Once you graduate you are cast out into the cold world of life without Lexis or Westlaw. You might end up working in a place that has one of those databases, or you might strike out on your own. Here are some tips on how to survive:
- Most state bar associations have a free low-cost legal research database that they offer with bar membership. In Massachusetts that is Casemaker. You can sign-up for a Casemaker account as a law student to get familiar with this database.
- Most states have a well-developed trial court library system that is open to bar members. In Massachusetts the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries offer access to HeinOnline, Nolo Books, online newspapers and a variety of other online databases with remote access to their members.
- Some libraries have stand-alone Lexis or Westlaw terminals that you can use in the library. In Massachusetts that is true of the Social Law Library and the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries.
- State Practice Guides and CLE publications can be crucial to getting the answer to a legal question quickly . In Massachusetts most legal libraries will have the Massachusetts Practice Series. MCLEs, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education publications, are available on Bloomberg Law and LoisLaw, both relatively low cost alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw. Both Bloomberg Law and LoisLaw are available through the library for you to practice.
- There are four main low-cost legal platforms that might appeal to a solo lawyer: Bloomberg Law, Casemaker, Fastcase and Loislaw. Of these, Bloomberg Law is the biggest with all the primary source material you need plus MCLEs, real-time dockets and Bloomberg news. They currently offer a flat rate of $450/lawyer/month. This is comparable to Casemaker and Fastcase, with Loislaw being a little more expensive. Casemaker is probably the most favorably reviewed of the three others, and 27 states offer it with bar membership. The others generally offer Fastcase. Loislaw has been encountered by students in government workplaces. The main drawback of these low-cost alternatives is they don’t offer well developed updating tools like Keycite and Shepards. The other drawback is that with the exception of Bloomberg (and Loislaw for a price) they don’t offer secondary source materials.
- Finally, Westlaw and Lexis will negotiate with solos, but it seems advisable to take a negotiating class before trying that because there are no fixed prices in Lexis and Westlaw land.
Researching a foreign jurisdiction—-and no I don’t mean California—can be a daunting task. Issues of language, availability of materials and or course legal regime can pose seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Luckily the Law Library has a robust suite of databases and research guides to get you started and provide direction. Additionally, we will offer two sessions of “Library Skills for Practice” training entitled, Foreign Legal Research” on February 6th and 7th at 1 pm in room 332. Click HERE for details.
Here are some useful resources to consider when approaching a research task in a foreign jurisdiction:
The Foreign Law Guide is a fantastic starting place of introduction. It offers “relevant information on sources of foreign law, including complete bibliographic citations to legislation, English translations and selected references to secondary sources.”
Each country has a home landing page that looks like this— note that in addition to the main title headings there is the ability to search laws by subject:
vLex Global has collected legal documents (statutes and cases) from many government websites and added some secondary source materials to create a single database. It allows searching across various countries and there is a customized Google translate overlay.
The Constitute Project discussed on this blog recently is a fantastic way to search foreign Constitutions for free and, uniquely, by topic.
We have three International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Constitutional Law, Cyber Law and Intellectual Property which provide comprehensive secondary source material and anaylsis in their respective focus areas.
Constitutions of Countries of the World by Oxford provides access to current and historical constitutions for countries around the globe.
and our own Foreign Law Research Guide provides insight into the research process and the myriad of other sources available to you.
Good luck and feel free to ask any of the Reference Librarians for assistance!
One of the most challenging things when you are in a busy practice is keeping current with key developments in your practice area. The library subscribes to two services that are heavily used in the practice community: BNA and Law360.
BNA – this is the oldest service with the widest coverage. It tracks decided cases, regulatory developments and practice news generally. You can have an e-mail delivered to your account either daily or weekly depending on the topic.
Law360 – this is a more recent service that is heavily used by litigators. It tracks current litigation and decided cases in a number of legal practice areas.
Lexis and Westlaw also offer numerous newsletters in various practice areas that you can create an alert for and have sent to your e-mail.
