AJM is delighted to welcome Rebecca Hawes as our new Faculty Services Coordinator. Rebecca manages faculty delivery requests and the Student Delivery Service (SDS). She also supports faculty research, data services, and social media outreach, and she staffs the circulation desk.
Rebecca graduated from the University in 2014 with B.A.s in American Studies and Religious Studies. Most recently she was a college adviser at Nelson County High School, where she worked to improve college access for first-generation, underrepresented, and low-income students. She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University through its distance learning program. Rebecca is a fan of dogs, dance and travel. Her favorite destinations to date have been London, Paris, and Salzburg.
You’re in the middle of watching a really funny cat video when your phone informs you that its battery is at 3% and you’d better plug in soon if you want to see how it all ends. You reach into your backpack for your life-line — the charger! — only to remember all too clearly that you left it in the outlet in your bedroom.
Once this would have been a problem, but no more. MyLab now offers you the opportunity to recharge yourself and your device at the same time! Just plug in, relax for a bit, and you’ll soon be happily viewing again. The plugs provide full-speed charging for both Apple and Android phones and tablets.
This semester saw the publication of the twelfth edition of Legal Research in a Nutshell, a compact but venerable text on legal research that dates back to 1968. Its original author was the late Morris Cohen, then Law Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, but since the fifth edition in 1992 he has been joined as coauthor by our own Kent Olson. Kent has written about the book’s early days (Birth of a Nutshell: Morris Cohen in the 1960s,104 Law Libr. J. 53 (2012)), but we sat down to ask him about his own role in the book since then.
AJM: How did you get started as a coauthor of Legal Research in a Nutshell?
Olson: It started when I was a law student, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was a second-year student at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) and working for the Law Library part time. My boss, Bob Berring, had worked at Harvard with Morris Cohen, the author of Legal Research in a Nutshell. Morris put out a call looking for people to revise and update chapters of the Nutshell, and Bob turned two chapters over to me. Morris may have been looking for light edits, but I attacked my chapters with gusto, crossing out huge chunks of obsolete text and inserting several new pages. A lesser man might have been offended or appalled, but Morris liked what he saw and asked me to review the entire manuscript before it went to the publisher. We talked on the phone, but we never met in person until the project was over.
The following year I came to Virginia and became a coauthor with Morris and Bob of their legal research hornbook, How to Find the Law. Morris had no interest in taking on a coauthor on his Nutshell, but in 1991 he found himself a week away from a deadline with no revised manuscript. And I was visiting him in the hospital.
AJM:Morris Cohen was a legend among law librarians. What was it like working with him?
Olson: He was my mentor and nearly thirty years my senior, but he always made me feel like a peer rather than a junior associate. Working with him was one of the great privileges of my life. He knew so much more than I did about legal bibliography (and was probably sorry that I never quite shared his love of rare books), but as legal research turned more and more to online search techniques our roles gradually shifted.
I do remember one disagreement, a friendly one, over how to describe the state of administrative law before the Federal Register and the CFR. Morris wanted to call it a wilderness, and I didn’t understand why until I realized we had very different concepts of “wilderness.” Mine was a pristine roadless area protected by environmental legislation, but he was thinking of a biblical place where people wandered lost and in despair. I think we ended up abandoning the metaphor.
AJM: You’ve now worked on nine editions of the Nutshell. How has the book, and legal research, changed over the years?
Olson: When the fourth edition was published in 1985, we had Westlaw and Lexis but a large focus of research was still print-based – some of it in materials today’s students are fortunate never to have seen, such as digests and Shepard’s Citations. “Case-Finding by Computer” was a two-page section of the chapter on case research. Research isn’t necessarily simpler these days, but there are so many answers that used to take work that we can now Google our way to.
People talk about a “sea change” in legal research from print to online, but to my mind it’s more of an evolution. In the end, it’s still about finding persuasive authority and reasoning by analogy. If we reach the point where cases are decided by the number of “likes” or by some machine-based measure, I’ll need to move on.
The book itself has evolved with the changes in research. Free Internet sites were first mentioned in the 6th edition (1996), and HeinOnline first appeared in the 8th edition (2003). There are now more than three hundred websites discussed. We’ve had a companion website with updated links since 2003, and in 2013 we took the illustrations out and put them online as well. Small black-and-white illustrations were fine back when we were showing sample pages of books, but screenshots of websites work so much better in color and on a larger scale.
AJM: You’ve written other books on legal research, notably the concise hornbook Principles of Legal Research (2d ed. 2015). You also teach Advanced Legal Research. How do teaching and writing about legal research inform each other?
Olson: At the basic level, my students who’ve used draft versions as course texts have saved textbook money and they’ve helped to catch some embarrassing typos before they made it to print. But they also help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear. If we don’t cover something in class, it might not be important enough to include in the book. And without my students I wouldn’t have known that you need to explain to some digital natives the difference between a table of contents and an index.
