Friday, November 22, 2019

Finals! Ace those exams with our “J”Awesome STUDY AIDS

Need to review or understand an area of law better? Want to take practice exams and understand why the answer is correct? The Law Library has many resources – STUDY AIDS.

Many of the study aids are online, too. All your course subject areas are covered
Here’s what we have:

Some professors make their past exams available. To find exams by professor name or subject, from the Law Library’s website, look in the Law Library’s catalog and click on Course Reserves.

You’ll need a PIN to access past exams. If you haven’t created one yet or forgot yours, instructions are here.

CALI has more than 975 online interactive lessons covering nearly 50 different legal education subject areas. Demonstrate what you learned by taking the multiple choice and short essay exams. Numerous podcasts and eBooks are available, too.

To register, go to the CALI homepage and click on the "Create new account" link. Get an authorization code card at the Circulation Desk if you can’t find yours in the orientation packet.

Check out CD/ROM discs to listen to lectures while commuting, exercising, or even running errands.
•  Sum & Substance audio series: Lectures presented by leading professors.
•  Law School Legends audio series: Each course is condensed into single lectures and include examples and exam tips. Ask for the handout disc so you can take notes or work problems during the lectures.

These allow students to quiz themselves and review important definitions, hypotheticals, and black letter law.


The Law Library has several study aids in print and as eBooks. Try several series to determine which ones are the right fit for you. Here’s just a sample of what we have:

The following are available in print and eBooks covering many subject specific areas of law;
•  Mastering series: Introductions to basic principles.
•  Questions & Answers series: Hundreds of questions to test your knowledge.
•  Understanding series: Comprehensive analysis of each subject.

See below about access these LexisNexis Digital Library eBooks [link].

And more in print:
•  Acing series: Innovative method of content organization, utilizing a checklist format that leads you through questions you need to ask to fully evaluate the legal problem they are trying to solve.
•  Concepts and Insights series: Conceptual overviews of the major subjects of law.
• Nutshells series: Explanation of the most important issues of law, highlighting key cases and statutes
•  Concise Hornbook series: Analyses of fundamental areas of the law by prominent legal scholars, focusing on the core principles.
•  Exam Pro Series: Sample exams (either multiple choice or essay) with detailed answers to help with understanding answer while building exam skills.
•  Examples & Explanations: Explanations of each class topic and hypotheticals similar to those presented in class, with corresponding analysis to test their understanding.
•  Glannon Guides: Each guide provides an expository review of key points of law and illustrative scenarios, followed by probing multiple-choice questions.
•  Hornbook Series: Hornbooks explain the law in great depth and broaden students understanding with insights into not only the law’s historical development, but also its contemporary issues and future directions.
•  A Short & Happy Guide series: Explanation of legal principles, practices, and policies in terms students can grasp quickly.


If you find a study aid that you like, let someone at the Circulation Desk know or put it in the shark’s mouth. We will mark the book as a study aid recommended by peers; a shark label will be affixed to the book, as well as the card in the Study Aids Rolodex.

If you are looking for a study aid that your peers have recommended as "J"Awesome, take a look at the Study Aids Rolodex at the Circulation Desk for a title labeled with a shark, or just click on the Jawsome Box.


•  Come to the Circulation Desk to check out everything except eBooks.
•  On the Circulation Desk counter, in the Study Aids Rolodex, study aids are organized by course subject.
•  The study aid’s title card will have stamps on it if it is also available as an eBook or is “J”Awesome,
•  Find study aids on the Library’s website by clicking Electronic  Resources, then J.D./M.S. in Law Students, and then Study Aids. From there, click on Jawsome Box. to see what classmates recommend.
•  “J”Awesome study aids have a sticker with our buddy on it on the front of the book.
•  Did you know you can highlight and take notes in the eBook and when you check it out again your notes will be there!
•  One way to access LexisNexis Digital Library is from the Electronic Resources for JD/MS Students: Study Aids webpage. Enter your entire Law Library barcode number starting with 2 along with your PIN number. If you haven’t created one yet or forgot yours, instructions are here.
•  Search for your course subject and results will include many study aids.
•  Click on Borrow and the eBook is yours for 24 hours. You can check it out again after the due date.

As always, your Law Librarians are available to help you find a resource, too.

Happy studying. You’re going to do great!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Using Headnotes

The two most popular legal databases, Westlaw and Lexis both use headnotes as a way to summarize and provide access to points of law within cases. This blog post examines the differences and similarities between headnotes on Westlaw and Lexis. This post uses Commonwealth v. Carter, 481 Mass. 352 (2019) and Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) as examples, since both are well known and have many headnotes to examine. 

