Easier Access to West Academic Study Aids

It’s that time of the semester– mid-terms are here, exams are around the corner. You might be looking for a little extra help with a couple of your classes. Don’t forget the West Academic study aid e-books. With titles like Civil Procedure in a Nutshell and Acing Constitutional Law, the West Academic study aids can be valuable tools to help you prepare for class and exams. And access to the entire West Academic study aids library is easier than ever– you can now go directly to the streamlined e-book platform or click on the link on the law library’s Databases page (either way, if you are off campus, you will be prompted to enter your UM NetID). Once you are on the platform, you can login and will have access to features like highlighting and notetaking. Unlike the print copies owned by the library, there is no limit to the number of students who can use the e-books simultaneously.

Here are some of the most popular series and titles available through the West Academic Study Aids platform.

Selected Series

Acing Series

The Acing Series are exam prep books designed to teach students how to analyze exam problems using a unique checklist approach. They contain numerous problems, with answers. Titles include Acing Civil Procedure, Acing Constitutional Law, and Acing Federal Income Tax. Most 1L and 2L courses are covered in this series.

Concise Hornbooks

The Concise Hornbooks are expert-written treatises designed to analyze for students the core concepts and fundamental issues of a subject. They provide comprehensive coverage of the most important issues of a subject. A Concise Hornbook is a good companion to your textbook when you need a bit of additional explanation. The 39 titles in the series include Business Organizations, Principles of Administrative Law, and Principles of Environmental Law. The series covers most required 1L and 2L courses and many elective courses.

Exam Pro

The Exam Pro series are exam prep books that provide insight into how to answer both essay and multiple choice questions. Each book contains comprehensive sample exams with detailed explanations of the answers. Some Exam Pro topics are divided into two books, e.g., Exam Pro on Evidence: Essay Questions and Exam Pro on Evidence: Objective. Other subjects covered include Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Property, and Federal Income Tax.


The 158 titles in the Nutshell series cover every law school subject. Nutshells provide concise coverage of all the important issues of law with easy to understand explanations and references to key cases and statutes.

Short and Happy Guides

Short and Happy Guides are designed to make even complex legal subjects accessible through the use of clear explanations, metaphors, acronyms, and imagery. In addition to titles covering most 1L subjects, the Short and Happy series also includes A Short and Happy Guide to Being a Law Student, A Short and Happy Guide to Effective Client Interviewing, and A Short and Happy Guide to the MPRE.

Selected Academic Success & Career Success Titles

  • Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams
  • Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer
  • How to Write Law Exams: IRAC Perfected
  • Mastering the Law School Exam
  • Law School Secrets: Outlining for Exam Success
  • 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School

Happy studying!


Mobile Law App:Part 2 – Best Apps for Lawyers

This week guest blogger, Terry Gilham, brings us the second part of her series on mobile apps for law students and lawyers. Part 1, Best Apps for Law Students, was posted of February 19.

Keynotthumbnail of keynote logoe
For iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch ($9.99 The App Store)

Keynote is Apple’s answer to  Powerpoint for IOS devices. The Keynote iPhone app lets you create presentations from scratch or from one of several dozen included templates. You can also edit existing presentations you’ve saved to an iCloud account or to another app. It is comprehensive in mimicking the desktop experience for creating, editing, and viewing presentations.

thumbnail of trialpad logoTrialpad 4.3
For iPad ($129.99 The App Store)

Trialpad is the Litigation app for organizing and accessing evidence.  It allows for adding files via Dropbox Box, and iCloud using wi-fi or Bluetooth.  You can import photos, quickly edit documents and re-upload via Dropbox.  Reports may be created from the evidence.  Trialpad has 5 presentation tools: Callout, Highlight, Pen Redact and Laser.  It allows for 2 documents side by side for comparison.  It also includes:  Exhibit Sticker and Admitted Exhibit Features; Audio and video capabilities,  ability to mark documents and partial documents as “key documents”.  Provides courtroom presentation capability on iPad and presents wirelessly with AppleTV.

thumbnail of dockelaw logoDocketLaw
For IOS or Android devices.  Pricing is by subscription and is available by State or by Court.

