Passing the Bar

pass the bar2

The law library owns a board game called Passing the Bar: A Game of Legal Reasoning. The game is based on current multistate legal reasoning and is meant to be an interesting supplement to other study materials. The idea is that you can prepare for the bar exam and have a little fun at the same time.

Like other popular board games this one has a set of dice, a timer, a piece that is moved around the board and, of course, a bunch of cards with questions that must be answered correctly. Most of the cards contain a multiple choice question from one of seven legal topics that are also required law school courses: torts, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, professional responsibility, property, and evidence. There is also a Justice deck of cards that includes legal trivia and game changing events like Lose a Turn, Go Back Two Spaces and Repeat a Topic.

The game reviews well and is often described as fun, thought provoking, entertaining, educational and so on. (

Passing the Bar is not for everyone however. One review said it was boring and another pointed out that it is not suited to those with no legal training or background ( ). It seems to work best if all of the players have been to law school.

If you are planning on the July bar exam, check this game out – you can have some fun, learn a few things, study for the exam, and take a break from studying for the exam all at the same time.

Passing the Bar board game is kept on the academic success shelf of the class reserves shelves at the circulation desk in the Jameson Law Library.

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Mobile Law Apps: Part 1 – Best Apps for Law Students

Welcome to guest blogger Terry Gilham! Terry has recently joined the library staff as a part-time volunteer librarian. She will be blogging from time to time.

 Law Dojo logoLaw Dojo – Know Your Rights
For iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; Android version coming
Basic game is free, individual games $2.99 each

This app provides a series of games that test a player’s knowledge of a number of law subjects. A free version covers in general all topics. Individual games are available for $2.99 for specific areas of the law such as, civil procedure, torts, contracts, Supreme Court, criminal law, etc. Designed by Margaret Hagen, a lawyer, it features cartoon illustrations   to underscore the philosophy of Law Dojo, that law can be fun.

Law in a Flash thumbnailLaw in a Flash
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and all Android devices.
$19.99 each for the full version of each specific areas of the law

This mobile app is essentially a digital version of the traditional flashcard model. It is ideal for reviewing legal topics by examining the essential elements of each legal concept. The app allows the user to download cards, read the questions or hypothetical situation on the front of the card and then tap the screen to flip the card over for the correct answer. In addition, the app allows one to enter personal study notes for each card using the touch screen keyboard. Cards that require further study can be bookmarked and saved using the “Study Set” feature.

Basic law school subject areas covered include Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and Ethics, Property and Torts. Flash card versions are available for more advanced courses as well.

Law Stack thumbnailLaw Stack
Compatible with iPhone and iPad devices. Android version available. Free download with add-ons from $1.99.

This portable library is essentially a rule book containing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, Evidence and Bankruptcy. In addition it includes the U.S. Constitution.

Complete offline access is available for the downloaded titles. Other useful features include full-text searching, bookmarking, search highlighting, header only search option, context-sensitive searching, search history save, and email sections.

Fastcase mobile thumbnailFastcase HD
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. Android version as well. Free download, but registration is required for accessing full features. Law students and faculty can use their free account provided through the Jameson Law Library.

This free legal research application contains cases and statutes from all 50 states and from the federal government. Searchable by citation, keyword (Boolean and natural language), or statute collection browsing. Results are presented with the most relevant appearing first. Search results are sortable and customizable and automatically display the number of citing cases. Users may go immediately to the most relevant paragraph of any case or statute and save favorite documents for later use. The site is updated daily.

WestlawNext mobile thumbnailWestlawNext
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. Android version (has not received favorable reviews). The mobile app is free with a WestlawNext Account. Law students and faculty can use their law school Westlaw accounts.

The mobile app provides access to the resources of the Westlaw legal research system. Users can search the content of their database. Access features include WestSearch, Keycite, folders, history, document notes and highlighting. Additional mobile features include Westlaw alerts, the ability to track and follow companies of interest, customizable news feed and automatic updates for practice areas of interest. Users may save documents for offline reading, organize and share folders, access research history and email documents or selected text with a reference.

Law Dictionary thumbnailThe Law Dictionary & Guide
Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Android version available.   Free download.

A mobile app that incorporates a searchable legal dictionary containing 8,500+ definitions, with a database of legal articles, FAQs, a lawyer directory, legal abbreviations and maxims. An “ask your legal question” with answers is also available. Content is updated continuously. The legal dictionary is available anytime offline. The legal guide requires an internet connection for accessing the web based guide to these materials.

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Library Spaces

“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” Shelby Foote, historian and author of The Civil War: A Narrative.

Photo of the New York Public Library Reading Room

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I have been thinking recently about library spaces. Of course, libraries are much more than spaces, and I usually think much more about library services, but now I’m focused on the library as a space. And more specifically, I’m focused on questions surrounding how library space can foster learning, which I define broadly to include many different types of activities that take place in the law school to prepare students to practice law.

