Due to popular demand, the Library has just added 6 more sessions, one each, of the following classes for the week after Spring Break:
Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw
Finding the Best Way
Free Legal Research
Hot Topic: Technology and the Law
Sign up HERE.
With court cases constantly in the news, you will increasingly be asked to obtain court documents. Bloomberg Law has all federal dockets, as it is constantly downloading from PACER, the federal electronic docketing system. PACER began in the late 1990′s with different courts joining at different times. All courts but the Supreme Court are currently on PACER. Anyone can establish an account on PACER, but the administrative office of the federal courts recently decided to continue it as a pay database. It only costs $.08/pg, however that can add up. If you spend less than $10.00/quarter your cost is waived. Federal dockets and briefs are also available on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance.
State dockets and briefs are more difficult to acquire. A jurisdiction like Massachusetts, which has not yet moved to a publicly available electronic docketing system, still requires the public to visit the court house to obtain filings. Bloomberg Law now has most Massachusetts dockets online, but doesn’t include the District Courts. The underlying documents are usually not available because they must be retrieved from the court house – a service that Bloomberg Law only extends to law firms for a fee. Other states have implemented electronic filing systems, as documented here by the NCSC, but public access varies from state to state. Again, Bloomberg Law, Westlaw and Lexis will have some filings from important cases and those will probably vary from service to service.
Learn how to navigate and understand dockets and court documents on Wednesday, Feb. 19th and Thursday, Feb. 20th at 1pm in Rm 334.
Interested in learning about the Law of Indigenous Peoples? The Library has a class for that: Wednesday, February 19th at 1 PM in room 334. This class is part of our “Hot Topic” series offered through the “Legal Research Skills for Practice” Certification program designed to broaden and hone your research efficiency.
Sign up now at:
With every search engine, be it Google, WestlawNext or LexisAdvance, they have built in ways to control your search. Most of us are content to let the algorithm do the searching most of the time. But sometimes there are situations where that is not enough. In the two classes this week we will be looking at controlling your search:
Wednesday @ 1pm in Rm 334 and Thursday @ 1pm in Rm 334
The most common ways to control your search are using Boolean connectors, using wildcards, using field searching and doing proximity searching. Boolean connectors let you control the universe of your search using AND, OR and NOT. Wildcards allow you to search for words that might be spelled differently or have different endings: super*ede or bully!. Most documents in a database have been tagged so that you can identify different sections of them – these are fields. By searching them you can look just of the author by indicating that is the part of the document you want to search. This probably varies the most over different databases. I find the most useful way of controlling to be proximity searching. This allows the author of the search to say “I only want to find a document that has this sentence” (more or less). So I can write: warrantless /s search /p stop /p trunk. This will allow me to get cases (if I am searching in a case database) involving warrantless searches that involve a stop (by the police) and the trunk being searched. If I ran this search without the proximity connectors I would be far too many results.
Here are some tip sheets for WestlawNext, LexisAdvance and Google.
With the Spring semester well and truly in full -swing, it is time to get your research skills in top gear and get certified. (Employers want to know that you have these skills from day one.)
In addition to the Library’s Research Skills for Practice Certification program already underway—click here for full details and to enroll— our three full-service subscription vendors, Bloomberg BNA, Lexis Nexis and Westlaw all provide certification on their platforms and additional training for all skill levels.
Don’t delay! Get started now.
Visit your BUSL lawschool pages at:
Lexis Nexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool
Look for the training links to register.
Print statutory sets are available in most legal workplaces. Many attorney’s prefer to use the statutes in print. Become comfortable with the print so that you can be a more cost effective researcher:
Tuesday, Feb. 4 @ 1pm in the Tax Library
Wednesday, Feb. 5 @ 1pm in the Tax Library
Thursday, Feb. 6 @ 1pm in the Tax Library
The convenience of the major commercial legal databases has made them so popular that many law students rely on them almost exclusively for legal research. This session will highlight free tools available via Internet that are increasingly important for lawyers who need to do cost-effective research in the current economic environment. In some cases, these resources are as good as (or better than) anything provided by commercial publishers. In this class, offered next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll consider resources for both primary and secondary legal sources, including: federal and state government web sites, Google Scholar (and tips for using Google) and current awareness tools.
Class page: http://lawlibraryguides.bu.edu/cert_2014-free
Free Legal Research
Feb. 3, 4, 5 | 1 p.m. (Room 334)
David Bachman, instructor; email@example.com
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.