Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Don't Reinvent the Research Wheel!

Today’s post is written with law students everywhere in mind.  Many of you are facing your first summer legal jobs, or perhaps you are getting ready to join the workforce. In all events – congratulations!

We wanted to bring to your attention (and to remind others of) three resources published as part of the American Jurisprudence series: (1) Proof of Facts; (2) Trials; and (3) Pleadings and Practice Forms Annotated.  The purpose of all three of these resources is to prevent lawyers from “recreating the wheel” – a poor practice that results in lost time and unhappy supervisors.

American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts (“POF”), now in its third series, helps the litigator to ferret out the facts that are essential to winning or defending a case, and explains how to prove those facts. All types of litigation are described, including personal injury, various types of employment matters such as discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination, real estate litigation, to name just a few. The publisher (Thomson Reuters) states that the articles are written by “judges, attorneys and experts in technical, scientific and medical fields.”

To find an entry on your topic, use the 5-volume print index. Let’s take a look at one entry – “Establishing Elements for Disregarding Corporate Entity and Piercing Entity’s Veil,” 114 Am. Jur. POF 3d 403. Each entry starts with an Introduction outlining the scope of the article, and providing a grounding in the particular area of law. The one for this subject includes a useful section on tests for applying the piercing doctrine. The next major section is about establishing the elements for disregarding an entity’s veil. Other sections go on to describe pleading requirements, burdens of proof, and examples of how to prove the elements. You might not think of POF as a place to look for sample discovery, but it is – all entries have sample discovery requests as well as sample examinations and cross examinations. 

Two unusual volumes come with this series – an Attorney’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, and the Fact Book. Chapter 1 of the Fact Book consists of medical illustrations; Chapter 2 has product liability facts; Chapter 3 has statistical information; Chapter 4 has information on how to obtain birth, death and divorce records; and Chapter 5 provides information about various engineering, legal and medical associations, all included with the aim of aiding the practitioner in bringing or defending various types of lawsuits.

American Jurisprudence Trials contains articles on successful techniques and strategies used in actual cases. As is POF, Trials is written by prominent trial attorneys, judges, and legal experts. The set consists of more than 100 volumes, and guides researchers through every step of litigation from preliminary considerations to motions for costs. It even covers aspects of trial often overlooked by novice litigators, such as the section dealing with body language for trial lawyers. This chapter gives practical advice on how to move from a sitting to a standing position. Readers are reminded:  “your movement from one area of the courtroom to another radiates dozens of different messages to jurors and judge, ranging from ineptitude to confidence, from amateurism to professionalism, from fear to courage.” The chapter also explains how to read the cues coming from the judge and jurors, so you can adjust your actions based on how you are being perceived by your audience. 

One of the best features of Trials is the illustrative forms, or examples.  One of the most frequently-asked questions that we get here at the Law Library from our students is: “I need an example of __________."  Trials  is full of examples of complaints, depositions, interrogatories, and all types of motions. There’s a good chance that researchers will find exactly what they need. Most topics also have checklists for trial preparation. Trials comes with a multi-volume index and some volumes contain an individual index in the back of the volume.

The last resource we want to bring to your attention is American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated (State and Federal) (“PPF”). PPF describes itself as “a comprehensive … collection of pleading and practice forms, including jury instructions and checklists, … designed to provide dependable forms for all types of pleading and procedural steps...” 

Here is an example of how this resource can be useful. Say you have a client who wants to contest a will because the client believes the testator was the victim of undue influence. Find the volume covering Wills, and by going to the table of contents for that volume you will discover a number of petitions in opposition to probate due to various kinds of undue influence. Now, we would not normally suggest that you start your research by consulting a table of contents, but in this instance, the Index is poor, despite being multiple volumes. For example, we were unable to find material on “undue influence” in the Will context using the Index but could find that material by going through the Table of Contents in the Will volume. We would be happy to have someone double check us and prove us wrong about the Index, but at this point, we think it is lacking. Even the index in the back of the Will volume did not have entries for duress.

All three of these resources are available online at WestlawNext. We hope you find this post useful. Good luck with your summer jobs!

Nicole and Renee

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