Have you ever wondered how lawyers come up with all those great facts that we use to prove our points? Ever wanted to really impress in a paper or memo by including some obscure data or statistics but struggle with understanding how to find or build data sets? We can help you!
There are a myriad of resources available depending on the types of stats that you require… Locallabs is a great resource for pulling demographics stats about states, cities and zip codes around the USA (see the example below). There are many others however and we have a research guide that will lead you to a huge assortment of these types of sites. Go HERE to see the other sites and databases available.
Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education materials consist of very practical “how-to” guides for navigating legal issues in Massachusetts. They are drafted by lawyers practicing in the field and considered very valuable. Find MCLE materials on Westlaw, Bloomberg Law, and LoisLaw.
Struggling with a search on Lexis Advance or WestlawNext? Consider using connectors to help define your query. This will allow you to narrow your search, find variations of words, or search for a specific phrase.
- Lexis Advance has summarized their search connectors and commands on its website
- It has also created a tutorial video that includes general search tips
- WestlawNext has created a guide to using terms and connectors
- It also offers training on how to use terms and connectors and key cites to enhance your search
Curious about the differences between terms and connectors on Lexis Advance and WestlawNext? Check out this helpful chart from Lexis.
LexisNexis Courtroom Cast is a valuable resource that integrates video, audio, and text into a learning tool for law students and lawyers. The heart of Courtroom Cast’s collection is an extensive video library of courtroom proceedings and trials.
Courtroom Cast Video offers the world’s largest online library of courtroom video. You can watch thousands of hours of trials, hearings, and oral arguments from around the nation, streamed directly to your computer. Use our easily searchable database to choose cases from a variety of practice areas and industries, or find proceedings in a specific jurisdiction or in front of your next judge. Proceeding video sessions are cataloged down to the attorney and witness level, so watch an expert witness or view an attorney at court. Can’t make it to court? Don’t worry, with LexisNexis Courtroom Cast give yourself a courtroom view, just launch your browser and watch!
Courtroom Cast is available to all members of the BU Law community. Start the registration process here.
A previous post addressed resources for cases pending before the Supreme Court. Most of those are useful for cases decided in the recent past; for example, SCOTUSblog’s Merits Cases section provides news coverage, briefs, transcripts and other information for cases dating back to the Court’s 2007 Term.
When looking for information about older cases, there is a range of resources you can consult.
Suppose you were researching the landmark case concerning a criminal defendant’s right to counsel, Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). The case is available in PDF (United States Reports) through the U.S. Supreme Court Library in Hein Online. Free Internet versions include the case law component of Google Scholar.
Briefs from the case are available through U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. Search and browse features are available to locate the seven documents provided for Gideon, including a Transcript of Record, briefs by the petitioner and respondent, and several amicus curiae briefs. Another good source for briefs is Westlaw Next: when viewing the case, select the Filings tab from the Keycite information for that case and select among available documents.
There is a large body of secondary literature that discusses the case, including legal journal articles, books (notably Gideon’s Trumpet, by Anthony Lewis), historical accounts, even a television production. Useful discovery tools include Google Scholar (especially for interdisciplinary research); combined law review databases on Westlaw Next and Lexis Advance; and after retrieving the case, using the “Citing References” tab on Keycite (Westlaw Next) or the “Other Citing Sources” link in Shepard’s Citations (Lexis Advance).
The BU Libraries Advanced Search engine can be used to find materials that focus on the case: searching by the name of the case, or using keywords such as “gideon” and “right to counsel,” retrieves many articles and books. Also, using “gideon” as a keyword while searching for titles related to criminal procedure allows one to locate discussions of the case in topical books, such as this one.
The Clinical Programs here at BU Law provide valuable practical experience for students and valuable services to clients. The Library has created a research guide to help. The heart of the research guide provides links to resources in specific subject areas as shown below.
