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

‘Finals glaze’ overcomes law students late in semester

Editor’s Note: This blog was written in early November, so the “glaze” in question has long since set in. The first finals of the fall semester are a week away.

The weather has turned colder and my books seem to be getting heavier every day, which can only mean one thing: We are nearing what I like to call “the one-month point.” Law school is always busy. Class preparation, attending class and outlining are enough to fill your daily schedule. However, everything changes here at Green Hall about a month before finals.

Everybody seems to get the “finals-glaze” look in their eyes. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a student who has been outlining since day one, started outlining over fall break or haven’t started at all. Whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L — highly involved with extra-curricular responsibilities or not — everyone gets the “glaze.”

We have not quite arrived at this magical point, so everyone is still looking pretty calm. I have a Constitutional Law paper due right before we hit the one-month point, so that is currently occupying most of my time. We have been assigned a case critique over any one of the cases we have studies thus far in class. I have chosen to analyze U.S. v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938).

I had better return to my studies. Until next time…

Chelsea Barnett, 2L and Student Ambassador

CALI offers feedback before finals

Finals are coming up and, as a student, you are in need of a service that can help you review some of the concepts that you have discussed in class and read about in textbooks. But you would also like to be quizzed to see if you are getting these concepts. Is there anything out there that can help?

Of course there is! And its names is CALI!

CALI (short for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) was started back in 1982 as a colaboration between the University of Minnesota’s and Harvard’s law schools. After going through many different incarnations, including floppy disks, CDs and DVDs, CALI finally settled on a Web-based operation located at www.cali.org.

Just as the name implies, CALI is a computer-based learning system for legal materials. Think of it as a computerized tutor. Although CALI provides quite a few different services, the big one is its lessons. These lessons are broken down into topics, author and casebook. Also, if you use CALI on a regular basis, there is an area for new and updated lessons.

So how do these lessons work? Well, first you choose a topic. Let’s say, contracts. When you get into CALI, you will notice that there isn’t really a lesson plan simply on contracts. Rather, it is further broken down into sub-issues, such as offer, acceptance, consideration and remedies. You will also notice that you have run into two types of lessons. One is a simple podcast in which a law professor gives you advice. The other lesson consists of a lesson and a quiz. An explanation of the legal concept is given, followed by a quiz. If you get the answer right, you get a big, green check. You also get the opportunity to explain why you got the answer you got and compare it with the “model answer.” Now keep in mind that these “model answers” are based upon what the author believes the answer should be. If you get the answer wrong, CALI will explain it to you.

Interested in checking out CALI? Well, send me an e-mail and I will forward to you the access code! Provided you are a student or faculty member here at KU Law, of course.

Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Biolaw symposium ponders future of IP law

Students and friends of the law school had an opportunity to listen to one of the great scholars on intellectual property law on Nov. 6, 2009. Roger Milgrim, author of the treatises “Milgrim on Licensing” and “Milgrim on Trade Secrets,” addressed a group of about 80 people about the rates at which technology and law are currently growing and the increasing gap between these two fields. Milgrim was the keynote speaker at Biolaw 3.0: Law at the Frontiers of Biology.

Milgrim pointed out that one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the field of biotechnology and intellectual property law is taking a complex subject matter and being able to explain it in words that a judge and jury can understand. The words we choose to use could make the difference between winning and losing a case.

Another interesting part of Milgrim’s speech focused on the development of “hybrid” intellectual property statutes. Historically, patents, trademarks and copyrights have been governed by federal statutes, while trade secrets have been governed by state law. Since technology is growing at such a rapid pace, the current laws cannot properly govern intellectual property rights. Milgrim raised the question of whether a “hybrid” form of intellectual property laws would offer improved protection until the moral and social issues currently plaguing intellectual property laws could be fairly legislated.

Spending an hour listening to Milgrim speak about the current state of intellectual property laws was a welcome addition to my intellectual property law class. I had the opportunity to take concepts that I learned in class and see how they are applied in a day-to-day legal setting. Opportunities such as the biolaw symposium are frequently available at the KU School of Law and are a great supplement to an already outstanding legal education.

Courtney Johnston
2L and Student Ambassador

Get on (a) board!

Help others and yourself by volunteering. Not to minimize the many altruistic benefits of volunteering, but this activity may also benefit your legal career. Not only is it a great way to network, but you may also be able to hone your legal skills.

There are so many wonderful organizations for which you may volunteer. Your legal skills and abilities can be utilized by both nonprofits that provide legal services and non-legally oriented organizations, particularly if you become a board member.

Nonprofit organizations usually have an executive director who handles the daily operation. The board of directors is the governing body of the organization and works with the executive director to ensure the goals and mission of the organization are met. Nearly every board has an attorney (or wants one) as a member. Besides your interest in the organization’s mission, your analytical, logical and communicating skills are highly welcomed and desired. Additionally, most employers welcome and encourage volunteerism and may even assist you in your endeavors.

If you are interested in becoming a board member, look to those organizations for which you already volunteer. Contact the executive director and discuss your desire to get more involved, possibly by joining the board. If you are not currently volunteering, please do so first to ensure the group’s goals reflect your own.

Before joining a board, you need to do your homework. One great place to start is with NonProfitConnect. NonProfitConnect is a Kansas City organization which assists nonprofit agencies and those interested in working with/for the nonprofit sector. If you are interested in becoming a board member, I recommend you attend the training seminar, Boards of Tomorrow (full disclosure: I used to be a member of NCP and attended the training seminar when I became a board member of a nonprofit). There are similar organizations throughout the nation, so take advantage of the resources available to you.

By joining a board, you get to become part of something better than yourself; you’re making your name (and your employer’s name) known with people outside your normal sphere of contact, and you may utilize your legal skills at the same time. A win-win situation for everyone involved!

Karen Hester, Director of Career Services

KU’s Summer Start Program helps students set their law school pace

I began my legal education as part of KU Law’s Summer Start Program in 2007. Essentially, it’s a way for a small group of first-year law students to ease into the study of law by taking a handful of five-week courses for credit that they would otherwise take during the fall semester. Admittedly, I was hesitant to start in the summer. Doing so meant studying in the library while my friends were out on the golf course. But the benefits of a slow-paced introduction to law school made sense to me after being out of school and working for two years.

At the time, I thought those benefits were limited to the first-year experience. By the time the fall semester began, I had developed a proficiency in reading and interpreting case law, I had become comfortably acquainted with seemingly foreign legal vocabulary terms, and I had taken and survived the dreaded law school final exams. But beyond the academic advantages, I was able to quickly find a circle of new friends from all over the country. I started the fall semester confident in my ability to take accurate notes and organize information in an effective way.

But now that I’m a 3L, I realize that the benefits of the summer program continue even today. Some students who started with me took advantage of the Accelerated Program and have already graduated. Others are in their final weeks at KU Law and are set to graduate this December. But while I had the option to graduate early with my friends, I chose instead to finish in three full years, take a relaxed course load and develop flexibility in my schedule that allows for other opportunities. This semester I’m in class three days a week and I spend the rest of my time as an editor for the Kansas Law Review, serving on various campus committees and working part-time. I also have time to travel to KU football games and fulfill my goal of attending a game at every Big 12 school.

All in all, it’s a great way to spend my last year in law school.

Chris Kaufman, 3L and Student Ambassador

Jureeka! I’ve got it!

I have recently discovered a product that I think is pretty slick. It is called Jureeka!

Jureeka! is a Firefox extension that hyperlinks legal citations in Web pages.

Jureeka! turns legal citations in web pages into hyperlinks that point to online legal source material. Its handy toolbar also allows you to search for source material by legal citation and to find HTML versions of PDF pages. Jureeka! is great for quickly locating statutes, case law, regulations, federal court rules, international law sources and more. It weaves together a host of law sources into a giant mesh.

Not every citation is included, but they are constantly adding more.

Here are some of the forms they support:

347 U.S. 483
28 U.S.C. 1350
630 F.2d 876
10 C.F.R. 71
Pub. L. 104-132
70 F.R. 29528
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11
Fed. R. Crim. P. 6
Fed. R. Evid. 401
Fed. R. App. P. xxx
734 A.2d 712
999 P.2d 1
95 P.3d 190
756 N.E.2d 866
694 N.W.2d 788
523 S.E.2d 239
208 S.W.3d 1
735 So.2d 161
352 NLRB 146
10 I&N; Dec. 1230
U.S. Patent No. 6750380
Minn. Stat. § 626.556

Now go download it, come back and look at these links!

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Download

Support

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Even flute performance majors can go to law school

The first skill I learned in my undergraduate degree in flute performance that I applied after graduation was counting without getting off track. I used to have to count up to 80 or 90 really slowly, over and over, without getting distracted. I took a summer job working at a cookie shop and found myself using this specialized skill when I was measuring cup after cup of flour for batches that would make 40 dozen cookies.

I have yet to apply any musical skills so specifically to law school, but what I take from that experience is that regardless of what students studied in undergrad, they already have a lot of skills that will help in law school. KU Law has a commitment to diversity, and that extends to diversity of experience. All kinds of unconventional majors are embraced here.

There is no way to practice being a law student except being one, so not majoring in political science does not put a student at a disadvantage. Challenging classes are an important experience regardless of the subject matter. They force students to develop skills to deal with challenges, which is useful when confronted with a new way of thinking as a 1L.

Academic success and involvement in student life build useful skills too. Those things cause students to develop time management and self-motivation skills that will make the transition to life as a law student smoother. Additionally, law affects so many parts of life, society and culture that an unconventional background will definitely give a student a unique perspective on certain areas of law.

Alyssa Boone, 1L and Student Ambassador from Wichita, KS

The relays are coming! The relays are coming!

Blue Book Relays
Friday, October 30, 2009
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Green Hall

Each fall, first-year law students participate in the Barber Emerson Bluebook Relays. The competition, sponsored by a Lawrence law firm, tests legal research skills learned in the Lawyering program. Working in teams, students locate references in the library and write the citation in correct Bluebook format. The point system rewards speed, accuracy and citation skills. There is a cash prize for the winning team, but the big reward is the fun that comes from putting competition in perspective.

A brief history of the Bluebook Relays

In 1990, 1L Steve Passer jump-started the Passer Bluebook Relays, which would become one of the school’s most memorable traditions. Steve personally provided the prize money until graduating, when the dean took over as financial sponsor for the event. In the mid 1990s, the junior attorneys at Barber Emerson decided to provide prize money in honor of well-liked founding attorney, Richard A. Barber. Barber Emerson remains the event’s sponsor today, and attorneys from the firm sit as judges for the event each year.

Rules of the Bluebook Relays

  1. NO cell phones
  2. NO running
  3. Do not remove books from their locations on the shelf
  4. Only bring a pad of paper and a pen with you
  5. The Blue Book “expert” must stay outside of the library

The teams will consist of 10 members total, 9 runners and 1 Blue Book “expert.” Each team has 45 minutes to complete the relay. A whistle will be blown to denote start and stop times. Each team receives 9 questions covering 9 citation examples learned in the Lawyering course. Each question is worth 10 points and deductions are made for minor or major citing errors. There will be proctors monitoring runners throughout the library.

For more information, contact Jeff Montgomery, Serials Department Manager and Bluebook Relays coordinator.

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian