The Law Library staff welcomes the Class of 2015! As you begin your law school education, please visit our new 1L Law Library FAQs to help get you started with using library technology, spaces and services. You'll be hearing much more from us during your Legal Research and Writing classes, but we invite you to stop by the Circulation Desk on the first floor or the Reference Desk on the second floor if you have any questions before then.
– The Law Library Staff
The case is closed on your first official week of law school, first-year students! You may be feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the new information you’re being given. If so, the information pros here at the Library can help you manage it. For the inside scoop on Library features and resources – including descriptions of favorite study spots in the Library – check out the Introduction to Legal Research guide. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction’s (CALI) lessons can help you review the topics you’re covering in your classes on contracts, torts, and more. (You can get the registration code on LawWeb or at the Reference Desk.) Stop by and see us at the Reference Desk with your research or general Library questions. We’re even here this Sunday afternoon, and evenings next week until 8pm.
– Kristin Glover
Now you’ve started your summer job, and you’ve just been handed a real research project. What should you do?
WHEN YOU ARE ASSIGNED A RESEARCH PROJECT
Ask questions. Make sure you understand what you are being asked to do. Do you know the facts? Do you understand the legal question you have been asked to research? Did the assigning attorney suggest any sources? Do you know what type of final product is wanted?
Don’t panic. You are not expected to be an expert at the beginning of the summer. You will be asked to research unfamiliar areas of the law. Stay calm and start with basic background research using familiar tools like Google or a blog search.
Make a plan. Think about your research before you get started. Issue spot and identify the primary sources that are likely to be relevant. Write out your Lexis or Westlaw searches before going online, and take advantage of their online chat or reference lines to help you craft your search.
Go to the experts. Start your research in secondary sources, such as treatises and law reviews. Ask the librarians if there is a leading state-specific or subject-specific treatise that would help you. You might also consult the list of major treatises the Law Library provides on its website. Tables of contents and indexes may help you quickly locate relevant information and alert you to issues you may not have already considered.
Keep track of your research. Make notes of the sources you use and the searches you run. This will save you a lot of grief if you have to recreate or defend your research.
Be thorough. Keep in mind that various layers of law (e.g. federal/state/local or statutory/regulatory) may apply and don’t forget to Shepardize or KeyCite.
Keep your facts in mind at all times. This is real life. Don’t write a 30-page dissertation on the topic generally, but focus on the facts in your case.
There is no such thing as a draft. The assigning attorney is your client, so edit, proofread, and Bluebook your work before it leaves your hands.
– Leslie Ashbrook
You have a summer job lined up. The only thing standing between you and a successful summer is finals – that is until you start thinking about the research you may be asked to do this summer. Whether you are working in a firm, for a judge, in a non-profit, with an agency, or researching for a professor here in Charlottesville, your librarians have put together a short “how-to” guide to help you through summer research.
BEFORE YOU START YOUR SUMMER JOB
Go online and take some time to get familiar with your organization, judge, or professor. Refresh yourself on the attorneys in your practice group and look to see if there are major cases or matters in which your firm is involved. Does your judge handle a particular type of case? What areas of law is your professor researching?
Become acquainted with your jurisdiction. If you will be working with state law issues, become familiar with the state’s court structure and the state legislature. Most official state websites provide free access to the state code, pending legislation, and recent court decisions.
Attend Lexis & Westlaw training sessions. These can help you be more cost-effective researchers.
WHEN YOU FIRST START YOUR SUMMER JOB
Take a tour of the library, if there is one, and introduce yourself to the librarian. There are likely to be sources that are important to your practice group or supervising attorney, and the librarian can point you towards those sources and help you learn to use the ones you haven’t worked with before. Your librarian can also tell you how Westlaw and Lexis are billed in your organization and about other databases available to you through the organization.
– Leslie Ashbrook
On Friday: "Shining Bright, Part 2: Handling a Project"