Reserve the Student Wellness Room Today!

The Law Library in conjunction with the Dean of Student’s Office and the Student Wellness Advisory Committee is very proud to announce the availability of the Wellness Room. This space is designed for students to decompress, de-stress, and rejuvenate.

Wellness Room

The Wellness Room includes:

  • Comfortable Seating
  • Aromatherapy
  • Yoga Mats
  • Mini Zen Garden
  • Sound Machine
  • Coloring Books
  • Wellness Collection

Wellness Room Guidelines:

  • The Wellness Room booking defaults to 30-minutes blocks of time.
  • The Room may be reserved for 1-hour maximum per person, per day.
  • No more than 3 students allowed at one time.
  • The Room should be straightened after use.
  • The Room is intended for TTU Law Student use.
  • Associate Dean Chapman may enter the Wellness Room at any time.
  • If you are finished with the Wellness Room before your reservation has expired, please stop by the Reference & Information Desk and inform the staff so they can adjust the reservation.

To reserve the Wellness Room, go to the Law Library’s Room Reservation link for additional information.

Practitioners Rank Legal Research as Only Top-20 Specific Legal Skill for the “Whole Attorney”

In a recent survey conducted by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), a wide array of legal employers ranked the legal skills and professional competencies and characteristics that they believe new lawyers most need to succeed. (There is a detailed accounting of the study’s results and an explanation of the study’s role within IAALS’s broader project in the summer 2018 edition of The Bar Examiner, pp. 17-26.) The results revealed that legal employers value foundational characteristics and competencies much more than they do foundational legal skills. 

The 20 Foundations Identified as Most Necessary in the Short Term for New Lawyers 

• Keep information confidential

• Arrive on time for meetings, appointments, and hearings

• Honor commitments

• Integrity and trustworthiness

• Treat others with courtesy and respect

• Listen attentively and respectfully

• Promptly respond to inquiries and requests

• Diligence

• Have a strong work ethic and put forth best effort

• Attention to detail

• Conscientiousness

• Common sense

• Intelligence

• Effectively research the law 

• Take individual responsibility for actions and results

• Regulate emotions and demonstrate self-control

• Speak in a manner that meets legal and professional standards

• Strong moral compass

• Write in a manner that meets legal and professional standards

• Exhibit tact and diplomacy

As noted by The Bar Examiner, [t]he only specific legal skill that reached the top 20 was legal research.

What we’re seeing is a serious dissonance between what legal educators (and by extension law students) and legal practitioners think are the most important skills for practice. Most law students are graduating from law school thinking that they have the skills necessary to practice as attorneys, but that opinion is not shared by the profession they hope to enter. In one survey, 95 percent of hiring partners and associates believed that recently graduated law students lacked key practical skills at the time of hiring. In another survey, 76 percent of third-year law students believed that they were prepared to practice law “right now,” while only 23 percent of practicing attorneys believed that recent law school graduates were ready to do their jobs.

Interestingly, the 77 foundations identified [in the IAALS Survey] as necessary for new graduates are largely the same across all workplaces, which means that as we begin to identify the overarching learning outcomes that we can—and should—expect of a legal education, we have at least one common goal: the whole lawyer.

When breaking out just the specific legal skills necessary for practice, the IAALS Survey revealed the following:

• Effectively research the law

• Understand and apply legal privilege concepts

• Draft pleadings, motions, and briefs

• Identify relevant facts, legal issues, and informational gaps or discrepancies

• Document and organize a case or matter

• Set clear professional boundaries

• Gather facts through interviews, searches, document/file review, and other methods

• Request and produce written discovery

• Effectively use techniques of legal reasoning and argument (case analysis and statutory interpretation)

• Recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas in a practical setting

• Conclude relationships appropriately

• Critically evaluate arguments

• Maintain core knowledge of the substantive and procedural law in the relevant focus area(s)

• Prepare client responses

• Draft contracts and agreements

• Interview clients and witnesses

The article goes on to mention the possibility of legal educators and professionals using the information from this survey to regulate the skills new lawyers truly need when they enter practice.

One thing that becomes clearer with every practitioner survey is the importance of legal research skills for practice.

Use Google Scholar’s Advanced Search for Narrow Case Law Searching

There are various tricks to using Google Scholar for free case law searching that will help you narrow your search results to relevant cases.

Carole Levitt — nationally recognized author and speaker on internet legal research — notes that to narrow your search results, make sure to use the Advanced search menu.