AJM: Any regrets about the new edition?
Olson: Of course. There are always regrets. One minor one is that I completely missed that govtrack.us stopped tracking state legislation several months before we went to press. At least I could update that on the Nutshell website. A more significant omission is that I made no mention at all of Practical Law, to which our students have access through Westlaw and which is a really useful and current source of basic legal information in several disciplines. At some point I also should really think about how research by mobile app differs from website-based research.
But this just means I need to start planning for the thirteenth edition. In the past couple of months Lexis Advance added a directory of resources to its main screen and made its Advanced Search much more useful, and Westlaw introduced its “Westlaw Answers” feature when you type a question into the search box. All the references to FDsys in the current edition will be obsolete once GPO completes its transition to govinfo.gov. It won’t be long before January 2016 seems like a very long time ago in legal research.
With the new year, you may have noticed a new face in the library. Alex Jakubow joins our research and reference team to support empirical legal research. Alex is skilled with data collection, cleaning and analysis. As law increasingly turns towards large datasets and statistical methods, his expertise will be critical to supporting UVA Law scholarship.
A Wisconsin native, Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Richmond in 2008. He then attended graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned a Ph.D. in political science in 2014.
Alex married his graduate school sweetheart, Devon Golem, in September of 2012. Career decisions have taken the pair across the entirety of the continental United States and back in a relatively short amount of time. In less than four years, Alex and Devon have lived in New Jersey, California, and New Mexico before moving to Virginia in December of 2015. Alex and Devon look forward to staying in place for a while, especially when family is near: Alex’s mother and sister respectively live in Williamsburg and Alexandria.
Devon and Alex live in Charlottesville with their canine companion, Lunch Lady Doris. Doris, a brownish-red Papillion/Dachshund mix, is approximately eight years old. She enjoys having Alex and Devon as tenants in her apartment and sneezes uncontrollably when excited.
Outside of work, Alex enjoys reading, traveling, exercising, and socializing with loved ones. He also looks forward to taking full advantage of the area’s many and varied opportunities for outdoor fun. Guilty pleasures: prolonged consumption of Netflix and, when his family is out of town, video games.
We are very excited to be debuting the new Collaborative Classroom in room WB 278 in the library (the room with the big leather chairs). We’ve relocated the magazines and books from that room to our new reading room downstairs and converted WB 278 into an interactive classroom and workspace for students. The comfy chairs are still there, but you will also find new modular furniture and four big displays—all designed for skills-based classes and student collaboration.
We’ll be using the new room for all of our Advanced Legal Research classes. That class is very much a “learn by doing” course where the students are the focus of each class session. The modular furniture will allow us to easily reconfigure the room on the fly for small group work, large group work or full class discussion. All of the displays are set up so that any student can link their laptop to the display in order to easily share their work with the full class, allowing students to drive the class from their own laptops. We will work together on research exercises and easily switch from small group work to full class discussions using the displays, putting the students in charge of their skill development. We’re thrilled to be able to start using the new interactive space with our Fall Advanced Legal Research classes.
The collaborative classroom is open for student use whenever a class is not in session. Feel free to link your laptops to the displays, rearrange the furniture, and relax in the leather chairs as long as no one is teaching in the room at the time. Just let us know at the reference desk if you have any questions about using the room.
– Ben Doherty
Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.
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This week, West Academic released the second edition of Kent Olson’s highly acclaimed Principles of Legal Research. The first edition of Principles earned Olson his second Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographic Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), which honors a significant contribution to legal bibliographic literature. Principles is the product of Olson’s many years of practicing the art and craft of legal research, and of teaching Advanced Legal Research to many bright and able students at the University of Virginia School of Law. It is the successor to the venerable How to Find the Law, published in nine editions beginning in 1931, the last of which Olson co-authored with Morris Cohen and Robert Berring.
The second edition of Principles of Legal Research remains true to its roots as an indispensable guide to practical legal research. Much of legal research still relies on traditional print-based sources and methods, and for those situations, the book offers refuge for those who may be more comfortable conducting research with a keyboard, mouse, and touch screen than by sifting through hefty tomes of pulp and ink. At the same time, Principles is a trustworthy compass for intelligent navigation of the latest generation of algorithm-based online legal research systems and the vast and growing array of Internet-delivered legal information services.
Skillful legal research requires a foundational knowledge of how law is made and interpreted and a solid understanding of the documentary outputs of those processes, and Principles of Legal Research offers novice readers the knowledge of both. The book has features that also make it a valuable reference work for experienced legal researchers, including copious footnotes, indexing, and a useful appendix of treatises and services arranged by subject. New to this edition, images of key websites are displayed in full color.
