Archive for June, 2009

Form a Successful Competitive Intelligence Team in Your Law Firm

The economic downturn has made business and competitive intelligence more important than ever for law firms. The library and marketing departments need to work side by side to achieve both the short- and long-term strategic goals of the firm. Attend Competitive Intelligence: Working Side by Side with Marketing on July 15, from 12-1 p.m. (EST), as a panel of competitive intelligence experts present case studies and explain how to work collaboratively in managing the expectations of all parties involved in intelligence collection and application.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • How the library/research, CI, and marketing departments interrelate in law firm strategic initiatives and how to help make the relationship successful
  • How the library, marketing, and KM teams can work together to support practice group initiatives for business development and client retention
  • How library/research as well as marketing/business development collaborate to provide the firm with the tools to grow its business in this challenging market

Register by July 9 at 5 p.m. (CST).

July issue of Spectrum online

Professional Development – Better Interviewing

Here’s a web based opportunity for both interviewers and interviewees to become more effective using today’s techniques.

Taking a Different Look at Your Career? Be Prepared. Suceed.

People seeking new and different career opportunities must re-think old strategies and embrace new career-shaping strategies to succeed in today’s economy. Join the upcoming AALL webinar, Preparing for the Next Step in your Career, on June 26, at 12 p.m. Eastern, to learn valuable information from an expert in the recruitment industry and an expert in law libraries/legal information:

  • Close skill gaps and cultivate your talents
  • Market your resume and abilities
  • Succeed in a competency/behavior-based interview

Register by June 22.

Unleash Your Inner Leader

Learn how to maximize your unique skills and talents and unleash your inner leader by attending the 2009 AALL Leadership Academy, October 16-17, at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Law librarians, train for leadership roles by acquiring both the self-awareness and strategies you need to emerge as a leader within your organization and the profession. Academy participants will use self-assessment tools, group exercises, case studies, and skill practice to develop key signatures of leadership. Selected fellows will participate in pre-engagement exercises, be matched with a mentor, and receive ongoing leadership development opportunities.

Applications are due by June 30. Apply today!

Testing for Legal Research Skills on the Bar Exam: Are the Bar Examiners Ready?

By Blair Kauffman, Yale Law Library

An ever growing amount of attention is being given to the idea of testing for legal research skills on bar exams, and perhaps this is finally an idea whose time has come. This proposal has been kicked around by law librarians for a number of years. Barbara Bintliff raised it as an issue during her AALL presidency at the turn-of-the-century, in 2001, and the late Roy Mersky claimed to have been pushing for it long before then. Following Barbara’s lead, Claire Germain got it off the ground several years later when she assumed the AALL presidency in 2005, and appointed a Special Committee on Fostering Legal Research as a Subject Specialty, which I chaired. This committee helped advance the idea further by working directly with the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). The NCBE’s Executive Director, Erica Moeser, enthusiastically arranged a summit at NCBE headquarters to discuss the feasibility of testing for research skills through one of the tests administered by the NCBE. A half dozen law library directors attended this session, including Steve Barkan who followed up with a fuller description of the proposal in his article appearing in the Law Library Journal. See Steven M. Barkan, Should Legal Research Be Included on the Bar Exam? An Exploration of the Question, 99 Law Library Journal 403 (2007). A subsequent article, co-authored with by Steve with Erica Moeser and others, will soon be published in Legal Reference Services Quarterly. See Steven M. Barkan, Susan M. Case, Michael Kane, and Erica Moeser, Testing for Research Competency on the Bar Exam: Next Steps, forthcoming in Legal Reference Services Quarterly (2009). Also, Erica will be one of the panelists speaking at this summer’s AALL at a session entitled “Legal Research Questions on the Bar Exam: Preparing Our Students.”

In late April, I had an opportunity to address the National Conference of Bar Examiners at its annual meeting, in Baltimore, and was able to gage first hand how receptive the state bar examiners are to the idea of testing for research skills. I was given a prime slot at this meeting, appearing as the last speaker of the first plenary panel during the opening session. Our panel was addressing the topic of “What Every New Lawyer Should Know.” As luck would have it, each of speaker set the stage for my final punch by making my point in a less direct manner. For example, the first speaker stressed that new lawyers must be able to write clearly and succinctly. Of course we all know that lack of clear and succinct writing is very often directly related to not being able to accurately research the law. If you don’t know what you are writing about, it’s impossible to write clearly and succinctly. Another panelist spoke more generally about the need for more practical skills training, and again we all know that the most basic of lawyer skills is proficiency at legal research. The penultimate speaker was more direct and clearly stated that legal research was a skill every new lawyer needed to master. This warmed up the audience for my four questions, which I assumed would lead to a resounding call that we begin immediately to devise a set of bar questions testing for legal research skills. While this isn’t how it played out in the end, my sense is that we are well on our way.

