Saturday, May 30, 2015

Start Smart on Summer Research

Sometimes, it can seem like your summer employer has asked for the impossible, or at least the very unfamiliar. Quick keyword searches on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance just aren't cutting it, or perhaps you aren't even sure what words to use in your search? The best legal researchers know that a smart start is the key to completing research assignments efficiently and effectively. While the Goodson Law Library remains available on weekdays over the summer to provide guidance, our research tips for beginning a new project can help you shine all on your own.

If you missed the library's 2L Research Refresher workshop in March, the slides and handout are available on our Workshops & Instruction page. The workshop provided an overview of real-world research steps, including tips for brainstorming potential search words, locating useful secondary sources and research guides, and searching primary authority effectively. In particular, resources like Zimmerman's Research Guide and's custom search engine of all ABA-accredited law school websites can help you find preexisting research guides on an unfamiliar legal topic.

Our Research Refresher emphasized the importance of using encyclopedias, but you should also keep in mind the value of consulting treatises. Legal treatises can range from a single-volume handbook or overview to a multi-part, in-depth exploration of a particular topic, and they will provide helpful footnotes to primary authority to aid further research. While treatises do appear in search results on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance, it is often more efficient to browse or search a treatise text directly, rather than filter through large amounts of secondary source results in the hopes of locating a useful treatise section. Several resources can help you discover relevant treatise titles and their online locations.
  • We hope you held on to your first-year legal research textbook – Legal Research in a Nutshell Appendix B contains a list of legal treatises by subject, with information about online availability. (Although the appendix isn't included, the nutshell companion website also maintains helpful links for online legal research.)
  • Georgetown Law maintains a Treatise Finder guide for more than 60 legal topics. Each page in the alphabetical topic listing includes a list of selected treatises, with brief descriptions, and information about online availability in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, or other sources.
  • On the hunt for more treatises on a topic? Consult Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual, an annual guide to legal publications which contains useful reviews of print and electronic legal resources. Although the two most recent editions are not available in full text online, even the slightly older 2012 edition in HeinOnline can provide helpful recommendations for subject treatises (Chapter 27) and state-specific materials (Chapter 28). Those two chapters provide more than 500 pages of reviews and recommendations for legal treatises and other publications.
Still stumped on a particular research question? Contact the library's Reference Services Desk on weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm this summer. Be sure to consult with your employer before enlisting outside assistance, and be mindful of client confidentiality when describing your question.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Charity Cases

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission announced a massive lawsuit against four cancer "charities" which allegedly misused nearly $200 million in consumer donations. The complaint was filed in federal court on Monday, with the FTC as well as all 50 states' attorneys general offices listed as plaintiffs. As Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring noted in the FTC press release, "This is the first time the FTC, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia have filed a joint enforcement action alleging deceptive solicitations by charities and I hope it serves as a strong warning for anyone trying to exploit the kindness and generosity of others."

The FTC's case infographic starkly illustrates the discrepancy between the defendants' charitable aid and organizational overhead expenses, with the vast majority of donations going to employee compensation and other non-charitable uses, such as cars, tickets to sporting events, trips, and even dating site memberships. The complaint alleges that less than 3% of contributions were spent on direct aid to cancer patients.

Half of the implicated defendants (the Breast Cancer Society and Children’s Cancer Fund of America) have already agreed to settle. Proposed settlement orders (linked from the FTC press release) would dissolve the organizations and ban their executive directors from future charitable management and fundraising, as well as levy multi-million dollar judgments. The remaining defendants (Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services) have opted to continue the litigation.

How can consumers be sure that their charitable donations are funding legitimate aid? The FTC maintains a site to warn about the common Charity Scams, including a helpful Charity Checklist to investigate particular organizations before donating. Duke University community members have access to GuideStar, a leading source of reliable nonprofit information. Charity Navigator is another option to review ratings of charitable organizations, including percentages of revenue spent on actual programs and services versus overhead.

To learn more about the legal issues surrounding nonprofit organizations, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for "Nonprofit organizations – Law and legislation – United States" or Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New Research Guide to Transactional Resources

The Goodson Law Library website now includes a new research guide Transactional Resources: Tools for Doing a Deal. Reference librarian Laura Scott has compiled a mix of electronic and print resources for transactional practice, including drafting guides, forms and checklists, and sample documents.

Current members of the Duke Law community have access to many resources through Bloomberg Law's Transactional Resources tab, the Lexis Practice Advisor available on Lexis Advance, and WestlawNext's Business Law Center. All of these sources include forms and helpful secondary sources such as glossaries and treatises. The library collection also includes several useful titles, particularly in the area of contract drafting. Of particular interest is the recent textbook Contract Drafting: How and Why Lawyers Do What They Do (Reserves KF807 .S73 2014); this helpful introduction is not available online at Duke. A similar, but older, title, Working with Contracts: What Law School Doesn't Teach You, is available in the library's Reserve collection as well as online in Bloomberg Law (Search & Browse > Books & Treatises > Practising Law Institute).

This new guide has been published at an especially good time. A recently-released white paper from LexisNexis on attorney practice-readiness found that a whopping 95% of transactional attorneys believe that their newer associates lack critical skills for transactional practice. Some of the most important skills for newly-hired transactional attorneys include familiarity with business and finance concepts, simple contract drafting, and research of sample precedent forms and company information. The Transactional Resources guide includes materials which will assist with the development of these basic skills.

The new transactional guide is linked from the Law Library Research Guides page, along with more than 30 other topical guides created by Goodson Law Library reference staff. (If your research topic isn’t listed, there’s also a link to CALI's Law School Website Custom Search Engine, which will help locate research guides from other ABA-accredited law schools.) For help with accessing materials in the Transactional Resources guide or other library guides, be sure to Ask a Librarian.