Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congress 2.0

“Web 2.0” technologies (like blogs, wikis and social networking sites) can be identified by their emphasis on dynamic content and user participation, as opposed to the more static websites that populated the early years of the World Wide Web. Although the term “Web 2.0” is now a decade old (original coinage), the technology continues to gain traction among all segments of the population. In February, marketers noted that Facebook’s fastest-growing demographic was women over the age of 55.

One such Facebook user is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose official Facebook page communicates with constituents on political news and issues. Speaker Pelosi is just one of many politicos who have established a presence on social-networking sites. Other members of Congress have also embraced the popular micro-blogging service Twitter, including former presidential candidate Senator John McCain and former Senator-turned-President Barack Obama. Senators and representatives have also created YouTube channels and blogs.

As members of Congress continue to employ social media to disseminate their political views, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of their online activities. Several websites aim to corral the social media activity of Congress into one convenient location.
  • Legistalker (http://legistalker.org) culls updates from legislators’ Twitter accounts and YouTube channels, as well as news feeds. The result is a real-time stream of congressional activity, which users can sort by Congressperson, media type, or popularity.
  • TweetCongress (http://tweetcongress.org/) is one of many directories of “Congresstweeple” (or, “members of Congress who use Twitter”). TweetCongress provides a “stream” of constant Twitter updates from Congress members, and allows users to locate individual “tweeple” by name or location.
  • Capitol Words (http://capitolwords.org) is a bit different from the previous two sites, which show examples of individual members of Congress using social media. In contrast, Capitol Words uses 2.0 technology to illustrate the work of Congress itself. The site presents the most popular words from the Congressional Record in a “tag cloud” format, where the size of individual words represents the frequency of their use. It’s an interesting way to track trends on the floor of Congress, and allows options for historic comparison.
Congress isn’t the only branch of government which has embraced 2.0. For examples from other federal agencies and departments, check out Connect with Government on USA.gov for links to blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter, video, and gadgets (a.k.a. widgets). Recent additions include the U.S. Government’s YouTube channel and the White House’s Facebook page.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Help for the Bar Exam Countdown

With just one month until the July bar exams, test-takers often seek additional reinforcement of the materials learned in prep courses. Whether you need to brush up on only a few key subjects, or want an overview of the entire bar exam experience, the Goodson Law Library is here to help.

Day 1: State-Specific

Generally, the first day of the bar exam is devoted to state-specific essays and multiple-choice questions. 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 also available in PDF.

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 http://www.ncbex.org/bar-admissions/offices/ to locate the Board of Law Examiners site for your state.

Day 2: MBE & The Bar Exam Experience

To help prepare for the Multistate Bar Examination portion of the exam, 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.

Just need a review of your “problem” subjects? Several book series in the library can help fill in your outline gaps (presented in order from least to most descriptive):

Examples & Explanations

iPhone users can also purchase the popular “Law in a Flash” flash card series as apps. See review at the iPhone J.D. blog.

Other general study guides applicable to any state’s 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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

World Intellectual Property Report Now Available

Current members of the Duke Law community now have access to World Intellectual Property Report, a monthly newsletter of global developments in patents, trademarks, copyrights, and related topics. WIPR includes analysis of intellectual property legislation, case law, treaties and other news from all over the world. A “country index” allows quick access to news from particular places of interest; the European Union and World Intellectual Property Organization are also featured regularly.

Access the WIPR current issues and article archive (back to 1997) through the BNA Publications Library (http://library.duke.edu/metasearch/db/id/DUK02057). You can choose to read or search the WIPR on-site or sign up for e-mail delivery of upcoming issues.

Looking for more IP information? Our newly-updated Intellectual Property Law research guide (http://www.law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/intprop) now includes a link to WIPR, as well as recommended treatises, websites, and research strategies for patents, trademarks, copyrights and other IP topics.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lexis and Westlaw for Deferred Associates

Recent law school graduates face an uncertain future beyond the bar exam: many law firms have pushed back start dates for new associates. Depending upon the firm, recent hires might be waiting as long as January of 2011 to start their full-time legal employment. (See the Start Date Round-Up at Above the Law.)

