Dude, Where’s My Lexis.com?

dude_where's my car

Lexis changed over to one password (Lexis Advance password) access this week.  You will notice that you are now automatically taken into Lexis Advance to research.  However, if there’s a resource from Lexis.com you need, you can still get there.  On the Lexis Advance home page, select the red research tab at the top of the page.

Lexis.com research box

Within that menu, there will be an option for Lexis.com.  Click that and you can access the Lexis.com resource you need.  Have questions about these changes?  Contact a reference librarian.


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.


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.


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.


Law Day 2013


The theme for this year’s Law Day is Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.  What does true equality for all really mean, and what steps do we need to take as a nation to get there?  President Obama’s Law Day Proclamation looks historically at the strides that have been made, yet acknowledges the mission has not been accomplished.  ABA President Laurel Bellows also reflects on equality during the Law Day 2013 Message.  In addition to reflecting on the theme, Law Day is a great opportunity to remember how fortunate we are to have the rule of law, our unique knowledge of it, and the ability to help others navigate the legal system.


Focusing on Soft Skills

Here you are, studying hard for exams, working hard to learn the law and earn good grades.  Good grades = good job, right?  If only it were that simple.  Just like your college and law school applications needed solid grades and a list of extracurricular activities to show you were “well-rounded,” employers are looking for candidates with not only legal knowledge, but also what Human Resources officers refer to as “soft skills,” or emotional intelligence.  To learn more about how employers identify emotional intelligence, check out The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence.

Peggy Klaus, author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills — Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner (2008), offers a quiz  where you can test your soft skills.  She identifies six major soft skill categories: managing yourself, communication, organizational savvy, self promotion, dealing with differences, and handling others.  You can, of course, read the recommended chapters of her book, but you may also be interested in some additional resources available here at BU that can help you become a more effective professional.

Managing Yourself

  • The Results-Driven Manager: Managing Yourself for the Career You Want: A Timesaving Guide (2004) (Pardee Management Library HD38 .R414 2004)
  • ABA Basic Guide to Punctuation, Grammar, Workplace Productivity, and Time Management (2012) (Law Reserve KF 250 .K73 2012)
  • Real-World Time Management: Second Edition (2008)
  • Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small (2003) (Pardee Management Library HD 30.29 .N35 2003)


  • The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for Effective Communication in the Workplace (2008) (Alumni Medical Library HF 5718 P451a 2008)
  • Why Didn’t You Say that in the First Place? How to be Understood at Work (1994) (Mugar Storage – Use Request Form)
  • Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings (1992) (Mugar P95 .T28 1992)

Organizational Savvy (AKA Office Politics)

Self Promotion

Dealing With Differences

  • Working with Cultural Differences: Dealing Effectively with Diversity in the Workplace (2008) (Pardee Management Library HF 5549.5 .M5 B74 2008)
  • Type Talk at Work: How 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job (2002) (Pardee Management Library BF 698.9 .O3 K68 2002)

Handling Others

You will encounter situations at your summer jobs that will allow you to reflect on your efficacy in each of these areas.  Remember that no one masters soft skills; we’re all continually trying to improve our abilities in each of these areas.  Please take advantage of the resources available here as you learn the “softer” side of the profession.


Goodbye, Google Reader

I was totally bummed when I saw this pop up:


Google Reader retirement

not so much because I love Google Reader, but because I know I will have to move all of my RSS feeds elsewhere.  So what are our options?

1. NewsBlur

This is a free reader (if you’re following less than 64 feeds, otherwise you need to upgrade to the premium account @ $24/year).  It is compatible with iPad, iPhone, and Android.

2. Feedly

This is a truly free reader, compatible with iOS and Android, and it boasts a “seamless transition” from Google Reader.  It allows you to aggregate not only RSS feeds, but also content from Youtube channels, Tumblr blogs, and podcasts.  Individuals who have made the switch like this better than Google Reader, finding the interface cleaner and easier to use.  They also note that it will remember the items you starred in Google Reader post-migration.

Feedly is not perfect though.  Users complain that it’s difficult to navigate on the Android app, and it doesn’t have a basic text-only list view.  Users who like to scroll through content are also disappointed; Feedly requires more clicks to access information than Google Reader.  If you are into the visually appealing magazine formats, you’ll love Feedly, but if you want “just the facts,” you may be disappointed.

3. The Old Reader

If you want a very basic reader, this one is for you.  It was modeled after an older version of Google Reader.  Although it does not have a mobile app, it will allow you to import feeds directly from Google Reader.

4. Totally.Me

This aggregator will pull together not only the blogs you’re following, but also updates from your social media networks.

5. NetVibes

NetVibes is also more than just an RSS feed aggregator; the dashboard allows you to also monitor your social media, check your email, and create a to-do list.  The other popular feature of NetVibes is that you can personalize your dashboard with custom layout designs.  You can obtain a personal dashboard (compatible with both iOS and Android) for free, and there is a method to import your Google Reader.  However, reviewers have mentioned that some of their subscriptions did not import properly.

These are just a few Google Reader alternatives.  I’m going to try Feedly, but they all look like great applications.  I hope you find the Google Reader replacement that’s the best fit for you!