Legal Research & Research Skills • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Library Research Guides for LLMs (and Everyone Else!)

A graduation requirement for each Harvard Law School LLM student is to research and write a paper on a legal topic, of at least 25 pages (short paper) or at least 50 pages (long paper) in length, under the supervision of an HLS faculty member.

Our LLM students are currently deep in the process of finding faculty supervisors and preparing their LLM paper proposals, which are due October 22.

The HLS Graduate Program has created LLM paper writing groups, organized by topic and led by experienced and knowledgeable SJD students, to provide the LLMs with a supportive and encouraging workshop-like environment for the process of completing this rigorous academic requirement.

Each LLM paper writing group has an assigned research librarian.  I have been assigned to help out three groups this year:

(1) Constitutional & Administrative Law (generally known as “public law” and also includes people writing about legal theory and philosophy)

(2) Private Law (includes contractual obligations, legal remedies, law and technology, and health law/bioethics)

(3) Trade and Private International Law (includes international investment law, international trade law, antitrust, and arbitration)

This year, I decided to create extensive research guides for each of my groups.  These guides include pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using specialized subject terms.  They also include information about using the HLS Library’s subscription databases for law journal research.

The good news is that these research guides are freely available online and can be used by anyone!  Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think:

I also completely overhauled our International Arbitration Research Guide this fall.  Several members of the Trade and Private International Law Group have found to be especially helpful.  It includes information about the many arbitration-related databases to which the HLS Library subscribes.

TIP:
Did you know that the HLS Library has published more than 150 research guides?  You can access them online at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law.

Zotero: unlimited storage for HLS students + trainings!

Did you know that as an HLS student you can get free unlimited storage in Zotero? It’s true: simply follow the signup directions on the Harvard Library Zotero guide, being sure to use your HLS email address to register.

If you’d like more guidance getting started, come to one of our upcoming training sessions led by Jennifer Allison, Librarian for Foreign, Comparative, & International Law. Sign up at the links below:

Friday, September 28 – 12:30pm
Monday, October 1 – 12:30pm
Thursday, October 4 – 5:30pm
Thursday, October 11 – 12:30pm

We especially recommend these trainings to LLM and SJD students, because citation management tools can be a big help in organizing your research for both short and long papers. All trainings will take place in the Library computer lab, 2nd (main) floor, Langdell 233.

For more information about citation tools at Harvard, check out the Harvard Library guide, Citation and Research Management Tools at Harvard.

Welcome LL.M. Students!

Welcome to the nearly 200 LL.M. students who will be attending Harvard Law School this academic year!

Please visit the law library’s research services homepage to learn about all of the services the library’s research services team offers to the Harvard Law School community.

We are providing special library tours for LL.M. students over the next two weeks, and you can sign up for a tour on this page as well (under Upcoming Events).

Highlighting New Comparative Law Books in the Law Library’s Collection

Research librarians here in the law library spend a lot of time talking to LL.M. students about their paper topics every year.  Because so many students decide to write their LL.M. papers on comparative law topics, I like to write posts for our library blog about comparative law titles that I find in our collection that might be of interest to them.

In this post, I am highlighting one of our newest books on comparative company law.

International Handbook on Shareholders’ Agreements: Regulation, Practice, and Comparative Analysis
Editors: Sebastian Mock, Kristian Csach, and Bohnmil Havel
Published by DeGruyter, 2018
ISBN 9783110501568
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

According to the editors of this volume, shareholder agreements are “an integral part of company law and especially its legal practice.”  They are “traditionally dominated by contract law and not by company law”; however, it is sometimes the case that contract law lacks the depth to provide sufficient legal regulation of what can be complex legal situations and relationships, especially “in the case of cross-border shareholders’ agreements including shareholders from several jurisdictions.”

This volume attempts to fill that gap.  It begins with introductory chapters covering the differences between contract law and corporate law when it comes to shareholders’ agreements, the impact of shareholders’ agreements on how a company is managed, and as issues related to conflict of laws (private international law), corporate insolvency, and competition law.

The bulk of the book, however, is dedicated to reports on the relevant legal framework for shareholders’ agreements in the following jurisdictions: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, England/Wales, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States.  Some of these country reports include English-language excerpts of applicable statutory provisions.

