Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rocky Mountain, Not So High!

Since at least the beginning of October, readership of the annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute (RMMLF-INST) has likely skyrocketed. Is the sudden spike due to increased public concern about fracking, or a boom in the oil & gas law employment sector? Actually, it's a little more technical than that.

An undetermined coding issue in Westlaw Classic's Journals & Law Reviews database (a.k.a. JLR) has given a strange prominence to Terms & Connectors search results from the Mineral Law Foundation publication. For almost the last two months, the top results for JLR searches in Westlaw Classic are dominated by all available matches in reverse-chronological order from RMMLF-INST, even if more recent articles which match the search parameters are available within other publications. (Other titles which now seem to float all of their matching articles randomly to the top of Westlaw Classic search results, regardless of the user's selected "sort by date" preference, include the Criminal Law Bulletin and Annual Survey of Bankruptcy Law.) See the illustration below for an example – princess & regalia returns an unlikely 1974 RMMLF-INST result at the top of the date sort, before listing more recent hits from other publications in reverse-chronological order.

Illustration: Westlaw Classic JLR erroneous date display

It's undoubtedly amusing to try and find search examples which are ridiculous enough to elude these renegade results (for the record, princess & pea works fine, since it matched nothing in the publications which are currently forcing their way to the top). But the persistence of this error serves as a good reminder to the researcher that result lists must always be carefully and critically assessed. As long as this error continues, users of Westlaw Classic should be aware that a broader search with a higher number of results could mean that the most current articles from other publications don't appear until page 2 of the result list – or even later.

What to do until the Westlaw technicians fix the error in Westlaw Classic's JLR database? The Goodson Blogson has a few tips:
  • Consider ways to tighten your search requirements. Broad journal article searches, with terms connected by "AND," are far more likely to match historical results in these "floater" publications. Requiring terms to appear in the same sentence (/s) or same paragraph (/p) will help narrow your search and eliminate some of these unwanted results.
  • If you are overwhelmed by older articles and are most interested in the latest publications, consider including a date restriction from the drop-down box in order to help filter out those historical results (e.g. "Last 3 years" or even "Last 10 years").
  • Duke Law School's Westlaw representative also reports that this error does not occur in the Law Reviews & Journals database within WestlawNext. There is an option to sort results by date, and a hidden feature which allows users to force a Classic-style Terms & Connectors query by typing "adv:" or "advanced:" before your search terms.
  • Remember that there are also alternatives to searching legal articles in the Law Reviews &Journals database within LexisNexis as well as the Duke University database LegalTrac. Each works slightly differently (for example, a "Keyword" search in LegalTrac does not search the full text of available articles; users must select "Entire Document" in order to search the full text). For help with using any of these resources to search for law review and journal articles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Users are encouraged to continue reporting the problem with Westlaw Classic JLR by clicking the "Help" link at the bottom of the screen, then choosing the Feedback tab. Incidentally, if you'd like to read the Proceedings of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Annual Institute the old-fashioned way, the library’s collection of volumes back to 1955 can be found at KF1819.A2 R63. Who knows? You might even miss it when the error is fixed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Cranberry Precedent

[In this guest post, Reference Intern Janeen Williams explores the legal history of the Thanksgiving holiday. Post title courtesy of Lee Cloninger.] 

Currently, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November, but that has not always been the case. The tradition of the "Day of Thanks" began soon after the establishment of the United States. In 1789, in accordance with George Washington's proclamation, Thanksgiving was on Thursday, November 26; however, at this time the holiday was not annual. The holiday was not annually recognized until after Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863.

In the mid-1900s, when states began to recognize Thanksgiving on different Thursdays, Congress decided to enact legislation that would create a fixed national date for the holiday. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday that would occur on the fourth Thursday in November. Visit the National Archives website to see federal documents relating to Thanksgiving, including George Washington's proclamation and the 1941 Senate Resolution declaring that the fourth Thursday in November will be Thanksgiving.

For more information on Thanksgiving and the Presidents, visit HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library (current Duke University NetID required) to search for "Thanksgiving," or Ask a Librarian. The Goodson Blogson previously reviewed the history of one presidential Thanksgiving tradition in Pardon That Turkey. Finally, visit Hours & Directions to view our Thanksgiving weekend hours and closures. The Goodson Law Library wishes all of our readers a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Career Opportunities

Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited Sesame Street to explain the concept of a "career" to Abby Cadabby. Justice Sotomayor is no stranger to the educational program's young viewers, having previously appeared earlier in 2012 to decide the case of Baby Bear v. Goldilocks. But her latest appearance coincided perfectly with the beginning of interview season for first-year law students, who can undoubtedly relate to Abby's excitement – and confusion – about the many possible career paths that she might choose.

While our 1Ls probably don't have a SCOTUS justice on speed-dial, they do have a lot of resources at their disposal to help make their job searches easier. First and foremost is the Duke Law Career Center, whose Career Paths website outlines and describes common professional areas like private practice, public interest, academia, and even international opportunities. The 1L Career Toolkit provides invaluable guidance for each of these types of jobs, as well as general advice on networking, preparing resumes, and handling interviews (once the December 1 employer-contact deadline has passed, of course).

The Goodson Law Library also offers many resources to assist student job-seekers. To research law firms and their employees, check out the mix of print and electronic resources in our guide to Directories of Lawyers. Networking and interview preparation will be much easier with the assistance of sources like Martindale-Hubbell and the Yellow Books. (If a clerkship is in your future, there's a companion guide for Directories of Courts & Judges.)

The Duke Libraries catalog can point to additional resources in the library collection. A subject heading search for "Law—Vocational guidance – United States" will locate titles like From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market: Winning Job Search Strategies for Entry-Level Attorneys (2012) or The Legal Career Guide: From Law Student to Lawyer (2008). There are even titles available for those thinking about less-common legal careers, including Fifty Unique Legal Paths: How to Find the Right Job (2008) or the bluntly-named How to be a Law Professor Guide (2008). International career materials, like A Guide to International Law Careers (2009) or Careers in International Law (2009-2010), can be found with a subject search for "International law – Vocational guidance."

LexisNexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg Law also offer options for researching people and companies which can be useful to legal job-seekers. This week, campus representatives for LexisNexis and Westlaw will offer employment-related training to demonstrate resources (view the calendars via their links on the Goodson Law Library home page). On Bloomberg Law, enter a firm or attorney/judge name into the main search box to generate Company and/or People profile results; the Law School resources section also provides career guidance from its Bloomberg Law Reports series.

For help with accessing or using any of the resources listed here, be sure to Ask a Librarian.