To use the Advanced search menu for case law searching, click on the case law radio button on the Scholar homepage. Then, click the menu icon to find the Advanced search menu.

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While the first four Boolean connector and phrase search boxes located on Scholar’s Advanced search menu are the same as Google.com’s Advanced Search menu, there are three “field” search boxes and one drop-down list unique to Scholar’s Advanced Search menu.

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Unfortunately, many searchers don’t use these features because Scholar never bothered labeling them with appropriate case law terminology—they simply left the articles’ database labels on them. For example, the field search box labeled as:

  • Return articles authored by should really be labeled Return cases authored by
  • Return articles published in should really be labeled Return cases published in
  • Return articles dated between should really be labeled Return cases dated between

If you didn’t know that the “Return articles authored by” field search could actually be used to “Return cases authored by,” you might simply enter the judge’s name (e.g., Charles Vogel, a California judge), into the “all the words” Boolean search box and limited your search to California. With this search, it’s possible your results could also be that of a party, an attorney, a witness, or an expert, and so on, many of which would be irrelevant to your query.

But restricting the judge’s name to the “Return articles authored by” field search box eliminates all those extraneous and irrelevant results that you would have had to sift through.

The Art of Selecting Cases to Cite

A question that comes up pretty often from law students in legal writing classes is, “how do I know which cases to cite?”

This is a good question and one that really depends on the cases that are found during the research process. An article by Douglas K. Norman titled “The Art of Selecting Cases to Cite” in 63 Tex. B. J. 340 (Apr. 2000) does a wonderful job of discussing how to select cases to cite.

From the article:
“Most legal writers seem to have developed an instinct for which cases to pick and which to discard. Moreover, the considerations that the writer consciously or subconsciously brings to bear on which cases to include in legal citation are more complicated than merely citing to the most recent case from the highest court. These considerations probably begin with an informal categorization of all the cases found in the process of researching a given issue.”

The article goes on to discuss categorizing cases. “The cases supporting a given proposition of law might roughly be categorized as follows:

Seminal Case–This is generally the first case from the highest court to have decided the issue and stated the proposition of law in question. If the proposition was itself a reversal or revision of earlier authority, the seminal case is the reversing or revising case. As the first case to have stated the proposition in question, the seminal case has generally gone into some depth in analyzing the issue and the court’s rationale in a manner that might not be repeated in later cases.

Parroting Cases–With a common proposition of law, numerous cases will have simply parroted the language of the seminal case, adding little or nothing to the analysis.

Bolstering Cases–In addition to parroting seminal authority, the bolstering case adds new reasoning and analysis to support the underlying proposition of law.

Reformulation Cases–These cases take the proposition of the seminal case and either restate it in different terms or refine the analysis in some way that may be more or less helpful to the reader. When, for example, the seminal case was written in the legalistic jargon of the past, the reformulation case may delete the jargon and restate the proposition in plain English.

Pseudo-Seminal Case–When the seminal case has been forgotten or lost in the chain of citation, a more recent case will often emerge as the one most courts presently cite as the oldest or most reliable case to support the given proposition. This case effectively takes the place of the lost seminal case.

Companion Cases–As I use the term here, companion cases (not to be confused with the more technical use of this term) are parroting cases that have over time been so consistently cited together with the seminal (or pseudo-seminal) authority that they achieve a certain perceived legitimacy and it would now seem awkward to break the habit of citing the companion case together with the seminal authority.

Parallel Cases–Occasionally, separate lines of authority for the same proposition develop without any common source; or, perhaps more likely, the original source or seminal case is buried so far back in the chain of citation that it has been all but forgotten. This then leads to two or more lines of cases standing for the same proposition, with different courts typically preferring one or the other of the parallel lines of authority.

Storehouse Cases–It sometimes happens that, when there are multiple parallel cases with no clear seminal or pseudo-seminal case to which they all refer, somewhere down the road a particular case will attempt to collect or “storehouse” all of the parallel lines. If this storehouse case is reliable, it is a prime candidate to be cited from then on as pseudo-seminal authority.

Application Cases–Some cases that have only marginal value as support for an abstract proposition of law, have great value in their application of the proposition to facts similar or analogous to the facts of your own case.”

