Monday, December 29, 2008

New Research Guide: Court Records & Briefs

Although law school casebooks tend to focus on the judge’s written opinion, court cases actually generate a large amount of other documents, such as: complaints, briefs, depositions, oral argument transcripts, jury verdicts, settlement agreements, etc. These materials comprise the record of the case.

Legal researchers might wish to consult a case’s record or briefs for a variety of reasons: to review which legal arguments persuaded (or did not persuade) the judge, to learn more about the factual or procedural background of a case, and to gauge what kind of verdict or damages might be awarded in a similar situation. Unfortunately, there is little consistency in the publication of court records and briefs, which may be available in a variety of print, electronic and microform sources.

To aid these researchers, reference librarian Jennifer L. Behrens has created a new Goodson Law Library Research Guide to Court Records and Briefs ( The guide outlines compilations of records and briefs which are available at Duke, as well as sources and strategies for locating specific documents related to a particular case in the Goodson Law Library, LexisNexis, Westlaw, PACER, HeinOnline, and on the free web.

As always, if you encounter a citation to a court document which is not covered in the research guide, please ask a reference librarian.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Researching Uniform Laws and Model Acts

State legislators are busy people; between staff briefings, budget votes, and non-stop reelection campaigning, who has time to actually draft legislation any more? Fortunately, there’s the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, which has been saving legislators time and effort since 1892. NCCUSL prepares “uniform laws”, intended for legislatures to adopt in full, as well as “model acts”, whose language can be used by legislatures as a starting point for similar laws. (Note: Model acts may also be drafted by other groups, such as the American Law Institute.)

Some of the best-known examples of such laws are the Uniform Commercial Code (see the library’s research guide) and the Model Penal Code (drafted by the American Law Institute).

Uniform laws and model acts promote consistency in legislation across state governments. However, because legislatures may choose to adopt only parts of these laws, determining the status of such a law in a particular state can be challenging. Here are some sources for locating the text of these uniform laws and researching their status.

Uniform Laws Annotated (Practice & Procedure KF879.A45 U51 and Westlaw: ULA database) compiles the text of uniform and model acts which have been adopted by at least one state. The annotations describe which jurisdictions have adopted the act, along with any variations in the text. ULA also provides case annotations.

The text of uniform laws from NCCUSL can also be found at the NCCUSL website, in an online archive at the University of Pennsylvania’s Biddle Law Library, in the Goodson Law Library Microforms Room (up to 2006) and now on HeinOnline’s new National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws library.

Model laws from other organizations can be found in the Duke University Libraries catalog and in HeinOnline’s American Law Institute library, as well as in Uniform Laws Annotated.

For assistance with researching uniform laws and model acts, please speak with a reference librarian.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Library Services over Winter Break

Beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 19, the library will operate under Winter Break service hours. Generally, the library will be open from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with some mid-week closures in observance of the Christmas and New Year's holidays:

Saturday 12/20-Sunday 12/21: CLOSED
Monday 12/22-Tuesday: 12/23 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 12/24-Sunday 12/28: CLOSED (Christmas)
Monday 12/29-Tuesday 12/30: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 12/31-Sunday 1/4: CLOSED (New Year)
Monday 1/5-Friday 1/9: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 1/10: CLOSED
Sunday 1/11: Spring semester hours begin

During the break, the Duke Law Community will retain 24-hour access to the Law School and Goodson Law Library with a current DukeCard. Have a fun (and safe) winter break!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

English Reports [Full Reprint] on CommonLII

The Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII) recently announced the digitization of the English Reports, an historical reprint of English case law from 1220-1873. The reports can be found in PDF at CommonLII’s database may be browsed by case name or year; or searched by party name or keyword.

Researchers at Duke have a growing list of options for locating cases from the English Reports. A print set is available on Level 1 at the call number KD270 1220 .E53, and the HeinOnline database added a digitized version of the set in 2007. For more information, consult the library’s recently-updated research guide to English Legal History.

Monday, December 8, 2008

American Law Reports: The Choice is Yours (Again)

In January 2008, American Law Reports became available online exclusively in Westlaw. Historically, both LexisNexis and Westlaw had provided access to the electronic version of the lengthy annotations, which compile and summarize a large amount of state and federal case law on a particular legal topic.

Perhaps moved by the spirit of the holiday season, the two legal research giants have agreed to share A.L.R. once more. American Law Reports is now available on both Westlaw (ALR database) and LexisNexis (Legal > Secondary Legal). The series is also available in print in the library’s Practice & Procedure collection (Level 3). (This is a remarkable change from the spring 2008 semester, when the Lexis access ceased and the print volumes were in renovation storage.)

