Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black's Law Dictionary on Your iPhone

On April 15, West released its first iPhone application, Black’s Law Dictionary. In the last few weeks, some legal blogs picked up the story, but most have simply pointed out the existence of the app and linked to a brief YouTube video with its developers (

For $49.99, though, a bit more exploration may be in order. That’s not the most expensive app on the iTunes Store (that honor goes to iRa Pro, a mobile video surveillance program retailing at $899.99), but it's certainly hefty enough to give the average law student pause…especially when a print edition can be had for nearly the same price, and the definitions can also be found on Westlaw (BLACKS database).

The authors of iPhone J.D. (, a blog for attorneys who use iPhones, have just posted an excellent review of the new Black’s Law Dictionary app ( Although lengthy, the comparison is a must-read for anyone who is considering a download of the new app.

The authors provide screenshots of the Black’s app, and it does indeed look cool. Definitions include cross-links to other words in the dictionary, and audio pronunciations are available for about 7,000 terms. The app also provides links to related content in Westlaw, such as key numbers and code sections (although you’ll need to log in on your iPhone’s web browser).

But caveat emptor! The blog authors also point out that the next print edition of Black’s Law Dictionary is due in just two short months ( It’s unknown how many new terms will be added to the 9th edition (although the 8th edition had 17,000 more definitions than the 7th), but iPhone users should know that their dictionary app will become a bit outdated in June 2009. (West representatives told iPhone J.D. that they’re not yet sure whether a 9th-edition app will be developed.)

Have you tried the Black’s Law Dictionary iPhone app? Tell us your experiences in the comments.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Most Patriotic Exam-Season Prank

When tensions run high during final exams, students often seek an outlet in the form of a prank. As last semester’s flash mob at UNC-Chapel Hill ( demonstrated, libraries are frequent targets of such stress-induced mischief.

We’re no strangers to the exam-season prank: Goodson Law Library staff can recall toilet paper decorating the mezzanine and various other garden-variety practical jokes. But one prank stood out from the rest, grabbing a front-page headline in April 1980 (click photo for full story):

Second-year law student and professional singer Mark Clark (JD ’81) performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the library’s mezzanine for four consecutive nights at 10 p.m. According to the article, the final performance on Tuesday, April 22 was a black-tie affair that featured musical accompaniment from other law students and even a miniature fireworks display (current and future library users: please don’t attempt to replicate this portion of the prank). Clark said his singing engagement was intended to cheer up law students who were holed up in the library, which he described as “a good place to sing in, but what a pit to study in.” (We hope he would feel differently today, after seeing our beautifully renovated space!)

So whatever happened to this mysterious library patriot? After leaving the Atlanta law firm where he worked after graduation, Clark went on to receive a Ph.D in Medieval History from Columbia University. Dr. Clark is currently Associate Professor of Classical and Early Christian Studies at Christendom College in Virginia, where he teaches Latin, Greek and theological history. Will this trip down memory lane persuade him to give a repeat performance (minus the fireworks) at his Duke Law class reunion in 2011? Only time will tell.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Exam Season Etiquette (and Safety)

The library is a busy place during finals. Study rooms are often booked solid 24 hours in advance, carrels are crowded, and tempers can flare. In order to keep our library peaceful, clean, and safe, here are a few gentle reminders:

Use of Carrels

Be considerate of your colleagues by making carrels available when you are not actively using them. Please place books or other personal materials on the upper shelf, or take them with you if you leave a carrel for any extended period of time. Items left in a carrel for a long period of time are subject to removal to the Law School's lost and found.

Want to store books in a carrel for a longer period of time? Bring the items and the carrel number to the Circulation/Reserve Desk-- by checking out items to a specific carrel number, this will prevent staff from removing and reshelving items. (Note, however, that this doesn't give you property rights to the carrel if you return to find the space occupied.)

Safety First

Exam season is prime time for thieves, and laptop thefts have already been reported in other campus libraries. PLEASE keep your valuables with you at all times in the library! If you must leave your laptop or other personal belongings for any amount of time (even "just a second"!), ask a trusted friend to watch your things while you are gone. Please also report any suspicious activity in the library to staff members.

Trash and Recycling

Large trash and recycling bins are available on every floor: near the center stairway on Levels 2-4, near the back elevator on Level 1, and near each printer station. During finals, an additional extra-large trash bin will be placed on Level 3 over the weekends. Please help keep our beautiful library clean!

We appreciate your cooperation. Please speak to a library staff member with any questions or concerns.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A PSA on Password Security

Westlaw just announced an upcoming change to its password policy: beginning May 31, Westlaw users will see a prompt to create a OnePass account (username and password) in order to access the research sites, rather than use the 11-digit “Westlaw Password” from your original registration card. A separate username and password has always been an option for accessing Westlaw, but it’s soon to be a requirement: by mid-July, all Westlaw users at Duke will need to create a OnePass account, or update an existing one, in order to conform to password security standards.

The only real surprise about this announcement, though, is how long it took to arrive. A separate username and password has been required by LexisNexis for several years, following a high-profile security breach in 2005 ( Many other websites, such as online newspapers, also require usernames and passwords.