After categorizing cases, it is time to select the cases to cite. The article offers guidelines for selection:

  • Provide Both Seminal and Recent Authority
  • Generally Omit Parrots
  • Use Vertical Strings To Show Continuity Within a Court
  • Use Horizontal Strings To Show Continuity among Courts
  • Reconcile Parallel Lines of Authority
  • Use Bolstering and Reformulation Cases to Strengthen and Better Explain
  • Use Application Cases For Similarity and Analogy

Selecting the proper cases is part of the underlying analysis required of the legal research process. As the author notes, improper case selection may cause the reader to reject the underlying legal proposition, which could be the death knell for a case.

The Ideal Law School Graduate: An Expert Researcher With Soft Skills

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According to the Wall Street Journal blog, legal employers are looking for expert researchers with people skills.

Focus group results show that law school graduates entering the workforce need to know that “it’s the softer skills, like work ethic, collegiality and a sense of individual responsibility, that really impress legal employers, according to the study.” While the “researchers had thought that the attorneys would focus mostly on the need for basic practical skills, like writing, analysis and research, the comments on soft skills — defined as “personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee” — tended to dominate the responses.”

Ultimately, “The focus-group participants said ideal job applicants have a strong work ethic, can work independently without excessive ‘hand holding,’ and would bring a positive attitude to the workplace.”

The other important skill was the ability to research. “Employers, particularly those with more years in practice, rely on new attorneys to be research experts. The employers in [the] focus groups have high expectations when it comes to new hires’ research skills, i.e., ‘[t]hey should be able to adequately and effectively find everything that’s up to the minute.'”

And according to these legal employers, “[b]eing a research expert also means knowing how to scour books, not just websites. ‘Statutes, treatises and encyclopedias, and desk books are the sources employers still use in paper form. For this reason, new attorneys may want to be familiar with these paper sources.'”

And last but not certainly not least, legal employers want new hires to know their audience when it comes to memo writing. There are some clients who might prefer the “full-blown research memo” that is learned in law school, but there are other clients who just want the answer in a short and succinct format. It’s important to know which type of client you are dealing with to best suit their needs.

Coherently Reporting Research in Emails

note-34686_960_720Garner’s On Words series in the ABA Journal is filled with great advice for law practice. Each month, he offers wonderful tips for better legal writing.

One of Garner’s posts discusses coherently reporting research in emails. As noted, “[i]n the rushed exigency of modern law practice, with the expectation of nearly immediate responses to all manner of queries, emails are overtaking formal memos as the standard method for communicating research to senior colleagues and to clients.”

As Garner mentions, email is often seen as an informal means of communication, which means that many emails are rushed and may lead to more questions than answers.

He advises that “[b]efore hitting ‘send,’ step back and ask yourself exactly how clear you’re being. Avoid answering in a way that is sure to beget further queries. You might be well-advised to make your summary at least as clear as it should be in a formal memo.”

To paraphrase Garner, instead of replying to a research question directly in an email, you may want to provide a more structured answer with a question presented and a brief answer. After all, research queries are often put aside until needed, so it may be a while before the email is read for comprehension. This could lead to the frustration of having to sift through a long email exchange to fully understand the final answer.

See Garner’s full post for great examples of drafting effective email memos.

Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews

400x400_fitbox-journal1In 2011, The Scrivener released the Scribes Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews written by Bryan A. Garner and Richard C. Wydick.

According to Garner & Wydick, every member of a law review should be required to buy and learn the current editions of these books:

Each edit suggested by a new member of the review should be supported by citation to one of those texts.

A law review office should have in its library current editions of the following books:

The guidelines mention that anyone wishing to become an editor of the law review should be able to certify that he or she has read at least three of the books listed above.

It is also advised to do the following:

  • Fret about the opener of each piece: an interesting lead that immediately predisposes readers to continue (be wary of stultifying “roadmaps”).
  • Insist on good, idiomatic English of the kind to be found in such publications as The New Yorker or The Economist and other first-rate nonfiction publications.
  • Delete every unnecessary paragraph, sentence, and word.
  • Footnote sensibly, not rabidly. Use your head — and repeal any “rule” that requires a footnote after every sentence.
  • As a tonic to your style, as a caution to your members, have everyone affiliated with your law review read Fred Rodell’s Goodbye to Law Reviews — Revisited, 48 Va. L. Rev. 279 (1962). While you’re at it, you should also read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” 4 The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 127 (1968) (and widely reprinted).

These are great guidelines for law review editors to become excellent editors. In addition to the above list of recommended reading, I would add William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.