Category Archives: Legal Writing

Finding Casebooks & Study Aids in BLS Library

Questions & Answers, Torts
by Prof. Anita Bernstein

In its first-floor Reserve collection, BLS Library provides current editions of casebooks/textbooks that are required for classes.  There also are current editions of many treatises, hornbooks and other study aids in the Reserve collection.  Note: Study aids are only supplements to required course readings.  These print books circulate for two hours.  You can search for a specific source by title, author or keywords in SARA catalog.  Feel free to email askthelibrary@brooklaw.edu or to text (718) 734-2432 if you have questions about finding or accessing specific sources.

BLS Library’s guide 1L Resources, Tips and Tools highlights 1L casebooks and study aids available through BLS Library in both print and digital formats.  The top-level guide tab: 1L Course Study Aids provides a pull-down menu of subjects.  Click a subject, like: Civil Procedure.  There are “quick links” to boxes highlighting:

  • Selected CALI Lessons (online lessons on specific legal topics created by law professors/librarians – these lessons include review questions)
  • Casebooks
  • Treatises & Hornbooks
  • Study Aids Containing Multiple-Choice Questions
  • Additional Study Aids

In the 1L guide, sources in a box appear in reverse chronological order (“newest first”).  Guide pages also include a search feature (top right).  Recently, vendor EBSCO began supporting BLS Library’s desire to circulate Reserve copies of ebooks for two hours.  So, EBSCO ebooks like Mastering Multiple Choice for Federal Civil Procedure and A Short & Happy Guide to Torts circulate for two hours.  BLS Library’s e-copies of study aids in the Q&A, Understanding and Gilbert Law Summaries series (available through Lexis Digital Library) circulate for three days. 

Additionally, the 1L guide identifies print sources and online tools to support legal research and writing.  Top-level guide tab: Research, Writing & Citation provides a pull-down menu of resource pages on:

  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing & Analysis
  • Legal Citation

Please reload the 1L guide’s web page when you visit this guide – BLS Library frequently adds new sources.  Reference librarians are happy to help you identify BLS Library’s sources!   

Do you need to write a seminar paper, but don’t know where to start? Get answers at the Seminar Paper Workshop

On Thursday January 30, Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 700. The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM.

Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s main page, you can access the recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Need Help with Your Seminar Paper? Come to the Seminar Paper Workshop

On Thursday September 20th, Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 402.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM. Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s main page, you can access the recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Need help with your seminar paper? Attend the workshop on February 7th!

Next Wednesday, February 7th, Prof. Betsy Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 501.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM. Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s main page, you can access the recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

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).

 

 

Congressional Legislative Research

With paper deadlines fast approaching, many of you may need to identify relevant Congressional documents for your paper.  Often legislative history research is cumbersome and time consuming.  The Brooklyn Law School Library licenses two useful databases to ease this process: Legislative Insight and Proquest Congressional.

Legislative Insight streamlines the research process by digitizing the majority of full text publications associated with an enacted statute’s legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also contains other relevant material such as committee prints, CRS reports, and Presidential signing statements.

Unlike Legislative Insight, Proquest Congressional carries documents pertaining to both enacted legislation as well as the bills that do not become law.  This includes the text of bills, transcripts of unpublished and published hearings, Congressional reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Research Service reports, voting records, etc.  The indexing of some of the material goes back to the signing of the Constitution.   A useful feature of Proquest Congressional is the Congressional Profiles which provide the historical context of each Congressional term, including an overview of party divisions and leadership, economic conditions, conflicts, major laws, Landmark Supreme Court cases and major event

To access Legislative Insight or Proquest Congressional from off-campus, you first need to implement the proxy instructions.

Stressed about your seminar paper? Attend the Seminar Paper Workshop this Thursday

This Thursday Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 502.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM. Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s main page, you can access the recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Researching Legislative History?

Whether you are tracing a statute’s history for your summer internship or for a paper you are writing, you will want to use a new tool the library recently acquired, Proquest’s Legislative Insight.  Often researching legislative histories can be cumbersome and time consuming.   Legislative Insight promises to streamline the process by digitizing and by publishing online the majority of full text publications associated with a legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also includes other related material such as committee prints, CRS reports and Presidential signing statements. Furthermore, Legislative Insight offers a research citation page that not only links to the full text of the associated primary source publications, but allows the user to do a Search Within from that very page that searches the full text of all the associated publications with one-click.

To access Legislative Insight from off-campus, you first need to implement the proxy instructions.

Seminar Paper Workshop

Last week Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil ran their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper.  Topics covered Image result for image writing a paperincluded sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and how to effectively organize and write your paper.  If you were unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s landing page, you will be able to access a recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Law and the English Language

Lawyer'sLast year, the Brooklyn Law Library added to its collection The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed.) by Tom Goldstein and Jethro K. Lieberman (Call No. KF250. G65 2016). This critically acclaimed book “should be in the office of every lawyer” says William Safire of the New York Times. In its 286 pages, the authors demystify legal writing, outline the causes and consequences of poor writing, and prescribe easy-to-apply remedies to improve it. Reflecting changes in law practice over the past decade, this revised edition includes new sections around communicating digitally, getting to the point, and writing persuasively. It also provides an editing checklist, editing exercises with a suggested revision key, usage notes that address common errors, and reference works to further aid your writing. This guide is an invaluable tool for practicing lawyers and law students.

Chapters are: Why Lawyers Write Poorly — Does bad writing really matter? — Don’t make it like it was — The Practice of Writing — Ten steps to writing it down — Of dawdlers and scrawlers, pacers and plungers: getting started and overcoming blocks — The technology of getting it down: from quill pens to computers — Lawyers as publishers: words are your product — Getting to the Point — Writing persuasively for your audience: tell your audience the point — Writing the lead — Revising for Clarity and Luster — Form, structure, and organization — Wrong words, long sentences, and other mister meaners — Revising your prose — Making your writing memorable.

AnimalBooks and essays about the art of writing well go back a long time. In 1947, English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair 1903 – 1950) and author of Animal Farm: A Fairy Story and Nineteen Eighty-Four, his most famous works, wrote an essay titled Politics and the English Language. Although the essay addresses the decline of language in political and economic contexts, Orwell, in the closing paragraphs, offers rules that cover effective legal writing as well. They are:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.