When WestlawNext originally launched a number of years ago, I found it interesting that Topics and Key Numbers were less visible than they had been in Westlaw Classic. It’s not that Topics and Key Numbers were gone–in fact, I would say they play an even greater role in WestlawNext because of their incorporation into the WestSearch search algorithm–but they were hidden. To find the Key Number outline, users had to know (and many didn’t) to click on WestlawNext’s “Tools” tab. Even within a case, users could zip up the Key Numbers as if they weren’t there. I imagine this led many users to discount what an important tool Topics and Key Numbers can be.
That’s why a search I ran a few weeks back caught my eye. The overview of results on the left now had a result for “Key Numbers,” with West’s famous key icon.
Clicking on those results I was given 10 key numbers that might be useful to me in my search. I could click on one of these results and be taken into a custom digest.
(I found it telling of where we’re at in legal research these days that the heading for my key number results said – “Key Numbers – Points of Law Found in Cases.” I guess it needs an explanation these days.)
Today I noticed that the Key Number name and icon have been added to the front page of WestlawNext, allowing users to easily get to the Key Number outline.
While using Key Numbers in WestlawNext is not new, their new prominence should remind researchers that Key Numbers are still a useful tool and one of the advantages of using WestlawNext.
September 17 is Constitution Day, a day we celebrate the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 in Philadelphia. As a researcher, I’m drawn to thinking about the history and the sources surrounding important documents like the Constitution. If you’re ever interested in examining these sources, you’re in luck. The Law Library houses a number of these early sources, like Max Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, in its Benson Collection in the Reserve Library. Many great constitutional history sources are also available online from ConSource.
One of my favorite historical sources surrounding the Constitution deals with its ratification. As you’ll remember, the signing of the Constitution on September 17 did not yet mean we had a constitution. The Constitution had to go through a ratification process that ultimately ended in Ratification and, later, to the addition of the Bill of Rights. The debates from these state ratifying conventions are a great source of history and can be found in a wonderful source called the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. The Library has both print and electronic copies of this great source.
Researchers deal with a consistent problem these days – legal information overload. The sheer amount of legal information can be overwhelming, especially for new researchers. While the abundance of legal information isn’t going away, researchers can develop skills and techniques to effectively deal with this problem. To assist, I recently wrote a legal research column in the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine called Taming Legal Information Overload. I hope it gives you a few ideas that can help.
As many of you know, the library’s room 275/76 was one of several areas under construction this summer. Room 275/76 was originally the library’s computer lab, but as laptops become common the space was better used as a classroom. Over the last several years, 275/76 has functioned as a classroom despite still being set up as the old computer lab was (although without the computers). This summer, the law school decided to create 275/76 into two true classrooms. One is a seminar room and one is a medium-sized classrooms. The rooms have already been getting a lot of use in the first week of class. Here are some pictures if you haven’t seen the area already.
This is the new hallway into the two rooms near the reference desk.
Here’s a look into 276.
The Law Library is happy to welcome the class of 2017 to the law school! We’re excited that you’re here with us and want you to know that we’re here to help you throughout your legal education. In addition to the study carrels and the books you see around you, the law library has many electronic databases available to help you in your studies and research. Check out our website to find many of the great resources available to you. We do our best to keep you up to date on new databases, research tips, and more through our law library blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help. Here’s a little information for you to get to know us. We look forward to getting to know you. Please stop by and say “hello!”
Today we’re happy to announce the launch of our new website! A lot of hard work has gone into the new design, especially by our webmaster Laurie Urquiaga. Please test it out and let us know if there’s anything you find that isn’t working. While most of the content on the page has remained the same, we have shifted some things around and renamed a few things. One thing that has been renamed is the “A-Z List of Recommended Resources.” We now call this “Databases & Links.” This will take you to a list of all of our licensed electronic databases as well as a number of useful legal websites. We hope you like it!
