Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Happy Federal Fiscal New Year!

Today marks the start of a fresh federal fiscal year.  Lawyers who practice for the federal government are not the only ones who need to know appropriations; attorneys representing state and local governments or contractors also benefit from familiarity with federal fiscal law.

The mainstay of federal appropriations law, the Government Accountability Office’s, Red Book will help you navigate the guiding CYA principles: color (purpose), year (timing), and amount.  Find appropriations for recent years at congress.govIf you want to delve more deeply into the federal budget, Morgan M. Stoddard presents ten free online places to start.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Think Before You Hit Send

E-mail is old hat for most law students, and by now, most of us professors have caught up too. Here's the thing: we often focus on what we are saying rather than how we are saying...er, how what we are saying is communicated. For the former, we have books to help you. But you might want to consider your communication style as well.

The software company WordRake has a wonderful blog post series about e-mail communication, and one piece of information is particularly startling:
“People consistently overestimate their ability to communicate effectively with email.” A 2010 study found that “participants lied 50% more when they negotiated over email compared with pen-and-paper.” One of the reasons, surmised researchers: “Emails are less permanent: it feels closer to chatting than writing a letter.”
What's an e-mailer to do? Your best bet is to think before you hit the send button. Save a draft of your e-mail and revisit it in an hour or two. This approach might increase your odds of responding thoughtfully to an e-mail rather than merely reacting.

You might also consider creating a rule in Outlook to time-delay all your sent e-mails by three-to-five minutes. You can hit send, then change your mind a few minutes later to re-read, double-check who you've sent the e-mail too, and possibly delete the whole thing if you've since come to your senses. This approach can save you from the countless lawyer e-mail blunders that make headlines.

Remember: e-mail is permanent. You can't really retract it once it's been sent, so think twice or four or five times before hitting "send."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting Good Help These Days - A Closer Look at Employment Law

Richard Susskind is trending on Twitter for his keynote address at Clio Cloud Conference. Mr. Susskind suggests law firm clients want "a fence at the top of the cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom." In other words, your goal as an attorney should be risk avoidance rather than risk management. Dispute avoidance is a far greater priority than dispute resolution, according to Mr. Susskind.

I've always found Mr. Susskind's perspective persuasive. It makes good sense. Yet how often have you known someone to put off car maintenance including oil changes preferring to avoid the expense of something they don't think they need, only to have to pay an exorbitant bill for a serious car repair later? It seems perhaps people don't want an insurance policy. They don't necessarily want to involve the attorneys unless something has gone wrong.

This approach can be disastrous in the employment world. Slate.com recently ran In Defense of HR, an article which suggests start-ups should have sound HR (or legal) advice early on to ensure that as the company grows, it complies with local, state, and national employment laws.

And Home Depot's security breach woes, stemming from a former security architect with a history of causing computer mayhem at a previous company, suggest that solid hiring practices are critical. From arstechnica,
When Mitchell learned he was going to be fired in June of 2012 from the oil and gas company EnerVest Operating, he “remotely accessed EnerVest’s computer systems and reset the company’s network servers to factory settings, essentially eliminating access to all the company’s data and applications for its eastern United States operations,” a Department of Justice spokesperson wrote in a release on his conviction.
What does this mean for you? Give employment law some thought and move beyond considering a career in litigation. If you can work with clients early and help them avoid risk at the outset, you may find yourself in demand. Here are a few books to get you started:

Employment Law in Context: An Introduction for HR Professionals
The Manager's Guide to HR
Employment Law for Human Resource Practice

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Do Professors Do All Day?

Professors do a ton, from teaching to writing to volunteering. Perhaps you're curious what they write about but don't quite feel you have the time to commit to a 45-page law review article. That's what blogs are for. Many of our law professors blog on a regular basis, so you can read their timely insights on critical legal issues.

Here is a list of blogs specifically written by Moritz professors. Of note, Doug Berman got in on blogging early, and his Sentencing Law and Policy blog recently had its ten-year anniversary.

For blogs by other law professors around the country check out the Law Professor Blogs Network.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ignoring Court Rules...Not Just for Less Experienced Attorneys!