Harvard Library Collection

This book is part of the DeGruyter Handbook series.  Almost all of the other titles in this series that are in the Harvard Library collection are in German (DeGruyter is a German publishing company), and cover legal topics.

However, Harvard does have one other English-language title from this series.  It is held by the Widener Library, Harvard’s flagship library.  All LL.M. students have access and borrowing privileges at Widener, along with the other libraries at Harvard.

This other book actually has nothing to do with law at all:

Sign Languages of the World: A Comparative Handbook
Edited by Julie Bakken Jepsen, Goedele De Clerck, Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, William B. McGregor
Published by De Gruyter, 2015
ISBN 9781614517962
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

I am a member of the law library’s Accessibility Design team, so one of my interests is learning more about how we can make the library accessible and accommodating to people with all kinds of disabilities.  So I am actually really interested in having a look at this book sometime!

Using HeinOnline for Accessing Legal Journals

I am curious to learn more about how the various sign languages around the world have developed their legal terminology throughout history.  In fact, just thinking about that led me to wonder about how issues related to deafness have been explored in the legal literature.

One of the best options for this kind of research is our  HeinOnline subscription legal database.  HeinOnline contains a very comprehensive collections of U.S. and foreign legal journals.  I find this database to be an invaluable part of any legal research project that I am working on.

So I decided to try a proximity search in HeinOnline for articles about sign language and legal terms.  Here is the search query I used:

“sign language legal terms”~50

This search query uses HeinOnline’s unique syntax for finding those four words within 50 words of each other.

When I did that search and limited the search results to articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library, I got 77 results, covering various topics such as professional challenges faced by deaf lawyers, the representation of deaf clients in legal matters, the fitness of deaf defendants for trial, accommodating law faculty with disabilities, and more.

Perhaps one day an LL.M. student will write on deafness and law as well.  Whatever our newest LL.M.s decide to write about this year, the law library’s research services team is eager to help them navigate our resources and research their papers.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in the law library!

Thoughts on Legal Citation

My relationship with the Bluebook goes back to when I was a first-year law student in 2004. There have been moments of love and moments of hate, but mostly, as someone who appreciates order, structure, and rules, love.

As a legal reference librarian, my interest in legal citation is more research-focused than anything.  There are few things that make my heart soar more than a work of legal scholarship that includes carefully drafted and correct citations to the sources referenced so that readers can find those sources with minimum pain and maximum efficiency.

However, legal citation has several purposes beyond just making it easier for researchers to find stuff.  “Citation Literacy” is a fascinating new article in the Arkansas Law Review by Professor Alexa Z. Chew of UNC Law School.  In the article, Professor Chew discusses four “communicative purposes” of legal citation: “(1) to locate the cited source … , (2) to communicate information to the reader about the weight of the cited authority … , (3) to demonstrate the writer’s credibility … and (4) to avoid plagiarism through proper attribution.” (pages 879-880)

Professor Chew also discusses what she calls the “untaught skill of reading citations.”  (page 890)  By removing citation information from cases in casebooks read by U.S. law students, she argues, the “dominant message sent by the first-year law school curriculum about legal citation” is that providing support for statements of law is either unimportant, optional, or both.  (pages 891-892)

Additionally, Professor Chew contends that, when law students read cases that do not include citations, they are not learning the skill of reading cases holistically.  This is not ideal, according to Professor Chew, because “understanding a case’s citations and how the information they encode informs the surrounding text is an essential part of reading a case in the first place.”  (page 895)

I was glad that Professor Chew also discussed the impact of learning legal citation on foreign-trained lawyers who are studying the U.S. legal system.  This part of the article made me re-think this issue myself.  When I taught substantive U.S. law classes in Germany last year, I gave them versions of cases that I had edited myself.  I also, for the sake of brevity, removed citations from those cases.

Looking back, I wish I had done more with Bluebook and legal citation with my German students.  I believe it would have helped them understand our legal system better, and it also would have helped them with their future forays into the world of U.S. legal research.