Photo of the main reading room at the libbrary of congressLibraries are not just central to a college campus, they are central to society. Some of the most beautiful spaces in the world are libraries, and there are many beautiful libraries, both ancient and modern. Some are architectural masterpieces, some have amazing interiors, some house precious art works and sculptures. They contain rows and rows of books, the writings of civilizations. The libraries themselves are works of civilizations.

Except for the rows of books, our library has little of this. Yet still, it is a pleasant space. There are times were almost every seat is taken. We have students who spend hours each day in there. Alumni come back and are proud when they still know where things are. It’s a functional space where people like to be.

I’m not unhappy with the space, but I have been playing with ideas about space and learning, and, putting those together, how to deliberately plan space to foster learning in all its manifestations. The traditional role of academic libraries was to support learning by containing knowledge and providing a quiet place to read. Libraries are changing. The books are still important, but so are alternative forms of access—especially electronic formats—and services.

Photo of the interior of the Beinecke Library at Yale University

Photo credit: Lauren Manning via / CC BY

Some of my questions are: how can we best configure our space to highlight our collections? How can we design our space so everybody, even those who are now not library users, want to come in? What kind of spaces and furniture provide people with places to study quietly, to collaborate, to discuss ideas? How do we turn one space into multiple spaces and still be one library? What is inspirational space?

But it’s not all about space. One of my questions is what new services could we offer is we had different space? How can we use our space to enhance the visibility of librarians?

I put all these questions out there not just so you know what is occupying my mind, but because I am very interested in your thoughts. If you are already a library user, how could the library space serve you even better? If you aren’t a library user, what would draw you into the library? Email your thoughts about library spaces


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For the Lawyer Who Has Everything: A Gift List for Book-Loving Lawyers

Photo of Christmas tree made of library booksFor Christmas this year, all three of my nephews are getting books. Lots of books. (It’s okay, they are all under 2 years old and won’t be reading this.) This is what happens when your aunt is a librarian– you get books. My nephews are getting those age-appropriate, big, fat cardboard books with cute pictures, but perhaps you have a book-loving lawyer on your holiday gift list. The following is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of lawyer-appropriate suggestions.


Foodie Lawyers

The Little Book of Foodie LawThumbnail image of The Little Book of Foodie Law. Consider pairing this one with the Little Book of BBQ Law or the Little Book of Coffee Law.



  • LegalEats: A Lawyer’s Lite Cookbook. Contains recipes such as Legal Lasagna, Libelously Light Strawberry Cheesecake and Prosecutor’s Pizza. Also contains lawyer cartoons and amusing quotations.

Supreme Court Bios

There is no shortage of biographies of United States Supreme Court Justices. Here are a few recent bestsellers.

Thumbnail image of Notorious RGBNotorious RGB: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pair this book with a Notorious RGB tshirt, cell-phone case, or coffee mug.



Coffee Table Books

Thumbnail image of The Law BookThe Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law. “Offering authoritative context to ancient documents as well as today’s hot-button issues, The Law Book presents a comprehensive look at the rules by which we live our lives. It covers such diverse topics as the Code of Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, the Trial of Socrates, the Bill of Rights, women’s suffrage, the insanity defense, and more.”

  • Magna Carta: Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015. 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, one of the most important historical legal documents. In celebration of the anniversary, this book contains the reflections of British and American legal scholars, all illustrated with photos and historical illustrations.
  • Courthouses of America. This book spotlights some of America’s most beautiful courthouses. Along with photographs, it contains local lore about the courthouses, stories of famous trials, and architectural history. Also available: fine art prints, calendars, and planners.

Book Collections

ABA Little Book Series.Thumbnail image of Little Book of Cowboy Law All 19 books in the ABA’s “Little Book” series sold together. Includes the Little Book of Foodie Law, Little Book of BBQ Law, and the Little Book of Coffee Law suggested above as well as the Little Book of Cowboy Law, the Little Book of Basketball Law, and the Little Book of Elvis Law.


Consider also some banned book accessories such as a banned books tote bag to go with the collection. (To learn more about banned books, see our blog post about Banned Books Week 2013).

Just for Fun

thumbnail of cover of New Yorker Book of Lawyer CartoonsThe New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons. For lawyers and lovers of New Yorker cartoons alike. By the way, if I’m the lawyer on your gift-list, I see they also have The New Yorker Book of Dog Cartoons. I want that.


  • US Lawyer Presidents Coloring & Activity Book. Adult coloring books are all the rage. And truthfully, what lawyer couldn’t use a little stress relief. The book is really meant for kids, but the ABA suggests that “law firms will want to purchase to book in bulk for their employees.”
  • Stump Your Lawyer! A Quiz to Challenge the Legal Mind. Comic relief with a twist. “Short case histories, definitions, multiple-choice quizzes, and other formats mock the bar exam approach and probe the reader’s knowledge of obscure statutes, baffling decisions, bizarre legal concepts, and antiquated jargon.”
  • Law of Superheroes. We like this one so much, we’ve reviewed it twice!
  • Harry Potter & the Law. This one was first recommended to me by a student and is featured on our Great Summer Reads 2015 book list. This book is a scholarly discussion of law and legal institutions as portrayed in the Harry Potter series but it is appropriate for lawyers, students, and anyone interested in both Harry Potter and the law.