A prolific writer, Kent Olson is also the author of Legal Information: How to Find It, How to Use It (1999) and is author or co-author of several iterations of West’s Legal Research in a Nutshell, now in its 11th edition. Olson is an expert legal researcher and a dedicated professor of legal research. For nearly three decades he has also been colleague, friend, and mentor to the Law Library staff. We heartily congratulate Kent Olson on his latest literary achievement!
In 1766, British economic writer Malachy Postlethwayt argued that the grand commercial ambitions of the British empire started with good bookkeeping, proper paperwork, and some knowledge about people beyond London. To equip eager young traders to grow British overseas commerce, and by extension the royal revenue, after the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Postlethwayt penned a new edition of his Universal Dictionary ofTrade and Commerce, rich with explanations of the mechanics of trade. The Law Library is thrilled to add Volume 1 of this eighteenth-century guide to the globe to its Special Collections as part of the Library’s ongoing project to acquire duplicate editions of the law books listed in the U.Va. Library Catalogue of 1828. Both volumes of Postlethwayt’s Dictionary formed part of the U.Va. Library’s original collections on mercantile law.
For the modern reader, as for the young U.Va. student perusing this reference in the University library in the 1820s, Postlethwayt’s Dictionary explains the vocabulary, products, and practices of eighteenth-century commerce from the London Custom House to the north African caravan. Curious how bills of exchange worked? Check the section on Banking. Wondering about the pearl fishery off of southern India? See the section on East India Trade. Pondering whether eighteenth-century British consumers are likely to continue their new practice of coffee drinking? See Postlethwayt’s thoughts under Coffee. (Spoiler: Yes. Postlethwayt praised coffee for clearing the head and relieving sleepiness, though he warned that drinking too much in one day would surely hazard the “repose of the night.” A stickler for the good stuff, Postlethwayt advised that “coffee which is newly ground has the most virtue.”)
With commerce always enmeshed in matters of geography, language, and especially law, Postlethwayt’s Dictionary offers a detailed look not only into the minutiae of trade—swearing oaths at the Custom House, filling out double-entry ledgers—but also the lives of those who engaged in or supported trade around London and around the globe. Postlethwayt had specific advice for British merchants who often found themselves entangled in legal disputes: find an honest, able, and experienced attorney at law. Attorneys were gentlemen and scholars, Postlethwayt wrote, who started clerkships at sixteen, understood Latin and French, knew their way around ancient deeds, wrote well, and could unravel any business account laid before them.
At four inches thick, Volume 1 of Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary covers letters A to K and adds to the U.Va. Law Library’s rich collections on the historical practice of law. Special Collections hopes to add the second volume to its inventory in the future.
For research in this or any item at the Law Library Special Collections, see our webpage or contact Special Collections at email@example.com.
– Randi Flaherty
Peter Groenewegen, ‘Postlethwayt, Malachy (1707–1767)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2013 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22599, accessed 28 Oct 2014]
 Malachy Postlethwayt and Jacques Savary des Brûlons. The Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce: With Large Additions and Improvements, Adapting the Same to the Present State of British Affairs in America, Since the Last Treaty of Peace Made in the Year 1763. With Great Variety of New Remarks and Illustrations Incorporated Throughout the Whole: Together with Everything Essential That Is Contained in Savary’s Dictionary: Also, All the Material Laws of Trade and Navigation Relating to These Kingdoms, and the Customs and Usages to Which All Traders Are Subject. (London: H. Woodfall, 1766.)
 Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary provided a British perspective on these topics, though Postlethwayt also borrowed liberally from a previous dictionary by the Frenchman Jacques Savary des Brûlons.
Randi Flaherty was Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (2014 to 2016) for the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Department.
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Want to keep up with what’s happening in Congress and in state legislatures? Check out one of the Law Library’s newest database offerings – FiscalNote. FiscalNote’s team of software and public policy entrepreneurs (including a U.Va. Law alum) have developed software and a fun, user-friendly interface that puts at people’s fingertips volumes of information that would take lots of capitol insiders tons of time to compile. FiscalNote gives you not only loads of information, but also crunches that information to predict whether bills will pass. And it delivers straight to your email inbox, via alerts you customize to your interests. Part of the start-up’s mission is to “foster a transparent political and legal system,” and they’ve been attracting press (see #5 of 11) and venture capital interest. See what the buzz is about by signing up for a password.
What do Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? Beyond creativity and writing skills, they all used standing desks.
Standing desks have recently become fashionable, used at corporations like Google and Facebook, and other hip places like the Law Library.
Wait, the Law Library? Yep, we now have two height adjustable standing desks in the Law Library, located outside of the Klaus Reading Room and on the north end of the reference study area by the windows. Studies show that standing desks help to improve focus and the ability to plow through tasks. Try the standing desks and let us know what you think.