Managing the Firehose of Legal Information

A new app, Law Ratchet, promises to help you do just that. Law Ratchet bills itself as an app designed for lawyers, by lawyers, and is designed to scan a variety of legal news sources, including law reviews, blogs, regulatory websites, newspapers, and magazines, to deliver the news (sorted according to your preference for top news, practice area, industry news, and others) straight to your iPad, iPhone, or desktop. It has a streamlined, easy-to-use interface, and is available for free from the iTunes App Store. So go check it out and get ready to make some cocktail party conversation at your summer gig!



Want to know how Apple does is?

The cross border nature of business has only increased over the last decades and so has the problem of cross border taxation.  We only have to look Apple’s recent appearance before a congressional committee to know that this is an area of the law that is not going away.  The library has recently added Tax Analysts’ publications that deal with international tax: Tax Notes International, Worldwide Tax Daily and Worldwide Tax Treaties.  Tax Analysts is the most respected and well-known commercial publisher of tax news and scholarship.  Tax Notes International is a weekly summary of developments, analysis and opinion with regard to cross-border taxation, both U.S. policy and the policies of other governments.  World Wide Tax Daily is watching the foreign developments and includes primary source materials that have been collected from many countries.  News stories generally provide the supporting legal documents.  And World Wide Tax Treaties includes not just U.S. double taxation agreements but also those between foreign governments – something that is not available from any other tax treaty database.


New Database for Massachusetts Legislative History Research: InstaTrac

Anyone who has tried to do Massachusetts Legislative History Research knows it can be very challenging because the Commonwealth does not publish reports and other legislative documents for the general public.  We have acquired a new database, InstaTrac, which is collecting these reports, starting in 2011.  InstaTrac also allows users to track current legislation, and receive the Daily Journal and legislative news via email.  These updates are an excellent way to stay up to date on the activities of the General Court.

In addition to this great content, InstaTrac also provides helpful tips on how to use the system.  The database includes a document on How to Get the Most Out of Your MassTrac Service as well as a detailed Help section.  If you have any questions about using InstaTrac, please contact a reference librarian.


Prepare to Practice–There’s an App for that!

Above the Law recently had a piece on law firm apps, which are becoming increasingly popular. But did you know we have our own research guide to law firm apps? Check out our guide and see if there’s an app for your firm to help you through your summer associate-ship, get prepped for fall recruiting, or just play something other than Angry Birds. (We recommend HB: The App)


Fighting the Effects of Information Overload

A study in 2007 found the average person encounters approximately 174 newspapers worth of data every day.  With all of that information coming in, we are constantly making decisions about what is and is not worth remembering, and the information comes at such a steady pace that we cannot focus on any one item for too long.  I don’t know about you, but after a while, I felt like my brain had turned to mush; I couldn’t remember anything unless I immediately wrote it down, and my attention span was not what it had once been.

I searched for a way to improve my memory; that’s when I found Lumosity.  Lumosity is a site that creates cognitive games intended to improve your memory, speed, problem solving, flexibility, and attention.  There is a free version that includes games in all of the categories, but if you want to be able to unlock all of the games and see which percentile you fall within for your age group, then you need to subscribe.  I’ve been using Lumosity for almost a month now, and I am seeing improvement in my game performance.  I think it may be improving my memory outside of the games as well, but I’m not sure if that’s just a placebo effect.  Regardless, the games are fun, and I feel less guilty about playing them because they’re for self-improvement.  If you want to improve your memory, or are interested in free games, give Lumosity a try.


Studying for the Bar Exam

If you’re taking the bar exam this summer, the thick books are probably already at your house.  Hundreds and hundreds of pages, how are you going to learn all of that material?  Answer: you’re not.  The key to not getting overstressed about the bar exam (although you probably will, especially the week before the exam) is remembering that you don’t need to know everything on the exam.  It’s okay if there are a couple of MBE questions that you have no clue on because you do not need to ace the bar exam; you only need to pass.

I took (and passed!) the Massachusetts Bar Exam last summer.  I studied for the exam using Themis while working full time.  I was a little nervous about the online-only format of Themis, but if you are self-disciplined, it is fine.  With the bar exam experience relatively fresh in my mind, I have a few pieces of advice to share:

1. Do not over-rely on the practice essay questions provided by your bar prep company.

My experience was with Themis, but I have heard this is true of BarBri as well: the practice essay questions are not always representative of the length of a real bar exam essay question.  I am not saying ignore the practice essay questions; they are definitely useful tools to practice analyzing fact patterns and writing bar exam essays, which differ somewhat from law school exam essays.  However, make sure you also look at, and preferably practice your timing on, real past bar exam questions if you have access to them.  The Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners posts past essay questions on its web site.  If you spend some time practicing with real questions, you won’t be surprised when you receive 9 single-spaced pages of morning essay questions to answer in 3 hours.  Avoiding surprises will improve not only your bar exam performance, but also your emotional well-being.