I began by asking the audience four questions: (1) How many of you think legal research is an essential skill with which every new lawyer should be proficient? (2) How many of you think most new lawyers are proficient legal researchers? (3) How many of you think there is a direct correlation between what law students study and learn and what is tested on the bar? And lastly, (4) How many of you think legal research is a subject that should be tested on the bar exam? My thought was that the logic of placing these questions in this order would lead the audience to a resounding conclusion that we should all begin working on a mechanism for testing for legal research skills. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the result, but I did leave the conference feeling we are making steady progress in this direction, and thanks to the help of the NCBE leadership we likely will see movement on this issue soon.

The answer to my first question – should all new lawyers should be proficient legal researchers – was answered with a sea of hands speaking yes! Bar examiners are with law librarians on this issue, agreeing legal is an essential skill in which all new lawyers should be demonstrably proficient. However, the response to my next question – whether the new lawyers we are now admitting are generally competent legal researchers resulted in only a small number of hands reaching up. Clearly, most bar examiners don’t have a clue whether the new lawyers they are admitting are competent at performing legal research skills, and with no testing for this admittedly critical lawyerly skill, who could they know otherwise? At least the bar examiners are giving honest answers to these questions.

My third question – how many think there is a direct correlation between what is tested for on the bar and what is taught in the law schools – drew a more enthusiastic raising of hands. Results of the annual U.S. New & World Report ranking of law schools had just been published, so who could think otherwise about this question knowing bar results factor so clearly into these rankings and that deans lose their jobs on the ebb and flow of their law school’s standing in this often criticized but heavily followed publication.

I was a little disappointed by the response to my last question but key question about how many thought legal research should be something tested for on the bar exam. Only a smattering of hands were raised to answer this question in the affirmative. But as a told the audience, I wasn’t entirely surprised by their skepticism on this issue. Those of us who had spent much more time addressing the issue had at first struggled with the idea of how to test of research skills, and even true believers thought there were obstacles to doing this well. Some initially thought that effective testing of legal research skills would require access to a law library or a select set of research materials, and others thought it would require the use of computers, but as my former Dean Harold Koh is fond of saying, “this is the case of the best being the enemy of the good.” Legal research testing can be adequately tested as a part of the existing Multistate Bar Examination, administered by the NCBE by simply allocating some 10 or so of the current 200 questions to legal research. This would be sufficient to make legal research a proper component of the bar exams using in all of the states and better align these tests with the real skills all new lawyers need to master before being admitted to the practice of law.

My conversation with conference participants over the next two days of the NCBE annual meeting leads me to believe there is growing support for this concept. I queried as many participants as I could botton hole and did not find anyone who disagreed with the idea that we should move forward with developing a method for testing legal research skills on the bar exam.

I imagine we will all be hearing more about testing for legal research skills in the near future and that the NCBE will continue to take a leadership role along with with law librarians on this issue. We should all look forward to hearing Erica Moeser speak on this matter at the coming AALL annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Book Review: The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions, Second Edition

The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions, Second Edition. Kermit L. Hall and James W. Ely Jr., Editors.  Oxford University Press, 2009.  ($35.00 | 499 pages | Hardcover: 978-0-19-537939-6).

The first edition of The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions has been a reference staple in law libraries for over a decade. Edited by the late Kermit Hall, it contains summaries of the 400 most notable Supreme Court cases. The new edition with James Ely at the helm is an obvious update, with the addition of fifty cases from the Court’s recent terms. The tried and true format remains, and this second edition will rightfully find its way to almost as many law libraries as the first one has.

Case summaries are listed alphabetically. Both a party name index and a topical index appear at the end of the book, along with a bibliography for further research on particular topics. The rest of the appendix is composed of materials every law library already possesses several times over. There is a quick history of Supreme Court appointments (i.e. date of nomination/confirmation, nominating president, etc.), a short glossary of basic legal terms, and the text of the United States Constitution.

Each case summary includes basic information like the official citation (unless unavailable, in which case unofficial citations are substituted), argument and decision dates, the voting lineup, and a breakdown of opinions, concurrences, and dissents. This is followed by several paragraphs giving the case’s background, the holding, and the significance of the case’s impact. These succinct capsules contain just enough information to jog the memory of a forgetful student or hold the researcher over until she has time to consult the full opinion firsthand. The case summaries are signed by their respective authors, the ranks of whom consist largely of law professors.