Other newly-reinstated titles on LexisNexis include Witkin treatises (a major secondary source in California legal research), New York Jurisprudence, Ohio Jurisprudence, Texas Jurisprudence, and Florida Jurisprudence.

This happy news should also serve as a reminder that content on Lexis, Westlaw and other databases can change suddenly and sometimes without warning. If you have trouble locating material in a database, please speak with a reference librarian about alternative sources.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Library Services During Reading/Exam Period

The reading and examination period marks the beginning of changes to library service hours. Effective today, the Reference Desk will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Night and weekend reference services will resume at the start of spring 2009 classes, on Sunday, January 11.

The Circulation Desk will maintain regular hours during the reading and examination period, and will begin operating under winter break hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) on Saturday, December 20.

The Academic Technologies Help Desk will remain fully staffed during reading and exam period, as well.

As always, current members of the Duke Law community will retain 24-hour access to the Law School and Law Library with a valid DukeCard.

For more information, see the Library's Hours & Directions page.

Exam Success Tip #5: Stop Stressing

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. This is the last tip of the week; click "Older Posts" to view the rest of the series.

Tip #5. Stop Stressing!

We know, we know--telling a law student to relax is easier said than done. Some law students might even view their stress as a motivating force. However, for the majority of students, anxiety is an obstacle which makes exam season even more difficult. As Duke Law begins the Reading and Examination Period, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Last month, Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success at Texas Tech, published a thoughtful article in the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine on the topic of stress reduction for law students. Jarmon’s common-sense tips, which are often forgotten in the hectic exam period, include:
  • No all-nighters! Get a full night’s sleep and resist the temptation to “make up” extra hours of sleep over the weekend. Keep your sleep schedule consistent to avoid feeling overtired. (We add: Just because you have 24-hour access to the library doesn’t mean you have to use it. Your roommates and/or pets and/or houseplants probably miss you.)
  • Eat healthy. Avoid the temptations of fast food, energy drinks, and high-calorie snacks. Instead, take a break to prepare a larger quantity of healthy meals over the weekend, and freeze them for use throughout the week. (We suggest: assemble a team of like-minded friends to each trade a serving from different recipes, so that you’re not eating poached chicken for five days in a row. Should you ever forget your lunch, there’s always the Refectory CafĂ© in the Star Commons, which offers a variety of fresh and healthy salads and sandwiches.)
  • Sneak in some exercise. Jarmon suggests such subtle self-deception as parking farther away and opting to take the stairs, in order to squeeze in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 days a week. (We note: Most Duke Law students already trek from the Chemistry lot, and probably do opt for the stairs instead of our notoriously slow elevators. You might just force yourself to take a gym break, or a long walk.)
  • Prioritize your studies. Jarmon first outlines five common study scenarios which increase stress (e.g., you’re way behind in reading; you haven’t yet started an outline; etc.) and offers common-sense solutions for tackling each.
If you’re a member of the ABA’s Law Student division, you can view Jarmon's full article at (ABA username and password required). If not, you can obtain the full text from the General OneFile database (this link will work on-campus, or off-campus if you have already logged in with EZproxy).

To Jarmon's tips, we would also emphasize the importance of making time for the outside world: one evening of fun won't mean the difference between passing and failure. Call a friend or family member who is neither a law student nor a lawyer; talk about something other than your studies. Go see a movie which does not feature lawyer characters. Pick up a novel; go shopping; try a new restaurant. Put aside law school for a few hours, and you'll be ready to pick up where you left off the next day.

Above all, try to remember that you know more than you think you do. Good luck to all of our students on exams!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Exam Success Tip #4: It's All About EBB

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. Check back each day for a new tip.

Tip #4. Install Electronic Bluebook (EBB) Ahead of Schedule

As Registrar John Spencer sagely noted in last month's panel Exam Prep and Study Session Tips for 1Ls (now available as a webcast; RealPlayer required), please don't hesitate to download Electronic Bluebook (EBB) if you will be using your laptop to take an exam. Detailed instructions are available on the Academic Technologies' Computing for Students page ( If you encounter problems while downloading the software, talk to the Academic Technologies' Help Desk staff.

After downloading the software to your computer, practice using it before your first exam so that you encounter no unpleasant surprises on test day! You might try writing a model answer from one of your professors' old exams (Exam Success Tip #1), or from a general law school exam prep guide (Exam Success Tip #2), in order to familiarize yourself with using the software's basic functions.

