Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Research Globally with vLex

The Duke University community now has access to vLex Global (, an online legal research service based in Barcelona, Spain. vLex offers case law, legislation, and other legal materials for nearly 100 countries, with a particular focus on jurisdictions in Central America, South America, and Europe.

The contents of vLex may be searched by keyword, or browsed by country.
Information is presented in its original language, although translations are available for many documents and may be requested for others. Where available, translations are presented side-by-side with the original language of the document.

For additional help with researching the laws of a foreign country, consult the Goodson Law Library’s research guide to Foreign & Comparative Law (

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Directory of Lawyers from LII

Last week, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School launched a directory of Legal Services & Lawyers ( This free resource offers basic information for every U.S. lawyer whom LII staff could identify; more robust profiles are available for lawyers who choose to register with the site. LII additionally offers higher placement for lawyers who donate to the LII website or perform other unspecified “good works”.

Users may find a lawyer by location, practice area, or name. How does this resource compare to other free online directories? Only time will tell. For some comparison shopping, check out the Goodson Law Library research guide to Directories of Lawyers (

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Was Work Today, Mr. President?

While President Obama may be hanging on to his Blackberry over concerns from staff (story at, cybersecurity measures will ensure that he won’t be nearly as accessible online as he was during his campaign. (For example, he hasn’t made a tweet since the day before the inauguration.)

However, you can still stay abreast of the President’s latest work. One of the first major changes in the new administration is the creation of the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (, which replaces a Weekly Compilation that had been published since 1965. Like the Weekly Compilation before it, the Daily Compilation will be annually compiled into the Public Papers of the President. It will contain materials such as speeches, press conference transcripts, executive orders and memoranda, signing statements, and other messages issued by the President.

For more information on presidential documents, see the Goodson Law Library research guide to Federal Administrative Law, which has been updated to reflect this change.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

February Bar Exam Help

Taking a bar exam in February? With just over a month left to prepare, panic often sets in around this time. Fortunately, the Goodson Law Library can help, no matter the jurisdiction.

The most useful resource for North Carolina exam takers is the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners site ( This site offers past exams back to 2005 free for download, for those who would like a peek at the structure of state-specific essay questions. (Older essay questions are available in the library at the call number KFN7476 .N671; the latest exam available in print is 2003.) The North Carolina Bar Association has also prepared a brief guide to Drafting a Bar Exam Essay Answer (KFN7476.Z9 D73 2004), with tips and tricks for NC test takers. An updated version of this pamphlet is available in PDF at

For bar examinations in other states, there is a collection of past exams in the Microforms Collection on Level 1 of the library (cabinet # 35, top drawer). Available dates vary widely by state, although many of the most popular bar exam destinations for Duke Law (such as California, Georgia and Massachusetts) have received past exams up to February 2008. To see what years are available for a particular state, search the Duke Libraries catalog ( for the subject keywords bar examinations and [state]; e.g. bar examinations and Maryland.

Many states also make past exams available for free on their bar exam websites, such as New York’s page of Past Exam Questions ( Visit to locate the Board of Law Examiners site for your state.

To help prepare for the Multistate Bar Examination portion, consult Walton, Strategies and Tactics for the MBE (Reserves). Some basic information about the MBE structure and subject matter is also available from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (, although this site does not provide free past exams or sample questions.

Other general study guides applicable to any bar exam include: Darrow-Kleinhaus, The Bar Exam in a Nutshell (Reserves); Friedland, Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success (KF303 .F75 2008); and Riebe & Schwartz, Pass the Bar (KF303 .R54 2006). To find more, search the Duke Libraries catalog ( for the subject keywords bar examinations—united states. Good luck!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fed Tax Cage Match

It’s no secret that federal tax research is complex and highly technical. In the last decade, a number of specialized tax research databases have offered researchers increased choice—as well as increased confusion. LexisNexis, Westlaw, RIA Checkpoint, or CCH Tax Research Network: with this many options, who can decide where to begin?

The Goodson Law Library research guide to Federal Tax offers some comparison, but these tax research resources are far too comprehensive for us to describe in extensive detail. Fortunately, three tax professors at Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) have written The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms. Although the article will be published in an upcoming issue of the Florida Tax Review, it is already available on SSRN (; click “Download” in the upper left-hand corner).

The 79-page article discusses the development of the five major fed tax research platforms, and tests each service with hypothetical research questions. The authors offer opinionated commentary on search function and ease of use; Appendix A compares the contents of each service in a helpful chart format. Unsurprisingly, the authors ultimately recommend a “blended” approach to tax research, but their analysis (and screenshots!) will undoubtedly prove educational to anyone approaching these complicated services.