Over 160 of these individuals lent their time and (frequently notable) names to the case summaries, and the quality is readily apparent. They reliably explain the important points of complicated Supreme Court cases with an economy of words. With the additional case summaries, no drop in quality, and a relatively low price of thirty-five dollars, most libraries already possessing the first edition will probably purchase the second to keep their collections more current. Nevertheless, I can think of one heretical reason a cash-strapped library might forgo this new volume.

Wikipedia has rapidly growing coverage of Supreme Court cases. As in the Oxford Guide, these cases can be found by searching party name or topic. Wikipedia’s coverage of recent cases is broader and more current than that of the Oxford Guide. Wikipedia articles on these cases contain all the information that can be found in the Oxford Guide and more. In fact, its relative glut of information compared to the Oxford Guide would be its largest drawback for some users. Wikipedia is a more natural research tool for law students and younger attorneys, though, who will find skimming its articles for the relevant information a familiar and no more time-consuming process. Taking this into account, the most important remaining advantage the Oxford Guide has is the authority brought by its cadre of authors.  This is more than enough reason for most law libraries to purchase it.

Reviewed by Jacob Sayward, Serials Librarian at Fordham Law’s Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library

Book Review: Gray Markets: Prevention, Detection and Litigation, by David R. Sugden

Sugden, David R. Gray Markets: Prevention, Detection and Litigation.  Oxford U. Press, 2009.  ($185.00 | 360 pages | 9780195371291).

David Sugden, author of Gray Markets, is a partner at Call, Jensen & Ferrell in California, where he specializes in intellectual property litigation and brand protection.  In this book, Sugden writes about the “gray market,” so-named because it hovers between the legal market and the black market.  Sugden’s book is one of the only books on this topic, and its comprehensiveness makes it an attractive purchase for both academic and law firm libraries.  I would especially recommend this book to any firm that deals with matters such as trademark and copyright issues. 

Sugden’s book has four parts. The introduction provides an overview of the gray market, including examples of its effect on a variety of industries.  The gray market, in its essence, can be described as “goods diverted from a brand owners’ authorized sale channel.” A distributor may legally buy a product at a reduced or wholesale price, and then resell it at a higher price, often in a different market.  If the resale value undercuts the brand’s official price point in a given market, the distributor will earn a profit, and the brand will presumably lose a sale.  For example, Omega manufactured and sold watches to authorized distributors overseas.  Those watches eventually made their way to Costco, who sold them in California.  While Omega authorized the original transaction, it did not authorize the importation of the watches into the United States, nor the sales made by Costco.  This portion of the book also provides the reader with information on other consequences of the gray market, such as loss of tax revenue for states. 

In Parts II and III, Sugden focus on prevention and monitoring.  He discusses how things can go wrong for businesses in the distribution chain, and he describes steps businesses must take to claim damages or demonstrate how their products are materially different from products found on the gray market.  The portion on monitoring discusses warning flags and ways to detect gray market activity.  Not only does Sugden give recommendations for monitoring, but he also provides case analysis for practitioners to understand the legal ramifications for their actions and advice.  He includes a great deal of case law in these two parts of the book, and both sections offer practical advice for attorneys.

The final section describes how businesses should react to the discovery of gray market activity.  Sugden discusses preliminary activities that businesses should take; how to pursue the case in court, if at all; and recommendations on how to handle the potential problem of destruction of evidence in a civil suit.  His analysis of recovery is particularly useful in Part IV.  He offers six different theories of liability, each in their own chapter.  Each chapter then discusses how the theories would apply to the gray market, provides affirmative defenses under those theories, and states what remedies are available.  Sugden pays special attention to copyright and trademark laws.

The book is similar to a law review article: it is written in an outline format and has ample discussion of case law.  It also follows the traditional pattern of identifying a problem, explaining the importance of the problem, and advancing solutions to that problem.  His outline format is problematic in that he does not transition well from one topic to the next.  He rarely provides introductions to the chapters.  The reader is unsure of how the different components relate to one another and fit into the scheme of the chapter as a whole.

Despite this drawback, the book would make an excellent addition to any law firm, particularly one that works with trademark and copyright issues.  The book is comprehensive, but brief enough to function as a guide for practitioners.  The book would also make a good addition to an academic law library, primarily for his advancement of different theories in Part IV. 

Reviewed by Ryan Harrington, Reference Librarian, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library

June 2009

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