Recommended: SCOTUSblog’s ‘Race and the Supreme Court’ series

February is Black History Month and, in recognition, SCOTUSblog has set up a rather impressive line-up for their programming on Race and the Supreme Court. Over the next four weeks, law professors, litigators, journalists and other top professionals will donate their time to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court’s historical impact on the black community. These posts promise to reflect “diverse and sometimes divergent views, opinions, attitudes and assumptions.”

Here is a list of their scheduled postings from the Web site:

Week 1

“Has the Supreme Court Been Mainly a Friend or a Foe to African Americans?: The Supreme Court’s Impact on Black History for the Past Fifty Years”
–Michael Klarman, professor at Harvard Law School

“Ending Racial Preferences”
–Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity

“Justice Kennedy’s Evolving Views On Race”
–Heather Gerken, professor at Yale Law School

Podcast: Interview on Brown v. Board of Education and subsequent litigation over black civil rights
–Jack Greenberg, professor at Columbia Law School and former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Week 2

“NAMUDNO: Right Question, Wrong Case”
–Abigail Thernstrom, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

“Jones v. Alfred Mayer and the Uniqueness Of Race”
–Michael Rosman, general counsel for the Center for Individual Rights

“The Supreme Court, Race, and Political Representation”
–Kenneth Mack, professor at Harvard Law School

Post on Buchanan v. Warley and residential segregation
–David Bernstein, professor at George Mason University School of Law

Podcast with Vernon Jordan, former president of the National Urban League and civil rights litigator (topic TBA)

Week 3

Podcast: “The Unexpected Consequences of Brown v. Board of Education on African American Schools and Education in the South”
–David Cecelski, historian and author of Along Freedom Road, Hyde County, North Carolina, and the Fate of Black Schools in the South

Podcast on Brown v. Board of Education
–Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio

“The Global Impact of Brown v. Board of Education”
–Mary Dudziak, professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and founder of the Legal History Blog

“What Can Brown Do For You?: The Court’s Struggle Over the Meaning of Equal Protection”
–Pamela Karlan, professor at Stanford Law School

Week 4

Post on “disparate impact analysis” and the Constitution
–Gail Heriot, former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and present professor at the University of San Diego Law School

Podcast with David Stras, law professor at the University of Minnesota, on his experience clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas

“What Powell v. McCormack Teaches Us About Racial Politics in a Constitutional Democracy”
–Kareem Crayton, professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law

I recommend checking out the blog as well as subscribing to the RSS feed.

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional Librarian

Westlaw and LexisNexis changing with the times

The New York Times reported yesterday that Westlaw and LexisNexis will undergo some major changes in order to accommodate a younger class of lawyers who have cut their teeth on search interfaces provided Google and Microsoft.

I confirmed all of this with the LexisNexis rep yesterday but am still waiting to hear back from Westlaw. According to the article, Westlaw will introduce its changes on Feb. 1; LexisNexis has yet to specify a date.

This presents a wonderful opportunity for us to offer everyone in Green Hall the chance to go through some training and brush up on research skills! We will present at least two group trainings: one for faculty and staff and another for students. For those who need specialized training, we can arrange small-group sessions or even one-on-one training as your scheduling permits.

No times have been set up, but I will let you know as soon as we have something scheduled. And, as always, contact me if you have any questions!

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional Librarian

Class of 2010 Bar Preparation Resources Luncheon

You are a 3L. Your last semester has just gotten started. It’s your lightest course load to date. You don’t even have to be on campus on Thursdays and Fridays! Life is pretty sweet.

I would like to propose something that might be considered a little radical: Spend your extra time preparing for the bar.

I know that you might be planning on waiting for BAR/BRI to begin before you start worrying about the bar. But honestly, that may be too little, too late.

I really want you to hear me out on this! But not here. Oh no!

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, The Wheat Law Library will host a luncheon to introduce the Class of 2010 to the print and electronic bar preparation resources available through the Wheat Law Library and the Office of Career Services, and to offer guidance on registering for the bar examination.