Speaking of teaching legal citation to non-U.S. law students, I maintain our library’s Bluebook Citation Guide for LL.M. Students.  After reading Professor Chew’s article, this guide seems, perhaps, overly procedural in nature.  I am now considering adding a section about why citation is important, and citing Professor Chew’s article in it.

My own experience as a foreign student contributes to my thinking on this issue as well.  Germany does not have an equivalent to the Bluebook citation system, or really any standardized system of legal citation at all as far as I know.  When I was writing my LL.M. thesis in Germany earlier this year, I was given a 4-page handout by my faculty supervisor, with examples about how to cite sources in the footnotes and in the bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis).  I did my best to follow the protocol, but I’m still not sure if I got everything right.

Below is a picture of footnotes 49-52 from my German LL.M. thesis:

The sources cited here are, in order: an article from the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz), a Federal Constitutional Court decision, a scholarly commentary on the Basic Law, and a U.S. law review article.

(Of course I did not notice until this very moment that footnote 49 should end in a period and not a semi-colon.  I guess I know now for sure that I did not get everything right.)

In these and all the footnotes in my thesis, author-written works are basically cited in a shortened format because full-length citations are provided in the bibliography.

I was told by people who read my thesis that my use of footnotes and citation was, perhaps, more extensive than is the norm in German legal scholarship.  But they knew that I am trained in U.S. law, and that I have spent years reading U.S. law review articles, which are heavily annotated compared to German legal periodicals, so it was understandable.

Anyway, I am very pleased to have seen an article in the legal literature about citation, and I hope this is a trend that continues.  I agree with Professor Chew that this is an important area of legal education that, perhaps, should be considered in a different light than it has been in the past.

Finally, I would like to briefly mention a new citation guide that we recently received in the HLS Library collection:

Global Arbitration Review’s UCIA – Universal Citation in International Arbitration
General Editor, Stephen Anway ; Assistant Editors, Alexis Martinez and Jonathan Allen
Published in 2018 by Law Business Research Ltd.
ISBN 9781912377299
Hollis Catalog Record

This is a guide to the developing convention on style and citation that is used by practitioners in the field of international arbitration.  It is “intended for use in all writings related to international arbitration – from memorials to awards, from scholarly articles to student briefs.”  (Editor’s Preface)  And, mercifully, it is much shorter than the Bluebook.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Recently-Published Titles on African Constitutionalism

Several recently-published books on African constitutionalism in our collection caught my eye this week. I admit that I don’t really know much about this topic, but it strikes me as massive, likely made up of many varying and diverse philosophies and viewpoints. So I was interested in exploring its recent scholarly treatment.

In this post, I will focus on the two books that are part of a new Oxford University Press series, the Stellenbosch Handbooks in African Constitutional Law.  This series, edited by Professor Charles Manga Fombad of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, is “designed to avoid a mere repetition of the now well-rehearsed concerns and doubts about constitutionalism on the continent and instead to identify, analyse, and promote serious discussion on the critical issues that can shape, refine, and deepen the strides being taken towards consolidating constitutionalism in Africa.”

The first book in the series, Separation of Powers in African Constitutionalism (ISBN: 9780198759799), was published in 2016.

Part I of the book contains two extremely helpful and informative introductory chapters, both written by Professor Fombad.  The first chapter offers a historical overview to African constitutionalism that catalogs and explains its many influences, including colonialism (accompanied by the implementation of common law and civil law legal systems), political ideologies (democracy, socialism), religion, and indigenous institutions.  It also includes illustrative examples from the constitutions of several jurisdictions, including Cape Verde, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Burundi, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Cameroon, and many others.  It concludes with a discussion of the influence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union, and the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.  Chapter two provides a general overview of how the concept of the separation of powers manifests itself in African constitutions, as influenced by the American presidential system, the British parliamentary system, and the French “hybrid” system.

Part II of the book includes chapters that focus more narrowly, either on a specific issue related to the separation of powers (such as power sharing between the branches, the role of the judicial branch, and government accountability), or on a specific jurisdiction (Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Namibia) or group of related jurisdictions (Lusophone, Francophone, and Anglophone Africa).  Part II focuses bit more heavily on sub-Saharan Africa than Part I, but it still provides an extensive analysis of the jurisdictions that are covered.