Social Security Practice and Procedure
Divorce and Family Law
The Massachusetts Practice Series is a secondary source that provides an overview of Massachusetts law. Commonly referred to as the Mass Practice Series, these books are easily identified by their maroon covers. Organized by subject, volumes contain notes and forms as well as references to cases, laws, and other secondary sources.
Using the Massachusetts Practice Series
Within the Fineman and Pappas Law Libraries, the Massachusetts Practice Series is located on the second floor in the Massachusetts collection area. If you are looking for a particular topic, the easiest way to search the Series is to use its general index, which is located at the end of the collection. When using the print version of the Series, be sure to check for updates in the supplemental volumes, on CDs, and in the pocket parts.
This Series is also searchable on WestlawNext. To locate it from the home screen, you can begin typing “Massachusetts Practice Series” in the search bar and then click on the corresponding link that appears below the search screen.
Alternatively, you can also search for it by using the browse box on WestlawNext’s home page. To do so, first click on the “State Materials” tab, then on the “Massachusetts” tab, and finally on the “Massachusetts Practice Series” link under the “Secondary Sources” heading.
For information on the Supreme Court and cases pending before the SCOTUS, the law library offers a wide range of commercial databases, along with free Internet resources.
These resources can provide almost anything you may want to know about a case at the Court. For an example, consider Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case involving the constitutionality of a statute that directs the Secretary of State, or request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as “Israel” on a United States passport. The Court’s web site provides docket information about the case, and much else: after the case was argued last week before the Justices, the transcript was posted later that day; and the audio recording of the argument was posted on Friday afternoon, following the Justices’ conference.
Among sources that compile information about the case, see SCOTUSblog for links to the briefs on the case; news coverage and links to commentary on the case; and a link to the lower court decision, which held the statute in question unconstitutional.
Among subscription services, Bloomberg BNA’s U.S. Law Week provides several useful tools for tracking the case, including the case summary from the Supreme Court Today Navigator, and news coverage at all stages of the case–e.g., the story on last week’s argument. Major general newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, are also excellent sources.
For news once the Court issues its opinion in the case, try also The Supreme Court Bulletin (syllabi of new opinions from Cornell’s LII) or Justia’s Opinion Summaries. For up-to-the-minute coverage, nothing beats the Twitter feeds of SCOTUSblog, other news sources or legal correspondents who cover the Court (Adam Liptak, Nina Totenberg).
As finals approach the Law Library is running a raffle for all students who like or follow us on Facebook, follow our tweets at Twitter and/or visit our blog (and send a note to Steven at email@example.com telling him what you learned there) from today, November 10th through November 18th.
The raffle basket includes Final Exam “Must-Haves” including:
- A loaded Starbucks card to help keep your energy levels up.
- A gift certificate for a study-aid to be ordered through the Library ($40 value)
- A gift card for a night at the movies
- A reusable BU mug
Click on the image below to get entered and for more details:
(The winner will be contacted at the completion of the Raffle on or after 11/19/2014.)
In doing your research, you may find you need a book or article that you notice (after searching BU Libraries) isn’t available through campus resources. What to do when that happens?
Here are a few options:
- If BU doesn’t own a copy, or if that copy is lost or missing, request the book or article through the library’s interlibrary loan service; use the online request form, and be sure to provide your name and BU email address
- Visit another area library in the Boston Library Consortium (BLC); to borrow materials there, it is necessary to obtain a BLC card at Mugar Library, which involves a wait of three business days after your application is submitted
- Note: another alternative for accessing materials from BLC libraries is to request the item through Worldcat Local (please note, separate rules apply)
- Visit another library in the New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO), and consult materials available there; please be sure to take your BU photo ID with you
- Use the Boston Public Library: available to any Massachusetts resident, a BPL library card allows you to borrow materials from the main Copley Square library and branch libraries, and use BPL’s databases, including such useful resources as America’s Historical Newspapers (1690-1922)
When is doubt, ask a reference librarian about options. We may be able to suggest the most appropriate option, given the type of material and your time situation.