Earn $1,000 – by NOT Going to Law School?

Anything But Law School Graduate Scholarship

The flip side of  ”too many lawyers“:  Some reports estimate that 55% of attorneys are baby-boomers. If that % is correct, and the tail end of baby-boomer-dom was 1958, it’s quite possible we’ll need a lot of replacement lawyers really soon.

Some lawyers retire in order to do other things, but many lawyers will retire because the practice of law isn’t much fun anymore (e.g. legal research has become no “more than a google box on top of a legal database.”

UELMA in Oregon: 2013 HB 2944: Is that Online Statute Legally Correct?

If you research the law online, you need to have authenticated, official laws – yes, you do!

There is no point relying on statutes, cases, regulations, and other government legal documents that aren’t correct, aren’t from the year(s) you need, and are missing the source’s official imprimatur.

Most online laws have Disclaimers that advise and warn you to verify what you read online with official, legal text.

But aren’t we told to “get with the plan? It’s all online?” Yes, we are!

So, how do we Get with The Plan? The most important way is to make sure that federal, state, and local governments post authenticated, official laws online. This is where UELMA comes in.

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) is a uniform law that would require a state government to:

1) Authenticate official electronic legal materials, by providing a method to determine that it is unaltered
2) Preserve official electronic legal materials, either in electronic or print form; and
3) Make the legal materials easily accessible, for use by the public on a permanent basis.

In Oregon, 2013 HB 2944 is the first, and maybe the last, UELMA bill to be introduced this session. You can read it at the Oregon Legislature’s website - or try this direct link first: HB 2944 (PDF).  You can also follow the bill in the Legislature’s OLIS system, from which you can link to hearings, reports, and other proceedings that take place as the bill works its way through the Legislature.

UELMA has been approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and it is under consideration in ten states. It has already become law in Colorado and California.

If you want lots more information about UELMA, visit the American Association of Law Libraries website, where you will find links to the full text of the ULA’s UELMA, to UELMA bill tracking in other states, etc. You can also link directly to the NCCUSL UELMA webpage.

Previous OLR blog posts on UELMA.

Legal Research may be Easy, But You Need to Be Willing to Do a Little Work

I like this new blog: Legal Research is Easy, in part because it’s funny and in part because Legal Research is NOT Easy, which makes the blog name also very funny, or perhaps ironic. (Potential irony is too deep for me, so I’ll just enjoy the ride.)

The Horse to Water blog post describes a Q&A familiar to any public law librarian and very likely any legal aid or court support staff front-line staff member. You see, we do try to make legal research as easy as possible, but ….

Excerpt: After the law librarian shows the patron some excellent, truly excellent, research resources that would go a long way to answering the question posed:

‘…. The patron asked, “What do I do now?” I said, “You need to read it.” To which the patron replied, “Oh, that’s too much work. Why can’t you just tell me what to do?”…
.’ [Link to full Horse to Water blog post.]

Note: Public law librarians do work with patrons with reading and sight disabilities, and we do know that some people with visual disabilities will not disclose this and just keep asking us what they should do. This blog post is addressing a different problem, i.e. the person who will not do the work, not the patron who can’t do the work and who truly needs legal assistance from an attorney.

Quick and Dirty (and relatively $$ Cheap) Legal Research

Quick and Dirty Research Strategy:

1) Make an outline of your Quick and Dirty Legal Research strategy and take good notes as you proceed, especially keeping track of citations, effective keywords, and other results you find along the way.

2) Search Google or other search engine: You can find official and unofficial statutes, appellate court briefs, law review articles, case law, subject-specialist lawyer and law professor blogs, and much more.

3) Search Google Scholar: More case research – and don’t forget the “How Cited” feature.

4) Search any free legal research tool you have access to. Some public libraries and public law libraries have Fastcase, LoisLaw, or other low-cost legal research databases and many have law journal databases.

5) Last, use a full service legal research database for the “finishing” work to make sure you caught everything and for a double-dose of citator checking (KeyCite and Shepards). Many public law libraries have no-fee Public Access Lexis and Westlaw (for which they pay a hefty price so you can have it for no-fee).

No-Nonsense Law Librarian Tip:

Quick and dirty legal research is available for everyone, but, for the non-lawyer, the self-represented litigant, here’s an important warning, so take heed:

Legal analysis (and legal procedure compliance) isn’t free and it isn’t easy. It can cost you a lot, now and later, if you get it wrong.

