New Tools: LearnLeo

LearnLeo is an online platform that allows students to categorize case information and organize briefs and outlines easily.  It estimates that it saves law students on average of ten hours of work per week.

LearnLeo allows students to highlight passages and choose colors that correspond with sections of their case (issue, holding, etc.).  Students can also annotate each case.  After students finish reading, highlighting and annotating the case, they can see their notes in a brief format that is both printable and easy to read.

learnleoCurrently, students from the top 20 U.S. law schools have full access to LearnLeo, but students from unaffiliated law schools still have access to 13,000 cases in the LearnLeo library.  And it’s free, so it’s worth at least checking out!

All the Fun Facts about the Bluebook

bluebookWell, maybe not all of them.

The Bluebook citation guidebook is introduced to every law student and has become synonymous, in good and bad ways, with American legal education.  Many see it as the bane of their first year existence, while others, usually Journalers, grow to appreciate and even love the guide.  So, in the spirit of having nothing better to write about in the middle of the steamy South Carolina summer, here are some interesting facts about everyone’s favorite legal manual.


  1. Erwin N. Griswold created the first Bluebook as a 26-page manual for Harvard Law Review footnotes. Griswold was a lowly second year student at the time.
  2. The Bluebook was not originally blue.  Its first cover was “grayish olive” and the next four editions were brown.  In 1939, the cover changed to a more patriotic blue, perhaps as “an attempt to disassociate with the brown worn by the Nazi troops.”
  3. The 11th edition, published in 1976, was actually white with a blue border and unofficially called the “white book.” I think this was probably an attempt by the Bluebook editors to copy The Beatles “White Album” which similarly substituted the color of its coverings for the actual title of the album.  This is, of course, total speculation.
  4. The fourth (1934) was the first used outside Harvard. Columbia, Harvard, Penn, and Yale jointly published the version.
  5. As late as 1976, the Bluebook was still shrouded in obscurity. One reviewer bemoaned that “(t)he popular press has ignored the new edition of the Blue Book, and the literary establishment considers the book closed even before it has been opened. Not since the St. Louis Browns played their last game has so much labor produced so little public acclaim or public interest . . . .”
  6. Even the four schools that produce the Bluebook do not always agree on style. There even seems to be some behind the scenes bickering between the schools about institutional interpretation and customization (scandalous, right?).
  7. Not every legal mind appreciates the Bluebook.  Judge Posner in particular once wrote “The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.”   Posner instead provides his clerks with his own guide which is reproduced in the article below.

For more information, see A. Darby Dickerson, An Un-Uniform System of Citation: Surviving with the New Bluebook, 26 Stetson L. Rev. 53, 58-60 (1996).

Judge Posner’s critique on the Bluebook available at The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850 (2011).

What are 50 State Surveys and How Can They Help You?

Have you ever had a professor to ask you how all fifty states have legislated a particular issue?  Then, 50 State Surveys are the tool for you!  Rather than sifting through fifty state codes trying to find what a state says on a particular issue, see if you can find a 50 State Survey.


50statesurveysWestlaw has them for both state statutes and state regulations.  Once you identify whether you want statutes or regulations, Westlaw takes you to a topical list.  If you were interested in the marriage age requirements in all 50 states, you would select Family Law, and then find the Marriage Age Requirements

Inside, you will find a report providing the citations for each of the state codes, saving you the time you would send browsing an index or trying to formulate a keyword search for each jurisdiction.  There will usually also be a summary at the top of the page.  In Westlaw, keycite flags are also provided to let you know whether the law has been repealed, recently amended, etc.; make sure you check this before going on to the attached State by State Analysis report (a PDF in the top left corner).  This opens up a handy chart summarizing what each state says on the particular issue.

Lexis Advance

To find 50 state surveys in Lexis, start typing “50 state surveys” in the red search bar.  LexisNexis 50 State Surveys, Statutes & Regulations will be an option.  Select the Table of Contents.50statesurveyslexisThis brings up a topical list that you can browse through, or search using the Narrow By feature on the left hand side.  If you want to look up Housing Discrimination Law, you would look under Civil Rights Law and then select Protection of Rights > Housing Discrimination.  In Lexis, there will be an overview, followed by a chart describing state treatment of that legal issue.