An app for rule based docket calculation and calendaring.  Available for 300 courts in over 30 states.  It is Jurisdiction specific and takes into account federal holidays.  Subscribers can choose only the courts they need.  The app allows a lawyer to manage the docket from anywhere.

thumbnail of audionote logoAudioNote
For iPhone and iPad and Android devices. ($5.99 on GooglePlay, $4.99 from the App Store)

The AudioNote app allows the user to sync audio with their handwritten or typed notes.  Audio is recorded at the same time that you take handwritten or typed notes.  The app automatically indexes meetings, lectures, interviews or study sessions.  Each note acts as a link directly to the point at which it was recorded.  Features include seeking directly to audio by tapping notes; highlighting of notes during playback; and inserting text, drawings, photos and highlighter notes.

thumbnail of camcard logoCamCard
For IOS or Android devices ($6.99)

CamCard is a unique card reader mobile app rather than a physical business card scanner.  It is a convenient way to save business card contacts.  Features include the ability to pull contact information from the card and store it in a contact program file.  It automatically detects and adjusts card images.  In addition, the app can connect to your email and if Microsoft Office is installed, can export contact information to those programs.

The 25 Greatest Legal Movies

Popcorn and movie ticket
Courtesy of digitalart and freedigitalphotos.net

It’s the weekend– time to take a hike, go shopping, study, curl up with a bowl of popcorn and watch a good movie. Taking time away from law school is a good thing, but if you fear taking too much time away, why not select a good legal movie? ABA Journal has a list of the 25 best legal movies (or at least the best made before 2008).

ABA Journal selected the films by asking prominent lawyers who also taught film or had a connection to the film industry to nominate their favorite movies ever made about movies or the law. The 25 films selected collectively won 31 Oscars and gathered an additional 85 nominations. It’s a pretty impressive list. My favorites from the list include 12 Angry Men, Philadelphia, A Few Good Men, Paper Chase, and A Civil Action but I have some movie watching to do– there are more on the list that I haven’t seen than there are that I have seen. Lucky for me– and for you– the Jameson Law Library has just purchased the entire collection. Videos circulate for 3 days– perfect for the weekend.

In addition to the top 25, ABA Journal also published its list of honorable mentions. My favorites from that list include JFK, Legally Blonde, Music Box, and North Country. The library does not have all the films on this list, but we do have several and Mansfield Library also has some– check the catalog.

What are your favorite movies on the list? The list is getting a bit old now– what would you add? Comment to this post to nominate your favorites. I would nominate one that didn’t make the list– Snow Falling on Cedars– and one that is newer than the list– The Judge.

Legislative Intent Part 2 – 1987-1995

In the last blog we learned that some of the most valuable documents in determining legislative intent are the committee hearing notes. The methods of accessing these hearing notes depend on the legislative year in question. Here is a breakdown of access methods for various legislative sessions:

Prior to 1987 – Contact the State Law Library or the Montana State Historical Society – no materials are available at the Jameson Law Library.

1987 to 1995 – Microfiche available at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).

1997 – Electronic access at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).

1999 to the present – Online.

We have already covered 1999 to the present. 1997 represents a special case where the documents are available at the law library – the best thing to do if you need committee hearing notes from 1997 is to contact a Jameson law library staff member.

Because we will no longer be dealing with documents that are available online, the following discussion will be limited to the holdings of the Jameson Law Library on the UM Campus. Other documents and other means of access are available from the State Law Library of Montana as outlined in The Montana Legislative History Research Guide.


Accessing committee hearings through microfiche uses many of the tools that we learned about in the last blog: committee names, hearing dates, and bill numbers. The difference is in how these items are located and how the documents are accessed. Here is an example of a law that was amended in 1987, 1995, 1997. Let’s look into the 1995 amendment.

