Thomson West to make the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions available at a free public website .This pilot project was scheduled to end in April, 2009, but has been extended for another year.

The public website, maintained by Thomson West, contains the text of all instructions, Notes on Use, and Comments. Users navigate through tables of contents for the Civil Jury Instructions (also found in volumes 6 and 6A of Washington Practice) and Criminal Jury Instructions (also found in volumes 11 and 11A of Washington Practice). Search is not available.

More information, including a link for subscribing to an email alert for revisions to the instructions, is found at the Court’s website.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Top Twitter Feeds for Law Students

Here a tweet.
There a tweet.
Everywhere a tweet tweet.

If you are new to Terra Twitter, visit this list of the Top 100 Twitter Feeds for Law Students.

Assembled by a blogger at Online Best, the list is organized by types of Tweeters:

  • law students
  • law firms
  • law librarians, including Rita Kaiser from the King County Law Library
  • attorneys
  • law professors
  • law schools
Do you have a favorite law-related Tweeter?

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

Crime Victims' Rights Week will be held from April 26 through May 2.

Sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime, the event promotes awareness of victims' rights issues. This year's theme is 25 Years of Rebuilding Lives.

The Office also hosts, a website that provides useful information such as:

Another OVC website -- -- enables researchers to identify federal, state, and tribal laws and constitutional provisions by topic, term, jurisdiction, or citation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Picking Cotton Authors on Campus

I just read Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption and I'm very eager to hear the authors, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, when they speak tomorrow afternoon (UW School of Law, Gates Hall room 133, 4 p.m.).

The authors' friendship is improbable and compelling. In 1984 Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a stranger who broke into her apartment. She studied the man's face so she could describe him to the police. A tip based on the composite sketch led to Ronald Cotton, whom she identified in a lineup and in court. She was sure of her identification. But 11 years later, DNA testing confirmed his claim of innocence. Cotton was freed from prison.

When witnesses are given a choice of, say, six men, they will often pick the one who looks most like the person they saw commit the crime. Then that person's image becomes part of their memory. Because of this case, their town's police department changed its procedures for photo arrays and lineups. Now witnesses are shown pictures or suspects one at a time to reduce that effect.

This should be a great talk.

The library's copy of the book hasn't been processed yet but will be available soon. Update: Now it's ready! -- HV6568.B87 T56 2009 at Good Reads. (I wrote this update April 24, but it was ready days ago.)

The University Book Store will also be selling copies at the event.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Advice From a Recent Graduate

If I could go back in time and be law student again (not that I’d want to), there is a lot I would do differently. Well, I can’t go back, but I can pass on my advice to a new generation of law students. Here are several suggestions for law students to better utilize the law library and its resources.

1. Don’t be afraid (or too lazy) to use print materials for legal research—sometimes it will save you so much time. Many of you are probably tired of hearing this, but I swear it’s true. I admit, when I went to law school my laptop was my constant companion. Sure, I did print research when it was required of me. But most of the time I went directly to Westlaw for things. I still use Westlaw most of the time, but for certain tasks, print may be more efficient. Here are some examples:
  • You are looking for general information on a common area of law.
    Let’s say you are studying for a contracts test and need an overview of the topic. In this case, a print index is likely to have the terms you are looking for and a computer search is likely going to bring up too much information, because your search terms are probably commonly used and are going to create many hits
  • You are researching a vague topic.
    If you are looking for a vague topic, it may be easier to flip around in a print index for terms that might get you what you are looking for; often indexes will say something like “see also” to direct you to a different search term that might be applicable
  • Your search term is ambiguous
    If you want to look up something ambiguous (its meaning varies based on context), print is probably your best option; an internet search probably isn’t going to be able to do a context-specific search and you are going to get results for all the meanings. For example, a search for the term “consideration” is going to bring back topics related to the contracts terms, but also documents including “for your consideration.”

2. Use treatises and hornbooks when you don’t completely understand a topic—and DON’T BUY THEM! When I was in law school, I had this strange aversion to actually using physical copies of the reference materials, especially the treatises and hornbooks. I found them very useful, but I felt like the reference check out time was too short for me to get anything accomplished or that I was hogging them from other students if I sat in the library and used them every day for hours on end. So instead, I purchased them for all the major subjects! I justified it by telling myself that I would use them to study for the bar and in practice. Want to know how many times I cracked them after law school? That’s right—none! Quite honestly, I didn’t even use them that much in law school. As it turned out, all I could only stand to read them for about an hour at a time. I could have easily sat in the library and read them. And even if I wanted to sit there and read them for 6 hours on end, oh well—library materials are meant to be used! Now that work in a library, I see how completely ridiculous and unfounded my concerns were.

3. Use the library’s stash of past exams—they really are helpful. I didn’t start doing this until I was a 3L, and I sure wish I had started sooner. I found that a particular professors’ exams really didn’t change all that much from year to year, and if I took the time to sit down, issue spot, and write up a messy little answer, I ended up getting a great grade on the exam. Here, the library has a digital collection for you to use, so you can even use and print them from home.

Want more ideas of what the library can do for you? Ask one of the reference librarians—they are here to help you!

-- Rachel Turpin

Law in Peepular Culture

Do you need a bit of fun? The ABA Journal Weekly Newsletter reports on their top three picks in a "Peeps in Law" diorama contest run by the Journal. Take a look at the three and vote for your favorite at There is a link in the article to the rest of the 45 entries from law students, law firms, ABA entities, and even a judge.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrate National Library Week !

