A change of pace

I am enrolled in Trial Advocacy this semester, which consists of a classroom lecture component once a week and an in-class performance component once a week. The class is broken up into small groups of eight students, and each group is assigned an attorney/judge to serve as the judge for the class. Every week, we conduct a direct examination, a cross-examination and serve as a witness for one of our classmates.

My first week I could not believe how nervous I was! I was even nervous to be a witness. I survived but vowed not to let my nerves get the best of me the following week. It seems as though the whole class felt the way I did because the second week went much more smoothly. Sure we all made mistakes, but everyone seemed to be breathing during their examinations. This was a big change because the first week it seemed like we were all holding our breath to see who would be called to go next.

Even though it is an intense experience, a little comedy has managed its way into our courtroom. We had some flimsy poster board exhibits that just did not want to stay upright on the easel. One classmate accidentally suggested the answer sought from the witness by shaking her head “yes,” which prompted an objection from defense counsel. By the end of the second class, I decided class was much more enjoyable and successful when I relaxed a little bit. The other thing that helped was treating the examination exercises more like a competition.

It may sound a little strange to think of Thursdays as game days – but that is exactly what I do now. I played sports all through high school and even in college, so hopefully this mindset will prove to be just as successful with oral arguments as it was with basketball. It is nice to have a class where I get to apply some of the information I have learned in law school. In all of my other classes, I sit in my seat and the professor asks me questions, but in trial advocacy we get to be the ones doing the questioning!

Chelsea Barnett, 2L

THOMAS changes make federal legislative information even more accessible

Are you familiar with the Library of Congress and their service called THOMAS?

THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time, THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.

  • Bills, resolutions
  • Activity in Congress
  • Congressional record
  • Schedules, calendars
  • Committee information
  • Presidential nominations
  • Treaties
  • Government resources

Several changes have been made to THOMAS for the second session of the 111th Congress. Below is what THOMAS has to say about what’s new.

Bookmarking and Sharing Widget

This new toolbar, found near the top of most THOMAS pages, allows users to save or share a permanent link via bookmarks, e-mail or social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. The toolbar also includes quick links to subscribe to THOMAS Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and to print.

Top Five Bills

The five most-searched-for bills from the past week are listed in the center box on the right side of the home page. Hover the mouse over a bill number to display the title of the bill. Click on the bill number to view the bill summary and status page for the selected bill.

New RSS feed: Bills Presented to the President

This new RSS feed lists bills that have passed both the House and Senate and have been sent to the White House for the president’s signature. If no bills are currently awaiting signature, a list of all bills signed into law thus far during the current Congress is displayed.

To see a complete list of RSS feeds and e-mail updates available through the Library of Congress, please visit Library of Congress RSS Feeds and Email Subscriptions.

Contacting Members of Congress

It’s now easier to contact your members of Congress. A link to tips about how to contact your representative or senator is included on the THOMAS home page.

Tip of the Week

Each week, a new tip about using THOMAS is displayed on the right-hand side of the THOMAS home page, below the “Top Five” list. Each tip contains a link to in-depth information on the covered topic.

Bill Text PDFs

To increase visibility and accessibility of the Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of bill text, we have added PDF links on the bill version listing page. Click on these links to view the official Government Printing Office (GPO) PDF for a specific version of a bill.

Increased Timeout Interval

Search results within THOMAS are displayed on temporary pages. In response to your feedback, we have increased the timeout interval for these pages from five minutes to 30 minutes.

All of these additions make it easier for you to keep up-to-date on developing news and legislation! And, as always, if you would like a tutorial on THOMAS or any other resource, feel free to contact me and we can arrange a meeting!

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Women in Law organizes charitable benefits, educational speakers

This semester, Women in Law is continuing to support and promote women law students and attorneys. In February, we’re partnering with the Public Interest Law Society to raise money for Habitat for Humanity in Haiti by selling and delivering Valentine’s and candy to the student body.

Also this month, Women in Law is hosting the second annual Judicial Speakers Panel, featuring Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Standridge. Judge Standridge will speak to our members at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, about her experience as a woman in law and as a judge. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Our main event of the semester, Pub Night, is scheduled for April 9. This year’s theme is “A Day at the Races.” Your fellow students will amaze you in the 1L skit and the talent show. The faculty band the Moody Blue Books return with old favorites and new hits. This year, our auction features a professional auctioneer and generous donations from faculty members. We’re introducing a new game, Spin to Win, where you can win amazing prizes, like polish sausage and strudel, for only 50 cents. Bring quarters! We are also working on a Kentucky Derby-themed drink special. All proceeds go to area women’s shelters, such as Women’s Transitional Care Services, and student summer stipends.

Susan Alig
President, KU Women in Law

Striking a balance between Jayhawk basketball and law school

February in Lawrence means two things: School is back in full swing, and the Jayhawks are in the middle of some intense Big 12 conference basketball games!

One of the challenges of being a law student at a school where basketball is more of a religion than a sport is figuring out how to balance your time so that you can take in the games without falling behind on your studies. As hard is it may be to believe, I think I have more time for basketball games now than I did when I was an undergrad here at KU. I am going to attribute most of this to the fact that I am much more conscientious of how I allocate my time in law school than during my undergrad days, but it also helps that I joined a camping group and spend at least five hours a week sitting at Allen Fieldhouse with not much else to do but study. (That’s me on the far right in front of Allen Fieldhouse in the photo!)

One might think that joining a camping group would be counterproductive to studying, but I have found the opposite to be true. Since the Fieldhouse is conveniently located across the street from the law school, it is easy to sign up to camp before or after class or during a time when you have a couple of hours between classes. There is also no excuse not to stop in the law building and grab a book from your locker because there really isn’t a whole lot to do when you are sitting in the concourse of the Fieldhouse. Sure you could always take a nap, watch a movie on your laptop or get caught up on TV shows that you’ve missed on Hulu, but if you don’t want to feel guilty about spending four hours on a Monday night at the game, my advice is to study!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the camping works for KU basketball games, here is my unofficial guide:

  1. A camping group may have a maximum of 30 members.
  2. A lottery is held at the Fieldhouse the morning after home games. During the week, the lottery is at 6 a.m., and on the weekends it’s at 8 a.m. The lottery determines the order of camping groups for the next game. At least five people from your group must show up to participate in the lottery.
  3. Camping occurs between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hours for weekend camping are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Groups may vote to suspend camping at any time while camping.
  4. Camping will always be suspended three hours prior to a women’s basketball home game and two hours before a men’s basketball away game.
  5. While camping, any group may call a roll call at any time. The group who calls roll reads the group names off the list and if a member from a group is not present when the group name is called, their group is crossed off. The group is free to sign up again at the bottom of the list.
  6. Approximately three hours before the game, a final roll call is taken and the groups receive their final group number and line up in numerical order outside. Doors open two hours before tipoff.

The camping process starts in early November and repeats itself until early March. For more information on KU basketball, the official camping rules and more KU traditions, visit the KU Athletics camping page and the KUpedia camping page.

Courtney Johnston, 2L

Marriage and divorce resources … just in time for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you might be thinking of changing the status of your relationship. Well, the Wheat Law Library is here to help! Whether you are looking to get married or divorced, we have all of the information you need! Not to mention the forms you need to file.

For information on the Web, the Kansas Bar breaks things down nicely. It explains requirements for both marriage and divorce.

Both marriages and divorces are filed with the district court. Although what is required for a marriage doesn’t change all that much from one county to another, you will want to check your county when filing for divorce. Douglas County, for example, has a page for getting married as well as a page for getting divorced.

And, of course, we have tons of resources here at the Wheat Law Library!

These are just a few! We have many more for your legal enjoyment.

So Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at the Wheat Law Library!

W. Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

‘No one should go broke because they chose to go to college’

President Obama’s reference to student loan assistance in his Jan. 27 State of the Union address was brief: “And let’s tell another 1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years – and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”

The president’s plan refers to changes to Income-Based Repayment (IBR), a provision of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that provides relief for those with high student debt. According to CCRAA expert Heather Jarvis of Equal Justice Works, “IBR allows for much reduced monthly student loan payments for those with high debt-to-income ratios. President Obama proposes lowering the cap on federal student loan payments from 15 to 10 percent of discretionary income, and forgiving any remaining debt after 20 years of payments, rather than the current 25 years. Those in public service, including nonprofit and government employees, can get their remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.”

IBR became available in July 2009, and law graduates may utilize it to reduce their monthly loan payments. So it’s fair to say that Obama also meant that no one should go broke because they choose to go to law school.

For more information on IBR, visit Equal Justice Works’ student debt relief resources section and http://ibrinfo.org. Also, consult the links at the bottom of this page that provide important information concerning a basic checklist for loan forgiveness, eligible loans, qualifying employment and qualifying payments.

Todd Rogers
Assistant Dean for Career Services

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