Judicial opinions addressing publicly and for all time the misdeeds of attorneys (i.e., a bench slap) are not uncommon. Whether its for poor legal writing or a brief riddled with inaccuracies that seem to amount to outright lies, judges hold officers of the court to high standards. Now, not everyone can be the Bryan A. Garner of the legal writing world, and sometimes you write what you think is true but your clients have misrepresented facts to you. Perhaps you deserve a pass in those situations. But there's one thing it is easy to get right: court rules about spacing and other technical formatting issues. For example, Rule 3.09 of the 2013 Rules of Practice for the Supreme Court of Ohio states
(a) Every original document filed with the Supreme Court shall be single-sided, shall be typewritten or prepared by, computer, word processor or other standard typographic process, and shall comply with the requirements of this rule. (b) The text of all documents shall be at least 12-point type and in one of the following (i) Times New Roman; (ii) Cambria; (iii) Calibri; (iv) Arial Standard (i.e. not Black, Rounded, Unicode or Narrow); (v) Palatino Linotype. . . . The text of all documents shall be double-spaced. Footnotes and quotations may be single-spaced; however, they shall also be in 12-point type.
Alas, when you have more to say to the court, but it limits you to a mere 35 pages, it is awfully tempting to skirt (perhaps flout) the rules and hope the court does not notice. Here's the latest from the BP oil spill case:
BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly 6 pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. Counsel are expected to follow the Court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The Court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here. Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.
h/t Slate.com
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrate Constitution Day

Although the Constitution has been around for more than 200 years, Constitution Day is a relatively new phenomenon. 

As the Senate explains: "To encourage all Americans to learn more about the Constitution, Congress in 1956 established Constitution Week, to begin each year on September 17th, the date in 1787 when delegates to the Convention signed the Constitution. In 2004, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia included key provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2005 designating September 17th of each year as Constitution Day and requiring public schools and governmental offices to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution."

If you'd like to explore this legislative history in more detail, start with the historical and revision notes for 36 U.S.C. § 106

Not historical enough for you?  The ABA notes that we are nearing the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, contributing to this year's designated theme, The Bill of Rights at 225

Monday, September 15, 2014

Asking for Help

We have one more story to add to the list of attorneys with mental health and addiction issues. Unfortunately, it's less frequent that we have stories of recovery to post, though a blog post from a few months back did highlight one attorney's success after getting help. In that post, we identified several resources here locally that are designed to keep you on track or get you back on track if you suffer a personal or professional setback.

If you'd prefer to do some reading up before reaching out, we also have several books on wellness. In fact, we've pull all of our wellness books into a small collection in the Reserve Room, so you can quickly access them.

We've written here in the past about exam stress, but really, law school can be stressful year round. It's not just the challenge of class; it's the challenge of figuring out a job or a career, perhaps for the first time. Don't worry if you're worried. Just ask for help.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The PACER Debacle

Librarians, researchers, and attorneys have come to love PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), the online database of federal pleadings. It's a terrific resource for those following cases or who need examples of real complaints or motions for summary judgment. When BloombergLaw came along, it made searching federal dockets even easier.

Alas, PACER has disabled online access to selected court records for several appellate courts, and commercial databases (i.e., Bloomberg, Westlaw, and Lexis) will only carry what they have downloaded. In other words, they are not a complete substitute.

For the latest updates on access, check out these excellent blog posts by librarians at the Kathrine R. Everett Law Library at UNC: Changes to Online Access to Federal Court Records and What Happened to the Information Removed from PACER?

