Category Archives: BLS Students

Mindfulness and Meditation for the Legal Professional

Now that we are in the reading period at BLS (aka Hell Week at some institutions) and exams are just around the corner, stress levels are running high. Throughout the library, anxious faces are buried in casebooks and class notes, an ample caffeine supply on hand to fuel the late night cram sessions. Sadly, the stress doesn’t end upon graduation. Being a lawyer requires you to deal with conflict, unreasonable client demands, tight deadlines, and long hours. These can be especially unforgiving for someone newly entering the profession, and can lead to unhealthy habits — there’s a reason why some state bar associations require members to take continuing legal education classes on substance abuse.

So what is a stressed out law student or lawyer to do?

The answer, according to Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford, is mindfulness and meditation. In their book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-week Guide to Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (2016) [Call number: KF298.C47 2016], lawyers Cho and Gifford have crafted a meditation program targeted to fellow members of the legal profession.  The program is aimed at those new to meditation and includes a variety of exercise and practices, covering such topics as mindfulness, compassion towards others and self, mantra repetition, heartfulness, and gratitude. By following this initial eight week program, readers hopefully will see a change, for the better, in their habits and perspectives. They would be able to build on these changes and continue their meditation practices going forward, including developing meditation styles that best suit their own needs.

Law students and attorneys will relate to the many examples drawn from the authors’ experiences from law practice, and how they personally benefited from meditation. For example, in the chapter on mindfulness, Cho and Gifford discuss mindful client interviews, and the importance of setting boundaries with clients. They broach topics such as working with difficult opposing counsel, and the challenges of “toxic mentoring.”

Cho and Gifford don’t sugarcoat the fact that it may not be easy for lawyers to start or to stick with a meditation practice. Our perspectives on our lives and profession get ossified and habits are hard to break. The authors’ approach provides a road map to get started with meditation and mindfulness, with plenty of room for the individual to adapt what best works for him- or herself. In addition to the guidance provided in The Anxious Lawyer, Jeena Cho’s podcasts cover related topics and are worth checking out.

For members of the BLS community who wish to engage in meditation, BLS Library has a Contemplation Room, Room 105M on the first floor mezzanine. This space is provided for students, staff and faculty to engage in contemplation, meditation, or quiet spiritual awareness. If you have any questions about the Contemplation Room, stop by the reference desk and we would be happy to help.

Beware the Bootleg Bluebook

Richard Posner doesn’t like the Bluebook. He has railed against it for years, devoting entire articles in the University of Chicago Law Review (1986) and the Yale Law Journal (2011) to the horrors of what he deems an ever-growing monstrosity. In a December 2016 article for Green Bag, Judge Posner stated that among the reforms he would implement at federal appellate courts, the first thing to do is burn all copies of the Bluebook, in its latest edition 560 pages of rubbish”.

Well, one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.  Enter the Bootleg Bluebook.  

Say what? Of all the things to make knockoffs of, why the Bluebook? It isn’t a literary bestseller like Harry Potter and it sure as heck isn’t Louis Vuitton. Even the Kelley Blue Book would seem a likelier candidate for a fake. Then again, with over 35,000 students matriculating at ABA-accredited law schools annually, the built-in demand means that a lot of Bluebooks are sold every year.

Unfortunately some BLS students who bought Bluebooks through third party vendors have been victimized by these fakes.  We’ve heard that students at other law schools have run into this problem too.

Imagine a student at Any Law School, U.S.A., meticulously poring over the Bluebook to make sure everything is cited correctly for their first legal writing assignment. Only to get his or her paper back, marked up to the hilt with corrections in red ink.

“But I cited to page 16 of the Bluebook. Id at 100, no period after Id

“That’s not correct and not what it says in my copy. Let me see your Bluebook.”

Sorry. It’s fake.

I feel for students who are using the Bluebook for the first time only to find out that their trusted source was a bootleg.  Fake news we can handle. But fake Bluebooks?

One of the BLS students was kind enough to lend us their bootleg copy.  It’s basically a case of OCR gone bad.  Periods vanished, text out of sync, commas turned to periods and vice versa, blurry text, off-kilter page numbers, and the most common error: missing spaces. New jersey losing its capitalization and making you think of swag rather than state — while the III for Illinois makes you want to yell “My kingdom for a horse!” Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese characters seemed to be in good shape, though the bootleggers couldn’t decide what color print to use and kept switching back and forth between black and blue.    

 

 

      

So the Public Service Announcement for today: It’s best to get your Bluebook directly from the publisher or from a trusted retailer, rather than through a third party vendor.

It’s nice to know, though, that the bootleggers got this citation on page 510 right:

Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850 (2011).

 

 

That was then, this is now

That was then, this is now: The transformation of BLS Library’s 3rd Floor in pictures.

