Friday, February 24, 2017

Legal Research At Sea

Many law students will never take a class on admiralty and maritime law, but it is a complex and specialized area of law which presents some research challenges. Not to be confused with law of the sea (focused on broader public international law issues), admiralty and maritime law focuses on commercial activity or navigation at sea. Developed not from the common-law tradition but from historical customs related to shipping, admiralty and maritime law has a long history, a unique terminology, and many dedicated resources. Fortunately, there are several research guides to help you navigate these unfamiliar waters.

The brand-new Admiralty and Maritime Law: A Legal Research Guide (KF1096 .T63 2017) will point readers to relevant primary and secondary resources. Additional help can be found in Chapter 7 of Specialized Legal Research, 2d ed. 2014 (Ref Desk KF240 .S642), which is devoted to Admiralty and Maritime Law resources.

Key secondary sources which are available to the Duke Law community include:
  • Benedict on Admiralty (online in Lexis Advance; library's print copy no longer updated): a leading multi-volume treatise on all aspects of admiralty and maritime law. Volume 10 is dedicated to legal issues related to cruise ships, including injuries to passengers, gaming regulations, and at-sea medical malpractice claims.
  • The Law of Seamen (5th ed., online in Westlaw): focuses more on the maritime law rights of merchant seamen, including labor and employment concerns, criminal procedure, determination of a ship's seaworthiness, and even "Loss of clothing and personal effects."

Admiralty and maritime content can also be found in chapters of the American Jurisprudence 2d encyclopedia (on Westlaw, Lexis, and campus-wide in LexisNexis Academic, and in the federal practice treatises Moore's Federal Practice (Practice & Procedure KF8840 .M663 & online in Lexis Advance) and Wright & Miller's Federal Practice and Procedure (Practice & Procedure KF9619 .W7 2008 4th & online in Westlaw).

For more help with locating admiralty and maritime law resources, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "Maritime law - - United States" or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

All About Clerkships

Working toward a judicial clerkship opportunity, or just want to learn more about the possibilities? The Goodson Law Library has just received the new title Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships, 2d ed. 2016. Author Debra M. Strauss, a lawyer and former judicial clerk, outlines the types of work that clerks will do, and provides advice on the application and interviewing process. Chapters describe the different types of clerkships in both state and federal court systems, and give tips for choosing the court and judge that will suit you best. Interview advice, and sample questions, are also included.

There's also a chapter of research tools for learning more about an individual judge. Additional resources on judge analytics can be found in the recent Goodson Blogson post Judge for Yourself. For more information about researching clerkship opportunities or individual judges, check out the library's research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges or Ask a Librarian.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Finding Foreign Law

Thanks to robust free access through government websites, as well as subscription resources with primary law, most American legal researchers can locate a U.S. state or federal court opinion or statute with ease. But what about finding primary legal materials from other countries? Online access can vary widely, and language barriers can also make searching difficult. Whenever you're tasked with tracking down legal materials from outside the U.S., keep these three helpful starting places in mind.
  • The Bluebook, Table 2: Foreign Jurisdictions. While selective in the number of countries it covers, the legal citation manual The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (20th ed. 2015) has increased its attention to non-U.S. jurisdictions in recent editions. The Bluebook table for a particular country (listed alphabetically by country name in Table 2) highlights preferred sources and citation formats for most primary legal materials, and includes titles, dates, and URLs where available. Identifying the appropriate publication title is an excellent first step in tracking down the needed document in a library or on the web.
  • Foreign Law Guide: A subscription database, available to current members of the Duke University community. Entries for a particular country will provide an overview of the legal system, details about primary sources of law, and a subject index. Foreign Law Guide includes pointers to online availability, in both free and subscription resources. Notes about English translations (either official or through unofficial secondary sources) are also often included.
  • GlobaLex: A free website maintained by NYU Law's Hauser Global Law School Program, GlobaLex’s Foreign Law Research section provides detailed guides to researching the law of most countries, including some not featured in Foreign Law Guide (such as North Korea and South Sudan).
These guides are all a great preliminary step in locating legal materials for other countries. For additional resources and assistance, consult our research guide to Foreign & Comparative Law or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mind Mapping Made Easy

Do you prefer brainstorming on a whiteboard to typing up an outline? If so, then mind mapping tools may be a great way to plan your next project. Mind mapping allows you to brainstorm, take notes, or plan projects visually, and these tools also allow easy collaboration with other users. Learn more about the benefits of mind mapping at the Lifehacker blog's 2013 post How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain's Creativity.

Duke University has just announced a partnership which makes MindMeister available for free to all current students, faculty, and staff. MindMeister is a cloud-based mind mapping tool which is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. Duke users should log in at the OIT software download page, search for MindMeister, and Add to Cart. After Checkout, the free MindMeister Account Creation Link will generate an email to create your Duke account on the service. MindMeister also offers iOS and Android apps for mobile users, as well as the ability to collaborate with other MindMeister users or "teams."