Monday, September 08, 2014

ABA Journal Fiction Prizes

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction has been awarded to John Grisham for Sycamore Row. We have the book in our collection if you need some light reading to take your mind off of studying. If that novel is off the shelf, you're welcome to any of the other John Grisham novels we have available:
  • The Appeal
  • The Associate
  • The Birthday
  • The Brethren
  • The Broker
  • The Chamber
  • The Client
  • The Confession
  • The Firm
  • The Innocent Man
  • The King of Torts
  • The Last Juror
  • The Litigators
  • The Partner
  • The Pelican Brief
  • The Racketeer
  • The Rainmaker
  • The Runaway Jury
  • The Street Lawyer
  • The Summons
  • The Testament
  • A Time to Kill
Inspired by Mr. Grisham's success? Request a copy of How to Write and Sell Mystery Fiction. Simply click on the catalog link provided through the book title, then select "Request this Item" from the menu bar above the catalog record.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Celebrity Photos vs. Music Videos

Copyright is my bailiwick, so I was intrigued when Slate.com posted an article stating although        "[e]very day, movie and TV producers succeed in getting videos that have been posted without their consent taken down from major websites," celebrities cannot get photos they have taken with their own cameras taken down. In other words, copyright infringement is a claim available to some content owners but not others.

What's up with that?

According to Slate, "Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or at least the courts’ sweeping reading of it, arguably allows them to publish these photos legally."

What's one way to find this "sweeping" case law? Log in to Lexis.com and type "1996 Communications Decency Act" in the search bar. Select the "Legis" tab on the search results screen. Scroll down to 47 USCS 230. Scroll down and you can see cases decided on this section of the Act.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Cases in Contradiction

Confusion often marks the plight of the law student, especially in the first few weeks of this new endeavor.  Sometimes confusion may stem not from misunderstanding a case but from inconstant judicial logic.

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean at the UC Irvine School of Law, identifies logical variations in three recent Supreme Court opinions dealing with bankruptcy:  "All come to reasonable conclusions. But they are markedly inconsistent in their approach to interpreting the bankruptcy act and to statutory interpretation more generally." 

Judicial inconsistency may be more common than you'd like, but some argue that it is not necessarily an evil.  Justin Driver, for example, discusses inconsistencies in one judge's work, Justice Stevens, deeming inconsistency a "virtue." 

So if you see ambiguities, think about reasons underlying them as well as what advantages and disadvantages you see in them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Convicted of a Crime You Didn't Commit...because No Crime was Committed

The ABA Law Journal brings us this headline: Prisoner exonerations are at an all-time high, and it’s not because of DNA testing, which states "Of the 87 known exonerations in 2013, 27 were cases in which no crimes had taken place. Almost half of the no-crime exonerations were for nonviolent-crime charges, mostly drug convictions." Law professor Samuel Gross have created a National Registry of Exonerations. Professor Gross and his colleagues primarily find exoneration cases through news articles.

Curious to try your hand at finding cases with exonerated defendants by looking at newspaper articles? We have a number of resources here in the law library for electronic versions of newspapers. In our Accuracy Check Resource research guide, for example, we've listed a number of them. The research guide also includes a link to all of the newspaper databases to which OSU has subscribed. Factiva, Press DisplayLexisNexis, Westlaw, and BloombergLaw are also online sources you can search for free.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Academic Success in Law School

Many law students excelled as undergraduates.  Law school brings new challenges, however, and the library has gathered together a number of resources on law school academic success in a research guide to help you meet these challenges.

This guide incorporates the West Study Aid collection we described yesterday as well as subject-specific study aids, books about exam taking, books about navigating law school, and OSU resources for study and learning strategies. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Westlaw Study Aid Subscription

Maybe it's too early to think about studying. That's probably true. But it helps to know your options when the time does come to buckle down and learn a thing or two, and now you have more options than ever.

We still have tons of study aids in print, including seven of the ten series The National Jurist identified as most popular. We also carry the Westlaw Study Aid Subscription, so you can use e-books when you need them:
 
 
To access this online collection, simply log in to Westlaw and click on MYePRODUCTS.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome Back and Looking Back

Welcome back to a new school year. Though classes are a week away, the entire university has been preparing for students' return. One fun news feature comes from The Ohio State University's main page, Hidden gems on campus, which highlights history here on campus and emphasizes that these landmarks are a way to connect with generations of students. In other words, if you're a student here, Ohio State history is now your history.

We in the law library have been digitizing your history. A part of this work can be seen in the Moritz College of Law Class Composites (i.e., old class photos). Keep an eye on the OSU Knowledge Bank and this blog as more law school history (like the Buckeye Barrister) is digitized.