A couple of weeks ago, Lexis released some changes to Lexis Advance. I wanted to run through a couple of them that I thought might be useful to you. The first is the ability to select a source from the search bar. When Lexis Advance was first released, there was no good way to select a particular source like Moore’s Federal Practice. Eventually Lexis added the Browse Sources link next to the search bar, which provided this functionality but was not the easiest to use. In the current release of Lexis Advance, researchers can now simply type the name of the source into the search box and the matching sources will be displayed below. This makes things a lot easier for researchers trying to get to a particular source.
The one problem I still see is that researchers cannot select a specific database, like law reviews and journals. This addition would make Lexis Advance much more useful, especially for law students and faculty.
The other enhancement that I’ve been waiting for is a tweak in the Lexis Advance algorithm that would reduce the number of results in a given search. If you’ve used Lexis Advance you’ve likely noticed that a search may bring back millions of results. The results at the end of the list provide no relevant results, perhaps having just one of the search terms, so why include them? For example, a search of federal cases for affirmative action higher education used to bring back about 2 million results. With the change to the algorithm, this result is now roughly 180,000.
Much fewer, but I thought the result would be even more restrictive. A similar WestlawNext search, for example gives 452 results. So, while this is an improvement in Lexis Advance, I still think there’s a ways to go.
The Washington & Lee Law Library has recently updated its Law Journal Rankings to include data from 2013. The rankings take into account citations to journals during the last eight years, with the combined score looking at impact factor and total cites. Much more detail on the ranking methodology is available here. Over the last few years BYU Law School faculty have published or will soon publish scholarship in many of the top ranked law reviews and journals according to the Washington & Lee Rankings. Some of these top placements since 2012 include the UCLA Law Review (twice) (#7), Michigan Law Review (#8), Minnesota Law Review (#11), Fordham Law Review (#14), Cornell Law Review (#15), Indiana Law Journal (#29), and the George Washington Law Review (#31).
Government websites are a mixed bag. Some are quite modern, while others look like they’re stuck in the ’90s. The information on these websites is free, so attorneys and others come to them often for legal information. The easier they are to use, the fewer headaches they induce.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has recently moved to an updated, more user-friendly website. Hopefully that means a better experience for Utah attorneys and law students looking for opinions, forms, and rules from Utah’s federal court of appeals.
Life in the Law, a BYU Law School publication, has recently been digitized and made available electronically by the BYU Law Library. The three volumes of Life in the Law “contain prized collections of exceptional essays by thoughtful men and women who have examined things that matter most in both their professional and private lives. All of them address important questions about the experience of being a Christian attorney.”
Edited by Jane Wise, the law library’s Galen Fletcher, and Scott Cameron, Life in the Law has been treasured by many who are seeking to live religious lives while practicing law. These volumes contain many wonderful essays including, “Answering God’s Interrogatories” by Marlin K. Jensen, “With Charity for All” by Matthew S. Holland, and “Lock In: Loved Ones and Lawyers” by Robert M. Daines to name just a few. The table of contents for each volume as well as pdf versions of each essay can be found at the links below:
Volume 1 – Answering God’s Interrogatories
Volume 2 – Service & Integrity
Volume 3 – Religious Conviction
While still available for sale in print, this digital collection provides free access to anyone interested in a religious perspective on life in the law.
One of the questions students frequently ask me is whether they should use Westlaw or Lexis. My answer is the always frustrating “both.” Why? The fact is that you simply don’t have much control over which you’ll be using in practice, so you should get to know both systems in law school. It’s true that some large firms have access to both Westlaw and Lexis, but those firms are rare and I imagine those that offer both will decline in the future as firms continue to cut costs.
In today’s legal research environment, you simply don’t know what legal research system you’ll see. Plenty of firms only have Westlaw, plenty of firms only have Lexis, and plenty of firms switch from one to the other. I know of a Salt Lake firm who has recently switched from Westlaw to Lexis. I’ve heard that the Utah courts have switched from Lexis to Westlaw. Either one of these scenarios could easily happen at your job, which is why law school is a great place to get familiar with both.
In law school your Westlaw/Lexis access is subsidized by your law library. That means access is essentially free to you, making this a great time to practice using these systems effectively and efficiently. Because they’re not getting charged, some students don’t worry about efficient research. I think that’s a mistake. Trying to shake off 3 years of bad research habits is not what you want to be doing when you’re starting a job and learning to bill clients. Take the time to practice good research habits in law school and try using both Westlaw and Lexis as you do.
My answer gets more complicated when we start talking about firms that don’t use Westlaw or Lexis, but I’ll save that for another day.