16-2-301. Retail selling price on table wine — tax on certain table wine. (1) The retail selling price at which table wine is sold at an agency liquor store is as determined by the agent.
(2) In addition to the tax on wine assessed under 16-1-411, there is a tax of 1 cent a liter on table wine sold by a table wine distributor to an agent as described in subsection (1). This additional tax must be paid to the department by the distributor in the same manner as the tax under 16-1-411 is paid. The department shall deposit the tax paid under this section in the general fund.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “table wine” does not include hard cider.

History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 699, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 629, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 27, Ch. 530, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 399, L. 1997.

The first step is to determine the bill that amended this law. To locate the bill information we consult the Legislative Review 1995 (REF KFM9015 L43 1995) and look at the “Summary of Provisions by Chapter” section. Chapters are listed in numeric order so looking at chapter 530 tells us that HB574 was the bill that amended this law in 1995.

1995 leg review

The next step is to look at the history of HB 574 located in the “House Bills and Resolutions” section of 1995 History and Final Status (REF KFM9015 A24 1995).     The History and Final Status will provide us with the committee names, and hearing dates that we need to navigate the microfiche.

1995 hist and final status

From the History and Final Status of HB 574, we learn that the bill was referred to the House Business and Labor Committee and that a hearing was held on 3/2/95. HB 574 was then referred to the Senate Committee on Business and Labor and a hearing was held on 3/21/95. A complete search for indications of legislative intent would include looking at all available testimony, exhibits, discussions, committee reports and executive actions. In practice many people limit their search to the committee hearings and executive actions (often contained in the committee report).

We now have what we need to begin navigating the microfiche. The microfiche is organized by year, then by House or Senate, then by committee name. On any given piece of microfiche, documents are arranged in chronological order and roughly grouped by bill number. The microfiche and reader at the Jameson Law Library are located on the north wall.

For example, looking at the House Business and Labor Committee fiche that covers 3/2/95, we find the following hearing notes (plus six more pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).

house hearing march 2

Looking at the Senate Committee on Business and Industry fiche that covers 3/21/95 we find the following hearing notes (plus nine additional pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).

senate hearing march 22

To see the executive actions on this bill from these committees, we would simply move through the microfiche to the Committee Report dates provided in the History and Final Status entry: March 7 for the House committee, and March 21 for the Senate committee.

In conclusion, although some people shy away from microfiche based legislative intent questions, it’s really not that bad. It takes a little longer and you have to come to the library to do a fiche based search for legislative intent but the procedure is essentially the same as a web based search.

In the Jameson Law Library the microfiche is located on the north wall. The Montana Legislative Committee Reports are in the light blue cabinet. The microfiche reader instructions are on top of the  microfiche reader.

What to Write About

question markYou have to write a paper and so far you’ve gotten as far as “what should I write about?”  It’s still the beginning of the semester, so you’re okay, but you need to find a topic soon.  If you’re still stuck on the first step, here are a few hints.

First, think about your paper as more than an assignment.  True, you wouldn’t be writing it if it weren’t an assignment and you will be receiving a grade for work, but more than that, you have the opportunity to add important ideas to the body of legal discourse.  You should be looking for a topic that is novel — you shouldn’t just be summarizing what everyone else has already said but pick a topic that you can say something new about.

Regardless of the topic you choose, you will learn something about the law you didn’t know before and think about the law in a way you never contemplated — your professor knows this; it’s why you were assigned the paper in the first place.  This paper will add something to how you practice law.

Second, write about something that really interests you.  Before you commit to a topic, think about it for a little while, discuss it with your classmates and friends.  If you find yourself getting excited when you talk about it, it’s probably a good topic.  On the other hand, if your mind starts to wander as soon as you sit down to research or you come up with a series of excuses not to start your research, consider finding a new topic, one that sparks your interest more than any of those excuses.

