Friday, November 20, 2020

The Finals Countdown

The compressed fall semester schedule means that finals are just around the corner! Law school exams are stressful even in the best of times, so law school exams in 2020 may require some additional support. Fortunately, the Goodson Law Library provides access to some resources that can help ensure your success.

Online study aids can be invaluable ways to clarify difficult concepts from class or fill in gaps in your outlining. Current Duke Law students have online access to both the West Academic Study Aids Library and the Wolters Kluwer Study Aid Library. While both services offer online reading/searching and offline download, different study aid and outline series are available in each database. West includes the series Concepts and Insights, Hornbooks, Nutshells, Black Letter Outlines, Legalines, Sum and Substance, Law Stories, and many more. Wolters Kluwer provides access to the series Examples & Explanations, Glannon Guides, Emanuel Law Outlines, and more.

If law school exams are a new format for you this semester, you might also like to review some study aids specifically aimed at writing law school examination answers. Some recommended titles include:

Duke Law students can also access the resources at CALI: The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. CALI provides members with access to more than 1,000 interactive tutorials (known as Lessons) on legal topics, including a subsection of offerings on Law School Success that features several lessons on exam strategies. Students from CALI member schools can register an account using an authorization code (access Duke's code at the bottom of the Software list with your NetID, or Ask a Librarian).

Finally, be sure to make time during the study crunch for self-care. While it's important to have a good handle on the substance of the test, it's even more important to get adequate sleep the night before, and to ensure that you are maintaining healthy habits with diet and exercise. In the April 2020 issue of the Georgia Bar Journal, attorney Dani Berry shares tips for "Mindfulness Meditation to Combat Stress and Promote Civility in the Law". The Lifehacker blog has a Relaxation section filled with various tips and recommendations for personal wellness. Numerous meditation and relaxation apps are available for download to your mobile device; Vault recommended five for lawyers and law students in June.

Good luck on your finals, and have a safe and happy break!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Legal Holiday Gift Guide, Pandemic Edition

Back in mid-March, it seemed unthinkable that the coronavirus pandemic could possibly stretch into the winter holidays, even as many experts cautioned about the long road ahead. Today, states are reopening slowly, albeit with limitations on public gatherings in order to prevent new spikes in infection rates. With more folks likely to be completing their holiday shopping -- and shipping -- online, it would be prudent to get a head start on planning in order to ensure that your carefully-selected gifts arrive in time. The first (and hopefully last) pandemic edition of the Goodson Blogson's long-running guide to holiday gift ideas for lawyers and law students is here to help.

Remote work (and school) is here to stay for at least a while longer, so maybe the lawyer or law student in your life could use an upgrade to their home office setup. Accessories like webcams, microphones, headsets, ring lights, and portable green screens have been in high demand since spring, and backorders are a common sight. Savvy shoppers will want to start early and also to search beyond the usual big-box stores, including sites like Newegg and B&H. Check out reviews and recommendations before you buy at sites like Engadget and Wirecutter.

Face mask mandates are also a likely sticking around for the future, meaning everyone should have several masks in their rotation. Build up your recipient's collection with some law-themed face masks from Etsy sellers. Stock changes quickly, but some current favorites include The Scales of Justice and The Supremes: Women of SCOTUS.

The internet-famous "This is Fine" dog (also known as Question Hound) is featured on all kinds of official swag suitable for 2020, including a thought bubble face mask, a plush toy in two sizes (full size out of stock until November), a coffee mug that can come bundled with the miniature plush pup, and a dry-erase board.

We're all eating at home a lot more these days. Whether your recipient loves to cook or is still just learning, the Food & Drink section at Uncommon Goods offers dozens of fun DIY kits, including several home brewing/distilling options as well as an introduction to molecular gastronomy techniques.

However, it’s important to support local businesses, including restaurants. How about a gift card to your recipient’s favorite eatery? Gift cards for future visits will help keep restaurants afloat as they make ends meet with limited capacities and takeout sales. (Gift cards to restaurant delivery services like DoorDash or UberEats are another option, but note that an individual restaurant will derive more benefit from direct gift card sales.) One local example is Durham's own Cocoa Cinnamon, which has kept its three area cafes afloat by pivoting to online sales of its coffee and merchandise. Some favorite dining destinations may also offer at-home meal kits or long-distance delivery via Goldbelly, including NYC delis, Los Angeles food trucks, and Michelin-starred chefs. Goldbelly allows you to select a specified future delivery date, meaning that you can shop now and set the deliveries to arrive during the holiday season.

Another good gift idea for foodies could be a cookbook by a favorite chef, or about a favorite style of cuisine. With many independent bookstores struggling during the pandemic, consider making holiday book purchases through your local bookstore, or through the network of independent bookstores at allows you to designate a specific independent bookstore to receive profits from your order, or to contribute to an earnings pool that is distributed to independent bookstores around the country.