Duke Law has access to all but one of the five resources tested (the BNA Tax Management Library is not available electronically at Duke, although the Goodson Law Library does maintain a print collection of the popular Tax Management Portfolios in the Tax Alcove on Level 2). For fed tax researchers at Duke, this comparison is a must-read.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Encyclopedia of Public International Law Online

For more than two decades, legal scholars have turned to the Encyclopedia of Public International Law for its comprehensive analysis of international law topics; it is highly regarded as an excellent starting place for research. Each EPIL article is written by an expert in the particular field, and includes an extensive bibliography for further reading.

As authors and editors prepare the next print edition (due in 2010), publisher Oxford University Press has taken the unusual step of publishing the completely revised articles online first. The Duke Law community may now access the posted articles from the upcoming Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law at

The online MPEPIL already contains more than 500 of the planned 1700 articles, and additional articles are uploaded quarterly. (Note that even after the new print edition of MPEPIL is published in 2010, some of the online articles will remain web-only exclusives.) Upcoming articles will include “Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments” by Duke Law’s own Professor Ralf Michaels.

Book lovers, don’t worry! The print versions aren’t going anywhere. The Goodson Law Library maintains the latest print edition of the EPIL (published from 1992-2003) in the Reserves collection. (The previous, but still frequently-cited, edition is available in the Reference collection at Ref KZ1160 .E53.) And of course, we will receive a copy of the completely revised MPEPIL upon its publication in 2010.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spring Semester Library Service Hours

Welcome to a new semester! Beginning Sunday, January 11, the Goodson Law Library will return to regular building access and service hours. Evening and weekend library services will remain in effect until the Law School’s Spring Break (March 7-14).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

U.S. Code now in HeinOnline

In September 2008, HeinOnline hinted that prior editions of the official U.S. Code might be added to their vast library of digitized legal publications (see our earlier blog post). Although GPO Access provides a searchable USC back to 1994, legal researchers seeking earlier versions of a codified law needed to use superseded code volumes or cumbersome microfiche sets. (LexisNexis and Westlaw also provide earlier versions of their annotated federal code publications, but even these date back to only 1990.)

The United States Code library is now activated in HeinOnline. It provides PDF versions of the official federal code dating back to its inception in 1926. (The Revised Statutes, an 1873 precursor to the US Code, was already available in Hein’s U.S. Statutes at Large library.)

In other U.S. Code news, GPO Access has just begun to post the latest official version of the USC (2006 edition) at Titles 1-41 are now available; titles 42-50 are provided from the 2000 edition. The Goodson Law Library has been receiving the 2006 U.S. Code in print since June 2008, and this delay between receipt of print volumes and online acknowledgement of the new edition by GPO created a strange limbo for cite-checkers, who are required by the Bluebook to cite to the latest official edition of the USC wherever possible. Remember that GPO considers the electronic versions to be unofficial, and warns that researchers should always verify the online version against the print edition.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Better Know A Congress

The 111th Congress (or “The Fightin’ 111th”, for Stephen Colbert fans) will convene for the first time at noon on January 6. This Congress will meet for two yearlong “sessions” before adjourning at the end of 2010.

Although the seats of two potential senators remain in dispute (comedian Al Franken, whose election was the subject of a hotly-contested recount in Minnesota; and Roland Burris, appointed by disgraced Illinois Governor Ron Blagojevich to fill President-elect Obama’s vacant Senate seat), you can get to know the other new additions to Congress in the New Member Pictorial Directory ( Congresspersons whose tenure continues from the 110th Congress can be searched in the Guide to House and Senate Members (, which has not yet been updated for the 111th Congress.

So what’s on the legislative agenda? THOMAS (, a service of the Library of Congress, should always be your first stop for congressional research. THOMAS provides schedules and calendars for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the text and current status of all introduced and enacted bills.

The U.S. Government Printing Office also hosts a treasure trove of congressional materials at GPO Access ( Available resources from the legislative branch include the Congressional Record (debates on the floor of both chambers), committee reports on pending legislation, procedural materials, and hearing transcripts.

The Washington Post maintains a free database of voting records, U.S. Congress Votes, at The database offers a number of RSS feeds to track votes by a particular member or related to particular bills.

For commentary and analysis on the current Congress, members of the Duke community can also access CQ Weekly (, a publication from Congressional Quarterly. The “Weekly Report” feature summarizes the latest happenings in Congress, and alerts are available via e-mail.

For additional web resources, check out the library's Federal Legal Links page.