Inside the old 3rd Floor Reading Room

Spring 2017, students voted on the chairs for the new reading room

Summer 2017, gutted and about to be renovated.

Fall 2017, getting things into place

Now new signage has been installed. Striking graphics and inspirational quotes adorn the walls.  The third floor space has been completely transformed in a few months.  

We hope you enjoy using the third floor Collaboration/Reading Room!

 

 

Your Librarians On the Go, To Keep You In the Know

The librarians on the BLS Library staff are members of several professional organizations that meet annually for professional development, information sharing, networking, etc.  The most important aspect of these meetings is to learn about new developments and resources from legal technology and and legal research vendors, and to bring that information back to our constituents: Brooklyn Law School students and faculty. This has been a particularly active year, and below is a summary of the organizations we belong to on behalf of Brooklyn Law School, and the meetings we attended or will attend in 2017.

Association of American Law Schools has a membership of 179 law schools.  Their mission is “to uphold excellence in legal education and improve the profession.”  Its annual meeting presents programs, offers mentoring for new faculty, and is a resource for discussions on legal issues.

Library Director and Professor Janet Sinder attended the AALS meeting in San Francisco in January 2017.  The theme was “Why Law Matters,” featuring over 250 sessions with hundreds of speakers covering a wide range of legal topics.

American Association of Law Libraries has over 5,000 members who work in law school libraries, law firms, corporations, and government libraries at all levels.  The goal of AALL is “to share knowledge of legal resources, promote the profession, and provide leadership in the legal arena.”  This year’s annual meeting was held in Austin, TX in July and the theme was “Forego the Status Quo.”  Topics ranged from “Attorney Research Skills: Continuing the Conversation Between Law Firm and Academic Law Librarians” to “How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform the Delivery of Legal Services.”  Reference Librarians Kathy Darvil, Loreen Peritz, and Eric Yap attended, along with Cataloging Librarian Judy Baptiste-Joseph, and Library Director Janet Sinder.

Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction is a consortium of U.S. law schools that provides legal educational resources to help law students succeed.  CALI has produced over 1,000 interactive tutorials covering 40 subject areas that are available to students in all member schools.  Their annual conference was held in Phoenix, AZ in June with Reference Librarian Harold O’Grady attending.  The topics offered ranged from artificial intelligence to video technology.

 

KOHA is the open-sources software the Library uses for acquisitions, serials control, and cataloging.  This year’s conference of the KOHA Users Group was held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in August and attended by Acquisitions Librarian Jeff Gabel.  One of the many programs offered was “KOHA Toolkit: Enhancing the User Experience.

 

North American Serials Interest Group is an organization that works “to facilitate and improve the acquisition and accessibility of information resources in all formats.”  This year’s conference, with the theme “Racing to the Crossroads,” was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in June and attended by Cataloging Librarian Judy Baptiste-Joseph. One of their many programs addressed the issue of “Accessibility of Library Collections.”

 

 

Federal Depository Library Program is a government program created to make U.S. government information available to the public through a network of designated libraries.  These libraries are called Federal Depository Libraries, and the BLS Library has been a Federal Depository Library since 1974,  The FDLP program is administered by the U.S. Government Publishing Office, and there are over 1100 depository libraries; 127 of them are law schools.  Linda Holmes, Associate Law Librarian, will attend the annual depository library conference in Arlington, VA in October. The keynote presentation at this conference will be given by Jane Sanchez, the Law Librarian of Congress.

 

International Association of Law Libraries “provides an international forum for networking and information sharing among legal professionals worldwide.”  IALL publishes the International Journal of Legal Information and offers an annual conference.  Jean Davis, Associate Librarian for International Law, will attend this year’s conference in Atlanta, GA in October.

 

As you can see from this brief survey of 2017 law-related library conferences, a very important element in these programs is the education and training of law students, and our goal by attending these conferences, is to assist them in learning both the breath and depth of legal resources.

Sixth Annual Research Fair Recap

BLS Library held its 6th Annual Research Fair yesterday, September 28, 2017. Representatives from Bloomberg Law, EBSCO, Lexis Digital Library, Lexis, Westlaw, and Wolters Kluwer were on hand to showcase their databases. Library Director Janet Sinder and Associate Law Librarian Linda Holmes also provided students information about Fastcase and HeinOnline. The turnout was excellent. Students stopped by vendor tables, chatting with vendor and student representatives, They picked up free mugs, tote bags, and pens, while learning about the latest database services and features.

The event also served as an occasion to showcase the library’s new collaboration/reading room on the 3rd Floor. Faculty and staff members came by to check out the space and the Research Fair. Many 1Ls were introduced to the space through the event. 2Ls and 3Ls who were visiting the collaboration room for the 1st time marvelled at how the 3rd Floor had been transformed over the summer.