Games are another great pandemic gift idea, whether they are video game consoles or tabletop games. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society Gift Shop offers several law-themed jigsaw puzzles, including the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Capitol rotunda's Apotheosis. Brush up on the Constitution with Constitution Quest, a board game available at the National Archives store. Want to find other, not necessarily law-themed, board game ideas? Check out the rankings and ratings at Board Game Geek.

Gift subscriptions to cultural institutions are also a great idea. Even as many live performance venues remain unable to open their doors just yet, some organizations have pivoted to subscription-based streaming performances, including the North Carolina Symphony. An annual gift subscription to MasterClass is another option for a safe, socially-distanced cultural gift. Many museums have begun to open on a limited basis, making museum memberships another potential gift idea for 2021.

Should you find yourself short on time or ideas this year, remember that most law students (or recent law school graduates) would just as likely welcome a cash infusion (or gift card equivalent) at this time of year. Whether it's spent on spring semester textbooks, post-bar exam expenses, or even some of the recommended items above is entirely your recipient's call. Have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Halloween Time Warp

"As extra precaution against too much confidence as a result of improvement in the situation, the board in its daily statement issued last night urges the people of the city not to celebrate Hallowe'en night in the usual manner (by congregating) owing to danger from crowding in rooms and on the sidewalks." While this statement could just as easily be written today, it comes from a 1918 influenza briefing by the Durham City and County Board of Health, published in the October 31 issue of the Durham Morning Herald (available to the Duke community via

Durham was no outlier -- officials around the country restricted public gatherings and Halloween festivities during the influenza epidemic of 1918, as CNN and have both explored recently. The discouragement wasn't entirely successful -- only days later, the Nov. 3 society page of the Herald highlighted the "very bright and attractive Hallowe’en party […] given by the nurses of the Watts hospital Training School," where one can only hope that the appropriate health precautions were taken.

You can find these articles and other fascinating artifacts in newspaper databases, which preserve local history for the enterprising researcher. The Duke University Libraries has compiled an A-Z database list for Newspapers, which range from backfiles of a single paper title to compilations of thousands of different newspaper titles. Coverage dates will vary widely by title, but here are some recommended sources for historical newspaper research:

  • America's Historical Newspapers: more than 6,000 titles of American newspapers published between 1690-1922
  • more than 3,000 titles from around the world, with varying dates of coverage between 1700-2000.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers: full-text PDF coverage of nearly two dozen newspapers, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune.

For help with researching current or historical newspapers, be sure to Ask a Librarian. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

50-State Voting Resources Guide

Most people associate voting with early November, specifically the first-Tuesday holiday known since 1845 as Election Day. However, the current pandemic as well as expectations of record voter turnout has brought renewed focus onto other methods of voting, including mail-in voting and early in-person voting. In North Carolina, for example, one-stop early in-person voting begins today, October 15th, and will last until October 31st.

Issues surrounding voting this year, especially related to COVID-19, have made finding accurate information about the voting process all the more urgent. In response, the Goodson Law Library's Faculty and Scholarly Services Librarian Wickliffe Shreve has worked with the Government Relations Committee of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to create a Voting Resources page as part of AALL's Advocacy Toolkit.

The Voting Resources page has information and links to nonpartisan resources on information about state primaries, locating state and local election websites, locating polling places, voter ID requirements, election dates, registering to vote and confirming your registration, sample ballots, absentee and mail-in ballot requests (including those for military and overseas voters), early voting, potential voting hurdles, and information specific to COVID-19 and the 2020 election. Although targeted at the library community, the Advocacy Toolkit contains resources on legislative advocacy that is useful to the entire legal community.

The Voting Resources page's contents will be updated regularly, and will exist as a permanent resource beyond the 2020 election. For more information about resources listed on this guide, or other materials on election law, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

NCLC Digital Library Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has recently subscribed to the National Consumer Law Center's NCLC Digital Library. This campus-wide database includes full-text access to 22 e-book titles on consumer law topics, including: debtor rights, mortgages & foreclosures, credit & banking, deception & warranties, and consumer litigation. A how-to guide for consumers on Surviving Debt is also included in this subscription.

The Quick Start Guide contains tips and tricks for searching and browsing the digital library. Recent updates to online editions as well as significant law changes in the last six months are marked with blue or red flags, respectively. As the guide cautions, the database's search features differ from research services like Lexis and Westlaw, but it is possible to develop proximity searches and exclude unwanted words using the NCLC search syntax. A separate "Advanced Pleadings Search" link is available to limit results only to sample documents included with publications.

For more information about the history of the NCLC, check out the Our Story section of their website. For assistance with using the new NCLC Digital Library database or with locating other consumer law resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Bar Exam v. Diploma Privilege

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a reckoning nationwide about the administration of bar examinations, usually offered two times a year in each jurisdiction. While about two dozen states did hold a late-July, socially-distanced bar exam in person, other states postponed to a planned September administration, which some jurisdictions postponed again in favor of a remotely-administered online exam to be held on October 5 and 6 (see chart at the National Conference of Bar Examiners). Concerns have grown over the possibility of technical issues with the upcoming online bar exam, with a number of test-takers reporting problems with practice exams and difficulty in obtaining remote support. Michigan's online bar exam, held in late July, experienced widespread technical issues which the State Board of Law Examiners later blamed on a hacking attempt.

