Thursday, February 25, 2010

A PSA on Printing from Lexis & Westlaw

If you’ve been frustrated to find the Law School’s dedicated LexisNexis and Westlaw printers out of toner recently, you’re not alone. Our student representatives for the popular research services have reported an increase in service calls lately due to a high volume of large print jobs, such as an entire 100+ page session law when the student probably needed only a few pages (judging from the amount of paper in the recycling bin). Printing individual sections of a code can also add up, if you forget to exclude the annotations—those secondary source and case summaries can easily increase your print job by hundreds of pages! In the interest of saving toner and trees, here are some tips on smarter printing from Lexis and Westlaw.

    Do you blithely hit the “FastPrint” button whenever you find a document that looks remotely relevant? If so, you’ve probably been shocked in the past when that enormous print job in the Document Production Room has your name on the cover sheet. Rather than send every Lexis or Westlaw document directly to the stand-alone printers, try the “Download” button instead of “Print” or “FastPrint” in order to preview the page count in a format like Word or PDF, and estimate how many pages you actually need. (Note that if you have a pop-up blocker on your web browser, you’ll need to disable it when downloading documents from Westlaw, or manually override the blocker each time you download, generally by holding either the Ctrl or Shift key.) When you then choose to print from the downloaded file’s menu, you can use the “Page Range” feature to cut out unwanted pages.


    If you prefer not to deal with downloads, take advantage of options in the “Print” menu in order to shorten your lengthy print jobs. On Westlaw, you can adjust the size of your document by limiting the displayed fields before printing. On the bottom right-hand corner of the page, click on the arrow next to "Tools" and choose "Limit by Fields" to remove unwanted parts of the document before printing.

    On Lexis, choose the “Print” icon (not FastPrint), change the Document View to “Custom,” and press the “Edit” button. This will bring up a screen where you can de-select unwanted segments of documents (for example, the case annotations to a code section, or the headnotes of a case).


    We know all too well about law students’ love affair with highlighters, but how often do you really go back to those piles of paper before chucking them into a recycle bin? Consider storing your documents on a flash drive, your network file space, or even in your email. No one likes to read a lengthy document on a computer screen, but a quick review of the file (or clever use of “Find in Page”) can help you determine which pages you really need in hard copy, and which can remain peacefully in pixels.
Our Lexis and Westlaw representatives are happy to provide further assistance with printing. Their schedules and contact information are available at Lexis’s “MySchool” link and Westlaw’s welcome screen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

@JuryBox: Turn off Twitter, kthx.

If you use the popular micro-blogging site Twitter, you probably already know its potential for broadcasting the minutest details of life to a wide audience. Inevitably, some of those details might be better left unsaid: Just last week, reality-television star Kim Kardashian made headlines by inadvertently "outing" a federal air marshal (whose identities and locations are meant to be classified) with whom she chatted on a flight. This news coincided with the release of Please Rob Me, an aggregator of location-based Twitter updates which advertise when a user is not at home. (Sound excessively paranoid? A 2009 burglary in Arizona was reportedly linked to the homeowner’s Twitter vacation update.)

But the legal profession has been grappling with Twitter and similar technologies for much longer, especially when it comes to jury trials. While jurors have long been instructed not to conduct outside research on the details of a case, nor to discuss the case with anyone except other members of the jury during deliberations, the rise of social networking media and mobile devices has resulted in a number of mistrials and allegations of juror misconduct, especially over the last year. (See a December 2009 Baltimore Sun article for a round-up.)

Earlier this month, the Judicial Conference of the United States released a set of model jury instructions for federal district courts, which address potential social-networking snafus more explicitly:
You may not use any electronic device or media, such as a telephone, cell phone, smart phone, iPhone, Blackberry or computer; the internet, any internet service, or any text or instant messaging service; or any internet chat room, blog, or website such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter, to communicate to anyone any information about this case or to conduct any research about this case until I accept your verdict.
Only time will tell if the more explicit new federal model jury instructions will curb juror misbehavior online, and of course state courts will likely adopt their own instructions. A recent Twitter search for "jury duty" mostly turned up users who were either dreading a jury duty summons, waiting in the courtroom to be called, or celebrating their dismissal from the jury pool. But even a cursory scan of the tweets turned up some minor case details, as well as the amusing lament of a reluctant juror who has watched too much TV: "this [expletive] is not like law & order @ all!" (At least, not until Law & Order rips a social-networking mistrial from the headlines.)

To learn more about model jury instructions for a particular jurisdiction, search the libraries' online catalog for the subject keywords "jury instructions and [jurisdiction]"; e.g. jury instructions and north carolina.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Online Videos (Legally!)

You already know about the Law Library’s popular Legal DVD collection, which contains current and classic films with legal themes. You probably also know that the Lilly Library at Duke houses an impressive film collection, with more than 14,000 DVDs! (All of these can be searched in the libraries’ online catalog.)

But sometimes the library is closed, or the movie you want is checked out to another borrower. We’d never advise anyone to seek out illegal video download sites, which can harm your computer with viruses and also put you on the wrong side of copyright infringement laws. We’re happy to say instead that there are plenty of legal sources for a movie fix, and you would be surprised what you can find on them.

You may know Hulu as the go-to site for television clips. But Hulu offers a wide selection of free (advertising-supported) movies as well. Note that the selection is constantly changing, dependent upon the whims of the copyright holders (we’re sad to report that perennial law school favorite The Paper Chase has been pulled from view after several months of availability). But there are certainly enough titles at any given time to entertain a picky viewer.

Netflix subscribers also have access to a vast video-streaming library. Like Hulu, the selection varies, but the title list is constantly growing. Access to the streaming videos comes with any subscription plan—even the 1-DVD-at-a-time option allows unlimited access to the Instant Collection, making the $8.99/month fee a bargain for avid movie-watchers.

If subscription fees don’t appeal to you, check out some free (and legal!) sites. Classic Cinema Online offers a wide variety of films from the early 20th century, including silent classics like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and an amazing array of short films and newsreels. FreeDocumentaries streams a variety of non-fiction films, including popular titles like Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me or The Corporation, a creative look at a business association’s status as a “legal person”.

The Duke University Libraries also subscribe to several film databases, which you can access remotely with a NetID and password. Films on Demand and
NC Live (PBS) Videos offer documentaries on various subjects, while the BBC Shakespeare Video Collection streams video from an ambitious adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays. Some familiar faces in these works, which ran on British public television from 1978-1985, include Alan Rickman (Romeo & Juliet), John Cleese (The Taming of the Shrew), and Helen Mirren (Cymbeline). Think Shakespeare is getting too far off-course for a law library blog? Tell that to the Cox Legal Fiction Collection on level 3, which includes more than 30 titles on the Bard and law.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tackling Taxes

With less than two months to go before April 15, income taxes are in the back of everybody’s mind. While the Goodson Law Library staff is not able to answer substantive tax-related questions (such as “what forms do I need to file?” or help interpreting the form instructions), the Goodson Blogson is happy to point you to some sources for tax assistance.

Before you head to a professional tax preparation service, consider whether you qualify for the IRS’s FreeFile program. This service links qualifying taxpayers to free electronic federal tax preparation service (state tax preparation may also be available in some cases). Your adjusted gross income for 2009 must be $57,000 or less in order to take advantage of the FreeFile program.

You may also qualify for assistance from VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), a program in which trained volunteers assist with tax preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, as well as senior citizens. Duke Law School proudly boasts a VITA chapter, and their 2010 calendar is available online.

If you don’t qualify for free assistance, or would prefer to tackle your own taxes, you might consider trying a computer program like TurboTax or H&R Block at Home. Over the weekend, the New York Times reviewed the pros and cons of these popular software programs.

If your taxes turn out to be too complicated, you may wish to hire a pro. The IRS has tips for choosing a tax professional as well as instructions for filing complaints against any bad apples out there.

Good luck—and for the perennial procrastinators, check back in late March for an entry about filing an automatic extension.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Win a Goodie Basket for a Good Cause

It's that time of year again! In 2008, the library assembled its first "survival kit" goodie basket for the annual PILF Auction, which raises funds to support Duke Law students who take unpaid employment in the non-profit/government sector. We had so much fun supporting this great cause that we did it again in 2009. Now, it’s officially a Goodson Law Library tradition, and we’re once again contributing a great gift basket to this year’s PILF Auction on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at the Nasher Museum of Art.

This year's basket theme is “The Traveling Lawyer’s Survival Kit,” and it’s intended to help law students make it to just about any destination: a distant moot court competition, a callback interview, or even just an exam period weekend camp-out in the library. Here are the highlights of this jam-packed basket:
  • Trial practice/Oral Argument: Whether you’re a 1L dreading the first round of Hardt Cup or a 2L/3L traveling to a national competition, three books will surely be of assistance: Garner & Scalia’s Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008), Moskovitz’s Winning an Appeal (4th ed. 2007), and Garner’s The Winning Oral Argument (2009).
  • Office Space: Carry those important documents on a new 1-gigabyte flash drive (courtesy of Bloomberg), and don’t leave home without the essential law student supplies: a highlighter assortment, a miniature stapler (courtesy of LexisNexis), and a pack of Post-It multicolor tabs.
  • Sustenance: A $10 Starbucks gift card will keep you awake on your travels (and you can even ask them to fill your new Goodson Law Library travel mug!), while an insulated lunch bag (courtesy of Westlaw) will carry delicious snacks. We’ve got you started with a box of PopSecret popcorn, 2 Yakisoba dinners, 1 Easy Mac & Cheese, and a plastic silverware assortment.
  • Make a good first impression on everyone you meet with these travel-sized essentials: mini mouthwash, travel toothbrush kit, Altoids breath mints, Tide-to-Go stain removal stick, a lint roller, hand sanitizer, Kleenex tissues, deodorant/antiperspirant, and a bottle of Pepto Bismol to calm those big-day jitters.
  • Finally, pass the time on your travels with a Monopoly card game, or look up ways to spend 5,000 LexisNexis reward points (courtesy of LexisNexis)! Top it all off with a bright luggage tag (courtesy of Bloomberg), and you'll be traveling in style to any destination.
And that's not all! In a separate auction item, you can bid to win a piece of the Goodson Law Library-- your very own study carrel. Study carrels in the library are traditionally used on a first-come, first-served basis...except for the lucky PILF bidder who wins a year-long property claim in one of our study carrels.