After the program, KU Public Safety will be available to fingerprint students for their bar applications. Fingerprinting will take place in the Informal Commons beginning at 1:30 p.m. There is a $5 charge for this service, and payment should be remitted in cash to the Office of Career Services by Thursday, Jan. 21.

RSVP on Symplicity by Thursday, Jan. 21.

Date: Jan. 26, 2010
Time: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Location: Green Hall, Reference Area, Second Floor, Wheat Law Library
Contact: 785-864-9253, W. Blake Wilson
Cost: Free ($5 for fingerprinting)

All 3Ls are encouraged to attend. Did I mention that lunch will be served? Because it will!

Blake Wilson

Don’t miss invaluable networking opportunities over winter break

I recently listened to an American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division podcast about how law students can make connections with attorneys over Winter Break. The panelists’ tips and suggestions put a new spin on some well-worn, but effective principles of old-fashioned, face-to-face social networking.
Finals at KU Law end tomorrow, and classes don’t resume again until Jan. 14. This time away from Green Hall should, of course, be spent resting and renewing your resolve in time for the spring semester. But don’t overlook the potential to advance your job search during the 26-day intercession by expanding your contacts.
You’re going to be spending time with family and friends over the break. In the course of getting reacquainted after another demanding law school semester, make sure that everyone in your close circle — everyone! — knows that you’re searching for a job. Don’t make assumptions about who can and cannot help. Tell everyone: mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, the person who cuts your hair, your mechanic, your child’s teacher, etc. People will be curious about how you’re doing in law school. It’s only natural that after explaining what your life is like, you can mention that you’re on the hunt for a job.
Don’t be shy; ask if your family member, friend or acquaintance knows any attorneys that you may speak to in order to clarify your job choices and to gain perspective on the legal market. When you do identify an attorney contact, take the initiative and contact the attorney by letter or e-mail. Don’t rely on anyone else to make this connection on your behalf.
When you meet an attorney at an event, such as a bar association function like this or a law firm party like these, be yourself, but be prepared and positive. Preparation for an event where attorneys will be present means being able to describe your employment interests and goals in an articulate and succinct way. Ask attorneys for advice and additional contacts, not a job, and listen carefully to the attorney’s responses.
Once your practice this “30-second elevator” speech and some insightful questions, you can relax and enjoy the event. Just don’t enjoy too much! Excess in terms of drink and dress can shoot you in the foot.
At the conclusion of your brief chat, ask for a business card and follow up by e-mail. It may be wise to arrange a follow-up meeting at a time and place convenient to the attorney. You can meet for coffee, breakfast, lunch or drinks after work. Try to schedule this informational interview before Dec. 21 or after Jan. 1.
In the course of this meeting, you may ask to shadow the attorney for a day or two. You can also volunteer for one to two weeks at the attorney’s office. Be realistic about the type of duties you’d be asked to complete. Working as a runner or file clerk for a couple of weeks will give you insight into the practice of law, and these jobs may allow you to cross paths with an attorney who would be interested in hiring you for a more challenging position in the future. No job is too small if it allows you to gain some exposure to the legal profession.
You can also productively spend time over the break by cleaning up your online presence and creating an account for professional networking at LinkedIn. Finally, you can identify attorneys with whom to network by using the Career Services Alumni Network feature in the Networking section of Symplicity. Almost 500 KU Law alumni have volunteered to serve as exactly the type of networking contacts described above, and you can contact these helpful alums by e-mail.
Networking is a learned skill, and it’s a crucial part of job hunting. As stated in the December 2009 edition of the ABA’s Student Lawyer, “You need to be proactive in your job search. This requires you to deliberately take advantage of every opportunity you can to meet and talk with lawyers. In short, you need to network.”
Don’t wait until you’ve graduated to build your network. Start now. You’ll be glad you did!
Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

A Firefox plug-in for your legal writing? Score!