Good advice, but still, where do you find that magic topic?  Start with what you know.  You did something before you came to law school — had a job, a career, studied a subject other than law.  You have hobbies and interests.  For example, you’re an artist — think about intellectual property; you’re a scientist — how do courts treat scientific evidence; an athlete — international sports law.

Talk to your professors, either the one who assigned the paper or one who teaches a subject you’re interested in.  They will know what’s going on in their areas of law, where the controversies are and what’s being discussed on the listservs and blogs.  They can help you take a germ of an idea and turn it into a paper topic, or narrow a broad topic into a concise thesis.

What’s going on in town?  In the state?  In the region?  Read or watch the news.  What makes you yell at the television or puzzle at how something will be resolved?  There are plenty of news stories that are directly legal and plenty of others with legal aspects.

Congress, your state legislature, and your city council are probably up to something, whether it’s something that you support or something you absolutely disagree with.  Congress, state legislatures and even city councils have websites you can look at to track current legislation.  The Library of Congress’s new Congress.gov website is a great place to start researching federal legislation.  In Montana, the legislature meets only every-other year and won’t be in session again until Jan. 2015, but you can research what they did at their last session (and other previous sessions) on the Montana Legislature website.  Legislative hearings are a great way to understand the multiple sides of an issue — likely there will be at least one side you agree with and one that drives you nuts.

See what lawyers are talking about.  If you work at a law firm, ask the lawyers there for an idea — chances are, there are unanswered questions they have been considering.  The American Bar Association sections all have websites with various resources that might make you start thinking about an issue.

If you’re still baffled, peruse legal news and current awareness sources.  Here are a few:

And if after all that you still don’t know what to write about, go visit with your librarian.  We have new books, newsletters, journals, databases, all of which are full of interesting legal issues and controversies.

Selecting a topic and formulating a thesis is part of the writing process; instead of being frustrated by it, think about what you’re learning just by digging into the law.

HeinOnline Now Linking to Case Law Via Fastcase


pp-blueIt’s always great when we can pass along good news and do we have some good news for you!  Now you can link to case law from publications in HeinOnline.  Look for case citations that are highlighted in blueClick on the citation and you will link to the case in either HeinOnline or Fastcase.

Fastcase?  What’s that?

Fastcase is perhaps best known for providing legal research services to 25 state bar associations (and in the near future to the State Bar of Montana) and dozens of voluntary bar associations — and now as the power house that helps integrate case law into HeinOnline.

What’s the case law coverage?

      • Federal cases include:
        • Supreme Court (1854 – present)
        • Federal Circuits (1924 – present)
        • Federal District Courts (1924 – present)
        • Board of Tax Appeals (vols 1-47)
        • Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (vols 1-59)
        • U.S. Customs Court (vols. 1-70)
        • Board of Immigration Appeals (1996 – present)
        • Federal Bankruptcy Courts (1 B.R. 1 – present)
      • State case law:
        • Covers all 50 states, with nearly half dating back to the 1800s.
        • Coverage for the remaining states dates back to approximately 1950.

When do you link to cases on HeinOnline versus Fastcase?

HeinOnline case law includes early editions of the Federal Reporter (1891 to 1922) and U.S. Supreme Court Reports.  Whenever possible, you will link to a case in HeinOnline.  When the case law is not included on HeinOnline, you will link to the case on Fastcase.  You’ll notice a difference in the format between the two.  See below.fastcasescreenshotweb

   But wait … there’s more …

You can also retrieve case law by citation on HeinOnline.  Look for the Fastcase tab at the top of the HeinOnline home page screen.  Click on the tab to open a citation search box.  You can copy and paste a citation directly into the search box.

fastcase-tab-pic2There is also a “Direct Citation” option, which allows you to type in the volume, use a drop-down menu for the case abbreviation, and enter the page number to find your citation.  To use Direct Citation, click on the Fastcase tab, but do not enter anything into the search box — instead, click “Get Citation.”  On the screen that appears, the Direct Citation option appears at the top left.  See below.