Last week I blogged about the HeinOnline/Fastcase partnership. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve been looking at the cases provided by Fastcase in HeinOnline is that Hein’s ScholarCheck (its version of Shepard’s/KeyCite) is available with each of the cases. That means researchers can easily find law review and journal articles that cite the case you’re looking up. Can’t you do that with Shepard’s/KeyCite, you might ask? To a point. Remember, that the law review and journals available in Westlaw and Lexis generally only go back to the 1980s or early 1990s. (There are exceptions in Westlaw for some of the most prominent journals.) That means that if you have an older case, Shepard’s/KeyCite may miss many of the pre-1990s articles that cite your case. This might be important if you’re working on an article about an historic case. Let’s look at an example.
Say we’re looking at Judge Learned Hand’s opinion in United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 1159 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947). Shepardizing it shows 1,353 law review articles, none before 1982. KeyCite gives you 1,525 with a few from some major law reviews before the 1980s. HeinOnline gives you 2,071 articles, many of them from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s that likely won’t be in Westlaw or Lexis.
While you could have reached the same result in HeinOnline by searching for the citation of Carroll Towing in Hein’s law journal library, the Fastcase integration makes this research more intuitive for researchers. Just find your case and click on the ScholarCheck link.
A recent partnership between HeinOnline and Fastcase now provides access to cases within HeinOnline. Until now, HeinOnline users have only had access to cases from the U.S. Reports. The Fastcase integration allows HeinOnline users to access cases from the Supreme Court (1754-present), Federal Circuits (1924-present), Board of Tax Appeals (vols. 1-47), Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (vols. 1-59), U.S. Customs Court (vols. 1-70), Board of Immigration Appeals (1996-present), Federal District Courts (1924-present), and Federal Bankruptcy Courts (1 B.R. 1-present). Additionally, state case law covers all fifty states, with nearly half of the states dating back to the 1800s. Coverage for the remaining states dates back to approximately 1950.
When you access HeinOnline, you will now see a Fastcase tab that will allow you to search for cases by citation.
While this tab can be useful, I imagine most users will take advantage of the Fastcase integration by accessing cases directly from a law review or journal article that they’re reading. Students and faculty love HeinOnline and the content it provides, but one of the complaints I often hear is that they can’t just click on a link like they can in Westlaw or Lexis and go to a citation. That complaint is only partially based in fact because up until this point HeinOnline users could click on links to access other documents within HeinOnline, like other law review articles or cases from the U.S. Reports. To do that, you have to make sure that “Citations on Page” is turned on. Once it is, citations that are linked are highlighted in blue.
With cases now available through Fastcase, more citations are linkable through HeinOnline. So, now when you see a citation to the Federal Reporter or a state case, it’s likely that it will be highlighted in blue and you can read it right in HeinOnline.
The Law Library has recently subscribed to the electronic version of the National Law Journal, a legal news source. The National Law Journal is a great place to stay current on what’s going on in the law and in legal education. BYU Law students and faculty can get access to the National Law Journal by going to this link or by finding it on the library’s A-Z resource list. Free registration to the National Law Journal allows users 5 free articles a month, but our subscription (accessed through the above link) will now allow the BYU Law community unlimited access to NLJ articles. Occasionally, NLJ links to stories from other publications like the Legal Intelligencer and the Recorder. Free registration is needed to access these non-NLJ stories.
The Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law and the Howard W. Hunter Law Library have recently partnered to provide full-text access to all issues of the Journal back to its inception in 1986. Issues can be browsed by date allowing users to see the most recent issue in 2013, the first issue in 1986, or any in between. The full run of journal issues can also be searched by keyword, title, author, etc.
Users can download full-text pdfs of each article. The new website keeps track of these downloads, allowing users to view the most popular papers that have been downloaded.
The BYU Law School website recently ran an interview with BYU Law School alum Robert Stander (’11) announcing his clerkship with Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court during October term 2014. Congratulations to Robert! A Supreme Court clerkship is an incredibly prestigious and coveted position in the legal field and we’re excited to have one of our own at the Court next term.
In its short history, BYU Law School has been very successful in placing its students in Supreme Court clerkships and in attracting faculty who have clerked at the Court. BYU Law currently ranks #13 in the country in Brian Leiter’s Supreme Court Clerkship Placement rankings (2003-2013 terms, “per capita” rate), a high honor considering the schools that accompany us in the rankings.
Additionally, BYU Law students benefit from a number of BYU Law faculty members who have clerked at the Court (Fee-Scalia, Jones-O’Connor, Lee-Thomas, Moore-Alito, Sun-Kennedy, Worthen-White).