Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sign of the (New York) Times

Tomorrow morning, the New York Times begins its “digital subscription” plan. As the paper first announced to readers on March 18, online readers who do not already receive home delivery of the paper will be restricted to viewing 20 free articles per month. Readers who exceed that limit will be prompted to sign up for a paid “digital subscription,” whose regular prices range from $15-$35 per month (an unspecified special introductory rate will be offered starting March 28).

Here at Goodson Blogson HQ, we expect an increase in questions related to accessing this formerly-free Times content by users who have hit their monthly limits. Please note that we do not have a library-wide password to, although the site’s FAQ indicates that “Libraries will eventually be covered under group accounts, which we are working to make available in the coming months.” Until that option is available, though, the Duke University Libraries do have e-journal access to the Times through a number of databases, which can be accessed by the “GetIt@Duke” button in the online catalog record. (For law students, LexisNexis and Westlaw also offer the full text of the New York Times.)

The gadget blog Gizmodo also highlights a loophole to the new policy in its article How To Keep Reading the New York Times for Free: articles linked via social media sites and blogs will not count toward the 20-article limit. As Gizmodo points out, since the Times itself features more than 250 Twitter accounts, it should not be difficult to find a link to the story you’d like to read.

This new site restriction also does not apply to home delivery subscribers, who receive unlimited access to the online content at Rather than sign up for the digital-only subscription, Duke students and faculty may wish to take advantage of the Education Rate, which offers a whopping 50% discount off the newsstand price and includes complete access to online content (for example, the Sunday-only delivery option is a mere $15.00 per month -- the same rate as the cheapest online-only subscription plan).

For questions about accessing the Times or any other online journal, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Summer Access to LexisNexis and Westlaw

Making a checklist for summer vacation? Whether your plans include bathing-suit shopping or BarBri classes, be sure to extend your Law School LexisNexis and Westlaw passwords if you’ll require access over the summer. After June 1, educational passwords which are not extended will be restricted to a limited list of career and employment databases until the beginning of August.

Extending passwords is as simple as clicking a link, but you must meet one of the exceptions for academic use. Here’s your guide to summer access extensions.


Lexis passwords can be extended for academic purposes over the summer at the Law School welcome screen. “Academic purposes” are defined as:
  • Summer course preparation and assignments
  • Research associated with Moot Court, Law Review, or Law Journal
  • Research associated with pursuing a grant or scholarship
  • Service as a paid or unpaid research assistant to a professor
  • An internship, externship or clinic position for school credit or graduation requirement
  • Study for the bar exam
  • Research skill improvement for educational purposes

Summer access to Westlaw can be requested at Westlaw’s list of exceptions includes:
  • 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
Both LexisNexis and Westlaw note that “Academic purposes” do not include research conducted for a law firm, corporation, or other entity (other than a professor or law school) that is paying the student to conduct research, or that is passing along the cost of research to a third party. These are deemed “commercial purposes.” Be sure to read the exceptions carefully and ensure that you qualify for summer access.

Note that law students have summer access to other legal research alternatives, including CasemakerX (an educational version of the research resource which is offered through a number of state bar associations, including North Carolina) and LoisLaw (which is heavily used in New York practice thanks to its affiliation with the NYS Bar Association). If you have questions about extending your Lexis and Westlaw access, or about registering for these low-cost research alternatives, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prepare for Practice with our Research Refreshers

Legal research, it must be said, is a lot like kung fu. While everyday law practice offers sadly few opportunities to administer a roundhouse kick, both martial arts and legal research are complex subjects which require a lifetime of study and discipline before you can call yourself a master. Unfortunately, your average legal employer isn’t willing to wait that long -- a 2007 Thomson West white paper on Research Skills for Lawyers and Law Students described the perceived gap between what is learned in law school and what is needed for law practice, saying that “partners agree that associates are almost completely incapable of book research, unfamiliar with print resources, over-reliant on electronic resources, and arrive on the law firm scene with uneven skills and research capabilities.”

But don’t despair that your skills might not yet measure up to your future boss’s expectations. Instead, mark your calendars for the week of March 21-25, because like the ancient Shaolin monks of yore, the Goodson Blogson has friends who can teach you some sweet research moves.