Many firms have offered a stipend which allows deferred associates to pursue full-time public interest work before beginning their employment at the law firm. The catch? Many nonprofit organizations rely on law student employees’ extended access to their LexisNexis and Westlaw educational accounts—not an option for recent grads, whose access expires by August. (See earlier blog post on extending access for the class of 2009.) Fortunately, both services are aware of this problem, and have created programs to allow deferred or unemployed graduates to use their resources for pro bono work and job searching.

LexisNexis’s ASPIRE program (LexisNexis Associates Serving Public Interest Research) offers free access to federal/state cases, codes, regulations, and law reviews for deferred associates or unemployed graduates who are pursuing public interest work.

Westlaw has created Between Cases, which provides job search tools, legal education materials, and research access to selected Westlaw databases for unemployed graduates or deferred associates working in the field of public interest.

Note that these services are intended for recent graduates. If you are a continuing student who would like to extend your Lexis and Westlaw access for the summer, see our previous post on the qualifying non-commercial exemptions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FedFlix, Preserving Your Tax Dollars at Work

Goodson Blogson readers are probably too young to have viewed the famous “Duck and Cover” filmstrip in elementary school, but most have likely seen it parodied on shows like The Simpsons and South Park. “Duck and Cover” was a 1951 production of the now-defunct Federal Civil Defense Administration, used to teach children the proper method to protect themselves during a nuclear attack. While it’s scientifically questionable whether hiding under a wooden desk or shielding oneself with newspaper would prove remotely helpful (as you can guess from this PG-13 rated South Park clip, the method definitely does not translate well to a volcano eruption), “Duck and Cover” had an undeniable impact on a generation of schoolchildren, and helped shaped public opinion during the Cold War.

While 1950s propaganda like “Duck and Cover” are probably the most popular perception of government filmmaking, the federal government continues to produce a wide variety of films and video. Although some are distributed to libraries through the Federal Depository Library Program, countless hours of historic government video have been inaccessible to the public in vaults and archives. Fortunately, you can now view “Duck and Cover” and other classic government videos for free through a relatively new digitization site, FedFlix (http://www.archive.org/details/FedFlix).

FedFlix was the brainchild of government information activist Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org (a source for free digitized government material including court documents and case law). FedFlix began in November 2007, with the National Technical Information Service sending 10-20 videos per month for digitization. Earlier this week, Malamud announced an ambitious renewal of the project—NTIS is now sending more than 100 videos a month. Public.Resource.Org staff are uploading nearly 12 hours of video per day to three access points:
There’s a four-part series from the Judicial Conference of the United States featuring dramatizations of famous Supreme Court trials , a 1986 tribute to minority inventors from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and yes, more military/wartime videos (see 1970’s The Pleasure of Your Company: Military Etiquette and Grooming, from the Army).

Collections can be searched by keyword, by agency, or by popularity. Whether your primary goal is education or amusement, FedFlix is sure to have something for you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finding U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs

The records and briefs of U.S. Supreme Court cases can be a valuable source of information for the legal researcher. Briefs filed by the parties (and by interested amici curiae, or “friends of the Court”) outline the arguments advanced by each side of the case. Materials from the record might also provide excerpts of trial-level transcripts and documents which would otherwise be time-consuming or expensive to obtain.

In the Goodson Law Library, Supreme Court records and briefs have long been available on a microform set from 1920-present (Microforms Room, Level 1); many briefs (although not the complete records) are also provided on LexisNexis and Westlaw. Today we’re pleased to announce access to a new electronic resource which adds nearly a century of additional Supreme Court records and briefs to our collection, along with greatly improved search functionality.

U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 (http://library.duke.edu/metasearch/db/id/DUK03556) provides the full text of records and briefs for approximately 150,000 Supreme Court cases, including petitions for certiorari in cases where the Court eventually denied review (a major addition to our collection—our microform set includes those petitions only back to October Term 1985). This database is available to the entire Duke University community, who may log in from off-campus with a NetID and password.

Search the database by case name, keyword or even full text (for those trying times when you have the quotation, but lost the citation). Additional search options include docket number, U.S. Reports citation, and term years. Results are offered in high-quality page-image format, and can be downloaded for printing in batches of 50 pages at a time.

For additional resources about the Supreme Court’s decisions, history and procedures, check out the Goodson Law Library’s research guide to the U.S. Supreme Court (http://www.law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/ussup).