Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Legal Research Via State Bar Associations: An Update

The vast majority of state bar associations offer their members free access to one of the major low-cost legal research services, Casemaker and Fastcase. The advantages are obvious for solo practitioners and small-firm attorneys, who rely on these research services for access to primary law and selected secondary materials. But even Biglaw practitioners can benefit from access to these alternatives to premium services like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg: they provide uncluttered case law and statute searching, and include unique features like Fastcase's interactive search results timeline (covered in the ABA Journal last year), local legal materials such as county and city codes, and secondary sources like CasemakerLibra's Continuing Legal Education collection or Fastcase's treatise library (added after its recent acquisition of the now-defunct service Loislaw).

There have been some changes to the state bar associations' legal research offerings since the Goodson Blogson last surveyed the landscape in summer 2014. The Goodson Law Library now hosts a map of state bar association-provided legal research services. Updated for December 2015, this map provides quick access to the current research service provided by each state bar.

State bar association research offerings, Dec. 2015

Fastcase maintains a slight market edge, with 27 state bar associations providing their members free access compared to Casemaker's 22 state bars. (These numbers include Texas, still the only state to provide its members with free access to both services.) Three state bar associations (California, Delaware, and South Dakota) provide no free research benefit to their members. However, many attorneys in California receive Fastcase or Casemaker as a benefit of county or local bar association membership, while South Dakota offers its members a discounted rate for Fastcase.

Curious to see these services in action? Members of the Duke University community can access a campus-wide version of Fastcase, which does not require a separate username and password (but also does not save user search history, as an individual account through a bar association would). Current law students may create an account on CasemakerX, an educational version of Casemaker, with their Duke Law email address. 
Many state bar associations (including North Carolina) also offer free law student memberships, which include access to the research service offered. To locate the bar association in the state where you plan to practice, check out the American Bar Association's online state and local bar association directory.

For more information about the campus versions of these services, or for assistance locating the best legal research service for your needs, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, December 21, 2015

ProQuest Regulatory Insight Now Available

The Goodson Law Library has subscribed to the ProQuest Regulatory Insight database. Current members of the Duke University community may access this new electronic resource via the online catalog, or through the Legal Databases & Links list.

Much like its sister site ProQuest Legislative Insight offers for federal legislative history materials, ProQuest Regulatory Insight includes compiled regulatory histories for administrative materials related to enacted federal laws. (For an example, see the compiled history for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.) The just-released first phase of this database includes regulatory histories from laws enacted during 2001-2015. As additional regulatory histories are added throughout the year 2016, the database will eventually cover the time period 1936-2016.

ProQuest Regulatory Insight also provides detailed indexing and full-text searching of the text of the Federal Register (back to 2000) and the Code of Federal Regulations (back to 1997); over the next year, ProQuest will expand coverage of these sources back to their inception in the 1930s.

The Law Library's Federal Administrative Law research guide provides additional resources for researching regulatory history materials in both print and online formats. For help with locating administrative law or regulatory history resources, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Acing Your Exams

With final exams on the horizon, we wanted to review some important library information and resources to help you through the end of the semester.
Library Access
Exam time brings a temporary change to the library's access policy, most notably in the evening hours. From now until the end of exams (Friday, December 18), access to the Goodson Law Library for study purposes will be limited to current Duke Law students, faculty and staff. Card-swipe access to the library entrance will be required after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.

Members of the Duke University community or general public who require access to the library for legal research purposes should contact the library service desk for assistance during reference service hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Additional study space is available to all throughout the building, such as in the Star Commons.
Getting Technical
If you will use your laptop to take an exam, make sure you have installed Electronic Bluebook (EBB) well ahead of time, and practice using it to ensure that your test goes smoothly! Detailed instructions are available on the Academic Technologies' Software page. If you encounter problems while downloading the software, talk to the Academic Technologies' Help Desk staff.
Reviewing Old Exams or Sample Exams
A frequent question at the Reference Services desk during the reading and exam period is where to obtain copies of Law School exams from previous years. Past exams from your professors, when available, will be posted to your class's Sakai site. There is a common misconception that the library maintains an archive of exams as well, but the library has no Law School exams dated after 2001.

However, if your professors have chosen not to place past exams on Sakai, it may be helpful to review general law examination preparation guidebooks. These provide an overview of the most common formats for law school exams, and give strategies for studying and for writing successful answers. Often, these books also provide model exam questions and sample answers, along with explanations why a particular answer is more successful than others. Titles like Mastering the Law School Exam: A Practical Blueprint for Preparing and Taking Law School Exams can be found in the libraries' catalog with a subject search for "Law examinations—United States". A selected listing is provided in the "Exam Preparation" section of the library's Law School Success handout, along with a helpful page of recommended "Study Guides & Aids."
Anything Else?
As always, the library staff are here to help. Visit the Service Desk on level 3 with any questions. Good luck on your exams!