Whether or not next week's online examination faces similar technical issues, it seems certain that conversations about alternative paths to law practice will continue for the duration of the pandemic. Last week, the District of Columbia became the fifth jurisdiction to provide for emergency licensure of recent law graduates during the pandemic. Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Louisiana have also provided that recent law school graduates may bypass a bar examination and begin supervised law practice under certain conditions. Some readers might be surprised by the idea of a lawyer skipping the bar exam, but "diploma privilege" is hardly a new concept. (Ask law students in Wisconsin, the only state that still regularly permits graduates of its two ABA-accredited law schools to practice law in the state without taking a bar exam, if they meet certain requirements.) As a bit of library research shows, emergency bar exam waivers have revived a practice that was once incredibly common in American law practice. 

The "Bar Examinations" section of Kermit Hall's Oxford Companion to American Law (available online to the Duke community) outlines the history and development of the bar examination in the United States. Up until the 1870s, a bar examinee would be questioned orally by a judge or lawyer, following the end of an apprenticeship period. In the 1870s, a movement grew to develop more consistent standards for examinations; around the same time, "diploma privilege" became more commonplace, as states and law schools sought to entice would-be lawyers to attend their programs. Lawrence Friedman's A History of American Law (4th ed. 2019 available online) notes the growth in diploma privilege practices: "Between 1855 and 1870, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Michigan, and Wisconsin gave the privilege to graduates of home-state law schools. In 1870, Oregon, which had no law school of its own, went so far as to give the privilege to graduates of any school that had the diploma privilege in its home state" (p. 604). By 1890, as the Oxford Companion noted, 16 states provided diploma privilege for graduates from 26 law schools. The decline of the diploma privilege coincided with the establishment of the National Conference of Bar Examiners in 1931 - by the end of the decade, standardized written bar examinations had overtaken the diploma privilege. By 1974, when a history of diploma privilege was published in the Tulsa Law Journal, only four states still honored the privilege; once West Virginia abolished the option in 1988, Wisconsin stood alone in regularly offering its state's graduates diploma privilege.

As the pandemic continues into the indefinite future, thousands of recent law school graduates have struggled to prepare for ever-changing bar exam dates and formats. Commentators have raised questions about the safe and accessible administration of bar exams under emergency conditions, and even the necessity of the bar examination at all. Critics have highlighted the bar examination's history as a gatekeeping mechanism that was designed in part to restrict access to the bar for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and questioned the relevance of the test's content to the skills needed for successful law practice. Whatever happens with next week's online bar examination (and best of luck to our Duke Law alumni and other examinees), these debates are likely to continue for the duration of the pandemic, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

First Monday in October

The Friday night announcement of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death prompted national mourning. Over the weekend, hundreds gathered on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, and at courthouses around the country, to celebrate the life of this trailblazing jurist. This week, the Justice will lie in repose at first the Court steps, and then at the U.S. Capitol.

To learn more about Justice Ginsburg's remarkable life and career, the Duke University community can access the 2018 documentary film RBG online. Additional biographical resources can be found in the Duke Libraries catalog with a subject search for "Ginsburg, Ruth Bader". The "Available Online" filter will limit your results to e-books and video links; the Duke community may also request circulating print materials via Takeout service.

Justice Ginsburg's death has prompted not only an important national conversation about filling a vacant Court seat during a presidential election, but legal analysis about the potential impact of her absence on the Court's upcoming term, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 5. Although the date has fluctuated in the Court's history, the "first Monday in October" has marked the opening arguments for a new term since 1917. (For historical background on the Court's opening session dates, check out section 1.2(f) of the treatise Supreme Court Practice: For Practice in the Supreme Court of the United States, 11th ed. 2019, online to the Law School community in Bloomberg Law).

In a press release, the Court announced that all October oral arguments will take place via teleconference, a practice that began in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. The remote teleconference will include a live audio broadcast for media and the public, once again allowing real-time access to Court proceedings. The Court has not yet decided how November and December oral arguments will be conducted.

SCOTUSblog provides summaries and filing links for cases on the October Term 2020 docket, sorted by argument date. The Court's own website also includes links to argument calendars and docket filings at Calendars and Lists. Up first this Term is Carney v. Adams, a First Amendment case involving Delaware's state constitutional provision limiting the number of state high court judges affiliated with particular political parties. For additional case analysis throughout the Term, the American Bar Association's Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (via HeinOnline) publishes seven issues that analyze upcoming cases and an eighth summary issue following the end of the Term.

SCOTUSblog will undoubtedly provide ongoing analysis of not only the Court's OT20 term, but the developing nomination and confirmation process ahead. For additional resources on the operations of the U.S. Supreme Court or biographies of justices, check out the library research guide or Ask a Librarian.