The second book in this series, Constitutional Adjudication in Africa (ISBN: 9780198810216), was published in 2017.

As with the first book in the series, Professor Fombad provides a very helpful introductory chapter that provides an overview of constitutional review in Africa.  He begins by distinguishing between the “decentralized” and “centralized” models of constitutional review.  According to Professor Fombad, under the decentralized view, as explained in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison, “constitutional matters are dealt with by ordinary courts during normal proceedings.”  (p. 20) By contrast, the centralized model, as developed in Europe by Hans Kelsen, features constitutional adjudication that is “carried out by a centralized, often specialized, tribunal established independently outside the judicial branch during special proceedings.” (p. 21)  The chapter then discusses how these models have been employed and adapted in African jurisdictions, providing, as a means of illustration, a comparative study of judicial review in Benin and South Africa.  The chapter concludes with information about access to and remedies provided by courts in African jurisdictions that have jurisdiction over constitutional matters.

This introductory chapter is followed by several chapters that focus on constitutional jurisprudence in specific African jurisdictions, including Benin, Cameroon, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia.  There are also chapters discussing the impact of transjudicialism on constitutional adjudication, including the effects of international law norms and the work of regional and sub-regional courts in Africa.

Another chapter expands on the influence of Ubuntu (“the belief that the well-being of the individual and that of the community are inextricably linked – that one cannot exist without the other … (and that) the well being of the community is inextricably linked to a harmonious relationship with both its ancestors and with nature” (p. 294)) on constitutional adjudication in Africa.

Finally, Professor Fombad’s conclusion explores the further development of constitutional justice in Africa in the future.

As with the first book in the series, the focus here seems to rest on sub-Saharan African countries.  However, these two books provide an excellent broad introduction to this topic.  The content of these books is extensively annotated, providing citations to many other books and articles that researchers can use to perform a deeper dive into this subject.  Both books also include tables of cases and legislation.

I am glad that Oxford University Press is publishing this series, and I am looking forward to exploring its future volumes as they are released.

Note:
To explore other books in our collection related to African Constitutionalism, click here to search the HOLLIS library catalog by this subject.

Thoughts on Library Research Guides

Since I came back to the law library from my professional development leave, I have been looking at and thinking about the research guides I have written here.  (You can view the list of them.)  I was never formally trained on writing research guides.  I learned a little bit about them, conceptually, in library school, but mainly I have developed my own process and style by just doing them.

I think my philosophy about research guides has changed a little over the years.  In the past, I thought that bigger is definitely better.  Certainly the guides that I have done for German Law Research and Alternative Dispute Resolution Research are quite broad in terms of the number of topics covered and number of resources referenced.  Those guides generate a lot of interest in terms of traffic and hits, not just from Harvard but from all over the world.  People clearly find them helpful on some level.

However, I seem to be shifting a bit toward preferring to write smaller guides on narrower topics.  Like every librarian, I have a unique set of interests, strengths, and favored research techniques, and I think my guides should reflect those.

I am also thinking about how to maximize the utility of the guides that I write for Harvard Library users.  The Harvard Library has over 17 million volumes across all its libraries’ collections.  That’s a lot!  Many of the physical books and journals in the collection are stored off-site and cannot be physically browsed on the Harvard campus by library users.

In addition, our library catalog, HOLLIS, has been evolving over the last few years, as are catalogs at other academic libraries.  What I’ve been hearing about user feedback related to academic library catalogs is that people want a one-stop shop that delivers books and periodical articles, with a Google-like single-box search interface.  Of course a catalog that is set up like this makes quick searches easier.  However, it also might make it more difficult to dive deeply into a very nuanced scholarly topic, to maximize the relevancy of search results, and to find all the relevant materials in the collection, especially if users do not know very much about advanced searching.

The bottom line for me: I think it’s important to help library users where they are, and where many of them are is online, maybe even on their phone, looking for the fastest and easiest way to find the exact library materials they need.  And who can blame them for that?  If research is arduous and frustrating, then it’s not fun.  As someone who loves research, I hate the thought of that!