Tomorrow we say goodbye to our wonderful faculty services librarian, Galen Fletcher. Galen has been a fantastic colleague and someone whom our faculty, students, and all of us in the library have come to rely on for research and library support.
Galen has worked in our library since 1997, first as our government documents librarian and for the last 10 years as faculty services librarian. In addition to faculty research support, Galen continued to oversee our government documents collection, staffed the reference desk, supervised our reference desk student employees, kept all of us up to date on the accomplishments of BYU Law grads, and much more.
One of Galen’s interests that has greatly benefitted the law school is his interest in the history of the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Whenever I needed to know about some aspect of the law school’s history or to find an old law school speech, Galen was the first one I’d ask. He would always let us know when an important anniversary of the law school was coming up, when otherwise it might have inadvertently slipped by.
On a personal note, Galen has been a wonderful colleague and help to me in my career. When I first came to BYU as a new law librarian, I had a lot to learn. Galen patiently answered my questions and helped me learn the resources and skills needed to become an effective law librarian. While today my questions aren’t as basic as they were eight years ago, I still ask Galen questions when I’m stumped or need to double-check my approach. I’ll miss having his advice and I’ll miss having him as a colleague.
Lexis is currently working on an update to Lexis Advance that will bring some big changes to how the interface looks and add some nice improvements. Unfortunately, the new release won’t be available until September (which will make things a bit tricky for those of us that would like to use Lexis Advance in our legal research classes). I haven’t had a chance to play with it “live,” but I’ve attended a few demos and done a click-through training and I’ve got a few first impressions on some of the improvements. Here’s a YouTube preview if you’re interested.
The new look is definitely more appealing to the eye and I think law students will be quite pleased with it. There’s a lot more white space, and the changes have made the results list and the documents themselves much more readable. I’m not sure if it was the text or the spacing, but it always seemed like a bit of a chore to read through a document on the current Lexis Advance.
In addition to the look, there were a few other things that I liked quite a bit. Shepard’s summary information is now shown in a box to the right of the document. This seems like it will give the researcher a nice quick look at some of the treatment before they dive into the full Shepard’s Report.
Statutes and Administrative Codes now have a Table of Contents button to the left of the text. This allows researchers to easily expand the Table of Contents while still looking at the section in question, which will be very helpful for statutory research. I think the visibility of the button will help remind new researchers the importance of expanding the Table of Contents and looking at the statutory scheme, something they often forget. Now if only Lexis would add the statutory indexes.
The other thing I like is that footnote text now appears to be searchable. The inability to search footnotes in law review articles is a major problem in the current version of Lexis Advance and I’m glad it looks like it will be corrected.
While I like several of these new features, I will be most interested to play around with the search functionality to see if it has improved. I have had some success with the current Lexis Advance, but many times I have been left wondering about its relevance ranking. Hopefully, these improvements I’ve seen aren’t the end of making Lexis Advance better.
CALI (“The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction”) has recently released a revamped version of its website (along with a whole new color scheme). CALI still offers its great interactive tutorials that are excellent for students trying to master their classes. They are now up to 950 different lessons in 35 legal subject areas. (I don’t feel like it was that long ago that the number was 600.) These lessons are created by law school faculty members and can be a great help during law school. The new website also prominently features CALI’s eBooks where users can download free versions of different compilations of Rules and open-access versions of certain casebooks. BYU Law is a member of CALI and law students (even incoming students) and faculty can get access to CALI by emailing Shawn Nevers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While most legal research classes naturally focus on researching the law of the United States, there is a large body of foreign and international law research that most students aren’t exposed to. Foreign and international law research can be quite challenging and often frustrating if you don’t know where to go. Luckily for us, one of our law librarians, Dennis Sears, is an expert in foreign and international law research and is a great resource for our students and faculty. As he’s done with tax, Prof. Sears has created a research guide helping students with their Foreign and International Law Research. This guide has been very popular, being viewed over 4,600 times in the past year. This guide is a great place to start if you find yourself needing to research foreign or international law.