2. Read the exam information and follow the rules!

I know this should be common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow the rules, even when something as important as passing the bar exam is hanging in the balance.  In Massachusetts, you’re not allowed to have a backpack in the exam room.  People who brought bags to Hynes Convention Center on the first day of the exam were expected to check them.  Some test takers decided not to check their bags, and instead hid them in the convention center before going into the exam room.  The bar examiners announced right before the beginning of the exam that they had done a sweep of the convention center, picked up these unchecked bags, and if one of them was yours, you would have to go talk to them during lunch.  They’d then decide your fate after you’d already taken half of the MBE.  I can’t imagine that knowledge enhanced the affected individuals’ test performance, so please, read the instructions and follow the rules.

3. There will be external things that happen.  Don’t let them psych you out.

I felt like I was surrounded by bad external forces.  The girl behind me was talking about how she failed the exam the last time.  The guy in front of me left every portion of the test 30 min. – 1 hour early.  One of the guys in our row had to hand write the morning essays because he failed to properly install the test software.  These things happen; just remember that you’re prepared.

Good luck on the exam!  If you’re looking for supplemental bar prep resources, check out our past bar exam posts.



The first citator was published by Frank Shepard in 1875. Shepard initially published his citation lists in the form of “adhesive annotations” that were pasted directly to the first page of the case in print. The annotation listed other cases citing to and impacting the reported case. Eventually, Shepard would publish his citations in printed volumes specific to individual jurisdictions. Shepard’s product was so successful that his name was turned into a verb, “to Shepardize,” which describes the act of updating. Today, Shepard’s is available in print and online through LexisNexis. A picture of those original adhesive annotations is below.



Don’t Let Impostor Syndrome Undermine Your Confidence this Summer

As finals are coming to an end, you’re starting to look forward to the summer.  Whether you’re going to be a summer associate at a fancy firm or an intern for a non-profit, a little voice in the back of your mind may be nagging, “Am I ready for this?”

If you don’t respond to this question with a resounding YES, don’t worry.  It’s normal to be nervous and feel your future employer thinks you’re smarter than you believe you are.  However, this may be a form of impostor syndrome, where one believes s/he is a fraud and does not deserve the success s/he’s achieved; all success is attributed to luck or other external forces.  Of course, this is completely untrue, but it often impacts those who are high achievers, like Joseph, the university professor, whose story details how every achievement was another opportunity for others to discover he was a fraud.

If you find yourself having these thoughts, what can you do to remind yourself that you’re an intelligent person who has earned each achievement based on your own merit? Make a list of all of the things you’ve accomplished in the last year.  What did you do that you were really proud of?  Surviving a tough class, writing a well-researched seminar paper, or arguing in Moot Court?  Surviving the first year of law school is a huge achievement in and of itself.   Many people also find it useful to share their doubts with a trusted friend or family member.  These people know you well, and in addition to validating your abilities, they might also be able to help you think of positive ways you can prove to yourself that you are in the right place and capable of doing the job.

Impostor syndrome is very self-focused, so one way to combat it is to help others.  Not only will helping others give you an opportunity to share your expertise with others, but it will remind you that no one is perfect or completely self-sufficient.  Therefore, it’s ok if you don’t have the right answer all of the time either.  A final suggestion is “Fake it ’til you make it.”  Suspend your belief that you’re not good enough and pretend you belong.  Then act like it!  This doesn’t mean be arrogant; humility is still important, but you want to assert your knowledge and capabilities instead of keeping a low profile because you’re afraid someone will discover you don’t know something.  For more information on banishing impostor syndrome, see this blog post from gradhacker.


On Donald Verrilli, Commencement Speaker

At the BU Law commencement on May 19, the featured speaker will be one of the most prominent lawyers in the United States, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

Verrilli has served as the Solicitor General of the United States since June 2011. He replaced Justice Elena Kagan at OSG. Previously, he was Deputy Counsel to President Obama and as an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to his government service, he practiced law at Jenner & Block for over 20 years.

Some of the Verrilli’s work can be viewed at government web sites, in the numerous briefs and oral arguments in which he has represented the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.  He is also the author of many scholarly articles focusing on Supreme Court. C-SPAN provides video clips that highlight the audio recording of Verrilli’s oral arguments before the Court and his frequent participation at panel discussions on legal issues.


Lexis Study Aids

LexisNexis offers study aids/outlines for the basic legal courses.  According to LN:

These outlines provide an overview of the essential topics of a legal subject and can be used to prepare for class, organize your notes, and study for exams. For comprehensive and treatise-like coverage of these and other legal subjects, see theUnderstanding series.

These Area of Law Outlines are now available for free viewing and downloading:

      Constitutional Law html | word (512k) | pdf (428k)
      Contracts html | word (548k) | pdf (334k)
      Criminal Law html | word (315k) | pdf (364k)
      Criminal Procedure html | word (772k) | pdf (256k)
      Evidence html | word (585k) | pdf (317k)
      Property html | word (275k) | pdf (381k)
      Torts html | word (448k) | pdf (425k)
      Trusts and Estates html | word (503k) | pdf (482k)