If you do not qualify for the Duke academic software license, MindMeister also offers a free Basic account, limited to 3 mind maps. Pricing plans for non-educational users are also available. In addition, other mind mapping tools are available for users to test the capabilities, including Coggle (which syncs with your Google Account) and, which allows 1 free mind map without logging in.

The OIT software download page contains many other free and deeply-discounted programs and tools for the Duke community. Be sure to take advantage of the valuable deals to be found, including free access to LastPass Premium password management software and discounted Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. To learn more about these programs and receive information about support, visit

Friday, January 6, 2017

A History of the Holman Rule

As the new 115th Congress began its work this week, one of the first orders of business was to adopt procedural rules. House Resolution 5 (text at, Adopting Rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, garnered much attention for its original controversial plan to limit the powers of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, approved during a closed vote. Following thousands of constituent phone calls (and Twitter criticism from President-Elect Donald Trump regarding congressional priorities), the move was abandoned less than 24 hours later.

However, a new controversy over the rules package took shape yesterday, when the media took note of another provision, the "Holman rule." Originally developed in 1876 but removed from the standing rules in 1983, the Holman Rule allows a member of Congress to propose appropriations amendments which reduce "the number and salary of the officers of the United States" or "the compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States." As noted in the Washington Post, this measure has raised concerns about the ability of Congress to target individual federal civil servants for punitive salary reduction, or federal programs for elimination.

News reports frequently describe the Holman rule as "obscure," likely due to its removal from the standing rules more than three decades ago. So what is the history of this Holman rule? Answers can be found in some classic Congressional procedure treatises, such as Cannon's Precedents and Deschler's Precedents. Both are available through the subscription database HeinOnline's Congressional Documents library, as well as for free through the U.S. Government Publishing Office's 8 Deschler's Precedents § 4 contains a historical overview of the Holman Rule, covering its development in the late 1800s, to its limitation of scope by the 98th Congress in 1983. The congressional precedent texts can be browsed for free on GovInfo, or searched and browsed on FDsys. More details are provided in the 2010 publication A Concise History of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.

For more information about congressional rules and procedures, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "United States. Congress. House -- Rules and practice" or "Parliamentary practice -- United States." You'll find titles like House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House (2011) and Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process (10th ed. 2016). For help locating these or other titles on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lights Out for

On December 31, 2016, Law School access to the original interface will be phased out. Beginning on January 1, all Law School research will be through Lexis Advance, the interface which debuted in 2011. (Recently, was only accessible via a pull-down menu within Lexis Advance, but soon that option will be removed.) 100% of content has migrated into Advance, making the long-term upkeep of parallel research systems unnecessary. (Law firm and other commercial users of will have an additional 12 months to get up to speed on Lexis Advance while retaining access to

Lexis has created a " Migration Center" (login required) with handouts and training videos to help users learn more about the Advance interface and content. In particular, the PDF handout "The Research Tasks You Do Most: Here's How at Lexis Advance" is a handy primer to the most popular research needs. Additionally, the LexisNexis Legal YouTube channel for Lexis Advance Training on the Go contains more than 60 videos on various research topics.

Law school researchers are no strangers to changing legal research platforms: in July 2014, Westlaw's "Classic" site was phased out in favor of its WestlawNext interface (now known as Thomson Reuters Westlaw). Like the planned Lexis transition, Westlaw retired the Classic interface from law school users a full year before the sunset date for commercial subscribers: August 31, 2015.

For help with getting up to speed on Lexis Advance, Westlaw, or any other legal research resource, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charity Checkups

The end of the calendar year often sees an increase in solicitations from non-profit organizations. Whether you feel compelled to give back or are just calculating charitable deductions for next year's tax return, it's helpful to research tax-exempt organizations to learn more about where your dollars are being spent, and to avoid sending money to fraudulent organizations.

The Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organization Select Check provides quick information about particular non-profit organizations, and the general deductibility level of contributions. For more detailed financial data regarding tax-exempt organizations, the best source is the annual Form 990 filed with the IRS. Form 990 archives are available through a number of sources:
  • Duke University community members have access to GuideStar, a leading source of reliable nonprofit information and backfiles of Form 990.
  • Charity Navigator is another option to review ratings of charitable organizations, including percentages of revenue spent on actual programs and services versus overhead.
  • ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer also includes basic financials and free 990 downloads.
The growth of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has also affected charitable giving. It's common to see GoFundMe, YouCaring, or other fundraising sites set up to raise medical expenses, funeral expenses, or other needs. However, the Better Business Bureau has warned of fraudulent fundraising sites being created in the aftermath of tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Orlando nightclub shooting. For its part, GoFundMe offers both donors and beneficiaries protection in the event of fraud, and YouCaring provides tips for avoiding fraudulent fundraising campaigns. But as with traditional charities, donors should research carefully to ensure that their money reaches the intended source.

For more information about charitable organizations and tax law, check out the resources listed in the research guide to Federal Tax or Ask a Librarian.