The weeklong extravaganza will begin with “Prepare to Practice” cost-effective online research sessions from our new Westlaw representative Denise Stewart (Monday 3/21 and Tuesday 3/22) and our longtime LexisNexis representative Jim O’Leary (Wednesday 3/23 and Thursday 3/24). Sign up in advance for these Prepare to Practice sessions by logging in to the training calendars on LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Then on Friday 3/25, a team of Duke Law research instructors will offer a half-day Research Refresher workshop series, reviewing some of the trickiest basics from LARW and adding some advanced topics and resources which are commonly encountered in law practice. The day's agenda:
  • 9:00 a.m.: "You Want Me To Research WHAT?!": Getting Background & Keeping Costs Down (Jennifer Behrens)
  • 10:00 a.m.: Researching Regulations & Administrative Materials (Melanie Dunshee)
  • 11:00 a.m.: Researching Statutes & Legislative History (Marguerite Most)
  • 12:00 p.m. : Putting it All Together: Taking a Research Assignment from Start to Finish (Jane Bahnson)
You can plan to spend the day and see every session, or come only to those workshop topics which interest you the most. All sessions will take place in the Fite Room (Level 2 of the Library).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rank and File

Late last night, U.S. News & World Report released its annual law school rankings for 2012 online. The popular rankings weigh accredited US law schools by such factors as GPA and LSAT scores, employment and bar passage rates, and “reputation scores” from surveys of judges, lawyers, and law school deans (see methodology). (Should you feel validated by such arbitrary computations, let’s get this part out of the way now: Duke Law landed at #11 in the overall scores, and #8 on a supplemental new list of law schools ranked by law firms.) The site offers numerical rankings for the first three “tiers” of accredited law schools, and an unranked alphabetical list of the remaining 53. (In previous years, only the top 100 schools were given a numerical rank.) U.S. News & World Report also offers interesting breakdowns by specialty, including ranks for legal writing, clinical practice, trial advocacy, and other specialized area of practice.

U.S. News & World Report began these graduate school rankings in 1990, printing the lists and analysis in the March issue of the magazine. More than two decades later, the rankings have grown into a cottage industry: first released online (with, of course, a “premium” option to view fuller data); excerpted in the magazine, and finally published separately as a guidebook to graduate school programs (due in early April this year, undoubtedly to prevent leaks by unscrupulous bookstore employees). The list is hotly anticipated, highly quoted, and often criticized (particularly for creating a culture of system-gaming by schools, and for encouraging prospective students to overvalue “prestige” when selecting a law school). But the rankings can also have legitimate research purposes, particularly when compared over time. If you’d like to analyze changes to these rankings, though, you’ll need to do some legwork: the Goodson Law Library has the current issues of U.S. News & World Report in its Leisure Reading collection, but the separate rankings guidebooks are kept in the Perkins Library and the University Archives. Here’s a shortcut to the catalog records:
  • America’s Best Graduate Schools (2003-present)
  • Best Graduate Schools (1998-2002)
    Note the “Details” tab, which explains: “Developed from a special report published annually, 1990- in a March issue of: U.S. news & world report; substantial excerpts continue to be published in a March issue of the magazine, 1998- ”
  • U.S. News & World Report (1990-1997 March issues; excerpts continue from 1998-present)
Rankings are big business, and U.S. News isn’t the only one trying to make sense of all this law school data. The Princeton Review publishes an annual guidebook to The Best…Law Schools, which the Goodson Law Library keeps on Reserve for the most current issue (some data are also provided online). The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan also publishes an annual report, Judging the Law Schools, which has drawn some criticism for a methodology which consistently places its home institution near the top of the list. University of Chicago Professor Brian Leiter computes Leiter’s Law School Rankings, presenting different views of ABA and US News data in reports like “Top Producers of Law School Teachers” and “Supreme Court Clerkship Placement.” The National Jurist magazine for law students (which you can find each month on the rack across from the Blue Lounge) frequently crunches numbers to publish lists like “Best Value Law Schools,” “Best Public Interest Law Schools,” and even “Best Law School Libraries” (we were #19 in March 2010). And the list goes on—which should tell you something about the potential usefulness of these numbers. But if you’re obsessed with reading rankings and would like help finding more, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Will the Last Federal Employee Please Turn Off the Lights?"

Last week, President Obama signed Public Law 112-4, a temporary spending measure which will keep the federal government fully operational until Friday, March 18. And then…what? Politicians are buzzing about an impending federal government shutdown, which could indefinitely shutter national parks and monuments, suspend the processing of passport applications, and furlough countless federal workers in “non-essential” positions. If you were too young to recall the last large-scale federal shutdown in late 1995 and early 1996, brush up on the procedure in this recently-updated Congressional Research Service report, Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects (Feb. 2011) (available with Duke NetID via LexisNexis Congressional, or free at

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate rejected two spending proposals which would have extended federal operations to the end of this fiscal year, September 30, 2011. The clock is now ticking for a compromise which will avoid a repeat of the 1995-1996 shutdown. For helpful commentary and analysis on the government’s progress toward averting a shutdown, check out the CQ Electronic Library’s publication CQ Weekly. The Washington Post’s Congress section is another good place to stay current with the latest congressional activities. And if you’d like a glimpse into the future, the Obama administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget (which would begin on October 1, 2011 if approved by Congress) is posted online at the White House website.