Cool Tools: The Constitute Project

ConstituteProject3In the past few years, new constitutions have emerged in a number of countries, including Egypt, South Sudan, and Libya, to name just a few.  Constitutions are very frequently composed based on other countries’ constitutions, and there’s a neat new comparative tool that allows used to see side-by-side comparisons of Constitutions.

The Constitute Project contains English versions of most nation states, as well as a few in Arabic.  You can search by topic for constitutions that include a provision on a certain subject area.   For example, if you were interested in finding those constitutions that guarantee equality regardless of sexual orientation, you would select Rights and Duties from the list of topics, this would open up a number of categories within that broad area.  To find equality regardless of sexual orientation, you would select Equality, Gender, and Minority Rights.  Under that category, there are a list of specific provisions that can be found in some national constitutions.


Then, from the list of results, you can select which constitutions you want to compare.  You can select up to eight countries to compare, and then select two to view side-by-side.  When you pick those countries, it will highlight the sections of the constitutions having to do with the topic you selected.


For those doing international legal research, it’s an invaluable tool for both finding provisions on a specific topic.  For those trying to write a constitution, it would be an extremely helpful aid by allowing the user to compare constitutional provisions on various topics.

Feeling Blue?

bluebookNever fear!  The new 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation that we’ve been hearing for a while was going to come out this spring has finally arrived.  Yes, some of us here in the library are ridiculously excited about this!!!!  Okay, probably really just me, Professor Drake!  We’ve ordered new copies to replace all the 19th editions (which rolled out after my first year of law school) in various locations in the library.

When you buy The Bluebook in print, you will receive a free trial to the Bluebook online.  If you already have subscription access to the electronic version, you will be able to view the new edition online.

You might wonder what the major changes have been included in this shiny, new edition.  Awesome law librarian Janelle Beitz has put together a list of the differences between the 19th and 20th editions on Google Drive.  It’s definitely worth taking a look at.

A few things that stood out to me:

1)  The typeface rules have been relaxed to align with practitioner used of large and small caps.

Prof. Drake’s awesome I <3 the Bluebook mug.

2)  As expected, new material was added to Rule 18, which deals with the citation of electronic resources, including how to format citations for e-books and how to cite social media platform posts.

3)  The new version of the Bluebook retains its preference for print editions for certain citations, including the date of statutory code volumes, but allows for the use of online newspapers as a substitute for print.

Order your new copy today!  Then, if you’re a Bluebook nerd like me, you can spend a few hours tabbing it!  :)

Career Resources in Bloomberg Law

All law students know the stress of prepping for exams, often while multitasking to find a summer job.  While you’re all aware of the many exam prep resources available in or through the library (study aids, flash cards, CALI lessons!), did you know that your Bloomberg account can help you prepare to find and succeed at your summer job?

Bloomberg’s Career Resources Center has information on how to find connections at the places you want to interview, how to rock your interview, and how to be an awesome summer associate.

To find the Career Resources Center, look under the Law School Success heading, just under the Getting Started section on your Bloomberg homepage, and select the Career Resources link.


Inside the Career Resources Center, you will find sections in Interview Preparation Help, Networking Tips, Job Search Tips on Resumes & Cover Letters, and Summer Associate & Internship Success Tips.  There are also tools to help you research judges, attorneys, and firms to find out more about the people and places with whom you want to interview.  Of particular value is the People Search, which allows you to search for alumni from U.S.C.

For example, you could do a search of people who went U.S.C. who are now judges.


The list of results will bring up a list of judges who are U.S.C. School of Law Alumni.  Having a connection like this can help you immensely in your job search.  Of course, you can also run this search using your undergraduate Alma mater or any other number of factors.

Many of the articles on job searches, networking, and succeeding as a summer associate are written by hiring managers at law firms, who know first hand what makes an interviewee or a summer clerk stand out in a good way–or a bad way.