Google and sample legal forms cannot replace 3-years of law school and the proverbial 10,000 hours of law practice. If your case matters to you, if it is serious business to you, please consult an attorney, even if you want to do some of the research yourself. And if there is a lot of money at stake, if the health and welfare of loved ones are at stake, if your liberty is at stake, PLEASE TALK TO A LAWYER.

At the very least, consult a professional law librarian to make sure you included all available legal research tools and to find out where you can find affordable attorneys to assist you.

As a wise lawyer/law librarian says to his students and library patrons: “If you read only what is written in the statutes, the cases, and the constitutions you will be absolutely wrong about what the law is.”

Beyond Google: Research Resource Guides for the Expert Searcher, Librarian, and Teacher

Take your research skills to the limit:

1) Read “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet: Conducting Effective Investigative & Legal Research on the Internet” 12th edition (as of 8/12)

2) Read: “Competitive Intelligence – A Selective Resource Guide – Completely Updated – July 2012,” by Sabrina I. Pacifici, Published on July 14, 2012:

Selected Contents:

  • Selected Engines, Web Archives, Open Data Repositories – facilitate searching Web, Blogs, News, Video and obtaining alerts
  • Open Source Research Archives and Portals
  • Federated Search
  • Blog Search and Social Media
  • News Search
  • News Search Alerts
  • Fee Based Sites and Databases
  • Free Sites – some with registration and/or fee components
  • Selected Financial Blogs
  • Selected Online People Tracking Sources
  • Television and Radio News Transcripts – including streaming audio/video
  • Legislative Monitoring and Tracking
  • E-Newsletters, Online Newspapers, Journals and News Sources
  • Monitoring Trends, Companies and Products – Selected News Aggregators, RSS Feeds, Blog Search Engines
  • Identification of Company Legal Representation
  • Selected Online Tools for Competitor Monitoring
  • Website Trackers
  • Westlaw Watch and LexisNexis Trackers
  • Benchmarking – Law, Corporate, Government, Market Data
  • Country Profiles
  • NGO Portals
  • Research Directories and Portals

UPDATED: How to Find a Case Online – using Free resources

How to Find a Case Online (using free resources)
(if you have the citation)

It isn’t always possible to use a physical reporter to locate a case using a citation.  If you don’t have access to a bound reporter, here is a quick overview of a few of your free options for locating cases online.

Free case-retrieval resources:

  • Open your internet browser
  • Type in your citation and select the “Legal documents” search option.
  • Note Google’s disclaimer for legal opinions: “Disclaimer: Legal opinions in Google Scholar are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed lawyer. Google does not warrant that the information is complete or accurate.”
  • You can also limit your search by jurisdiction.  From the search results page, use the first drop down menu to select a jurisdiction.  Alternately, you can use the Advanced Scholar Search to select specific courts to search (for example, “238 Or App 678″ with the Oregon Court of Appeals selected from the menu of jurisdictions, although that is a bit redundant).
  • Open your internet browser
  • Type in http://www.findacase.com/
  • Select a state (Oregon, for example)
  • Select the citation search option and enter your citation in the search boxes.  For example, for the citation “238 Or App 678″, you would type “238″ in the vol. # box, select “Or.App.” as the reporter, and enter “678″ for the page number.  Note: FindAcase requires you provide your zip code and answer a CAPTCHA to prove you’re human. 
  • Also of interest, when I tried the above search, only one of the top ten results was from an Oregon court, and the citation I was searching for was not among the results.  I tried searching for another case from the same volume, without any luck.  So, I tried to find a case from volume 237, 237 Or App 149, and was unsuccessful yet again.  However, I did return a relevant result when I searched for the case using the Pacific Reporter citation: 238 P3d 1016.  So, this is yet another lesson that free online case search tools are far from perfect.
  • You can find the FindACase database coverage here: http://www.findacase.com/help/library/LibCatPremium.aspx#saccontent.    
  • Open your internet browser
  • You can type your citation directly into the search box on the upper right-hand corner of the page using the “Opinions” search option.  The search yields better results if you use quotation marks (181 F3d 906 yields thousands of results, but “181 F3d 906″ yields 2, the original case and a case citing the original).
  • You can also refine your search results by the jurisdiction (9th Circuit, US Supreme Court, etc.). 
  • Note: OpenJurist appears to provide access only to Federal Court opinions, not state court opinions.
  • Open your internet browser
  • You do need to register to have full access to the PLoL database, but registration is free and is initiated the first time you click to view a case from your search results.
  • You can do a quick search by entering your citation into the search box, staying in the “Case Law” tab. For example, I searched for the Enterprise vs. Rent-A-Wreck case again using only the citation (181 F3d 906).  The search yielded one result, thankfully the correct one.
  • The advanced search options provide the ability to limit your search to a specific date range and/or jurisdiction.
  • The PLoL database has all: Supreme Court Cases; Federal Circuit Court Cases from 1950-; state Supreme and Appellate Court Cases from 1997-.