Even if the federal shutdown happens, at least we’ll be in better shape than Belgium, which in mid-February surpassed Iraq to take the dubious record of longest time without a central government (250 days then, and counting). Former Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who resigned in April 2010, has remained on as “caretaker” prime minister after elections in June 2010 failed to produce a clear majority result for the next government; negotiations have deadlocked ever since.

For help with federal budget research, or any other congressional matter, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rules of the Road

An early episode of the Comedy Central mockumentary series Reno 911! depicted its inept law enforcement crew competing in a twisted scavenger hunt, where points were awarded for arresting unusual criminals: e.g., 10 points would be awarded for a perp who measured more than 6’5” in height; another 5 points for an arrestee with an animal tattoo; and 15 points to the officer who nabbed the most attractive prostitute by night’s end. But what seemed like a far-fetched and morbidly funny hypothetical scenario in 2003 became sadly real yesterday, when the L.A. Times published an internal police memo which outlined a "baseball game" for traffic violations.

The Bell (CA) Police Department Baseball Game (annotated memo) created a progressive scoring system for parking and moving violations, from "singles" (recovering a stolen vehicle, writing 6 parking tickets), to "doubles" (misdemeanor arrests, citations for illegal parking in a handicapped spot), to "triples" (a 30-day impound, an arrest with no bail), to the "home run" of making a felony arrest based on an officer’s observation. A note at the bottom of the memo stated that the game was operated "on the honor system" with non-performers "sent to minor league rehab stint." The document surfaced during a U.S. Justice Department investigation of civil rights violations in Bell due to the local police department’s “aggressive towing of cars.” As the L.A. Times explained:
Part of the investigation focuses on claims by some officers that the department had quotas for issuing tickets and impounding cars, which they said was done to raise revenue for the city. Some officers said they were reprimanded when they did not meet goals.
Police officers interviewed by the Times suggested that the "baseball game" was actually a joke circulated by a few individual officers, and that supervisors "squashed" the game once the memo was discovered. But the document doesn’t do much to help Bell’s reputation as a center of public corruption; the city rose to national prominence last summer with the arrest of eight city officials who appropriated municipal funds for personal loans, and also drew disproportionately large salaries for the relatively low-income city (city manager Robert Rizzo was paid nearly $800,000 a year – nearly 3 times the salary of the manager of Santa Monica, which in turn is nearly 3 times the size of Bell). For more information, see the L.A. Times' complete coverage of the Bell city scandals.

What does all of this mean for the average Goodson Blogson reader? Well, it is perhaps most useful as a reminder to brush up on your local vehicle and traffic laws. While your local police department is probably (hopefully!) not engaged in scavenger hunt arrest sprees or “fantasy baseball” ticket-writing games, it’s easy to earn a ticket without realizing it. Pop quiz for North Carolina readers: do you know how far you should park from an intersection? Or when you must yield the right-of-way? Wherever you live, your state legislature has likely placed a copy of its code online; access state statutes through the National Conference of State Legislatures’ State Legislative Websites Directory.

If the damage is already done, and you’re currently fighting a traffic ticket, you may want to check out Duke’s copy of the Nolo Press e-book Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court & Win (5th ed. 2007). An earlier 2005 edition of this title is also available in print at the Goodson Law Library, at the call number Reference Collection KF2231.Z9 B76 2005.

Drive safely!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Support for Startups

Whether you’re formally pursuing Duke’s LL.M in Law & Entrepreneurship or just casually kicking around a business idea with friends, you might already be incubating the next Facebook, the latest local hot-spot restaurant, or a community-enriching nonprofit (such as Durham’s Coalition to Unchain Dogs). But turning a business idea into reality is a complex process, and few people possess both the business and legal acumen to go it alone. While the Goodson Law Library staff cannot provide legal advice on starting a business, the Goodson Blogson can point you to some helpful resources to get your idea beyond the brainstorming phase.

Unsurprisingly, the Ford Library at the Fuqua School of Business houses the majority of Duke's print resources on starting a business (like the recent Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise), but the Duke University community also has access to a number of relevant e-books, such as The Small Business Start-Up Kit (2004) and Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business (2008). You can access these titles and others like them with a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for subject keywords like "small business" and "new business enterprises," or general keywords like "starting business."

Additional information can be found on the web. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides free guidance to would-be entrepreneurs; its Starting & Managing a Business section offers practical tips from writing a business plan, to estimating startup costs, to effective marketing. More locally, the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center works in partnership with the federal SBA to provide resources and services to in-state business owners, including a number of free publications on topics like financing opportunities and intellectual property issues.

For local entrepreneurs with a well-formed concept, Durham’s Startup Stampede might be just the support you need to get your idea off the ground. The project, sponsored by the city and county governments, the local Chamber of Commerce, and other local organizations, will offer fifteen startups free high-tech office space downtown for 60 days, as well as access to small-business experts for consultation and advice. Applications are due by Friday, March 11, and the final fifteen will be notified by March 18. Will Duke Law be represented in the stampede? We sure hope so!