The Research Fair was a success. Students said that they enjoyed learning about new research resources and would start using them right away. The cookies, candy, and other light refreshments provided by the library helped perk them up after a long week of classes. At the end of the Fair, Janet and Linda conducted the raffle drawing for students who had visited at least five vendors. Congratulations to the six lucky students who won $50 gift cards courtesy of BLS Library and participating vendors!

 

 

BLS Library Databases Research Fair: September 28, 2017

The Sixth Annual Library Databases Research Fair will be held on Thursday, September 28th, 2017.  The Fair will be held in the Library’s new 3rd floor Collaboration/Reading Room from 3:00pm to 6:00pm.

Representatives from the following legal research companies will be here to demonstrate their databases:

  • Bloomberg Law
  • Ebsco
  • Fastcase
  • Lexis Digital
  • Lexis Nexis
    • Westlaw
      • Wolters Kluwer
      • Brochures/Pens/Post-Its provided by Hein Online

There will be handouts, light refreshments, and a raffle drawing for gift cards.

Come and learn how these databases will help you with your legal research.

Save the date:  Thursday, September 28, 2017, 3:00pm – 6:00pm,

3rd floor Library, New Collaboration/Reading Room.

 

Brooklyn Law School Employment

According to The National Jurist, Most Improved Employment Rates reports that Brooklyn Law School showed an increase in employment rates from 2011 to 2016 with an 18.1% improvement, ranking 14 out of the 50 law schools in the report. As the legal market continues to rebound and moves closer to pre-recession levels, law schools big and small are bolstering employer outreach efforts and reconsidering their curricula to strengthen graduate employability. Looking at this year’s employment statistics to find the most improved employment rates, The National Jurist took into consideration all forms of post-graduation employment. The employment rates were weighted, giving the most heft to full-time jobs that require bar passage. Other jobs, such as J.D.-advantage jobs and positions in other professions, received less weight.

To identify the law schools that have improved their employment rates the most, The National Jurist compared adjusted employment rates for the Class of 2011 with rates for the Class of 2016. To determine the adjusted employment rate, The National Jurist assigned differing weights to various employment statuses. Full time, long term jobs that require bar passage are the only positions that were given full weight. See the results in the chart below:

Welcome (Back) and Changes to the Library Over The Summer

The new semester officially began this week for new JD students at Brooklyn Law School. The BLS Library staff would like to wish you a very warm welcome!  We have met many of you at orientation and on the library tours, and look forward to getting to know you. 

Our regular library hours starting August 28, 2017 are:

Monday – Thursday            8am-12am
Friday                                    8am-10pm
Saturday                               9am-10pm
Sunday                                 10am-12am

Stop by the reference desk if you have questions: a reference librarian is usually at the desk Monday-Thursday from 9am-8pm, and Friday-Saturday from 9am-5pm.  Also, don’t forget the research guide for 1Ls that is full of useful resources and tips.

“Lebron” (Jean Davis) conducting training for new BJIL members

Though classes begin next week for returning students, many students are already on campus working on journals, attending trainings, etc. Today, Associate Librarian for International Law, Jean Davis (decked out in a Lebron T-shirt) conducted a training session for new members of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law (BJIL).  The theme of the training: the importance of teamwork.  Besides dispensing insight that ranged from choosing a topic for a student Note to the latest resources for Brexit, “Lebron” also welcomed the newest additions to BJIL’s team with a tasty strawberry shortcake from Mia’s Bakery.  (BLS Lebron is cooler than Cleveland’s.)

It’s all about the Team!

Speaking of teamwork, at the start of the summer, we shared a short video about the changes happening this summer at the library.  Thanks to the efforts of a wonderful team, the work is (almost) complete!  The BLS journals have moved into newly renovated space on the second and second mezzanine floors of the library.  We are also excited about the changes to the third floor, which has been completely transformed over the summer.  

The 3rd Floor taking shape

The new reading room on the third floor is a collaborative space that is not limited to quiet study. Students are welcome to use it to discuss school work, collaborate on projects, or for individual study, as they wish. As with other areas of the library, light snacks and non-alcoholic beverages in covered containers can be consumed. There is a unisex bathroom within the reading room (no one on the library tour that I led caught the Ally McBeal reference; the 90s do seem light years ago) and also separate gender bathrooms right outside.  Four reference librarians have also moved into new offices adjacent to the space.

3rd Floor Reading Room

The third floor reading room can be conveniently accessed from the main law school elevators.  In the near future, we plan to use the space for events, including possibly the upcoming 6th Annual Legal Research Fair on September 28, 2017 (to be confirmed soon – stay tuned!)  

If you haven’t had the chance yet, come and check out our new third floor space!

