Legal Research

When I give speeches on China law, I am often asked what the best way is to keep up with Chinese law in a particular industry. I usually answer by saying somthing like the following:

Great question. But you probably can’t. To succeed in China, you need a China team, and that team needs to include someone who can read and understand Chinese laws/regulations in Chinese and someone who is in touch with the relevant government authorities.

I then usually describe a conference call from a few years ago, when three lawyers from my firm (including me) were discussing the law relating to a particular matter. One lawyer said the law was “X”, another said it was “Y”, and I said it was “Z”. I then very confidently stated that the other lawyers must be looking at older versions of the law, because I was looking at the one that had come down three weeks ago. One lawyer quickly admitted defeat. The other lawyer said his version had just come out the day before….

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Keith Lee

A couple days ago on Twitter, I noticed Judge Stephen Dillard having a conversation with a few people about the validity of using Wikipedia as a reliable legal authority. I mentioned that I wrote about the topic back in 2011. But given the continued growth and reliance of the general public upon Wikipedia, I decided it was probably worth looking at again.

Wikipedia actually has a page devoted to documents used in legal proceedings that have cited Wikipedia as a source. One particular case provides an in-depth discussion of whether or not the use of Wikipedia is “reliable,” interestingly enough….

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Years before Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center built the forty-foot high “Tower of Law” (or, as Stephen Colbert called it, “the building blocks of boring”) out of unused legal reporters, Lexis started the books’ march to obsolescence when it debuted on April 2, 1973. “Lexis,” a term the company’s president coined by combining the Latin word for law plus the letters “IS” for information systems, was the first widely available commercial electronic database for legal research. When it launched forty years ago, Lexis contained only decisions from Ohio and New York. Today, it provides access to nearly 5 billion documents, including cases from all state and federal courts, as well as notes written by law students that are still awaiting their first citation reader. This week, On Remand looks back at the history of Lexis, its rivalry with Westlaw, and its dispute with the maker of a car popular with attorneys . . .

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Keith Lee

I recently noticed a post by James Levy over at the Legal Skills Prof Blog about LexisNexis’s new “Think Like A Lawyer” program. The program aims to help law students be more prepared to work at a firm while they are summer associates. But as Levy points out:

“Apparently some employers have hired summer law clerks chiefly for the purpose of taking advantage of their free computer research access which until now has been a violation of the end user agreement.  But Lexis is changing that with the announcement this week of a new training program called ‘Think Like a Lawyer’ that, among other features, gives 1Ls and 2Ls free, unlimited access to computer research over the summer which they can use in their jobs.  That’s going to make it easier for at least some students to find summer clerkships especially with smaller firms where free Lexis access will add value.”

Firms using summer associates purely for free legal research?!? Say it ain’t so. But if that’s the case, just call it the “Free Legal Research Monkey” program and not “Think Like a Lawyer.” Because my knee-jerk reaction was: “Ugh, law school graduates actually need to think less like a lawyer….”

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Homework is hard.

Are you out of work and unable to get even the document review companies to look your way? Did you graduate from a lower-ranked law school and want the opportunity to prove you could have played with the big kids at a T14 school? Or maybe you just always thought elite law schools should work more like football teams in the South. Well, you’re in luck, because a T14 1L has taken to Craigslist seeking an experienced attorney (or at least a 2L/3L) to go ahead and tackle his or her homework assignment.

Once again, Craigslist found a way to lower the bar on the outlook for the legal market.

Go ahead and keep reading if you want to know where to send in your résumé. We won’t judge…

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Have you seen this over the last few days?

* Were you using Westlaw last week and saw this image? Here’s why… [Westlaw]

* A federal judge is charged with DUI. And there’s video of the arrest! [American Press]

* A heartwrenching poem from a law professor about discrimination. Wait, it’s not about race or gender discrimination but about not getting tenure as a legal writing professor. Yeah, that makes sense. [TaxProf Blog]

* Criminal defense lawyers are part-counselor, listening to the woes of their clients. Should basic instruction in therapy be part of professional training? [Katz Justice]

* The collapse of legal industry could be happening again, this time to the medical profession. [The Atlantic]

* Jeez, I had no idea that the paralegal industry is enjoying such a surge in hiring. I guess it makes sense… you get all the drudgery work of a young lawyer at half the cost. [George Washington University]

* A new DOJ report confirms what we all expected: Montana law enforcement officials are kind of terrible at prosecuting sexual assault cases. [Jezebel]

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some advice for getting law journal work done.

I’ll be honest — I hated Law Review. Every second I spent in the bowels of the law school library searching dusty books for obscure references was time wasted, in my opinion. But, on the upside, I got quite good at getting my cite-checking assignments done quickly!

Here are a few tips for getting your journal work done, without losing your mind:

1. Know where to draw the line.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

“Playing Lecture Bingo gets 20 minutes in the corner”

The actual practice of law is much more rigorous than law school. Law school is basically college with lucrative summer jobs and crippling debt. Drinking every day, last-minute cramming, and generally winging it on exams are not out of place. That said, continuing the college-honed approach to my class work in no way conflicted with my understanding of proper professional behavior. I could slap together a paper for “Law and Super Mario Bros.”[1] or whatever seminar I was in and immediately shift gears to drafting well-researched and meticulously prepared memos for partners for my summer gig.

So while ATL is on record as a proponent of encouraging law schools to offer more concrete professional training, it’s not necessary to make class run like a day in the office of the worst partner or in the courtroom of a judicial diva.

That’s why, even though justified as an effort to train students to succeed in the persnickety world of trial practice, we really don’t need this professor’s three-and-a-half pages of single-spaced rules drenched in condescension….

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Ronan Farrow: a former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree turned contest judge.

Since 2012, the list-loving folks at Forbes have been publishing “30 Under 30″ compilations for various fields of endeavor. The 2014 lists just came out, and they include, of course, a 30 Under 30 for law and public policy. We noted the news in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs.

Such lists generate great traffic, but they also exhibit a somewhat arbitrary character that can be criticized, even mocked. The New Yorker, for example, took inspiration from Forbes to create 3 Under 3: Entrepreneurs, Intellectuals, Toddlers.

A list of notable legal eagles under 30 presents additional problems. Unlike, say, sports or the arts, where people over 30 might already be “over the hill,” law doesn’t lend itself to super-young prodigies. As Miguel Morales of Forbes points out in introducing the list, “It’s never easy for FORBES staffers to sniff out the 30 best and brightest Millennials making an impact on their fields. In law and public policy, where most people are barely out of law school by 30, let alone blazing trails in their fields, the task sometimes felt farcical.”

Whether it’s farcical or not, we know you want to see the list. Let’s have a peek, shall we?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi interviews a judicial clerkship veteran with some helpful advice for aspiring clerks.

It’s open season for clerkships and you’ve probably already been inundated with resources from your law school’s career office. Sure, those are the “official” resources, but don’t you want to know what it’s really like to go through the clerkship application process? This month, I probed the brain of a judicial clerkship veteran to give you the inside scoop.

1. Do you have any interview tips particular to interviewing for a clerkship?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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