Finally, be aware of the Law School's policy and procedures on what to do if you encounter problems with EBB or your laptop during an examination: Just a small amount of EBB preparation before test day could save you a host of trouble during exams!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exam Success Tip #3: Close the Outline Gaps

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. Check back each day for a new tip.

Tip #3. Complete Your Outlines...with a Little Help

Still confused about consideration? Puzzled by the Rule Against Perpetuities? Fill in your course outline gaps by consulting some subject-specific study guides. The library purchases a number of book series which are designed to help law students understand the concepts in a particular area of law. Perennial favorites:
  • Examples and Explanations Series: This series of books, published by Aspen, are written by law professors and are great exam preparation aids. The books give a narrative overview of key concepts and rules followed by "examples" (hypothetical questions) and "explanations" (answers to the questions). In the online catalog, search the title keyword [your subject] and examples and explanations to retrieve the volumes on a particular topic and their locations in the library.

  • Hornbooks: These books are written especially for law students and review specific areas of law in a summary, narrative form. They are thorough, but not exhaustive. The primary producer of hornbooks, West, has now divided its hornbooks into two editions: Practitioner's and Student's. The practitioner's edition usually contains additional chapters which discuss practice-oriented issues not normally of interest to students. The library usually has both versions in the Reserves collection.

  • Mastering... Series: These slim volumes provide a quick overview of a specific area of law, with minimal footnotes. They are available on a variety of law school course topics and can be located in the catalog with a title keyword search for “mastering [subject]”; e.g. mastering contracts.

  • Nutshell Series: These books contain a comprehensive outline of a specific area of the law, usually written by a noted authority on the subject. They provide a big-picture look at the law and avoid in-depth analysis. They contain fewer footnotes and references than hornbooks, but generally give greater coverage of a subject than commercial study guides. The most current Nutshells are in the Reserves collection, organized by the author’s last name.

  • Understanding... Series: Published by LexisNexis on a variety of legal topics, this series can be found with a title keyword search of the catalog for “understanding [subject]”; e.g. understanding criminal law. The Understanding series contain an overview of an area of law, with footnotes to primary sources for further reading.
If you require more in-depth analysis of a particular issue, you might wish to consult a multi-volume treatise on the subject. The library's guide to First-Year Treatises ( provides author and title information for the top treatises in 1L subjects, as well as links to online versions in Lexis or Westlaw. Links to relevant CALI exercises are also provided.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Exam Success Tip #2: Consult Prep Guides

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. Check back each day for a new tip.

Tip #2. Consult General Law Exam Prep Books

What if you can’t find any past exams from your specific professors? You might benefit from looking at general law examination preparation guidebooks, available on reserve in the library. These books contain an overview of the most common formats for law school exams, and give strategies for studying and for writing successful answers. Often, these books also provide model exam questions and sample answers, along with explanations why a particular answer is more successful than others.

Titles like Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win and Mastering the Law School Exam : A Practical Blueprint for Preparing and Taking Law School Exams can be found in the libraries’ catalog with a subject search for “Law examinations—United States” ( Generally the most current editions of these books will be available on reserve (4-hour/overnight checkout), although past editions may be available for a longer borrowing period in the General Collection.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Exam Success Tip #1: Review Old Exams

Around this time of year, the library fills with 1Ls who are dreading their first law school exams. (Upper-class students are also not immune to this end-of-semester anxiety, even though they have a better idea of what to expect.) During the last week of classes, we're devoting the Goodson Blogson to library tips for exam success. Check back each day for a new tip.

Tip #1. Review Old Exams from your Professors

A frequent question at the library’s service desk during the reading and exam period is where to obtain copies of Law School exams from previous years. The Office of the Registrar currently hosts a database of Exams on File (, which offers password-protected access to some past exams. Note that participation in Exams on File is at the discretion of the instructor; as a result, the selection is somewhat limited. (Tip #2 will provide suggestions if your professors choose not to provide old exams for review. Note that beginning in the Spring 2009 semester, Exams on File will change to a format in which individual instructors can post exams on the Blackboard course site.)

There is a common misconception that the library maintains a paper archive of exams as well. Although there is a print collection of past Law School exams in the library’s Archives collection (1935-2001), this collection was discontinued when the Exams on File site began. Unless your professor has specifically placed an old exam on Course Reserve (and none has, at the time of this writing), the library has no post-2001 exams in paper format.

If your professor has not included exams in the online database, he or she might be willing to share exams on the class Blackboard site, or at least to detail the general format and specific topics of the exam in class. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information.