So the last two guides I have written for the law library have been very much of a “niche” variety.  For each of these guides, I took a smaller topic and wrote a guide describing, on a single web page with lots of links, the best options that I know to use to research it.

One of these new guides, Organized Crime in Italy, was written after I worked with a student who is doing some research in this area.  I have to admit I am more than a little fascinated with this topic.  I also wanted the opportunity to practice working with Italian-language resources.  Of course, in writing this guide, I am not doing the student’s research for her, but I am suggesting options that are available to her, based on my experience as a researcher here at Harvard.

The other guide I wrote recently is Resistance to the National Socialist Government in Germany.  This was also in created in response to a research area in which one of our users is interested.  As the library’s expert in German law, and because the Harvard Library has so many relevant materials on this subject, this was too important a guide for me not to spend my time on.

As for the contents of the guides themselves, anyone who looks at my guides will see immediately how much I love Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as an indexing instrument.  I always include links to pre-populated HOLLIS searches by subject, using controlled LCSH vocabulary, in my guides.  This is the surest way I know to find relevant books on a subject, regardless of publication language.

Writing a research guide is, in my experience as a research librarian, the best and most rewarding way to learn about a topic and about optimal research techniques.  But it is definitely more important that a guide is readable and useful to the researchers who are looking for help on how research should be done at your library.  Going forward, I will continue to work toward that as my primary goal.

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

Interested in rare books, legal history or legal archives?

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

Bluebook drop-in sessions available in April!

HLS students, do you have bluebook questions? If so, the library is here to help you. We will be holding bluebook drop-in sessions beginning Monday, April 3rd and running through Wednesday, April 26th.

Drop-in sessions will be held in Room 524 of the library (5th floor conference room), from 12-1pm on the following dates:

Monday, April 3rd
Wednesday, April 5th
Friday, April 7th
Monday, April 10th
Wednesday, April 12th
Friday, April 14th
Monday, April 17th
Monday, April 24th
Wednesday, April 26th

If you have bluebook questions, but these times are inconvenient, you can also schedule an appointment by filling out the request to meet with us on our Ask a Librarian page, and noting that it is for a bluebook consultation: .

Please bring your laptop with you to the drop-in sessions or a scheduled session so we can work on your questions, on your paper, in real-time.

Canadian Law Research in HeinOnline

Most people know that the HeinOnline subscription database is a great source of legal research materials from all over the world.  HeinOnline’s collection of legal primary and secondary sources from Canada is especially strong, and it is growing all the time.

JustinIn addition to the Canada Supreme Court Reports (date coverage: 1876-2016) and the Revised Statutes of Canada (all six revisions, from 1886 through 1985), Hein recently added a new library: Provincial Statutes of Canada.

Hein describes this new library as follows:

“The Provincial Statutes of Canada contain public and private acts passed by Canadian provincial governments. Current, revised, and historical content is available for Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Historical and revised content only is available for Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.”

HeinOnline also has a collection of more than 100 Canadian law journals. To access this collection from the HeinOnline homepage, click Law Journal Library > Country > Canada.

In addition to HeinOnline, the Law Library also subscribes to QuickLaw: LexisNexis Canada. This source provides access to Canadian court cases, legislation, journal articles, commentary, and more.

If you would like to read more the intricacies of Canadian legal research, the 4th edition of The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research, edited by Nancy McCormick, was published in 2015.

Photo Credit: Justin Trudeau, the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, was sworn in as the country’s 23rd Prime Minister on November 4, 2015. This photo was taken during a debate in Toronto on February 16, 2013 by Adam Scotti.  https://flic.kr/p/dW2m9a.

Activist Research Guide – New!

Want to learn about research resources for activists? If you were unable to attend our Research Boot Camp this week, you can still learn more with our new Activist Research Guide.

This guide will help you to evaluate information sources, get daily newsletters, reports or briefings on issues you care about, research from anywhere – even under adverse conditions, find executive and presidential documents, locate and engage with administrative materials and regulations, find the best contacts for your legislators, and maximize your impact as a force for social and political change. See our guide at and please contact me, AJ Blechner, directly if you have any feedback.

The Library has many other guides on various topics of legal research. Let us know if you have any suggestions for others.

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