Celebrate National Library Week April 13-17, 2009! We have several fun events to share with the UW Law School community.
  • Enter one of our contests! Try to guess the number of candies in the box at the Circulation Desk and win them all! Complete a crossword puzzle focused on UW Law faculty scholarship and win a gift card to a local store.
  • Enjoy candy in Student Lounge & Reference Office.
  • Watch for interesting library factoids in your daily email.
  • Check out the Banned Books display, just outside the library. Did you realize that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, was one of the Top 10 Challenged books in 2007?
  • Attend the National Library Week “Thank Goodness It's Friday" event on April 17th (3:30-5:30pm) in Room 115 – with library entertainment!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where Have All the Books Gone?

A lawyer reminisces about the professional interactions and serendipitous discoveries that print research fostered: James M. Kramon, Where Have All the Books Gone?, Maryland Bar Bulletin, March 2009.
I cannot dissect the things that affected the evolution of my thinking in this case. Surely the environment in which I was working contributed in some way. Surely the assemblage of books in front of me played a part. My exchanges with my colleague contributed as well. I am sure of only one thing: no one sitting in an office alone pushing buttons and watching a computer screen could be in an environment as hospitable to legal research as I was that day.

* * * The only notable thing about this story is that most lawyers who embarked upon their practices less than 10 or 15 years ago will never have such an experience. Computerized research has obviated the need for books and libraries. Although not intended to do so, it has also largely foreclosed serendipitous research discoveries and casual encounters with colleagues. Many of us have a storehouse of legal knowledge we acquired turning the pages of lawbooks and in banter with other lawyers. Sometimes turning pages you will pass by a case that relates to a matter for another client. Sometimes a case will catch your eye simply because it interests you. Even in the laborious process of Shepardization you may learn something by seeing how seminal opinions have radiated to other courts.
Of course, you can still come to the law library even if you aren't using books: I see plenty of students perched behind their laptops, and perhaps they sometimes share the sort of professional discussion about their research projects that Mr. Kramon did.

By the way, Kramon is not a starry-eyed romantic about books. He understands the great advantages online research can offer:
A single practitioner in the smallest town in North Dakota can now perform the same legal research as a lawyer in a large firm in Manhattan. Lawyers with computers are able to do legal research virtually anywhere at any time. Computerized research eliminates the cost of law books (which I can remember purchasing from a retiring federal judge), floor space and structural requirements of law libraries, the necessity for librarians and the inevitable delays installing supplements. I doubt if anyone will miss hearing people walking through the halls shouting things like, “Does anybody know where I can find 283 F.2d?”
Thanks: Pamela Gregory.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Social Media & Blogging with KCBA Solos

The topic for the King County Bar Association Solo/Small Firm Section monthly meeting on Wednesday was "Social Media & Blogging: Ethical Concerns and Practical Advice." The section chair, D. Jill Pugh lined up a panel of three local bloggers:Dan was in Asia because of a schedule change (that's what happens with an intercontinental business lawyer sometimes), but he was with us in spirit.

The lawyers at the meeting (and a couple who were participating via webcast) were really interested in how new media could help their practices. A blog is an easy and cheap way for a solo practitioner to develop a web presence and become known in the community.

Even easier are sites where you can post profiles, including Avvo and LinkedIn. There's no reason for a lawyer now not to have some information on the web so that colleagues and clients can find out more about him or her.

Curious about who else is blogging about law locally? See Law-Related Blogs in Washington State. Want to know more about blogs and blogging generally? See Blogs & RSS Feeds.

Venkat, Jill, and Dan all are on Twitter, which has been termed "microblogging," in addition to their blogs. For more on that, see Robert Ambrogi, Tweet 16: 16 Ways Lawyers Can Use Twitter, March 20, 2009 (orig. pub. Nov. 2008); Blake Boyd, How to Use Twitter as a Lawyer — 7 Ways to Use Twitter Part 5, Blog for Profit, Sept. 26, 2008.

West Key Number Changes

More than 300,000 case headnotes received new West Key Numbers as a result of several significant classification changes.

Two new digest topics were created:
  • Privileged Communications and Confidentiality "encompasses privilege issues arising in discovery and at trial and contains expanded classifications covering attorney-client privilege, physician-patient privilege, and executive privilege"
  • Protection of Endangered Persons covers "restraining orders and other protection from domestic violence, harassment, and stalking; guardian ad litem appointments; agency investigations and liabilities; and criminal and civil liability"
Four other topics have been completely revised:
  • Convicts
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Prisons
  • Products Liability

Friday, April 3, 2009

ABA's Economic Recovery Resources

The American Bar Association has launched a website with information to help attorneys weather the current financial crisis. Economic Recovery Resources features six categories:
  • Career transitioning
  • Job searching and networking
  • Practice management
  • Professional development
  • Savings, insurance, and CLEs
  • Stress management
Of course, law students will be most interested in the Job searching material. This section includes six articles (such as "How to Get Experience When You Can't Get Hired"), information about five books, and links to six other components of the ABA website.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Archive of Blawgs

The Law Library of Congress has made public an archive of law-related blogs. The library began "harvesting" about 90 blogs in 2007, added 38 last year, and plans to have about 200 by the end of this year. See this story in Infotoday Blog.

Thanks: Bonnie Shucha at WisBlawg.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Washington State Oil Spill Response

As reported in today's Seattle Times, under the headline, Puget Sound: One oil spill away from disaster?

The Washington State Oil Spill Advisory Council released a 300-plus page study, "Assessment of Capacity in Washington State to Respond to Large-scale Marine Oil Spills." The purpose of the study is

"to provide the citizens of Washington State with an assessment of the current marine oil spill response capacity available in Washington State. Specifically, the study sought to measure hether the oil spill response resources (equipment and personnel) available for a spill in ashington would be sufficient to effectively contain, clean up, and mitigate environmental impacts from an oil spill. The study uses several oil spill scenarios in order to assess response capacity for a range of spill volumes."