Law Professors: An Overview from William Blackstone to Barack Obama

As students prepare to resume their legal studies and begin their scholarship for another semester under the tutelage of their BLS professors, I want to recommend a new book that discusses the contributions to the legal profession of a group of selected scholars and professors over three centuries.

The book is: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law by Stephen B. Presser, West Academic Publishing, St. Paul, MN, 2017.

The author says that he hopes this volume will serve as an “introduction to the law for prospective lawyers and beginning students in J.D. and LL.M. programs.”

The book is composed of short biographical essays covering a representative number of legal scholars who have also been law professors.  The work explores the nature of the American legal system, and how American law professors have had a profound effect on American law and life.

While the author covers law professors from William Blackstone to Barack Obama, here are a few of the giants of those that are included:

  • William Blackstone –  It has been written that the groundwork for U.S. jurisprudence can be found in the multi-volume work of Sir William Blackstone, a noted English judge, scholar and politician of the 18th century.  The work, entitled Commentaries on the Laws of England...in four books, provided a systematic analysis of English common law.  These commentaries were based on Blackstone’s lectures at Oxford University.
  • Christopher Columbus Langdell was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895 and is often called the “father of American legal education” because it was he who established the case method of instruction where students read and studied appellate court decisions while teaching at Harvard, incorporating it with the Socratic method where students were asked questions about the cases and they were to draw conclusions in order to engage in a dialogue between faculty and students.
  • Joseph Story served on the United States Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845, taught at Harvard Law School while serving on the Court, and wrote a comprehensive treatise on the U.S. Constitution entitled Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
  • Karl Llewellyn was a distinguished legal scholar, who was called one of the most important legal thinkers of the early twentieth century and whose works have been cited many times. He was a proponent of legal realism who felt that legal opinions should be examined to see how judges were influenced by outside factors.  He wrote a book which served as an introduction to the study of law for first year students entitled:  The Bramble Bush; Some Lectures on Law and Its Study . 
  • John Henry Wigmore was an important legal scholar and professor, who while attending Harvard Law School, helped found the Harvard Law Review.  He taught for many years at Northwestern University Law School and his most important contribution to legal scholarship was his Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law.
  • Barack Obama, law professor at the University of Chicago, United States Senator from Illinois and President of the United States.

2017 AALL Annual Conference: A few thoughts from a first-time attendee

Last week, I attended the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual conference, which was held July 15-18 in Austin, Texas. The biggest takeaway for me, as a first time conference attendee, was how legal technology continues to shape the legal profession, and how the role of law librarians must continually evolve to meet technological challenges. 

Susan Nevelow Mart, Univ of Colorado Law School Library, “Understanding the Human Element in Search Algorithms”

Legal technology was the focus of many of the programs at the conference:

Understanding the Human Element in Search Algorithms

Teaching and Implementing Emerging Technologies in Legal Practice 

Case Law as Data: Making It, Sharing It, Using It

The Law Library as Technology Laboratory  and

Deep Dive: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform the Delivery of Legal Services

were just some of the programs addressing the subject.  In the exhibit hall, established and new tech vendors lured attendees to their booths with cute stuffed toy bats and other swag so they could sell you on their products.

Caselaw as Data, Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab

Legal tech was also a constant subject offsite: vendors might gently push their services over a friendly game of shuffleboard at an evening social event; meanwhile in the Fastcase house, legal tech blogger Bob Ambrogi would be chatting in one room while Itai Gurari demonstrated Judicata’s new features in another.  In a recent blog post about the conference, Ambrogi described how legal information professionals increasingly wear the hat of “legal technologist,” stating that the AALL conference should be considered one of the top legal tech conferences.  

What does this mean for academic law librarians?  For me, attending AALL reinforced issues discussed by my BLS colleague Harold O’Grady in his entry in this blog about the new class, Tech Tools for Law Practice, that he taught this summer. If we are to ensure that our students graduate from law school with technology competency, legal tech classes should be integrated into the curriculum. We can learn from the digital initiatives and legal technology curricula at other law schools, and from our own initial experiences in teaching technology courses designed for law students. BLS Library has some legal tech resources in our collection, such as the ABA Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, and can continue to build on them. 

While there is much to consider going forward, meeting and learning from the many talented and inspiring legal information professionals at the conference was a great experience.  One highlight: learning about the random limerick generator at Harvard’s Caselaw Access Project, where each line of the limerick is derived from a case — just one small illustration of the potential use of caselaw data.

Janet honored at reception for winning Law Library Journal Article of the Year Award

Finally, I should mention that at the AALL conference, BLS Library Director Janet Sinder received the Law Library Journal Article of the Year Award for her article, The Effects of Demand-Driven Acquisitions on Law Library Collection Development, 108 Law Library Journal 155 (2016). Kudos to Janet!