    Originally posted 6/14/11. Updated 6/22/12 to remove lexisONE.

What Do People (and Lawyers) Ask Public Law Librarians?

Have you ever wondered about the questions public law librarians are asked? Have you ever thought that answers to lawyer and non-lawyer legal questions are “all online?”

Think again!

The Oregon Special Law Library Association (ORSLA) asked the question. Read the answers (and a few samples below). Public law librarians around the country will recognize these:

• Non-attorney wanted to find out “when a particular law stopped being a law.” He has no further information other than the law involved something to do with corporate security and them not being law enforcement. We helped him find the answer to his question through legislative history research assistance both online and in print.

• Non-attorney wanted to do research on medical malpractice and believed he could not afford an attorney. Showed him how to conduct legal research on medical malpractice and provided lots of information on low and no-cost attorney assistance.

• Non-attorney needed access to Oregon Judicial Information Network for a paper he was writing for class. Logged him on and assisted with using the database.

• Attorney needed a criminal law continuing legal education deskbook chapter on a specific subject. He was in a hurry because they were “in the middle of trial and nobody was in his office.” Copied the information for him in print and emailed it to him so he could access it on his handheld mobile device in court.

• Attorney needed research assistance with foreclosing security interests. Assisted him with materials both in print and online. Emailed some needed forms to him from our database subscription service.

• Attorney looking for an Intoxylizer 5000 Student Manual. Provided him with an electronic copy sent by email and he came in later to check out the DUII Manual which had a copy of it in it in print.

• Attorney needed to look at some Oregon Revised Statutes real quick before we opened (“Pretty please!”) because he needed them for court in five minutes. Welcomed him in and copied the statutes for him because he was frazzled!

• Attorney needed assistance performing a Lexis or Westlaw search because he can’t get what he needs from FastCase. Assisted attorney using Lexis so we could email him the results he needed.

• Non-attorney wanted help with finding and filing paperwork that would give temporary guardianship of her 15 yr old daughter to a friend. Provided legal research assistance, resources, and referrals.

• Attorney wanted to know the proper citation format for an Oregon Appeals Court case. Got it for him both in print and online.

• Attorney researching property owners association law in Oregon and didn’t know where to start. Provided legal research assistance in print and online.

• Attorney (judicial clerk) needed most current edition on damages treatise because court’s version was out of date due to budget cuts. Provided updated materials and allowed them to be checked out.

• Attorney needed to see committee meetings for “1971 legislative stuff” and “couldn’t find it online.” Provided legislative history research assistance in print and microfilm.

• Attorney needed an annotated statute with only 15 minutes before court. Provided copy of annotated statute.

• Non-attorney “sent from courthouse” needing information on “how to garnish someone” (i.e. collect on their small claims judgment). Provided legal research assistance, resources and referrals

[Link to full articles.]

Services provided by Oregon county law libraries.

Services provided by other Oregon law libraries.

How to Find Oregon Appellate Court Cases

You will not find a link (as of today) to Oregon appellate court cases at the OJD Self-Help website.
You will find a link from the OJD homepage, their Appellate Case Info page, or their Publications page.
This is not a horrible thing. Really!
First, if you’re searching for a particular case, you can easily find it using one of our handy-dandy How to Find a Case Online blog posts. (Google Scholar is the fastest for this kind of search, but you might need one of the other free databases if the case is not on Google Scholar.)
Second: If you’re looking for cases on a subject, you wouldn’t use a chronological list of cases.  You need a case law database that allows you to search by keyword.  You will need to try out one of these or subscribe to a legal database yourself or visit a law library and use their print or online research tools.

Washington State and California Legal Research Tips

If you have a Washington or California state legal research or resource question, and especially if you’re new to legal research, check out that state’s law libraries legal research resources: websites, blogs, and maybe even just use the telephone!

1) Washington State has some excellent county law libraries.

2) Mary Whisner, University of Washington Law School librarian, keeps a list of Washington State Law Blogs up to date.

3) California Legal Research Guide: Locating the Law: A Handbook for Non-Law Librarians (fifth ed., 2009). See also the chapter about the difference between Legal Advice vs. Legal Information.

4) California has an incredible network of county law libraries.