The Jameson Law Library Blog will be on break until classes start again at the end of January.

Happy Holidays!

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Animal Property Rights

It’s not every day that you see the seminal text for a new academic discipline but that is what we might have in John Hadley’s Animal Property Rights: A Theory of Habitat Rights for Wild Animals (Lexington Books, 2015).

When I first saw this book I thought it would be worth forwarding on to our animal rights professor. On closer inspection I decided that it wasn’t so much about animal rights in the traditional sense as it was about property rights. So I decided to forward it on to our property rights professor. Looking even closer I decided that this book is really about environmental habitats and natural resources issues and should be forwarded to the director of the Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic. Is this a cross disciplinary book or is it staking out a new sub-discipline in legal thought?

Hadley’s short book (there’s barely 100 pages of text) concisely presents the philosophical underpinnings of what he clearly sees as a future sub-discipline in legal thought – or at the least, a strong legal theory. From the introductory chapter to the last, Hadley methodically provides definitions, sets the background, introduces terminology, and outlines philosophical justifications for the academic study of animal property rights. He spends the last portion of the book answering actual and potential objections- a sort of clearing away of obstacles to the development of animal rights theory. I found this book fascinating and highly recommend it.

animal property rights

Call Number: HV4708 .F33 2015

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Another Reason I Teach Legal Research

Photo of print case law reporters on a library shelf.A while ago, I wrote here about why I teach legal research and citation. My reasons for teaching research were: 1) legal research is the foundation of legal practice; 2) legal resources are unique; 3) being able to find the law empowers you to solve problems; 4) legal research is intellectually challenging and interesting; and 5) researchers change law. But as I am working today on an exercise for my students about research ethics, I realize I forgot one– attorneys have an ethical duty to not just research, but to research well.

The Montana Rules of Professional Conduct start with Rule 1.1, a lawyer’s duty of competence: knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation.

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

Rule 3.1 states that a lawyer

shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert of controvert an issue therein 1) without first having determined through diligent investigation that there is a bona fide basis in law and fact for the position to be advocated . . .  [or] 3) to extend, modify or reverse existing law unless a bona fide bases in law and fact exists for advocating doing so.

What I didn’t say in my earlier post is that legal research isn’t just foundational to legal practice because it’s a skill lawyers will use throughout their careers– it’s foundational because it’s a basic ethical duty that underlies our our relationship with our clients and how we represent our clients. And it’s not just that researchers change law, but that you have to research if you want to change law. Sometimes zealous advocacy requires arguing for a change in the law, but a lawyer can’t do that until he or she has researched and can support the argument that there is a reasonable basis for doing so.

Ethics don’t just require that in general lawyers are competent researchers but that they conduct the necessary research in every case. Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure state that

by presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper . . . an attorney . . . certifies to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances . . . (2) the claims, defense, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law . . .

Some cases will take more research than others. Likely, those cases where the lawyer is arguing for “extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law” will take a lot of research. But it will be interesting and important research, and if that’s what it takes to represent the client, that’s what the lawyer needs to do. And to take it back to my original post, I teach legal research because I don’t just expect that my students will be able to look up the laws; I expect that my students will be ethical lawyers and exceptional researchers who will contribute to the development of law because they know how.

drawing of leaf made of fall leaves and flowers

The Jameson Law Library blog will be taking a break next week for Thanksgiving.

Enjoy the holiday!

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What’s So Great About Primo? : A Primo Primer

Primo is the future. You may not know what it is today, but eventually you will gravitate towards Primo the same way we all gravitated towards Google. It will just be there being the best way to find what you’re looking for.

Primo is an example of a discovery layer which is software that both contains its own vast full-text and citation resources (the Central Index), and ingests other electronic resources like library catalogs, standalone databases, and internet based resources. All of these layers of information are then accessed (discovered) through a single search interface (Primo).

Sounds a little like Google doesn’t it? The big difference between Google and a discovery layer like Primo is that where Google scours the internet for free information, Primo scours layers of electronic information, some of which is free, but much of which is licensed by a library for use by a select group of users: the library patrons.   Licensing for use usually means that a library pays an annual fee which allows internet access to a specific database or electronic resource from a particular area like a building or a campus.

Today libraries subscribe to thousands of electronic resources. The more licensed resources that a library can access through Primo, the better because it allows a single search as opposed to preforming the same search over and over again in different databases. It takes the tedium out and provides better, quicker search results that can be sorted, divided, expanded, jumped from, added to, and manipulated in other ways. Preforming the same search on Google and again in Primo will yield quite different results because Google can only return free information and Primo returns free information and licensed information. Primo seeks to be to library collections what Google is to the internet.

Sounds great, right? Can’t wait to try it? Like any new software it takes a little getting used to. Visit the Mansfield Library home page to start learning how to navigate Primo.

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