Another way to keep up with legal developments for free is to create a Google Alert for a blog search. Google allows you to search only blogs and these are probably the easiest way to keep current in obscure areas that only one lawyer might be interested in.
Lexis and Westlaw subscriptions usually become inactive over the summer and end upon graduation. What are your research options once you are out of school and thinking of practicing. What if you don’t have access to BigLaw resources? This Wednesday, Thursday and Friday join Stefanie in Rm 334 at 1pm to talk about what alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw there are in the legal marketplace right now.
The resources that you can use to monitor a case at the Supreme Court include free and subscription services that are available to BU Law students. One of the most high profile cases in the Court’s current Term is NLRB v. Noel Canning, involving the President’s power to make recess appointments without the consent of the Senate.
To learn about the case, including the most current information, consider availability of these, among other sources:
- the transcript of the oral argument, posted to the Court’s website within hours of the argument on Jan. 13
- the docket for the case, 12-1281, updated to the present, also from the Court
- Lyle Denniston’s same-day coverage of the oral argument on SCOTUSBlog
- from SCOTUSBlog’s Merits Briefs section, more extensive news coverage and links to all the briefs filed in the case
- coverage of the case on United States Law Week, including a detailed story following the oral argument (Kerberos password required)
When the Court releases its opinion, probably in the Spring, these sources and many others will provide access to the full text. For a same-day announcement of this and other SCOTUS cases, you might consider signing up for the Supreme Court Bulletin, a service of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.
For more SCOTUS resources, see our research guide on court documents; or check out our guide to current awareness tools for links to other updates and news sources.
Join us on Friday for another fun Finding the Best Way certification class.
Finding the Best Way
Instructor: Steve Donweber • email@example.com
Feb. 24 at 1PM in room 334.
The partner just walked into your office; the pressure is on. When you get an assignment, whether it’s a citation, fifty-state survey, memo, or oral advice, what are the best tools to do the task you’ve been assigned quickly and efficiently? Learn how to approach different research tasks and choose the appropriate strategy.
The constituteproject.org site is a cool new tool for researchers to utilize when researching the world’s Constitutions— made all the better because searches can be conducted by topic or by country! What really sets this effort apart is the ability to search by topic, highlight the comparative clauses in the various constitutions and “pin” them to a notepad for further work. Say for example that you want to see those jurisdictions which explicitly provide for a right to access to higher education, this site through three simple clicks identifies 60 national constitutions where this right is enumerated:
Check it out!
As we move into Spring 2014, just a note on library services. We are here as a resource for you. The reference librarians are happy to answer any question you have: from where do I look for Chinese laws to how do I cite to a book. We are available for appointments away from the hustle and bustle of the reference desk. Come and see us with your questions and SAVE TIME. Have a great semester.
The ABA Journal recently posted its 7th annual “Blawg 100,” a selection of the top 100 law-related blogs. The ABA site lists the winners by topic and alphabetically.
Along with many blogs that have been selected before, new picks include:
- Center for Law and Religion Forum (hosted by St. John’s University, this blog highlights news related to law and religion, “taking seriously varied religious traditions rather than mocking them or treating them in a lowest-common-denominator fashion”)
- JD Careers Out There (hosted by legal recruiter Marc Luber, the blog focuses on alternative career paths for lawyers, with text and video content from numerous JDs and tips and advice on law school and career topics)
- Legally Weird (this site defines its mission as locating “the strangest and most ridiculous current events with a legal angle”; from FindLaw)
- Ponzitracker (as the name suggests, this blog tracks news on Ponzi schemes; it also provides links, suggested readings and more)
You may notice that some familiar titles, maybe some of your favorites, are not on this year’s list. That could be because those blogs are among the select group–such as Above the Law and the Volokh Conspiracy–that have been added (in 2012 or 2013) to the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.
To find other law blogs, consult the ABAJ’s Blawg Directory, the legal blog archive from the Law Library of Congress, or Justia’s BlawgSearch feature.
It’s that time of year when opinionated lists of the year’s best books appear. If you are shopping for holiday gifts, looking for something good to read over the winter break, or just like books, here are a few online places (among others) to look: