Monday, August 31, 2009

Legal Writing Competitions: Put Your Research Papers to Work

We recently blogged about the UMKC Law Review 1L Story contest, which offers one lucky law student or recent grad a $500 prize and publication, simply for recounting a true story about your 1L experience. Interested students still have until October 23 to submit an entry (details), but perhaps autobiography doesn’t appeal to everyone. Would you rather put some of your law school research papers to work double-duty, and earn prizes including cash, publication, and/or bragging rights?

Legal writing competitions are plentiful, and offer law students many opportunities to sharpen research and writing skills. Many students already have worthy entries left over from law school classes—the trick is discovering the contests themselves. Fortunately, there are a number of useful resources which compile contest announcements. Here are some of the Goodson Blogson’s favorites:
For help polishing those contest entries, check out some of the many legal writing titles in the Goodson Law Library, including Volokh’s Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (KF250 .V65 2005) and Fajans’ Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers (Reserves KF250 .F35 2005).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Goin' Back to CALI

If you’ve visited the Goodson Law Library recently, you may have noticed a mysterious box of DVDs on the service desk. These discs contain more than 800 interactive legal tutorials from CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (

First-year students will use CALI later this semester to complete a Bluebook exercise in LARW class. However, your experience with CALI shouldn’t stop there. CALI lessons are available for all of the major areas of law school study, and range from 10-minute reviews of a single concept (Defenses) to multi-part tutorials to be completed over several days (a sprawling Contracts review). Most tutorials will take between 30-60 minutes, and their target completion time is clearly indicated before you begin. Each lesson is authored by a law school instructor or librarian, and is carefully reviewed before publication in order to ensure clarity and helpfulness.

For the most current versions of the tutorials on the CALI DVD (or for those who don't wish to load the DVD on their computers), Duke Law students may use the law school’s authorization code to register with the CALI website and take tutorials online. You’ll use the authorization code once to register an account at, and will need to create a username and password for future visits. CALI has prepared a helpful 2-minute video to explain the registration process.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Law in Plain English

Legal terminology is full of confusing Latin phrases; even everyday English words can take on a different meaning in the legal context (such as willful or consideration). Legal dictionaries such as Black’s Law Dictionary (Ref KF156 .B53 and on Westlaw) provide some help, but often the definitions themselves contain more confusing terms to be looked up.

When you just need a quick, simple translation from legalese to English, there are a few web-based resources that can help.

The Goodson Law Library owns many of the Nolo legal self-help book series, which provide basic, general explanations of various areas of law. A similar series of books by Oceana Press, “Law for the Layperson”, is also available in the library’s Reference collection. Many of these titles and call numbers can be found in our research guide to “Legal Research for Non-Lawyers” (

Additional titles, such as How the Courts Work: A Plain English Explanation of the American Legal System (KF387 .E54 2008), can be found in the libraries’ online catalog with a subject keyword search for Law -- United States -- Popular works.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is Your 1L Story Worth $500?

“Legal storytelling” has become an increasingly popular method for discussing legal cases and concepts. Since 2003, Foundation Press has published a series of popular “Law Stories” books, in which contributors flesh out major cases on a particular topic with biographical and historical context. (Check out a list of the titles in the Goodson Law Library.)

Undoubtedly buoyed by the success of the “Law Stories” books, the UMKC Law Review introduced its own “Law Stories” series in 2007. For the last few years the review has devoted an entire issue to real-life “tales from legal practice, experience and education.”

The UMKC Law Review is preparing its next “Law Stories” issue (scheduled for Spring 2010) and is offering a $500 prize and publication to one lucky law student or recent grad! Submit your true story about the 1L experience by October 23, and you might find yourself published with the likes of Scott Turow (One-L) and Saira Rao (Chambermaid: A Novel).

Full contest details are available at Good luck to all entrants!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Make the Connection: From CCH to IntelliConnect

Recent users of the CCH Business & Finance Library, Medicare and Medicaid Guide, and Tax Research Network may have noticed a message prompting them to register with a new database called IntelliConnect.

On August 17, IntelliConnect will replace all prior CCH databases, combining the various topical libraries into one comprehensive research system. You can already get a head start on using IntelliConnect by setting up your username and password in order to access the new system. The site offers a number of Flash tutorials for first-time users (although these will not pop up automatically after the second login, they are always accessible from the “Help/Getting Started” link on the left-hand column).

IntelliConnect offers the ability to search content across the various topical libraries, or to browse available content by type (such as “news” or “treatises”). The search box allows you to limit your search words to “citations”, making it easy to quickly retrieve cites such as IRS Revenue Rulings and SEC releases. (The “Citations” tool on the QuickBar also offers fill-in-the-blank forms for a wide variety of citation types.)

The Goodson Law Library’s subscription to IntelliConnect includes access to content in the following Practice Areas:
  • Business Compliance
  • CCH Wall Street
  • Health Care
  • Legal Professionals
  • Tax & Accounting
Note that registration to IntelliConnect is available to all current Duke University students, faculty and staff; however, users connecting from off-campus must access the database via a proxy link on the library webpage, even after registered with a username and password. Off-campus users will need to authenticate with a Duke NetID and password before logging into the system; attempts to access IntelliConnect’s direct URL from off-campus will result in an error message. You can access the proxy link to IntelliConnect ( via the Law Library’s Legal Databases & Links page, or via the Duke University Libraries A-Z database list.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Changes to Lexis and Westlaw

Summertime usually brings a facelift to both LexisNexis and Westlaw, and this year is no exception. Here are some important changes to note about both services.

Changes to Westlaw are immediately apparent from the sign-on screen. Although they are mostly cosmetic in nature, there is one substantial upcoming change: beginning in the fall, Westlaw users will be prompted to create a custom “OnePass” username and password for additional account security. Previously, users had the choice to create a username or to log in only with the numeric password on the original Westlaw registration card.

LexisNexis has required a customized username and password for several years, and its overall design remains the same (for now). But the makers of Lexis have been working on interesting new features: effective August 1, Lexis presents a new enhancement to case law research called “Related Content”. Similar to the “ResultsPlus” feature on Westlaw, the “Related Content” sidebar offers quick links to various secondary sources which interpret a particular case, making it easy for researchers to locate additional materials on point.

Westlaw is likewise no slouch in developing interesting tools, and researchers might enjoy the new “Sticky Notes” feature now available on the Law School tab. It’s a quick way to leave reminders to yourself about research tasks to be done the next time you sign into Westlaw. Sticky Notes are part of the company’s “Customizable Westlaw” initiative, which allows users to create customized research tabs based on frequently-researched subjects, as well as share those tabs (and notes) with collaborators via email.

Do you have a favorite feature or timesaving tip in Lexis or Westlaw? Share it in the comments section.