Visit the Duke PILF Auction page for more information about other auction items and ticket sales. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Painless PDFs

Sending out a resume (or other important document) as an email attachment? Does it include carefully-crafted formatting and fonts? Think twice before you attach that .doc, .wpd, or any other file extension. Depending upon the recipient’s own word processing program and preferences, your specially-downloaded fonts may appear to them as Wingdings (or, "❖♓■♑♎♓■♑⧫"), and your careful page spacing may be horrifyingly-random line breaks. In addition, if you used Track Changes in Word (or other editing features), you risk exposing every insertion, deletion, and comment to the recipient.

The solution? Create a PDF, which will preserve your formatting and fonts in an image-based format. (Note that PDFs will also preserve your Track Changes if you leave them visible during the conversion, so always proofread those documents before attaching them to your email.) While most computers are equipped with Adobe Reader for viewing PDF files, this free download does not allow users to actually save documents in PDF format. Luckily, the Goodson Blogson has some ideas for those in a PDF pinch.

Members of the Duke Law community can access Adobe’s commercial PDF-creating program, Adobe Acrobat Professional, at selected carrel computers on Level 2 of the library (carrel numbers 2C1, 2C2, and 2C3; LawID required for login). Want a copy of your very own? Current University students, faculty and staff can take advantage of the discounts at the Duke Computer Store, which currently lists Adobe 9.0 Pro for both Mac and Windows at just $99 (down from the staggering retail price of $449!).

If you (or your wallet) prefer to remain Adobe-less, you might still be able to save documents in PDF format. Mac operating systems have contained this capability for years; in the Windows world, Microsoft Office 2007 offers a “Save as PDF” add-in, which can be downloaded at the Microsoft website. (We hear that Office 2010, currently in beta, will incorporate this add-in completely.)

What if you’re working on the fly at a computer where you aren’t able to download software add-ins due to security restrictions (such as the library’s twelve public workstations on level 3)? A few web-based solutions:
  • offers a free taste of Adobe Professional. Register for an account which allows you to convert up to 5 files into PDF before being prompted to upgrade to a premium account.
  • ExpressPDF is one of many web sites which offer quick, free conversion to PDF. It’s received positive attention on technology blogs, but users should naturally exercise caution, especially when uploading sensitive or confidential documents. Read privacy policies of such sites carefully, and check around for online reviews.
  • MergePDF is a slightly different animal, but worth noting for those who want web-based alternatives to Acrobat Pro's other features. This site allows users to combine up to 10 PDF documents into one file.
  • Finally, PDFmyURL allows you to enter the address of a web page and create a full-color PDF; law journal cite-checkers who wish to preserve citations to web pages may find this one particularly useful.
Any other computer-related quandaries? Contact the Academic Technologies Help Desk for assistance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Don't Fear the Shelving

Level 1 contains the majority of the library’s 600,000 volumes, due to our compact shelving system. This system allows us to store twice as much material in a space by requiring users to move rows of shelves in order to access needed materials. Although the rows may feel like a tight squeeze to the claustrophobic, “smart floors” with weight sensors ensure that no overly-competitive 1L could squash a fellow student between the shelves.

It’s not a perfect system, as library users may have discovered recently. The sensitive “smart floor” is designed to lock the movable shelves if it detects any weight on the area between two rows. This includes the weight of a person, the weight of a fallen book, or—as it turns out—the weight of debris on the tracks. In January, approximately 20 rows of shelves “locked,” leaving researchers temporarily without access to the call numbers KE856 – KEZ and KG1—KGF2923 (a large part of our materials on Canada and Latin America).

We’re pleased to announce that these materials are now accessible again, with a few pointers to prevent the problem from happening in the future.

1. Move the compact shelving by just one row at a time. This was surprising news even for library staff, who frequently saved time in the past by “cranking” more than one row at once. We’re getting our upper-arm exercise elsewhere now, and so should you.

2. Report any debris in the tracks (or locked shelves) to library staff. Over time, accumulation of small items like paper clips and gum wrappers can add up to a shelving malfunction. Please report the “stack number” (found on the ends of the row) of any problem areas to the library staff.

Our staff are working diligently to catch up on the shelving, looseleaf filing, and hold requests from the affected areas. If you have any questions or concerns about items in that section, please visit the library’s service desk on level 3.