Good luck with your job hunt and your summer work experiences–you got this!


Oral Arguments


It’s that time of year again.  The weather is warming, the flowers are blooming, the allergy sufferers are suffering, and the IL students at the University of South Carolina School of Law have just turned in the final draft of their spring writing assignment.  This assignment stands as one of the major milestones of the first year of law school.  It is a big accomplishment and should be celebrated accordingly.  However, once this assignment is in, it also means it’s time to grab your suit, head to the courtroom, and start oral arguments.

Every former law student remembers his or her IL oral arguments.  Most think back and remember two things: 1) how well they did and 2) their classmates’ misplaced and overwhelming anxiety.  I remember one of my law school classmates in particular, who was raised on a rural Pennsylvania farm, pacing back and forth in front of the courtroom doors muttering to himself, “What are you doing?  Why didn’t you just stay at home with the sheep?  You should have just stayed with the sheep.”

Regardless of your stance on public speaking and oral arguments, it’s important to realize that they are something you’re going to have to do. Trying to get better is certainly better than languishing in your own self-doubt and fear.  So, on that note, here are some great videos on improving your oral argument and public speaking skill.  Nothing is going to help you as much as practicing, but a few tips and tricks never hurt anyone.


Legal Twitter

Everyone knows the old adage “you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?”  Interestingly enough, the phrase is often flipped for lawyers.  Anyone with $200 and a good tailor can look, or “walk” like a lawyer.  “Talking” or being familiar with the important issues of the legal profession is a what can be a real challenge.  With the current glut of legal publications, it is nearly impossible for practicing attorneys and law students to keep up with professional news. However, a little know how and a little social media can go a long way in keeping you up to date.

Enter Twitter.  Twitter is often unfairly stigmatized by its association with pop musicians, entitled athletes, and 14 year old girls.  What many outside the current generation don’t realize is that it is also an excellent way to keep up with professional news.  Many legal information outlets tweet important breaking legal news.  Magazines and newspapers use twitter to promote their longer articles, making twitter an effective way to quickly see what kinds of legal news is being discussed.  Even the Supreme Court has a twitter account that tweets out links to recently decided cases ( @USSupremeCourt ).

Want to learn more?  Check out the link below for suggestions on good accounts to follow.


Resources You’ll Want to Know: Jurisprudence

jurisprudenceOHCHR Jurisprudence is a new database from the UN Human Rights Office providing access to jurisprudence coming from the United Nations Treaty Bodies that receive and consider complaints from individuals:

  • the Human Rights Committee
  • the Committee Against Torture
  • the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
  • the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • the Committee on Enforced Disappearances
  • the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and
  • the Committee on the Rights of the Child

The database is “intended to be a single source of the human rights recommendations and findings issued by” the above committee, allowing researchers to search “the vast body of legal interpretation of international human rights law as it has evolved over the past years.”  It could also be a helpful tool for those trying to prepare complaints to be submitted to one of the committees.

Researchers can do a basic keyword search, or can use the advanced search functionality, which provides a series of filters that researchers can use to narrow their results.

jurisprudencekeywordsearch AM

Resources You’ll Want to Know: Fastcase

A recent article entitled “The 10 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2014” notes that value companies, such as Fastcase and Casemaker, are beginning to be more widely used by larger firms.  The article notes that “larger firms are encouraging associates to use them for routine case law and statutory research.”  This is probably in part due to their lower costs and the fact that Fastcase and Casemaker are sometimes provided for free to dues-paying members of state bar associations.

South Carolina is one such state, recently making the switch from Casemaker to Fastcase.  To try out Fastcase and start getting familiar with it, select “Law Library Electronic Resources” from the library’s homepage.  Fastcase is listed under Legal Search Engines Research on the left hand side.  fastcase

For some videos on how to use Fastcase, select Tutorials under Help Options on the Fastcase homepage.  You can sign up for a webinar training or watch short videos on the basics of using Fastcase.