CiteGenie: Automagically copies text with correct citations from Westlaw, Lexis and other Web sites.

One of the best parts about doing research electronically is you have the ability to cut and paste from your browser straight into your document. However, figuring out how to cite what you just pasted can be a bit of a hastle. By adding CiteGenie as a plugin in Firefox, the option of “copy with CiteGenie” is added to your right-click menu. This will allow you to paste the text into any other program along with the pinpoint citation for the selected text from the court opinon. Here is an example from the CiteGenie website.

Not only does CiteGenie work with cases, but it also works with statutes, regulations and many secondary sources such as ALR, CSJ and law review journals.

So hop on over to CiteGenie’s Web site and download it for free!

As always, let me know what you think!

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice gears up at Green Hall

KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice is one of the newest law student groups on campus — and also one of the busiest!

KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice is part of the only student-led, student-centered nationwide network of law students, professors and lawyers committed to fostering the next wave of legal experts for the reproductive justice movement.

A lot of people ask: What does reproductive justice mean? We believe reproductive justice will be achieved when all people and communities have access to the information, resources and support they need to attain sexual and reproductive self-determination.

In pursuit of that ultimate goal, KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice offers educational, activism and community service opportunities.

Our first educational event was a screening of “The Education of Shelby Knox,” a 2005 documentary that tells the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl who joins a campaign for comprehensive sex education in the high schools of Lubbock, Texas. It was a great opportunity for students to learn about the issues surrounding comprehensive sex education, both in support and opposition.

Our first activism project is supporting Prevention First legislation. There are various Prevention First bills being advocated in Kansas, Missouri and the federal government. The general tenets of Prevention First legislation are to protect: 1) access to birth control, including emergency contraception; 2) access to medically accurate, comprehensive sex education; and 3) access to affordable family planning and reproductive health care. We are working with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri to deliver the petitions to legislators.

It’s only been about two months since we had our first meeting, but KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice is definitely on a roll with plenty more to come! Already we are planning an event in January to honor the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Professor Stephen McAllister, a constitutional law professor at KU, will give a lecture called “What Roe v. Wade Really Means.” Professor McAllister will lay out the actual law and ask some of the difficult questions that confront both sides of the Roe debate to get to the heart of what this landmark decision really means.

Look for more exciting new opportunities from KU Law Students for Reproductive Justice by e-mailing lsrj@ku.edu to join our e-mail list!

Kristin Maun, President, Law Students for Reproductive Justice

IP attorneys stress networking, research and finding a niche

Sam Korte, an attorney from Garmin, and Elizabeth Tassi, from Stinson Morrison Hecker, took time out of their busy schedules recently to meet with the Intellectual Property Law Students Association to discuss how to land a job in the IP field.

Both attorneys agreed on one major point: Get involved in order to build a network and strengthen your resume. Take advantage of your first year by participating in groups, clinics and competitions. With limited experience, this is the best thing you can do to create opportunities for yourself in the future.

Korte also recommended conducting background research before any interview. This can be as simple as checking out the Web site of the business or firm prior to a meeting. When researching, Korte said, look for professional bios and take note of anything you believe will help you to connect with the interviewer or communicate your genuine interest in the company. Also, keep up-to-date on current cases, especially those that will impact the firms or businesses with which you are interviewing.

One student asked about the best way to approach IP law if you don’t have a science background. Tassi recommended finding a specialty, or niche, tailored to your experience and educational background. For example, a student with an undergraduate degree in journalism and similar field experience can offer valuable insight into copyright law. In other words, consider using your unique experience to your advantage.

We would like to thank all of those who joined us, and we hope to see you again at our next panel.

Natalie Schumann, 1L

Catching the Google Wave

I recently received an invitation to join Google Wave. I was very excited about it. After a short time of playing around, I was given a limited number of invitations to hand out so that my friends and peers could join in. It was then that I realized how few people actually know about Google Wave.

So what is it?