Fastcase-direct-citationBoth options retrieve the full text of the case in HTML format and can be downloaded to a PDF or printed.

Anything else you need to know?

Cases do not come with headnotes.  Nor can you “Shepardize” the cases.  However, you do receive a list of articles (if any) that cite to that particular case.

Tell me again, how do I access HeinOnline?

To access HeinOnline for your research, go to the Law Library Databases link on the Law Library webpage and select HeinOnline from the list.

All in One Place — Finding Calls for Papers and More

medium_3633878845Have you ever noticed that it’s not all that unusual to find several different car dealerships pretty much side by side along a certain stretch of road?  I asked someone once why this was so.  The reason given was that it benefits both buyers and dealers.  Buyers are lured by having a lot of options in basically once place and dealers end up with more buyers coming through their doors as a result.  When it comes to locating options for scholarly writing the same idea applies — it’s the best of all possible worlds when you can find several options in one place rather than having to hunt down individual Calls for Papers, Conferences, Symposia and the like.

In this post we offer a selection of websites that maintain lists of Calls for Papers and other scholarly writing opportunities for law faculty — and law students.

A word to students interested in scholarly writing opportunities:  In the sites below, you may have to search a bit harder to find opportunities especially for students.  But note:  Cal Western has a site devoted just to student writing competitions.  More on this site at the end of the post.

Keeping in line with the idea of congregating similar products in one area, we’ve included a linked list to each of these sites on our blog for you.  Look in the right column of our blog for “Calls for Papers & More.”  No need to search for this post again or to bookmark anything … well, except for bookmarking our blog site!

Legal Scholarship Blog

One reason why I like this site is because it offers the option to search by area of law, something you won’t find elsewhere.  Other features include:

  • Colloquia Series — list of colloquiums, some of which offer student or junior scholar opportunities
  • Grants — a list of organizations, agencies, and societies providing support for research, project, and teaching opportunities.
  • Research Dean — links to information on law review submissions, law review studies, articles on legal scholarship, research deans, and writing abstracts
  • Teaching — loads of information for prospective law professors and current law professors alike  (categories within include: general information, diversity, fellowships, process, casebooks, examinations, evaluation, pedagogical technology, technique & theory)

Legal Scholarship Network

From the folks at SSRN, this is a clean, no -frills website list.  Within categories, postings are listed by submission deadline date.  A small drawback — you can’t select by area of law.  Use the linked categories at the top of the page to go directly to the type of opportunity you are interested in.  The categories:

  • Calls for Papers and Participants–Conferences
  • Calls for Papers–Research Projects/Proposals
  • Calls for Papers–Journals & Books
  • Call for Applicants — Academic Programs
  • Awards, Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships Available

Calling All Papers!

The University of Georgia Law Library maintains this list of Calls for Papers and Journals and Conferences/Symposia.  The default opening list is by date posted to the website and provides all details about an opportunity.  But, you can view a quick, unexpanded list by looking at the archive list in the right column and you can narrow your search by date using the calendar by clicking on dates that are underscored.

The Faculty Lounge Blog

As part of its conversations about law, culture, and academia, The Faculty Lounge Blog includes a category devoted to Calls for Papers.  Again, opportunities are listed by date posted to the website.  Each post contains a brief description of the opportunity with a link to additional information.

AALS Workshops & Conferences

The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) posts upcoming workshops and conferences they sponsor, which generally include calls for papers.  Events posted extend far into the future, giving you the opportunity for advanced planning.  Links to details may not always be available for events that extend beyond the next few months.

Just for Students: Cal Western-Student Writing Competitions

Opportunities are organized by title, topic, and submission deadline.  Simply click on the column header to sort by that column. For more information on a particular competition, click on its title.

Photo via morgueFile