Unfortunately, this desire for added security can often have the opposite effect: users who are afraid of forgetting multiple passwords frequently use the same password for all sites, or use extremely simple passwords which are easy for hackers to crack. In 2007, PC Magazine compiled a list (,1759,2113976,00.asp) of the 10 most commonly-used online passwords:
  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. qwerty
  4. abc123
  5. letmein
  6. monkey
  7. myspace1
  8. password1
  9. blink182
  10. (your first name)
Did you see any of your passwords on this list? Now might be a good time to review the Duke Office of Information Technology’s Password Security FAQ ( OIT has compiled helpful advice for choosing a good password and avoiding weak ones. An interesting chart demonstrates the relationship between length of password and security: a five-character password would take a password-cracking program approximately 2 hours to guess, but the addition of just one more character could stump such a program for up to 7.9 days.

While you ponder the creation of your new Westlaw password this summer, review the OIT guidelines and ensure that your many other passwords are safe and secure. For related information on computer security, check out the Law School's Academic Technologies page (

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Service Hours for Reading/Exam Period

The reading and examination period marks the beginning of changes to library service hours. Beginning on Monday, April 20, the Reference Services 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 fall 2009 classes.

The Circulation Desk will maintain regular hours during the reading and examination period, and will begin operating under summer hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) effective Friday, May 1.

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beyond The Bluebook: More Citation Manuals

While The Bluebook remains the style manual of choice for most law reviews and legal journals, there are times when it does not answer a particular citation question. Often, journals and law reviews will designate a non-legal citation manual, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, to control citation of document types (or other matters) not covered by Bluebook. Other, more interdisciplinary, journals may use a non-legal manual exclusively, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

This means that academics who are preparing manuscripts for publications (as well as the student research assistants or journal editors who are helping to format citations correctly) need to be aware of citation manuals beyond The Bluebook. The Goodson Law Library maintains a collection of selected non-legal citation manuals in its Reference Collection (Level 3). Their locations, as well as electronic access through the University, are noted below:

Chicago Manual of Style: Law Ref Z253 .U69 2003
Online version at (searchable and browseable)

MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing: Law Ref PN147 .G444 2008
(Note that the MLA also publishes the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, which is available elsewhere on Duke’s campus, but is intended for use in high school and undergraduate writing. The MLA Style Manual is intended for “graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.”)

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association ("APA Manual"): Law Ref BF76.7 .P83 2001
Updated chapter on electronic references (2007) at

How do these citation manuals compare? Check out the Duke University Libraries’ guide to Assembling a List of Works Cited (, which provides sample document citations from each major non-legal citation manual in an easy-to-read comparison chart.

Of course, sometimes you just need a Bluebook. We’ve previously written about the online version of the Bluebook, which you can purchase at You can also always borrow a Bluebook (for up to 4 hours at a time) from the Goodson Law Library. Just ask at the Circulation/Reserve Desk.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Summer Access to Lexis and Westlaw

Over the summer, LexisNexis and Westlaw traditionally cut off access to student passwords, as law students will use their summer firm’s commercial Lexis and Westlaw accounts. However, students with academic research needs (summer classes, moot court/journal work, research assistantship, etc.) may request an extension of their passwords.

LexisNexis passwords may be extended for the following “academic purposes”:
  • "class preparation and assignments;
  • research associated with moot court or law review/law journal;
  • research associated with pursuing a grant or scholarship;
  • service as a research assistant to a professor (either paid or unpaid) ;
  • an unpaid internship, externship or clinic position for school credit"
Request a summer extension for LexisNexis at

Westlaw passwords may be extended for the following purposes:
  • “Summer law school classes;
  • Law Review and Journal work;
  • Project for a professor;
  • Moot Court;
  • Unpaid non-profit public interest internship/externship or pro bono work required for graduation
Request a summer extension for Westlaw at

Please read the terms of the extension carefully, and abide by them this summer! Commercial research on an educational password violates the terms of the extension, and may result in termination of access or collection of the research charges which would have been incurred on a commercial password.

Remember that Duke Law students also have access to several popular low-cost alternatives to LexisNexis and Westlaw, including Loislaw ( and Casemaker ( As law firms search for ways to reduce operating costs, knowledge of alternatives can set you apart from the crowd. If you missed the recent Research Refresher on Free & Low-Cost Legal Research, check out the materials, archived at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Find Treaties with Flare

The Institute for Advanced Legal Studies recently launched the Flare Index to Treaties (, a free database of more than "1,500 of the most significant multilateral treaties concluded from 1856 to the present."

What makes FIT different from the many other treaty indexes out there? It is searchable by the treaty’s popular name as well as official; the conclusion date, year, or place; and various subject keywords. This makes FIT a great starting place for researchers who can only remember selected details about a particular treaty.

Each treaty entry in the database provides its citations from official and unofficial publications, links to full text online; the location of the treaty depository and the official languages in which the text was published.

Keep in mind that FIT’s search engine lacks the sophistication of Google or Lexis/Westlaw: when it comes to searching, single-word queries seem to work best. For example, a title search for rights and child returned no results, while a title search for just child returned 7 entries, including the desired treaty ("Convention on the Rights of the Child").

Multi-word searches are interpreted as exact phrases (i.e., rights of the child retrieves results, but not rights of child). You can truncate searches with an asterisk (e.g., child* will retrieve results which contain either child or children).

For additional help locating the text of treaties, consult the Goodson Law Library’s research guide to Treaties.