Google Wave is a “personal communication and collaboration tool.” It is a Web-based service, designed to merge e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and social networking.

Basically, Google Wave works like e-mail, but instead of sending a message along with its entire thread of previous messages, or requiring all responses to be stored in each user’s inbox, message documents that contain complete threads of messages are perpetually stored on a central server. Like a Web page!

The entire document is called a “wave,” and each wave is shared with collaborators who can be added to or removed from the wave at any point during a wave’s existence. Any participant of a wave can reply anywhere within the message, edit any part of the wave and add participants at any point in the process. Each edit/reply is a “blip,” and users can reply to individual blips within waves or add blips at the end. Recipients are notified of changes/replies in all waves in which they are active.

The history of each wave is stored within it. Collaborators may use a playback feature in Google Wave to observe the order in which a wave was edited, blips that were added, and who was responsible for what in the wave. The history may also be searched by a user to view and/or modify specific changes, such as specific kinds of changes or messages from a single user.

In addition, waves are live. All blips are visible in real-time, letter by letter, as they are typed by the other collaborators. Multiple participants may edit a single wave simultaneously in Google Wave. Thus, waves can function not only as e-mails and threaded conversations but also as an instant messaging service when many participants are online at the same time. A wave may repeatedly shift roles between e-mail and instant messaging, depending on the number of users editing it concurrently. The ability to show messages as they are typed can be disabled, similar to conventional instant messaging.

And, of course, Google Wave is supported by extensions that can provide, for example, spelling/grammar checking, automated traslation among 40 languages, a game of chess, and many others.

To learn more, visit http://wave.google.com. Or watch this video!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6pgxLaDdQw]

Interested in a Wave invite? I have some, and I’d be willing to share! Shoot me an e-mail!

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Lawyering Skills: Teaching first-year students legal reasoning, writing and research

First-year students spend most of their time in doctrinal classes like Contracts and Torts. Lawyering, in contrast, provides students with the practical skills that are necessary in law school. In this class, students receive an overview of the legal system, learn things like how to brief cases and cite using Bluebook format, and get a short review on grammar.

The main focus of the class is writing memos. The first assignment, the closed memo, is largely practice for the open memo. For the memo, students are presented with a legal question and asked to use relevant legal sources to analyze the issue and present an answer. Students learn skills used in legal reasoning and how to structure an office memo. The closed memo is “closed” because the sources for comparison are provided with the assignment. It is a multi-step assignment, and most steps are completion-only grades. This gives students several opportunities to improve their memo-writing skills before the open memo, which is the major assignment in the first semester of Lawyering.

In writing the open memo, students employ nearly everything they have learned in Lawyering up to that point through research, analysis and writing. The step-by-step guidance and practical training found in Lawyering separates it from other first-year classes and works with those classes to provide first-year students with a broad legal education.

Alyssa Boone, 1L and Student Ambassador

Google Scholar makes case law accessible for the regular guy (and gal)

On Nov. 17, Google added a feature to Google Scholar that will enable people everywhere find and read full-text legal opinions. Included are U.S. federal courts, including district, appellate and Supreme Court, as well as state appellate and supreme courts. You can find cases by party name, citation or topic. Simply go to http://scholar.google.com/ and select the “legal opinions and journals” radio button. For example, typing in “seperate but equal” brings up the cases Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson as well as many others.

When you select the case name, it is pulled up for your viewing pleasure. As you scroll through the document, you will notice that Google highlights the terms for which you searched. Along the left-hand side, Google provides the pagination.

Along the top you will find two tabs: “view this case” and “how cited.” Google Scholar defaults to “view this case.” The “how cited” tab provides you with examples of how the case you are looking at is cited.

For example, with Brown v. Board of Education, the first listing under “how cited” is:

As we noted in Brown I:” To separate [Negro school children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
– in Wright v. Council of Emporia, 1972 and 374 similar citations

So check out Google Scholar and let me know what you think. Will it give Westlaw and Lexis a run for their money?

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian