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

‘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