Headnotes on both systems have similar parts. Here is the headnote about the presumed knowledge of a judge from Commonwealth v. Carter from both Westlaw and Lexis.

A) Link to headnote within a case. On both Westlaw and Lexis, clicking on the headnote number will bring you to the language within the case related t that headnote. Within the body text, clicking on the headnote notation will bring you back to the list of Headnotes.
B) Subject Access—On Westlaw, this is the venerable Key Number system. The image shows my headnotes set to show the entire outline of from the broad Topic (110 Criminal Law) to the most granular Key Number (110k260.11(2) Presumptions). One could access any level of this outline and review cases associated with that level. For example, selecting 110k260.11(2) Presumptions will give a listing of case references that touch on presumptions during a criminal bench trial. By changing the jurisdictional settings in this list, one could find cases on the same or similar topics from other jurisdictions. On Lexis Advance, subject access is provided through their Find a Topic system as well as the More like this Headnote link. Clicking on the Bench Trials subject will bring you to a list of cases discussing different aspects of bench trials. Lexis’s Topics are much broader than Key Numbers. To get a more targeted selection of cases on the same subject in Lexis, you can click on the More like this Headnote link. Doing so generates a search on Lexis based on the language of that headnote which returns cases from across the country on that issue.
C) Links to citing cases—Both Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide a link to a list of cases citing the headnote. Lexis goes a step further in some instances, by also providing links to citing cases divided by Shepard’s citator treatments. For example, pictured below is Headnote 16 from Roe v. Wade on Lexis. Following any of those links will bring you to a list of cases with the treatment filter applied.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Google Scholar: Why Use That?

Google Scholar is a specialized search engine that indexes both scholarly articles (peer reviewed) and court cases. Google Scholar is free and can be used to do practically any research. It should also be noted that it can be even more effective when accessed through a university campus. This blog post will discuss several different uses of Google Scholar.

Finding a Known Source

Let’s say you are on campus reading a law review article on Westlaw Edge or Lexis Advance and the author discusses another article not available on the database you are using. The footnote below contains reference to a forthcoming law review article that does not have a link. We’ll try to find this article, Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause, using Google Scholar .

Law Review Article Without a Link

First, copy the exact title of the article from the footnote. Then paste it between two quotation marks in the Google Scholar search box. Then hit search. The results below show a reference to the published article. The two links to the right are available because I am using Google Scholar on the Western New England University campus. The link to HeinOnline gives a direct link to a pdf of the article available through the University’s access to HeinOnline, while the second gives a link to possible locations within databases accessible through the school. This method is not foolproof, but you will often be able to find a downloadable version of the article you seek. If not, you can also request the article through Interlibrary Loan.

Search results for "Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause"

Researching Any Topic

Since Google Scholar attempts to index all peer-reviewed journals, you can research essentially any topic. This can be helpful since legal scholarship is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. You could either use the regular search box on the Google Scholar front page or access the advanced search page through the drop down menu in the upper left of the front page. While Google Scholar’s advanced search page does not offer options like proximity searching, it does include Boolean searching as well as limited options for field searching. One drawback of Google Scholar is that it has a history of indexing less than reputable journals so make sure you check out the reputation of the journal before citing the article.

For example, if you need explore recent scholarship concerning the relationship between poverty and malnutrition use the advance search function.

Finding the Advanced Search

Put your search terms, poverty and malnutrition, in the “with all of the words” box. Searching now will give you about 269,000 results.

Google Scholar's Advanced Search Menu

To narrow the search, go back to the advanced search screen, hit the “in the title” radio button then limit the dates to 2010 to 2019. Now the results include about 99 articles. Here again, if you are using Google Scholar on campus it will provide links to available sources for the articles found in the search.

Narrowed Results

Case Law

Google Scholar also indexes case law for United States jurisdictions. From the Google Scholar front page, select the Case Law button to search for cases. Hitting the “Select courts…” button will allow you to specify which jurisdictions you search. For instance, if you wanted to find the recent case from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which found that a defendant could be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by encouraging a victim to commit suicide, first limit the court to the Supreme Judicial Court. Then go to the advance search screen, enter the words encouragement and suicide in the “with all of the words” box and “involuntary manslaughter” in the “with the exact phrase” box. Then hit search. The results give seven cases. On the left side of the screen are optional filters for the date. Adding the “Since 2015” filter returns just two cases, both of which involve separate trips to the Supreme Judicial Court for the case Carter v. Commonwealth.

Finding Cases

While you can certainly find case law using Google Scholar, it does have drawbacks. For example while Google Scholar has a citator, the citator only states where a case is cited and does not give an evaluation of the treatment like one would find using KeyCite or Shepards.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Research Tools for Summer Associates & Externs

If you have a position as a summer associate or an extern this summer, great! You will be happy to know that in addition to your Lexis Advance and Westlaw summer access*, rising 2Ls and 3Ls have access to many other legal research tools. Here are a few you may find particularly useful.

Legal Databases

Bloomberg Law: This database offers access to primary laws in all U.S. jurisdictions as well as several unique secondary sources including United States Law Week, the Bloomberg BNA Manuals and Portfolios, MCLEs, and many other resources. It also has some of the best docket research features available anywhere. Bloomberg Law permits unrestricted access for law students during the summer. You will need to create an account to access Bloomberg Law. Please contact Artie Berns for more information.
HeinOnline: This is a different kind of legal database. Rather than focusing on current law, HeinOnline provides historical context. It has a very extensive library of law reviews with most going back to volume 1, issue 1. Hein also has an amazing collection of primary legal materials going back centuries in many jurisdictions. You will need your Library Barcode and PIN to access HeinOnline from off-campus.
ProQuest Congressional and ProQuest Legislative Insight: ProQuest Congressional is the most extensive collection of federal legislative history documents available. The database has a great advanced search function. ProQuest Legislative Insight is a collection of compiled legislative histories. For any federal legislative history question, this is the first place to look. You will need your Library Barcode and PIN to access the ProQuest databases from off-campus.
Social Law Library’s Administrative Law Database: This database contains many Massachusetts specific resources simply not available anywhere else including the decisions of the many of the Massachusetts administrative agencies well as the Housing and Land Courts. This resource is available on campus only.

Law Libraries

The reference librarians here at the Western New England School of Law Library are available for research questions from our students during their summer positions. You can always contact us in person, through email, or via telephone. However, if you are away from Springfield, you might prefer to visit a law library in person. Fortunately there are many other law libraries throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut.** Follow this link to learn about services offered at law libraries throughout these states.
*Lexis Advance and Westlaw summer access policies: Lexis Advance offers free unlimited use over the summer. If you are working at a firm, you may be required to use a different ID when researching for a client. Be sure to check with your employer. Westlaw allows use over the summer for non-commercial research but not in situations where you are billing a client.
** There are probably law libraries in other states as well. If your summer position takes you outside of Massachusetts or Connecticut, we can try to find law libraries located wherever you are going. Please contact Artie Berns for more information.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Researching Historical Documents

I recently assisted one of our professors with research about Oliver Ellsworth, one of our founding fathers. Ellsworth attended the Constitutional Convention, was an early Supreme Court Chief Justice, and was one of Connecticut’s first senators.

The professor had a theory concerning the interpretation of the Anti-Injunction Act, which was passed in 1793. Ellsworth was a leader within the United States Senate at the time the bill was enacted. The professor hoped that some of Ellsworth’s contemporaneous writings would shed light on the professor’s theory.

Initial findings from my usual sources (such as Westlaw, Lexis Advance, HeinOnline, etc.) revealed little written by Ellsworth that I could identify as useful to the question at hand. I then searched at the Library of Congress (LOC) thinking it would be likely that they would have documents written by one of the nation’s founding fathers. The results from LOC’s catalog included a collection entitled Oliver Ellsworth Family Papers. I noted the collection included documents written by Ellsworth himself contemporaneous with his time in the Senate and the collection included an online finding aid.
The finding aid turned out to be a terse index of what was included in the collection of papers, more or less just a list of titles. It did not give enough information about the documents within the collection to determine if any specific papers would be useful to answering the professor’s questions. However, the first item in the collection was titled A Calendar of the Personal Papers of Oliver Ellsworth.

I contacted LOC about the possibility of borrowing the Calendar or obtaining a scan. I was informed that since it was part of a manuscript collection the Calendar could not be loaned. Also, the Calendar’s length exceeded what they could scan and send for free; I was then quoted a pretty steep price for scanning. I decided to look through WorldCat to see if the Calendar was available elsewhere.

WorldCat told me that the Calendar was available at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS). I contacted CHS about the possibility of borrowing the document through interlibrary loan or getting a scan sent to me. CHS responded that they were not a lending library and that for various reasons they could not provide the desired scans, but that I could visit the library and look at the document there.

It happened that I would soon be visiting the University of Connecticut School of Law which is within walking distance of CHS. I arrived at CHS and was finally able to look at the Calendar. The Calendar had descriptions of the contents of the various documents within the collection; I felt this information was sufficient for the professor to get an idea of which documents warranted further investigation. Using Adobe Scan with my iPhone I was able to produce a pdf of the document on the spot. A sample page of the Calendar is below.